A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
24 January 2012
After a couple days of delay due to illness, I finally got my shoes on and headed out of the hostel into the fresh air, ready to take on some of the historic trails around Hobart. There weren’t trails per se, so much as maps that either listed where all the historic buildings are or gave a path to follow to walk around some of the historic districts.
I brought my camera and started on the day. My body was weak from a few days of not moving. While it felt good to get some fresh air the process of walking on flat ground actually felt more labored now than walking uphill with the full pack on the Overland Track. The humidity was higher than usual and slight beads of sweat were forming almost instantly. By the end, my shirt was damp and smelled of exercise.
I headed to the start of the trail, Salamanca, the cultural center of Hobart. The old sandstone harbor warehouses have all been converted into chic art boutiques or overpriced restaurants and cafes. The view from the outdoor tables isn’t particularly worth the cost as a couple blocks down you can eat on the actual wharf from boats selling their fresh catches. But I pulled out my camera and walked looking for inspiration.
After being cloistered for so long and doing so without interaction with the outside world, I’d seemingly lost the ability to interact. And without seeing much beyond the bed and kitchen, I’d lost the motivation to seek inspiration. I walked past smiling people at cafes and moved swiftly. I ducked into art galleries because I felt I should, or that maybe the works would speak to me. They didn’t. Even coming across a giant stone ‘1833’ (the year of the founding of my fraternity, Psi Upsilon) – a feat which would have normally sent me into timer settings and pictures of myself with the stones – did little to excite me.
I progressed from the markets to old neighborhoods, historic tiny houses that have stood since near the start of the city. The streets quaint, the small strip of stores overpriced and boutique, the cars surprisingly not as nice as I would have expected. I took pictures of houses, but my heart wasn’t in it. I took pictures of front doors in that style that seems to be popular and crop up in posters around the world, though I don’t fully understand it and haven’t succeeded at such shots. I wandered past people without more than nods, to a line of houses along the waterfront. These properties were the top of the posh, modernist design, sleek lines, all stone, metal and glass. Open layouts and huge windows facing the water, looking over to the yacht club, closed off to the prying eyes of the unwashed masses on the street by opaque gates and tall fences. The strip reminded me of Sausalito in California. Money, on a hill, overlooking the water, living fancy bubble lives. Some of the houses were for sale with billboards in the yards featuring specifications and pictures. This one has 6 bedrooms. That one has a 25m salt-water lap pool. Another has almost no opaque walls.
In my fatigue, in my isolation, I felt the collapse acutely. I can’t live at a constant high-velocity. But having windows of it is great. Multi-day festivals where everything comes together, where I’m entertained every conscious minute. But the inevitable stop must come, and when it does it is almost always a letdown. It may be a relaxing and welcomed one, but more often it just feels anticlimactic. There are those who want a vacation where they go to the beach and sit in the sun, reading for a week and relaxing. More than a day of that and I start to get stir crazy, looking for something – anything – to entertain myself. And so after MONA FOMA had ended, I was left with nothing, just a void. And with the sickness taking 2 days up front, by the time I was well enough to leave the hostel all I wanted to do was to find something to entertain me, though I had lost the ability to find it or even know what I wanted to seek. But knowing it was somewhere I wandered, forcing myself to look. It wasn’t where I was. All I had was a handle on hobbies that I didn’t presently care about in a part of town with people I would have no ability to meet in the state I was in. I longed for a companion, someone to talk with, to make jokes with, to just say, “Screw it,” and go grab some tea. I lusted after the houses I was looking at, touches of the privileged life, of luxury and chic design that I don’t think I will ever have. I want to try the stone floors, the floor to ceiling windows, the clean lines and patios where bottles of wine cannot be opened if they are less than a Wine Spectator score of 93.
I wanted all of the things that I’ve eschewed for the life I’ve chosen. Maybe not forever. But for right now.