I am sitting on a Swiss train. Soon I will change trains to travel through France and – after a few more changes – arrive in Madrid in the evening. This gives me a sense of déjà vu: in 2015, I spent two months in the USA to fulfil the requirements for the Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Bern. Now I am going to Madrid for two months to fulfil the requirements of the University of Teacher Education in Bern; without this stay, I would not be accepted as a student for the Spanish teaching diploma. Just as I would not have been able to complete my English studies without the first stay in the USA.
During both stays, the American one and the Spanish one that starts today, I decided not to study or formally train in any traditional manner, but to look for an alternative to deepen my non-academic interests and broaden my experience with something other than school life; especially since I am now a teacher myself. That’s why I’m going to do a workaway 65 kilometres from the centre of Madrid with animals and farming, and then learn how to weld and braze steel bicycle frames. I plan on returning to Switzerland after Easter.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, there are two reasons. First, it seems like a fitting first topic to breathe some life into this little-used blog, which is handy to share my experiences with my friends. Secondly, I finished reading a book two days ago: Jung & Alt (Young & Old). It contains an exchange, originally published as a newspaper column, between two journalists who are 104 years old together. What makes the book special is that the young journalist, Samantha Zaugg, is 27 years old, while Ludwig Hasler is 77 and therefore has a very different perspective to Samatha. So it is not surprising that opinions differ in this book. The person reading finds themselves in an interesting position where they can reflect on their own opinions based on those presented in the book. I was often on Samatha’s side and many of Ludwig’s columns made me think, even if I didn’t always agree with him. However, one of Ludwig’s points in particular made me think. In the book, he talks about experience as one of the most important factors that distinguishes the young from the old. Obviously, the life hours spent cannot be taken away from the advanced generations and their experience, their long-term existence, allows them to see how the world works, what tends to change and what remains the same. The experience is something that the young cannot replicate or gain without growing old themselves. I agree with all of this and have also realised that I have to prioritise some things and leave others, even if they are important, to others in order to become a little happier myself. But when I think of my stay in the USA and what is coming up in Madrid, it seems to me that experience, just existing on this planet, is not an argument in itself, nor does it always lead to wisdom. Quite obvious, put like that. What is needed – and I am convinced that Ludwig does not have too little of this either – is multifaceted experience. Experience that is nourished by diverse lived perspectives and remains flexible in order to remain open to ever more input. In any case, that’s what I’m thinking right now. If you feel like it, why don’t you make a reminder in your calendar, say in 47 years’ time, and ask me again what I mean?
The irony in this post lies in the fact that I have noticed that I haven’t been very open towards what Madrid will have in store for me. I’ve been working a lot over the last few months and I was just planning on doing things in Spain that I practice anyway. However, my host, who I will meet tomorrow, sent me a link to his blog and I realised that I had forgotten about something fundamental. I had forgotten the wish to collect new experiences. I was focused on what is known and comfortable for me (Get to know slackliners, climb a bit, maybe practice some AcroYoga) and I didn’t think about how brilliant it might be to get to know a new place with its new people. To go there without expectations. To seize the opportunity and deepen my superficial understanding of agriculture, permaculture and whatever else comes up (topics that seem more important for the climate and the future of our planet anyway). To sum up, I’d like to thank Fredi for sending me his blog und Samantha and Ludwig for their interesting columns, that helped inspire this text.
I am now looking forward to Madrid in a new way and am more appreciative of the opportunity. Let’s see what’s going to happen while I’m there.