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Welcome to Jeroensjourney 2!
Dear reader, Beste lezer,
 
Welcome to the weblog that follows on jeroensjourney.punt.nl. Here I will update you on my experiences in Thailand and India, and my personal inner or spiritual journey. After my healing journey described on jeroensjourney.punt.nl (with also information about Buddhism, meditation, Taoism and other healing practices), this weblog, from early 2007, relates about further healing and spiritual growth for an increasingly happy and true life.
 
With love from Asia,
 
Jeroen Deva Geetesh (jeroensjourney@gmail.com)
(I check this e-mail not very often, so let me know, on my blog, that you sent me an e-mail)
 
P.S.:
Je reactie is van harte welkom!     
Reactions are very welcome!
Where:   Houston, Texas, USA
When:    28 - 30 September 2007
 
The American way of life in Houston
 
Dear reader,
 
After writing how politicians, planners and wealthy citizens in Mexico are creating a society and lifestyle that is not much different from that of 'the gringos' north of the border, it is nice to write about the American way of life in the city of Houston in Texas.  
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Where:   Mexico
When:    September 2007
 
The American Way of Life in Mexico
 
Dear reader,
 
The previous two years of my life were all about healing and personal growth. In the coming years that will still be important, but I have arrived at a new phase in my life. The phase of expressing my 'healed inner self' in the outer world. In other words it is not anymore just about the inner, now questions about relationships, living (home, etc.) and work are coming to the surface. The basic question are "Who am I?", "What makes me happy?" and "How do I want my life to be?". No easy questions, but by travelling around the globe and realising in different places and different situations what makes me happy or unhappy helps to get an idea of how I can live a life that is authentically 'me'.
 
My experiences in Mexico, the USA and Holland have helped me to get more clarity about that.
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Where:   India
When:    March, April 2007
 
Indian servants
 
Dear readers,
 
If, like me, you are brought up in an egalitarian country like Holland, the word "servant" (bediende) alone can make you feel uncomfortable. Of course in a restaurant or bar there is someone serving you, but what about your own driver, a servant at home, someone who opens the door for you? That is a different thing altogether. India is full of servants. They are called like that and behave like that and it is a normal part of the culture. You might want to 'blame' the class society of the British colonial rulers, but the notion that ehh, 'some people are more equal than others' and some people are masters and others servants is much much older. The thousands of years old Hindu caste system divides the population in people of different rank and standing. Good, I might write more about that some other time, but now will just give you some idea how someone from the 'flat' (in every sense) country of Holland experiences the concept of having servants.
 
Let's start with the restaurant. Being served in a restaurant is normal for all of us, but here in India in many restaurant people serve you more than I find necessary or even desirable. The waiter will not just put the bowls with rice, dal, curry or whatever on the table, but he will come over and put the rice and the sauce on your plate spoon by spoon. 
Yes that happens in very expensive restaurants in the west as well, but here it happens in many restaurants that are not that expensive at all. In some cases they put the bowls far enough away so that you have to ask the waiter if you want to eat more.
I have noticed that I like self-service and not having to ask for everything but just take what I want. In 'bad' days it even gets on my nerves. The worst case is when you are alone in the restaurant. Then sometimes the waiter looks at every spoon you put into your mouth, ready to jump in in case your plate doesn't have any rice, curry or whatever anymore.  "Get lost. I can manage myself...."  I then sometimes feel like crying out. But know, I have to admit, I am getting used to it.
 
Then here in the office where I also happens to live. There is one 'gate-keeper' and gardener who locks and opens the doors and sprinkles the garden at 7 am.
There is the man who does also gardening and makes my breakfast.
Then there are two people who cook and do also several other things.  
And of course there is the lady who brings the tea and coffee.
All together this office of 25 staff has 5 servants.
 
Fig.: The lovely man who makes my breakfast is connecting the gas
(He is one of the servants who speaks some English and 'loves Holland' since he lived a year in The Hague working for the Indian Ambassador in the Netherlands. Used to living in a big land house in that leafy area of the city will have given him a maybe slightly lobsided view of The Netherlands. But who cares.....) 
 
