15 weeks to go …
Well, let me tell you, we did not really make any New Year’s resolutions. So, no news on that front 🙂
First I thought I would write about our minimising project as that is actually quite an interesting endeavour and is taking up a lot of our time. But, I guess, it has to wait for another week.
Whilst talking about what we hope for our “travel year” and trying to sketch a possible itinerary, we realised that more than anything else we are interested in random encounters, those authentic stories and interactions with locals which you cannot really plan.
Over New Year’s, we have been watching a documentary about Russia where several people, projects or villages get portrayed.
There, you learn about father Nikolai who has, together with his wife, adopted over 60 children. According to him, in Russia there are at the moment over 2 million children without a home. The orthodox priest sees it as his social responsibility to help children in need who mostly come from very dysfunctional families or don’t have one at all. He attempts to give them a home and above all, love and the feeling of belonging somewhere. His wife and himself are raising all those kids with not much of financial help. One of the key aspects of their life is their faith; whilst Nikolai works as a priest, his wife paints pictures of saints and they sing in a choir together with their kids.
In another episode, you can peak into the village life of Schoina, a coastal settlement on the Kanin Peninsula about 150 kilometres above the Polar Circle. Once a thriving fishing village, it is now only home to approximately 300 people who have to fight the tough climatic conditions, especially the sand which is blown from the White Sea. The huge dunes now cover more than half of the village. The remaining inhabitants have to literally dig themselves out of their houses every single morning. No roads or railroads connect the area with the south, the nearest city is 400 kilometres away and only reachable by ship or plane.
And so, it continues. Listening or watching those authentic tales helps me putting a lot of things into perspective, I realise how small we are, how little we know. And, how the way we see things or think about them is influenced by whatever little we know. As a result, we are very fast in judging unknown situations or people.
Whilst we like to believe that we are very open-minded and well-travelled, I realised that I am anything but immune to it.
I used to work at a Swiss airport for the Israeli national airline El Al where we got to serve many ultra-orthodox Jews. Now, as a woman, ultra-orthodox men tend to not touch you, not even indirectly as you might be impure (a.k.a. on your period). When I wanted to hand a male passenger a boarding pass, I basically had to place it on the counter from where he then took it. I found that really weird and I guess I was at least a little bit judgmental about it. Recently, I learnt a bit more about the tradition, the meaning of “mikvah” on the TheJewishWoman.org site (I hope I express it properly!):
“From the onset of menstruation until seven days after its end, couples may not engage in any direct physical contact, or even physical manifestations of affection. The woman is considered impure during that time. After nightfall of the seventh day, the woman visits the mikvah. Today’s mikvah looks like a fashionable spa, with luxurious bathrooms, vanities, fresh towels, disposable slippers, a comfortable robe and all other essentials.
After a relaxing and thorough bathing, the woman enters the pristine, warm mikvah waters. After immersing once, while standing in the waters of the mikvah, the woman recites a blessing. In accordance with widespread custom, she then immerses twice more. Many women use this auspicious time for personal prayer and communication with God. After immersion, the couple resume marital relations. The mandatory physical separation times fosters feelings of longing, desire and a sense of appreciation, which are followed by the excitement of reunion.
The aesthetic beauty of the facility, along with the rejuvenation and spiritual boost experienced, explains why the mikvah is frequented by many who practice no other formal Jewish observance.”
And boom, there it was, my own little reminder that I also judge without knowing anything about certain people, customs and traditions. Whilst I do not fancy practicing the mikvah, I at least understand now what it is all about and it feels no longer weird to me. Plus, I find it super interesting to learn about it!
I guess what we realise is that we want to travel more not to necessarily tick off countries on a bucket list or to go to view some sights but rather to go out there, listen to people and learn. The world has so many stories to offer, we just have to pause and listen.
So, whatever your plans or resolutions are, we wish you best of luck with it and if you wish, please share (some of) them with us in the comments below.
And, in case you fancy hearing some of our travel tales, just follow along virtually (all the links you find below).
Your Raasta Family
Current project: Minimising
Overall mood: grateful
Current location: Flims, Switzerland
Countdown: 106 days
Updated “needs to go”-list