To Doru M., 8. Januar 1998, Basel
Well, you world travellor! I think, I have been on the road a little longer than you. I came back from the States at the end of June. Since then I am slowly reintegrating back into my work. I have gotten a grant from the Swiss Science Foundation for a research project about the life and work of a rather famous german educator by the name of Paul Geheeb. This man lived from 1870 to 1961, which means that I learn a lot about the hirstory of western Europe while I am studiing this man's life. He was born in Jgermany and he was the director of a rather well known international school until Hitler came to power. In 1934 he and his wife emigrated with a few of their former students into Switzerland, where he started another "alternative" (reform)-school. I tought at this school in the mid 70ies and since about 8 years I have become something like the "Historien" of this place. There is a huge archive with a lot of material - mainly letters to all kinds of people -, which serves as main basis for my research project. Besides this material I have of course a lot of additional reading to do. - Considering that the swiss government pays all this, I feel pretty fortunated. However: Doing this kind of work day after day... can get boring after a while: Too much paper, too much unimportant histories, anecdotes, too much sitting and reading, too much lonesom thinking, too little exchange with other scolars, too little relevance to real life issues and problems...
Well. In a few weeks or mounths things will look different I think, because I hope to teach a class (on alternative education and educational critics) at Bern University. The questions of new and alternative approaches to education have interested me since quite some time and I am looking forward to teaching this class! I will also most likely get a chance to lecture on my current research at various places in Switzerland and Germany, because the first half of the biography of Paul Geheeb is being published in March. It is a slightly "upgraded" version of my dissertation. - Things could in eed get so busy, that I will soon miss these days of pieceful research and lonely thinking ...!
So, this is my work! - You wunder, maybe, how I do it -, how I read all this material etc.. Well, of course, this is a question many people ask. In my case I rely a great deal on readers, who put the material I need, o tape. As far as books are concerned, I get a lot of support by the Swiss Tape Library, a State funded institution for visually hanicapped people in our country. In a few weeks I will also get a scanner, which will allow me, to scan most of the books I need or want to read and thus convert these books in text files, which can be used and read by any old computer. In my case I work with a small note book, which is equipped with synthetic speach and with a special "screen reading program". This way I can work with a reular keyboard, I can use most resources on the internet or the university server etc. etc.; this is quite helpful, although the ammount of time and energy, which goes into learning to master the constantly changing flow of newer and better versions of all the software involved and to maintain all the equipment is quite horendous! I think very often about the "good old times", when I did all my work with the help of an old manual typewriter and a brailler (a typewriter which prints braille) plus a cassette recorder maybe. Clearly: The companies, which produce all this stuff, profit from it; whether we normal human beings profit from it too, I don't know. But then again: I must say, that I am also fascinated by the thrills and possibilities of our modern times...
... Well. I have just spent an hour an the phone, talking to one of my former high-school teacher. He had contacted me some time ago - just like that, because he wanted to know, what had become of me after so many years. We had the most charming conversation you can immagin - laughing and talking and joking about the world. - Strange, how suddenly an old old layer of ones life becomes so alife again!
Friday, January 9th
Well, Doru. I could tell you quite a bit about my travels along the west coat of the US and about my trip back home on a 50 foot sailboat! ... Many encounters and adventures and - all in all - a lot of joy to just be alife and exploring this world!... But let me ask you something else, before I get to envolved in my american stories:
I don't know, whether you remember, that I told you, how much I would love to get to know Rumania. I can't really tell you, why I am so interested in your country. Part of it may just be the fact, that I don't know any thing at all about it! Part of it may be the fact, that the rumanian language is related to latin and is therefor less foreign to me than slawic languages. I don't think that it would be very easy to learn, but probably - that's my idea - easier than russian or polish! A third reason is my interest in the social, psychological and econoic processes, which are going on in eastern Europe after the collaps of the old regimes. I find this shift from one ideology to another very very fascinating -, a very special historical event, which I love to widness or study: It is like world history happening right in front of my door step! I want to go and be there, see it, hear how people think and feel about it, what they say etc. -These are my rather general motifs: Your enthusiastic accounts of the beauty of Ruminia added to my curiosity. Now, here is my plan:
Between February 15 and March 12th I am free to travel. I would very much love to spend at least two, maybe three weeks during this time in Rumania. If you are around I would love to stop by and visit with you for a few days. Maybe this could be the beginning of my trip. Then I would love to see as much of your country as possible: Rural areas, mountains, black sea, cities ... famous sights - interesting places - special social projects ...
Since I don't speak your language and since I do not know anything about your country (culture etc.), I do not want to travel all by myself too much this time. Therefor I am looking for something like a "guided tour". I am thinking of either joining a travel group in Switzerland (official travel agencies organize all kinds of more or less interesting trips to all kinds of countries!). Another idea would be, to find a person in Rumania, who would be interested in showing my around - something like a privat guide! Somehow I would prefer the second idea, becuase when I join a rgular group, I am affraid that I will not really get in contact with local people.I really prefer the individualist way of travelling! My question to you therefor is: Can you help me to find a person, who might be interested in showing me around in his or her country? This person would have to speak some english, french or german, so that we could communicate without too much difficulty. She or he would also have to be willing to travel with a blin person, who needs some help every now and then (like showing me to the bathroom, helping me to get food in a self help restaurant, guiding me through difficult territory etc. etc.). The person would also have to be interested in somewhat adventures things: Maybe staying in very remote places with little "civilisation", maybe hiking ... Ideally this person would just be like an adventurous, curious friend of mine, who loves to show me his or her country! We could of course discuss together, where we want to go and what we wnat to see. I might until then have some ideas of what I wnat to see, but right now I am vry open to all suggestions. - Ideally it would be a friend -, but I would of course be quite willing to pay this person for being my guide for 10 or 15 days. To me such a guide is a great luxury for which I do not mind paying! ...
I guess, you understand my plan. Since I have no connections to Rumania but you, I would be very happy, if you could tell me
first: Hat do you think about this plan and
second: Do you know someone, who would be intereted in this kind of "work" or can you help me to find somebody like this.
... Well. I think that I will call you in a few days, so that we can talk about all this on the phone! Maybe when we talk about it, my plans change,because of your suggestions or ideas. I have for example no idea about the seasons in Rumania. Maybe Beginning of March is just too cold to travel? Is it? ... Maybe ... maybe ...
If you do have email, we could also communicate via emial: this is of course a lot faster than regular mail and with my special computer I have no difficulties reading your mails.
... O.K. - I think I told you enough about my ideas. We will have to talk about possibilities on the phone! Maybe you can really help me to arrange something. Of course, if you do have some tie, it would also be great to travel with you for a bit, but I assume, that you are pretty busy working? Right? - At least, we would get a chance to talk and I would get to know you (and some of your family or Firners?). This would be great!
So long for today!
Many many greatings,