Gyrne Turkish Cyprus
Belfast Northern Ireland
Back Home in California
Greetings from a beautiful and expensive city,
Well! I have not disappeared as expected. I know it has been a while since my last postcard, but I've been preoccupied with weighty matters and I've been thinking a lot.
In the last six weeks I have been kicked out of two countries, been starved, hassled and abused, and inadvertently become an illegal alien in the Russia that is not quite Russia. I have met some of the most wonderful people in the world as well as some of the most disgusting. I have paid as little as 12 dollars for a room plus a dollar and a quarter for a dinner, and have been "robbed" by bad hotels charging 125 dollars for a Motel 6 pad.
Since being deported by Uzbekistan to Istanbul; I have seen the gaiety and poverty of Bulgaria, the fear and anger of Macedonia, the dreary hopelessness of Romania, the disgusting arrogant inhospitality of Moldova, the holiday spirit and bargains of Ukraine, the "real" Russia of Smollensk and the dark, desperate and boisterous blustering Russia of Moscow, learned of the political confusion - the identity crises of Belarus and finally once again breathed the fresh air of freedom in the very independent Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia... before now escaping back to the West here in Finland. I have enjoyed some of the best each of these countries have been able to offer and deliberately placed myself in some of the poorest and most dangerous places to be found in each area.
Through it all, I have tried to remain sensitive to the similarities and differences I've seen in the human condition expressed by the faces and actions of people throughout the diverse regions my travels have taken me.
Interestingly, the really "bad guys" of whom I was repeatedly warned, never materialized, though there were places where most of the people on the streets looked afraid, anxious and carefully watched everyone else around them for anyone who might pose a threat to their safety. Others fearing for my personal safety, on several occasions walked me through "dangerous" areas so I could move on safely to my next destination.
That brings me to one of my most profound observations: People everywhere and in all walks of life and all economic conditions seem compelled to assume responsibility for anyone they judge to be truly helpless and in immediate need of simple assistance. As I often placed myself in such situations deliberately, I have had numerous occasions to witness and benefit from this human characteristic. I am always grateful and express my appreciation as best I can in each case. But, nothing could have prepared me for the common reaction of those who helped me: THEY expressed gratitude to me for ALLOWING them to be of help. At first, I accepted such responses as ritual politeness. But, on too many occasions the sentiments were delivered with tearful sincerity that could not be mistaken for anything else.
It looks to me like evolution has selected for something akin to a maternal instinct in both men as well a women. In addition to being the frequent recipient of such behavior, on one occasion in Odessa I found myself on the giving end. A group of Ukraine teenagers, lost in the strange big city asked ME for directions. Like my many benefactors, I personally guided them through the maze of streets I had come to know until we stood before their goal, a noisy street full of other excited teens. I also felt the surge of pleasure on seeing the expressions of relief on their faces when they once again became found.
The Cable Book Library branch of the Helsinki City Library System is housed in the Lasipalatsi Film & Media Centre. This is a “new” media center with free access to the Internet. There are restaurants and a bar in the same building. I took a picture of the large teaching lab terminals while a class was in session. In one of my Internet sessions I had to use a Sony headset display… very strange. Afterwards, I enjoyed a half-liter of Lapin Kulta Beer and watched as thousands of women runners passed by my vantage point.
I know this is a poor substitute for a real postcard with glib sentiments like "having a wonderful time... wish you were here," but limiting my comments to such would be like froth on a wild turbulent ocean of the reality I have come to know. With the cooperation of the universe there will be time later for the froth.
As for the picture part of this postcard, take a look here.
Until we meet again in cyberspace or elsewhere.
Fred L Bellomy
Helsinki - The Cable Book Library branch of the
Helsinki City Library System is housed in the Lasipalatsi Film & Media Centre.
Here are seen students at work.