Tuesday Letters

Crossing Paths: Three Short Expat Portraits

2 December 2018

This letter, the last in the “Crossing Paths” series, is a bit unusual in both its form and content. Rather than the standard single portrait, I present the short portraits of three atypical expats that I met early in my travels. Although these characters are unrelated, I feel that there is an element of common weirdness and even humor that runs through them. Unlike my previous portraits, these ones mainly concentrate on a single feature of each character that stood out during our brief encounter.

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Crossing Paths: The French Sinophile

20 October 2018

A Frenchman speaking Chinese in a French accent in one of the remotest regions of China accompanied by an equally strange Cypriot traveler making all sorts of grimaces – this is what I call a truly odd couple, behaving oddly, in an odd place! 

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Crossing Paths: Arjuna the God

6 October 2018

“Come on, my friend,” I insisted, “this is definitely not a house! It’s not even a mansion. It’s a hotel of some sort. I have seen many large mansions in my life, but this is ten times larger than the largest house of a big Hollywood star in Beverly Hills! How can this function as a family home? How will you spend time with your family if you need to walk ten minutes to get from one room to another?! You are pulling our leg!” 

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Crossing Paths: Mr. Irenaeus

2 October 2018

I couldn’t believe my luck! It was my last day in Rio, and I was forming my travel itinerary for the south of Brazil, Argentina, and the rest of the continent – so he was a God-sent gift. What was most surprising is that what interested him and what he judged as important were the same exact things that I also loved and appreciated.

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Crossing Paths: The Colossal Traveler

7 September 2018

Doris is a world-traveler in a league of her own. She has been to 180 countries, many of them multiple times. Most shockingly, for the past twenty years, she has been traveling for about half a year every year. She is the female equivalent of Ibn Battuta, the greatest traveler in history, the only difference being that he traveled continuously whereas she does it piecemeal. 

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Crossing Paths: The Drifter

24 August 2018

I was crossing paths with a kindred spirit whose life lay at the extremes of my own endeavor, at the very end of the spectrum of freedom. For a moment, I felt that because of this special yet invisible connection between us, I was given an honorary glimpse into his unorthodox and unique life.

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Big is Beautiful

10 August 2018

There is a recent worldwide bias against Big. Big alienating cities are worse than small beautiful villages.[1] A big fat guy is bad; fashion-model-thin is good. A big meal is bad for your health – “eat light.” Small, boutique hotels – good. Big hote …

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The July Cicada Class

15 July 2018

Aesop gave a bad name to the cicadas. In one of his well-known fables, he talks about a cicada who is lazy all summer, doing nothing but singing under the trees. The cicada urges an ant, who is busy working to store food for the winter, to stop for a …

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Three Soulful Travel Moments (with videos)

1 July 2018

The Wormhole Kwaio tribe, Malaita, Solomon Islands I sit in the simple hut with the parents. Outside, it is pouring rain. Through the hut’s small entrance, which looks like a small window, I see, as if in a mirage from another era, naked children pla …

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Quetzal / Kiwi

15 June 2018

When you travel, you encounter new words that open doors to new worlds. But you also re-examine words you thought you knew, which suddenly acquire completely new meanings. Quetzal, the first of the following two short essays, belongs to the first typ …

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18 May 2018

The little faucet-stream of water was running on my shaving brush, while from my bathroom window I could see a menacing thunderstorm approaching. After a few minutes, the sky darkened and it started pouring rain. I stopped shaving for a moment to enj …

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The Unknown Artist / Euphorion

4 May 2018

Quito, Ecuador, 2006 I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Visa Department of the Interior Ministry of Ecuador. Facing me on the opposite wall is a photo of a clay pot, decorated with all sorts of ornamental figures. I realize that it was crafted by …

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7 April 2018

“There is no linear evolution; there is only circumambulation of the Self.” – Carl Jung Ever since that portentous moment when man first developed self-consciousness, he has been creating models to understand both the world and himself. Whether it be …

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Overlapping Circles

22 March 2018

Each one of us is a circle. In this circle we collect and enclose, as if they were little pebbles, all of our loves, interests, aims, dreams, preoccupations. We are an amalgam of many elements put together as a result of random events, choices, and c …

