Sunday, May 14, 2006

Where lies Home? - A journey through a tropical greenhouse

"One never really understand what home means until one has lived away from it"
"Home is where one chooses to make it"

Does the 2 statements contradict each other? Are they mutually exclusive?

Still doesn't quite answer the question - but walking through a tropical greenhouse in the Palmgarten in Frankfurt today brought back memories of home. No, not memories of the house, nor memories of the places, but memories of the air, the humidity, and well, the scents of the tropics.

It was like a mini tour through the various major climate areas of the world, in one greehouse, the air was dry like in the California region, in another, the air was 'wet' like in the tropics. Did i also mention that the temperature was different? Walking through the tropical section, it felt so much easier to 'breathe'. Having breathed in the tropics for 28 years (less a few weeks), it seemed like home, because the air and temperature felt 'normal'

So there lies the question - what then defines home? the place where one grows up in, and drinks water from the land, imbibes from the plants in the region, and leaves permanent memories in the body? (I can't compare meats anymore, since we now have "airpork" from Australia" after the Nipah virus scare back in 2001/2?, and we don't have much of a farm industry in Singapore)

Or is it the place where one forms one's first relationships (familial, societal, etc)? What are social relationships, since they appear to form anywhere and anywhere if one tries hard enough. Family links cannot be changed, though the relationships can go through ups and downs. Friends, well, one can always move to a new city! (which is a little hard to do in tiny Singapore.)

So the scent and humidity of the tropics re-triggered the question of where one calls home. It was brought into sharper focus when I saw the latest Newsweek article "The new Jet Set": Rootless travelers - or citizens of the world?

Reading through the article, it appears that I am already practicing some of the customs and habits of them, while living in Europe on Exchange. As it stands, the schedule of events for next week is as follows:

Week X of 52

Monday: Start Summer School Programme @EBS in Oestrich-Winkel (Morning/Afternoon)

Tuesday: Same as above

Morning - visit to European Central Bank (Frankfurt);
Early afternoon fly from Frankfurt Flughaven into Paris CDG.
Evening: Champions League Final @Stade de France.
(Seats behind the bench, so I am told!)

Morning: Knock on Board Game Company's doors in Paris because they never reply to any emails.
Mid-Afternoon: Fly back to Frankfurt
Evening: Possible dinner meeting in Frankfurt
Night: Return to Oestrich-Winkel.

Morning - return to Summer School classes.
Afternoon - Summer school class+dinner/wine tasting?

nothing scheduled yet; odds of going somewhere with the summer school people are high.

Looking at all that hopping around, studying+football+working, all within the space of 72 hours, in 3 different cities (erm, Oestrich-Winkel is a "Stadt", but it sure is a tiny "stadt"!) - is this the life of the future for many in the knowledge economy? Or will this still be the preserve of the top 0.01% of the world's population? What gives me the 'right' to live such a life?

With so many options, is there a real need to return to 'home' as it is currently known? Or is there a need to re-define home in terms of seasons? eg:

Spring - Europe
Summer - somewhere not so hot? (still searching for a great place)
Autumn - still searching
Winter - Singapore (because it doesn't snow, and its not so hot anymore!)

If the knowledge economy enables work to be carried on from anywhere with an internet connection (VPNs, VOIPs, Webcams, etc reduce the need to be face to face), is there a real need for tomorrow's generation to stay firmly rooted in one place? Or will all of them have bases all over the world to travel to and fro? What factors would tie them down more to one location over another?

I guess, children would be a major factor in such a situation. Tonight's dinner with the Course Leader for the Summer school, was a clear example - She is currently based in Germany, teaching @EBS. She will be heading to Virginia, USA for (a sabbatical? no idea). She mentioned how difficult it was for her and her husband to both be able to go away to Virginia for 1 semester (6 months?) at the same time. And most importantly, she was worried about her children's education not being disrupted.

On that issue, it was interesting how she offered the option to her children of deciding whether they wanted to join a more advanced class and be challenged, or stay with other children in her age group at a lower-level class. She was concerned with issues like class size (looking at a private school with 2-3 teachers for a 12-20 student class); and back in Singapore, we're still talking about a 40-student class in our national schools.
(Don't want to turn this into a discussion on societal evolution (that will come?), but its interesting how her children have a 'choice'.)

So, it appears that the primary factors for deciding if she could go away were:

1. Familial-Husband
2. Familial -Children.
3. Nothing else critical?

Would she be considered a jet-setter as per the Newsweek article? I don't know much of her life as an academic, but she was educated in France and Florida before landing a job in EBS. I guess that makes her a citizen of the globe.

So, where lies home? or what is home? I don't even know what my room will look like when I return to SG. Does it trouble me? I don't seem terribly worried about not being rooted anymore. Maybe I am already a citizen of the world.



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