Daily comforts...

More than often I ponder the myriad of differences in these lands. Comparing, contrasting relating and trying to build connections, I am fortunate to have the availability of two wonderful and experienced ladies whom have lived out here for some time and whom will readily lend an ear to my questions, grievances and complaints. The central desert is really a different place, more different to any place I have ever travelled to and mind you, I have travelled to over 30 countries and as you know, lived and studied in quite weird and exotic places. I could compare this place, if I had to, perhaps to Morocco, but of course that would not do it any justice. The harsh living environment, strange faces, pungent smells, foreign and incomprehensible languages and an absolutely uncommon and bewildering modus vivandi really left me feeling nonplussed, confused, inflexible and homesick. This is homesickness, this is culture shock and this is what I consider being out of one's comfort zone and this is why I compare to Morocco.

A friend once remarked during casual conversation regarding our recent overseas travels that it is rather simple and pain-free for a person to enter into a world of comfort above and beyond one's everyday habitual lifestyle, but conversely, it is often painful and unwelcoming to do the opposite. Particularly when comforts are removed and people have no other choice but to sleep in accommodation that is not at the the level they're used to, try foods they have never heard of and surround themselves in a culture or environment that is completely foreign, unfamiliar and, at first, abrasive to them. To be fair, most of the people I know look forward to and enjoy travelling to opulent locations and sojourning in affluent, luxurious accommodation. The thought of an impoverished nation filled with beggars, pollution, an undeveloped tourism industry often lead people to conclude that is fraught with perils, evils and dread. Fair enough, I say. Each and everyone of us is entitled that their opinions, even though the main issues may certainly be 'fear of the unknown', lack of information or even ignorance my heart of hearts does certainly cry out in pity and regret.

I wonder how relevant this type of experience is to our budo and keiko? The experience of diverse culture, harsh environment, feeling some duress in an environment unfamiliar to us. Most of us have experienced something like this and some of us still are. Is this type of experience necessary and does it form a necessary link or step to becoming better human beings and will it help us attain that spiritual betterment which we seek?

This is probably one of the reasons why I am here and why I intend to continue travelling to exotic, undeveloped and not easily accessible locations. I find the hardships experienced in these places challenging and overwhelming at first, but I feel it is ultimately the finest 'guru' of fundamental human values, human spirit and another link to understanding this vast humanity of ours. I find that I am inspired to think, reflect and push myself to understand and when I am unable to do so, when I can no formulate a conclusion or rationalise any further, I am forced to accept, relax and take part. I feel that I'm no longer a spectator or observer of situations and hardships I have read about or watched in documentaries. I am here now, part of it and involved. I see it, feel it, smell it, hear it and taste it.

Keep pushing!!
But don't forget to pull once in while...

Maurizio Mandarino


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