So then it happens that you kind of start to be unable to function on your own.
Let me give you an example how that works. This afternoon I get up (I had a nice and late party of a colleague who lives in the village) and want to make myself some toast. It is Sunday and the servants are nowhere to be seen. I walk to the 'restaurant' but the door is locked. I know where the keys of the office are so walk to the little room where they are kept. I take the keys and walk to the restaurant (one floor lower), but the keys do not fit. I then decide to walk outside the gate to see if I see one of the servants. The 'gate-keeper' is there and helps me to get into the restaurant. I make toast with marmelade and then decide that a coffee would be nice. I go up to the coffee-making-room. There is coffee so I boil some water. But there is no milk. On workdays their is a thermors bottle with hot milk, but of course, not today. I walk back down to the restaurant to look for milk. I find a bottle and walk back up. I cook the milk but it goes funny. I taste it and either the milk has gone bad or it is buttermilk or something. I give up on the milk and walk down with the pan back to the restaurant.  On the way I meet the 'gate-keeper'. He smiles and I say 'hello'. While I take my coffee without milk one of the cooks appears. The gate-keeper saw me with the pan and must have gotten a bit worried about me doing so many things myself. I ask the cook for milk. The funny thing is that here I feel almost guilty for 'not asking' servants to do something for you. Like I am doing their work if I do something myself. So he goes of and walks in with a bag of milk. A bit later the cook walks off and the gate-keeper who only speaks Hindi but understands some English start to tell me something in Hindi. I have no idea what he is talking about but wonder where the cook is going. He then shows me a cup with milk all over it. I guess this milk was not good either and the cook must have gone into the village to by some fresh milk.
Later he comes back, and just before the rest of my coffee has gone cold I have coffee with milk. Pffff. Just being able to open your own living room door, then the fridge and then heating some milk like I am used to do at home is so much easier.........
 
This is only one of many stories. I got a car with a driver when I worked in Pune, but he did not speak one word of English. So then I had to ask the hotel employee to call my driver and ask him in Hindi when I wanted him to pick me up and where to go.
 
Yes, in this country I easily use two or three people for things I am perfectly capable off, and happy with, doing on my own. But with a billion people, at least this provides some employment for those who did not go to school or study.
 
For me sometimes it remains a challenge. Just being on my own just taking what I  like rather than having to communicate for everything (How much suger do you want in your coffe? How much milk?) is easier.
 
Good, time to go to bed. Despite showing and explaining to the gate-keeper that I know how to lock the office door and where to put the key (I got it there and opened the door myself), he keeps walking in and out here waiting for me to finish my weblog. I guess I should go to bed and let him go to bed.
 
All the best from India,
 
Jeroen
Lees meer...
Love and marriage in India and the West

Dear reader,
 
I am sure you have realised what date it was yesterday, so I don’t need any cows .
What was true is that I do love India and find particularly northern Indian women very charming and attractive. But I am very happy not to have to worry about an Indian wedding at this stage ;-). And…..there is no girl called Nadya in the office…..
Good, enough joking for now. Now that we talk about the interesting issue of marriage in India, I’ll better write a bit more about it.
 

Marry for life
 
Whether wedding gifts are the norm here in India (let alone in the form of animals), I don’t know. What I do know is that marriage is a huge thing here in India. In India you marry for life. Here your marriage is not just between you and your partner, but it is also between your family and her/his family. The family is seen as responsible for the marriage as much as the partners themselves. And also when a marriage fails that is seen as a shame for the whole family. So when I wrote in my 1st of April e-mail that the importance of the family was something I did not feel very comfortable about. That would definitely be the case for this individualist Westerner.
Divorce is still not done, although I am sure it happens more and more now that India is developing so quickly. But, it still happens that a divorced women (it is always the women who pay the price in religious countries), is supposed not to marry again and seen as a ‘fallen women’. So there you have some of the less positive aspects of India.
 