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Our Two Lives

9 March 2018

All of us live two separate lives. These lives inhabit two different worlds. So, we live simultaneously in two different dimensions! In one life we write, or compose, or think, or create, or solve complicated problems, or philosophize. In the other w …

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Acting and Reacting

9 February 2018

There are two ways of living: by reacting or by acting. Reacting is imitating. Acting is being creative. Reacting is saying “it is in my nature to behave thus.” Acting is saying “I have no fixed nature.” Reacting is succumbing to the biological laws …

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On Jane

25 January 2018

You often hear phrases like “I have found my other half,” “I felt incomplete until I met you,” “I have been fulfilled in love,” and so on. In my case it has been exactly the opposite! Let me explain: All my life I felt “complete,” “sufficient unto my …

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Absolute Responsibility

29 December 2017

We have absolute responsibility for our life. We are who we are and do the work we do and behave the way we behave and have the friends we have because of the myriad big and small choices we have made over the years. We are what we have become throug …

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Living Transformer

14 December 2017

You are a living transformer. First – the body. Things go in and come out. Food becomes energy, then excrement. The lungs are pistons. Air comes in, feeds the blood, air goes out. Everything entering your body is transformed by the transformer that y …

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My Midnight Adventure in Spicy Ternate

30 November 2017

How loudspeakers and a pick-up truck transformed my journey   “What the hell?!” I thought. “Are people nuts in this town?” I had just been woken up at around midnight by very loud music coming from speakers that seemed to be just outside my bedr …

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At How Many Points Do You Touch Life?

17 November 2017

The number of points at which you touch Life and the World is the measure of the wealth of your life.  People ask themselves, “Are my days rich? Do I have a rich life?” But what they should actually be asking is, “At how many points do I touch Life?” …

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Stop Repeating and Start Creating!

2 November 2017

The mother of all learning is imitation and repetition. Children learn mostly by first imitating and then repeating the movements, mannerisms, facial expressions, and words of the adults or of the older siblings in their lives. One well-studied pheno …

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People Are Waves

5 October 2017

The people you meet are not really human. They are not even material bodies located in space and time. People are waves. A human being seems to be, most prominently, a physical object, a body with arms and legs, a beating heart and breathing lungs. Y …

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License to Raise and Rule

7 September 2017

To drive a small scooter, one must have a driver’s license. But to raise children or rule a country, one need have nothing! Seen from the vantage point of a future observer living in the twenty-fifth century, our contemporary twenty-first century soc …

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27 August 2017

Vara Blanca, Costa Rica, 2005  In my country it is called “Thermitron.” Here, they call it “Termo.” It is an electric showerhead that instantly heats running cold water to provide a hot shower in remote places where the installation of elaborate wate …

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Ouaaa …

8 August 2017

West Africa, 2010 In these parts of the world, where “restaurants” are dirty shacks and they serve your food on cracked plates with dusty hands, my emergency food has become my regular one. It is condensed, nutritious, easy to prepare, and of course, …

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Digital Flooding

30 July 2017

We have ceased to communicate, for we speak in sound bites. We have ceased to be ourselves, for we exist for the others’ gaze. We have ceased to be original for we conform to the multitude’s demands. Yet none is a more serious predicament than that.. …

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Leaping into the Unknown

16 July 2017

Nothing holds greater power in our life than the Unknown. The Unknown pulls us towards new life experiences, new knowledge, new human relationships – a renewed and revitalized life. The Unknown always calls us, and we can respond either by ignoring o …

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The Unlived Life of Parents

1 June 2017

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” – Carl Jung “I remember so well the agony of being torn between my love and joy for my child, and my desperation to hang onto a sense of my self …

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The Rational Foundations of Gratefulness

22 May 2017

“Life is given to us; every moment is given. The only appropriate response therefore is gratefulness.” – Brother David Steindl-Rast, from The Music of Silence “This world appears to us rather as a world of suffering than as a world of the delight of …

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The Restless Tribe

4 May 2017

Enough with the settled life! There is no settled life – do not fool yourselves. Restlessness is the default state of Man. When I was younger, I used to divide people into two categories: the settled and the restless. I put myself in the second categ …

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Connections Are Forever

20 April 2017

Every human connection we make remains with us forever. We cannot annul it. We cannot go back in time and make it vanish. We cannot put it aside, pretend it is not there, or even delete it from our memory. We may attempt to do any of these, but we wi …

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The Biggest Attraction of China

