COMMUNICATION AND THE SIMPLE PLEASURES OF LIFE….
I have recently returned from Inner Mongolia, in China. I was representing Malta in the 1st Bairin Left Banner Photographic Season. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience. Being so far away from my surroundings in little Malta, the trip and the stay made me reflect.
Travelling to the place was one of my most strenuous trips to date – it took nearly two days of travel going there and a further two days coming back, each way involving three flights and countless bus journeys! Yet it was well worth it! Together with other international photographers and personalities, such as the FIAP vice president, we were based in Bairin Left Banner, in Chifeng City, at an excellent and modern hotel, Jing Du hotel. I actually got to know that we were the first Europeans staying at the hotel! In fact, everyone wanted to take pictures with us – something which I must say, I did not mind in the least. It was a fantastic event with a grand opening in the main culture centre of the City. Coupled with this event was the inauguration of a high level international photographic exhibition.
Yet, what impressed me most during my stay was the
will for people to communicate and live together in harmony. My only Chinese is limited to ‘Good morning’, ‘thank you’ and ‘Kampei!’ (Cheers!) and the Chinese command of English is rather similar to my abysmal skills in the Chinese language. So it was not easy to make each other understood. Still, I only required to smile at totally unknown people, who unhesitatingly smiled back and welcomed me, a total stranger, not only into their houses, but also into their hearts.
The hospitality we were shown was really without any bounds. Just as an example, during one instance, I joked that I had not seen the traditional, furry cows (Yaks) that Mongolia is known for – so, lo and behold – the next day we were taken to a place where two Yaks and countless wild horses were grazing contentedly. I was later told that the area we were in did not have any Yaks but our hosts managed to bring two examples from some far off place in order to please us! This was the limits they went to so that their guests were happy.
It was a pleasant feeling when I witnessed countless scores of townspeople enjoying themselves with morning exercises (such as Tai Chi) and games (such as ‘shuttlecock’ and tennis). They daily congregate in the squares not only to keep fit but also to communicate with each other. Their pastimes are old fashioned yet geared towards keeping them in touch with their fellow beings – simply playing cards in the streets or singing together in choirs. How we have lost all these communication skills in the West! We are so hell bent on commercialism, on earning not only a living – but earning more and more in our greedy race for having all the commodities that we can dream of – that we seem to have lost our way. We do not even make the effort to talk to each other anymore without using modern, insensitive technology. In this day of stellar communication many of us are just lost, wandering souls with very little real human contact – living in our own little bubbles.
Switching to the photography side, I can add that the weather was kind and that I was pleased to be able to cut myself off from my everyday life in Malta.
It was exhilerating to lose myself in the Prairies, the mountains and the sunflower fields – so reminiscent of one of my favourite artists – Van Gogh. I just hope that I did not day dream too much and that the images I brought back of the place does justice to such an enchanting segment of the world.