Arranged marriages
 
Something else that also still happens is arranged marriages. But my originally very negative idea about that has become a bit more absolute now that I know more about it. The most extreme form is that the parents decide who the children marry and they see their future for the first time in their life at the wedding. That still happens but is becoming more and more an exception. A little less extreme is that they have met before, but still cannot say “no” if they don’t like their future wife or husband.
 
Then, more common is that the family proposes possible future partners and enables the children to meet. Without the presence of the parents, that is. So the family looks into other “good” families and tries to make a good match. They kind of operate as a dating office, you might say. This way the son or daughter can meet many possible wives or husbands and choose whoever they like. So the family does not decide, but proposes and selects a large number of candidates. Still something we in the west cannot imagine. Imagine your mother selecting possible partners for you. But this is a very different situation than the one I wrote about before.
 
A work contact of mine here in Delhi, a modern, intelligent architect, who is in his early 30’s explained to me how this worked in his case. Around 30 he - and his family and the rest of society - felt that it was time to marry. So for half a year or so he dated many many women, with the clear objective to find a wife, not just a girlfriend. Whether most or all where suggested by his mother, I don’t remember, but they were definitely not all his selection.
He then met a girl he really liked. The same outlook on life, attractive in his eyes, etc., etc. They then started going out to get to know each other better, and, I have to check that a preliminary date for the marriage is set. At this stage there is no commitment yet, but it is not just playing around, but seriously seeing if they are compatible to marry soon. He told me that they both could say “no” if they felt that their marriage would not work, but that at that stage there were already expectations from the family, so it would not be easy to do that. 
He told me that they really liked each other and he is now happily married for a few years.
 

Love marriages
 
The western way of first falling in love and then getting married is gaining in popularity in India, but is as far as I understand, still the exception. Here they call that “love marriages”, something that is okay in modern families. But I also understand that many young people don’t make a conscious decision either way. “If I fall in love with someone I could end up marrying that person. However if by 30 or so I still haven’t found anyone it is fine to follow the procedure described above.” Here it doesn’t matter how you find your husband or wife, what matters is that you find a husband or wife by your mid-thirties at the latest.
 

Happy arranged marriages
 
Now comes the interesting part. According to what I hear from people and read in the papers, arranged marriages as described above, are not only more lasting (which makes sense with so much pressure of the family to not get divorced), but also very often happier. How could that be? I have an explanation based on my own experiences with love and what I have read in books from experts in the field of love and relationships.
I am just reading a book on this topic and that includes a ‘checklist’ of six questions for a good relationship. It is checklist to be used before you commit or even before you madly fall in love. One of the questions is: “Do I fancy the other person?”, all the other criteria are things like “Do we have the same outlook on life? Do we have similar norms and values? Do we have similar ideas about work and children? Do I notice any character flaws in the other person?”
The author then remarks: Many relationships are based on the first criteria only: Do I fancy the other person? And that is why they so often fail. When you fall madly in love you are blinded for the “incompatible” character traits of your girlfriend. So you might have the most amazing sex, but when the honeymoon period of infatuation is over you have to live with this person and then the answers to the other 5 questions become more important.
The arranged marriages work the other way around. Here all the focus is on the other 5 criteria. Are we compatible in all the other ways apart from the physical attraction? If then these people start to appreciate and know each other, love and sexual attraction can grow. So this more “organized and planned” kind of marriage, what we in the west might see as “not romantic” can actually work very well. Another aspect of course is that because the stakes are high, the marriage should not fail, there is a higher level of commitment and no marriage or relationship can survive without a strong commitment. Problems always come. If you then are not committed to make the relationship work the decision is quickly made to end the relationship.
Both these factors, I think explain why there are so many break-ups and divorces in the west.

