5/6/10

Spaces and other avenues

A modern life in Denmark offers many different spaces: a workspace, a spectre of cultural spaces, a sleeping space, a relaxation space, a space for doing your exercise, a virtual space. In our pursuit for self-realisation (that we in the West for the likes of Inglehart are deemed to engage ourselves in because of our level of wealth) we try to develop our self in multiple ways in multiple arenas.

The same specialization of spaces is difficult to recognize in Masanga. And I feel that it has actually been a bit difficult to adjust to. In Denmark you can let the spaces guide you in your choice of persona and object of pursuit. There your day can be divided into the time you spend in each space. In the morning I go from my universe of sleep and dreams to the kitchen – my space of gastronomy. From here I would maybe go to the library and take on the persona of academia. Or I would go to a café, open my laptop and suddenly be at work, a coffee in hand. Later one could visit a fitness center in the chase of the perfect body or go to the cinema for a cultural journey towards beauty or simply a journey of escapism. The late evening hours could besides another gastronomic experience offer some designated time of cosiness as we Danes are so fond of – accompanied by chocolate and red wine – in front of the television.

Of course there if a huge blurring of spaces as the above suggests. The present day’s flexibility – or ‘liquid modernity’ as Bauman suggested (a term which I quite like) – can diffuse spaces. A café is suddenly not only a place of pleasant conversations, but can also serve as a portal to a virtual space, where you can shape a new self or refine the picture of your present self on platforms like facebook, twitter or a blog like this one. Or the flexible character of your work can enable you to turn every space into your workspace simply by pressing ‘on’. But even though you yourself can help shape and form the spaces of everyday life, it doesn’t change the fact, that if you don’t lose yourself and get lost in the waves of this liquidity – which is our present – flexibility is yours to command.

Here things are very different. Almost all of my activities take place at the hostel. This is where I sleep, where I eat, where I read literary classics or watch a movie, and very often where I work. And also the flexibility is not present in the same way. You never know whether power will come on during the day, which makes computer time a rare and strategic commodity, the kitchen ladies are in charge of the menu, internet access has long been missing, and even the freedom of travelling is inhibited by the insecurity of available vehicles (until you reach a larger city).

Even exercise is not always in your power. The local boys often play football, but you (and they) can never be quite sure of the starting time (time seems to be more relative in Africa than anywhere else) which can vary with many hours, and often is cancelled.

For many of the locals there seems to be mostly four or five spaces available to them. The homespace which is designated to eating and sleeping, and taking care of your giant family. The workspace which can vary between one place in the week – maybe at the hospital – and another in the weekend – for many the mines surrounding Masanga. The cultural space is for many dominated by the secret societies that resides in the bush, and where secret rituals (such as circumcision of girls) are carried out. For many there are added different football venues to this. Both local gravelpitches and ‘theatres of dreams’ in the television. Finally there is the religious space, where meaning can be assigned to all of the other spaces.

That is really a major difference from Denmark to Sierra Leone as well. The role of religion. In Sierra Leone they got few spaces to explore and shape their selves, but all of these can be contributed meaning, because that is what religion offers. Answers to the fundamental questions of being – the meaning of this life and our engagement in these different spaces.
In Denmark it is the opposite. A nearly unlimited amount of spaces if offered, but for many, religion have lost its former role as the answer to our lives questions. And many are left to themselves to find some sort of meaning in this endless navigation of spaces and personas.

Hmm just some unstructured late evening thoughts for you guys.

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