It is a widely held belief that when confronted by unpleasantness or danger ostriches bury their head in the sand hoping that the danger will pass. Although this is a myth the concept has past into our languages. The Dutch have named the activity of avoiding inconvenient or unpleasant issues after this large flightless bird: The Ostrich Policy (Struisvogelpolitiek ). In English we talk of ‘ burying our head in the sand’ in order to avoid uncomfortable facts.
It is the beginning of September, most our friends have returned from their summer holiday, or vacation if you prefer. We all have stories to tell, some more interesting than others, and we have photographs, lots of them, taken with tablets, smartphones and, how old fashioned, even cameras. It was my intention to write about our recent adventures in Georgia but instead I found myself considering holidays/vacations in general. According to the definitions, holidays or vacations, have an element of getting away from something, work or study for instance. A period of rest and recreation free of duties and requirements.
My first reaction is to say that I rarely feel the need to ‘get away from it all’, that my motives are far more positive, a desire to visit people and places, see new things and to stretch my horizons. However, on further consideration I have to admit there are several things that I am glad to get away from, if only for a while, and that my choice of destinations, to a certain extent, reflect this:
Grumbling, complaining and moaning
The first thing that I am increasingly glad to escape from is all the grumbling and complaining I hear around me every day. The Netherlands has to be one of the best regulated countries in the world, at least when compared to most other nations, it has a well developed infrastructure, health service, welfare service, education system and a reliable and varied supply of energy. The measurable quality of life is high…and yet..the Dutch are habitual complainers. The British are no better, a few years ago there was a popular TV series ‘Grumpy Old Men’ followed by ‘ Grumpy Old Women’, middle aged and older TV personalities would air their discontent on various subjects. These programmes were entertaining, witty and amusing but they also highlighted a national characteristic: the British, and especially the English, enjoy a good moan!
It seems to me that, up to a point, the less people have the less they complain.
To be honest I enjoy travelling in places where the electricity supply is erratic, roads are blocked by rocks or livestock, bridges are in a constant state of repair and where the water is temporarily unavailable and may or may not be hot when it does becomes available. It’s all part of the fun. However what I really admire is the way the local inhabitants take these setbacks in their stride, a slight shrug of their shoulders and maybe an apologetic smile “ Ah well – that’s the way things are around here”, they indicate… then they get on with their lives without complaining. What’s the point – it doesn’t help!
It may seem a bit perverse but another thing I like to leave behind, but not for too long, is my freedom of choice. Honestly! Shopping in a store that, due to poor infrastructure, inadequate distribution system or its remote location, has a limited selection of products can be very refreshing.
Having just two sorts of shampoo or biscuits to choose from instead of sixty makes life very easy, especially if you can’t read the packaging. And even if it does turn out that the blue bottle wasn’t shampoo after all at least you had a fifty-fifty chance. Purchasing your daily needs based on availability rather than choice makes for simple, quick and efficient shopping trips. With fewer options to consider there is no need for lengthy discussions and therefore more time over for other, more important things, like drinking beer on a bench outside the shop.
Having said that, shopping in less developed countries or districts can actually increase the choice if you are travelling light! Often products like instant coffee sachets, tea bags or disposable razors, that you would normally have to buy in larger quantities, can be purchased individually.
It is often on the way home from a trip that it suddenly occurs to me that I haven’t read a newspaper, listened to a radio or watched any television for several weeks and that I hadn’t missed any of them. Well, I may have glanced fleetingly at a TV screen in a café but it would have been tuned to football or MTV. This summer the news was as bad as ever and maybe even more depressing than usual. Air disasters, riots, uprisings, revolutions, executions and genocide. Images of hate, violence and misery. Stories of whole populations killed, injured or on the run. All these news items accompanied by, …and this is what I am most glad to get away from,… hours of opinion, conjecture, speculation and the endless repetition that is apparently necessary to feed the twenty-four hour news machine.
Whew! No it is never good to be ignorant or uninformed but sometimes, just for a while, it does feel good to take an Ostrich style time-out and bury ones head in the sand!!