My own relationship experience
 
If I know look back on my own relationship I have to say that it was based on more criteria than just “Do I fancy the other person?”. I didn’t even fancy here in the first few days we met, but then quickly fell madly in love. We certainly share(d) a lot of common values and how we look(ed) at the outside world. But when it came to our ideas about the importance of work versus relationship, the level of commitment to the relationship, the ideas about struggle in the relationship and how to overcome them, and ideas about personal growth we had very different ideas that in the end decided the fate of our relationship.
So there you are, my idea that ‘arranged marriages are all bad’ is not as black and white anymore. I am not planning to ask my mother to select some nice women for me (“don’t worry” mum), but definitely do (and also did of course, but no confirmed again) understand that a good and lasting relationship needs to be based on much more than just sexual attraction.
 
Okay, more than enough for now. All the best,
 
Jeroen
Lees meer...
Where:   India
When:    March 2007
 
The Indians
 
Dear reader,
 
After three weeks in India, my first impression about India has become a bit more than only a first impression. I always find that in whatever country you are, one of the main factors that makes it either nice or less nice to be there, is the people.
In my first blog about India, which had pure preconceptions not distorted by any actual experience in the country, you could read that I expected hassle, people that didn't leave you alone, and, at least in comparison with Thailand, more problems with theft.
 
My experience so far, however, is very different. In general I love the Indians. Most are very friendly and communicative. Yes, there are people who want to sell you stuff or hassle you, but so far that has been much, much less than I had expected. Maybe my perspective will change when I go visit the main tourist areas, but my experience so far has been that it is much easier to be left alone in India then in Tunesia (my comparison with a country where I got very tired of people constantly wanting something from you).
 
 
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Where:   India
When:    March 2007
 
India and language(s)
 
Dear reader,
 
One of the things that surprised me here in India is that communication is not always that easy. When you communicate with ordinary, poorly educated Indians such as taxi-drivers and particularly autorickshaw drivers, you quickly find out that many of them speak very little or no English.
Of the countries I visited in Asia only in Japan did I have as much problems to communicate with the local population.
But at the same time, as often in India, the opposite is also true, in no Asian country did I meet so many people who spoke English as fluently as the well-educated Indians do. So what's the story?
 
The story is that India has 18 official different languages. On top of that there are more languages and dialects and there are something like 14 different scripts! So if all Indians speak their own language only if they travel to another state or part of the country, they won't even be able to read the signposts!
Although a large part of the population speaks Hindi, most people in the south don't. So this is where English comes in. Fifty years after leaving the English did not only leave a good and very extensive railway network, but also a language that enables all Indians, or at least educated Indians to communicate. For many well-educated Indians English is almost their first language, but for my autorickshaw driver in Delhi it doesn't make much sense to speak any other language then Hindi as he probably never leave the area where Hindi is spoken.
 
This is India. Often reffered to as: the subcontinent. With so many languages and cutural diversity and a billion people that is an accurate description. Several of the states here have more inhabitants than the most populous country in Europe (Germany with 80 million people), so what then does the word "country" mean?
 
All the best from a little village outside Delhi where I stay to work in an Architectural Office,
 
Jeroen
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Where:  Tao Garden (near Chiang Mai) and Chiang Mai
When:   6 January - 8 February 2007
 
New photos from Thailand!
 
Dear readers,
 
It has been a while since you received some graphic illustration from my journey. One reason is that I haven't been too much of a tourist (apart from one into my own body and psyche). Another that it took a while to find a place where I could resize my photos.
 
But there you are! New photos.
 
From Tao Garden, among some other pictures, you finally got a picture (though not the best quality) from the famous Taoist Master, Mantak Chia, you heard me speak about so much.
 
And in Chiang Mai photos from some beautiful temples and the flower festival in the City. It seems that Thai really like flowers. After the Flora (something like the Floriade in The Netherlands) exhibition that lasted for a months and had thousands of visitors, there was a foud-day flower festival in the city with 'flower parade wagons', price contests for the most beautiful orchid, the most beautiful 'mini garden', the most beautiful bonsai tree and much more.
A Thai asked me some day: "Holland? You have a lot of tulips. Don't you?" I confirmed that. He then replied: "We now also grow tulips." They must like them!
 
That's it for now from me.
 
Best regards from a warming up Chiang Mai (nights of 12 degrees will soon be followed by nights of 24 degrees. Good. Summer!),
 
Jeroen
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