3,300 km south

07.06.2010
Until i wake up here in one street of Phnom Penh, in a 3 storeys house, with a level of humidity never experienced in Beijing, untill the sounds around me are not familiar any more, only then I realize I have left.

I left from gate 50 in terminal 2 of beijing airport. An isolated gate. Flights take to urumqi, Manila, Hanoi,Phnom Penh, Teheran.

Thoughts move quickly during the waiting.

“Is south east asia, under many aspects, the antithesis of Europe? Is it because of the mystery and ignorance we have about it? Japan, China, India even if really different still occupy a place in our imagery, still have some character we can recall. What about the south east? Amongst those perhaps Cambodia represents one of the more sublime and dramatic.”
“Do places influence our thoughts? If so where are we deciding to spend our time?”

I think the relation with the asian city develops on the skin: it is sweat, air, breath, steam, smell. The city as clothing that lays on our body.

A desire for the exotic, the unknown tricks me. The feeling that there is a possibility of another the way, another taste, another smell. In this state of vivid curiosity we loose attention for what lays in front of us. We feel pushed to do a lateral step towards the periphery of things.Was this desire that pushed me through the shadows of Isfahan mosques? Through the alleys of Tokyo nights?

The flight.
My seat is next to a Cambodian girl that has been living in France since 8 years. Together with her sister and brother in lawn she works in a factory close to Marseille. Ramacha her name. How can she, at her young age, be working in factory in France? Has she got possibility for education? And dreams?

Danger.
If one says Cambodia in few seconds the word “danger” will also be pronounced. For sure it is not one of the safest places on earth but the feeling is that we are missing the main danger: the possibility that the conscience and axioms of our “round” life might could shift and undermine its fragile construction.

Pessimism.
I am a rather pessimistic person but I think that living in a place of necessity can only help. There are situations in which pessimism is a luxury.

Day one.
I wake up and walk around the city before going to a meeting. The day starts early in PP. Everybody wants tot take advantage of the early morning temperature. The city center is almost only made of 2/3 storey buildings. Some look rather colonial. Some are on construction some are falling apart. One can start to see a pattern: ground floor for commercial or garage. Second/third floor mostly for living or sleeping then the last one as a roofed terrace open on each side.

One can see many office of NGO or charity association. Cambodia is still sick.

In one day I have already seen already many names of companies or organization that I found during previous research. Phnom Penh seems quite small.  A familiar feelings, probably due to its reduced scale pervades the streets.

At 3 pm the sky is gray, clouds and thunder. In 30 minutes an expected tropical rain shower comes. As a ritual, the streets gets empty, the terraces pull down curtains, pillows are taken away. Architecture has to provide ventilation and protect from rain.

Jaakko Vatanen

Jakko Vatanen’s in praise of nomadism is a collection of pictures taken in these last three and a half year in Asia. The intention is to feed the desire for discovery and get in contact again with the nomadic side of our personalities. In other words, what pushed Kaarlo Vatanen that day to pick up the hare and walk into the forest?