6 April 2017

China – 2008 The biggest attraction of China is … me! At least while I’m here and moving around. Wherever I go (outside of the main tourist destinations), I instantly become the center of attention. Being a strange looking long-nosed, huge-eyed, hair …

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Memento Mori

29 March 2017

The most important thing in life is Death. Yet he seems to come from some other domain, another dimension. He is the strangest visitor in this “world of the living.” Although he seems to be a part of life, his mere appearance extinguishes it. He is b …

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The Eternal Ragpicker

26 February 2017

Truly, we do not think, will or act but thought occurs in us, will occurs in us, impulse and act occur in us; our ego-sense gathers around itself, refers to itself all this flow of natural activities. It is cosmic Force, it is Nature that forms the t …

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Parallel Universes

10 February 2017

We live in a world of parallel universes. The universes of politics, cooking, fashion, music, parrots! Many years ago, I decided to buy a macaw parrot. A few weeks later, I found myself immersed in the “world of birds.” I began to discover this alrea …

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28 January 2017

A chicken-bus quartet in 5 movements On board a minibus in Guatemala, from the town of Coban to the village of Uspantan in 2005, I had a wide range of experiences that led to many inspirations. Later I would write a number of essays under the general …

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Infinite Microcosms

13 January 2017

Infinity is almost always associated with vast entities. We think of the universe as being situated in infinite Space; of Time as extending infinitely along a line backward (the past) and forward (the future); we imagine two parallel straight lines m …

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World Travel and World-Travelers

19 December 2016

Last month, I was honored to participate in the annual Airbnb Open festival in Los Angeles. This weekend-long festival was a true celebration of hospitality, openness, and wanderlust. The fascinating program included the announcement of Airbnb’s new …

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An Extra-Terrestrial Amidst the Dogon

4 December 2016

As a child of the 1970s, I was fascinated by the nascent exploration of space. I spent a good part of my teenage years in bookshops searching for books that explained the American and Soviet space-programs or had amazing colour photos of the Apollo m …

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“But Everybody Does It!”

8 November 2016

It is supposed to be the phrase that vanquishes all opposition: “But everybody does it!” Or its corollary: “But nobody does it!” Your elaborate argument, your opinion and carefully expressed points, amount to nothing. Whatever you have just said or a …

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The Era of Sound Bites

23 October 2016

We live in the era of sound bites. The overwhelming majority of our communication has been reduced to posts, tweets, text messages, and one-liners. Attention spans have dwindled, and argumentative reasoning has been reduced to “the final statement,” …

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The Little Things

9 September 2016

It is not histories I am writing, but lives; and in the most glorious deeds there is not always an indication of virtue or vice, indeed a small thing like a phrase or a jest often makes a greater revelation of a character than battles where thousands …

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The Others’ Gaze

29 August 2016

The gaze of others defines us. So long as we are alone, we do not possess an outside vision of ourselves to which our acts can be referred; we exist within our inner being, which has no identity and no characteristics. But when others enter the pictu …

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The Conscious Suffering of Development

27 July 2016

When we learn to drive a car, we are anxious, struggle, sometimes even suffer. Most importantly, we are continuously conscious. Learning is a process in and through consciousness. When learning ends, its final reward is unconsciousness: We can drive …

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There Is Nothing To Understand

1 July 2016

We are blinded by “name and form.” We are hooked to our understanding that is limited by our limiting definitions. We are appalled by the brutality, bestiality, inhumanness of humans; say a serial killer, with no ethical constraints whatsoever. “How …

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Monumental Encounters

16 June 2016

Every separation is a rehearsal for death. When you part with someone whom in all likelihood you will never see again, this is almost the same as him dying for you. You will never see him again and some day he will die – before or after you, it does …

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2 June 2016

For what the Spirit sees, creates a Truth, and what the soul imagines is made a World – Sri Aurobindo   Cancun, Mexico My itinerary said: “20th of October – Travel to Cancun via Chichen Itza.” Cancun: the latest tourist capital of Mexico. Chiche …

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The Incompleteness of Man

18 May 2016

Look at an animal – a cat, a cockroach, a fish in the ocean. All have everything they need. All are already everything they need to be. Animals are born complete. There is nothing to be added to a fish or a cockroach from the moment it is born until …

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© 2018 Nicos Hadjicostis