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All Posts By

Aaron Rasenberg

A little less then tanned

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Well as most of you know I broke my arm on the last night before we were to fly back to Canada. So that made things interesting. Not being able to work has given me plenty of time and freedom to visit old friends around Ontario. This allowed me to be an observer for a while longer and take in the sights of my familiar Canadian countryside. As always I am looking predominately at buildings, allowing my renewed interest in architecture to guide my eyes across intersecting planes, proportions, and ornamental details. But now I have a problem. Europe has spoiled me. A land so old and so full of history that the manifestations of European culture in art, architecture, and literature, have literally chronicled the advancement of humanity and civilization. When you reach a certain elevation on a mountain the foothills fade into obscurity. And now back in Canada the urban landscape is tasteless and unimpressive before my enlightened eyes (and less dramatic).

A beautiful sight has never seemed so foul, but now I have begun to change my opinion. Europe has inspired me and I have the advantage. An unspoiled landscape, a fresh canvass. Untouched raw materials that I am determined to spoil with my own selfish ambition. What I have before me is what early settlers saw when they sailed to Canada, a new start, an opportunity to create a new civilization, to carve their own version of humanity out of fresh marble. I will follow in their footsteps, I will take this land and raw materials and a new vision to create something beautiful and build up Canada’s architectural heritage. So the plan goes…

I may blame Europe for ruining Canada for me, and I may have lost a little pride in my home country, but what I have lost there, I have gained in oportunity. Traveling through Europe, and what seemed to be time, has given me the academic background and experiential lessons to explore the possibilities of my future. Amen.

My responsibility

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Our history is a linear one – from our parents to us the history of mankind falls into our hands. Thus, understanding our culture, the culture of western civilization, becomes pertinent to us when the torch of civilization is passed down to us. Essentially, the epitome of humanity is the individual, thus the individual, through inter-personal interaction, determines, then defines what it is to be human. Travelling Europe gives to us the opportunity to witness the culture that was once changed, advanced, altered, and contributed to by individuals who had the power of will to assert their creative influence and ultimately, however grand or minute, they have changed the course of history. From the architects that designed the Eifel tower, to the eccentric painter who taught us to perceive the world as impressions, we study them all because it is our responsibility to do so. As equal sharers in humanity it falls to us to either improve what it means to be human, or degrade it. It is my responsibilty.

Aaron R.

Tan Bodies Part II

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Another day, another magnificent cathedral, one more time I stumble over a ledge, neck bent back, eyes craning to see every detail of these masterful works of art. These “thin places”, as Gregg calls them, are getting to me. My eyes are moist, but I’m not crying, just a little emotional. I do not know why, I wouldn’t consider myself a spiritual person per se. I don’t know where these strong feelings come from, or what they are about, but maybe that’s not important. I still cannot understand how it is that these inanimate objects take hold of me, almost control me, by their subtle inflections of meaning. How is it that humans have the capacity to create such an image – using form, perspective, and proportion – to transform us. Art does not  just make me feel; it provides a window – no, a door – between what I know and what I feel, between what I understand and what I don’t. To say that art transforms us is an understatement – it destroys our pride, it tears down what we think we know, subverting what we believe to be truth. The essence of creativity is originality: something is there that was not there before.

Aaron

The Game

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

I should start by saying that I really love Asia. I mean what is there not to like, the food is great (even if i can’t quite imagine what it is), always an amazing landscape of ocean and mountains, the most amazing climbing trees only imaginable in my most euphoric dreams. And of course, the cheap everything that surrounds you on every side. At the market you can engage in a wonderful game they call “bargaining”. This includes many tactics that have been learned through on-the-street-practice and passed down to me through word of mouth by fellow bargainers.  I will say outright that I have never been a fan of shopping, but when you make it a game with some type of competitive edge, I’m all in! I can recall a few nights where some friends and I would spend a significant period of time haggering down some eager vendor to sell his or her goods for ridiculously low prices, not with the goal of getting a deal but just to see how low the price will go. That may seem like the same thing, but if I really don’t want to buy a noisy wooden frog, what the heck, “I’ll give you one Baht for that whole box”. They laugh at you and tell you they’ll give you a good deal, a “special price just for  you- 40 baht!”, 1 baht, 30 baht, 1 baht, “25 baht- no lower!”, ” ok, 2 baht”. No deal, they laugh and walk away realizing that they have been wasting their time. But it’s all in good fun, and even more so when I really do want to buy a certain item. It always involves a ritual, and both players know that for the most part its simply a formality. I ask the price, he/she gives me a ridiculously high starting price, and then the real game begins. I need to figure out its general worth and I need to play it smart and not ask too high a price. I usually start slightly lower then half the asking price and go from there. Here is where the seasoned veteran shines. The vendor offers me a special deal to which I will say “too high!” and complain about how poor I am. This usually brings down the price considerably, but that’s not enough for me, I’m in the game to win. I remind the vendor that every other stall offers the same thing and they will surely give me a better price. The price goes down again. My competitive edge has kicked in and I start to walk away pretending I don’t care anymore.  The vendor comes after me pleading and begging me to buy their merchandise, they have had a change of heart and will give me another deal. I have suddenly regained my interest at a much lower price, if they give up on going lower it is often possible to ask the vendor to throw in another item to make it worth while for me. Or, in some cases it works to hold out an amount of money just lower then what they ask for and sort of taunt them with the immediate cash waving in their faces. This is pretty much victory for me, I have explained the ideal game play. But it doesn’t always go this way, sometimes I win and sometimes I may be taken in for an extorted price. But that is the nature of the game, and you get better at it, you trade secrets you have learned and learn new ones. Who knows, maybe I’ll come to Asia  someday and join the other team, see what it’s like to be a vendor. Man, shopping is so much fun : )

Reflections

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Throughout the trip there has been a recurring issue that has been at the forefront of my mind that I would like to discuss a little. The issue put in words is the conflict between the organized program and the self-directed happenings of individual students in regards to what provides an overall better experience of culture, history, religion etc.  For John0 and myself, we side towards the  self-directed adventures that we like to embark on. But the question is whether that is just our own personalities at work.

At one point in the trip we made a stop at a grand old cathedral built by the Spanish. The spectacular part was that even the sight of the large and very old building  gave me, the student, a sort of connection with the past, a fixed place in history (and a bone to Prof. Gregg). Seeing grand new structures that are triumphs of human ingenuity and then seeing these very old structures that were triumphs in their own time always amazes me. To say that “history is not dead” is to beat an old cliche to death, but that very realization is paramount to one’s experience with culture, community and religion ( a bone to Joel Mason). It is these encounters in our SE Asia trip that will continue to educate and develop me as a person. Included in this would be the random and spontaneous group shin-digs that we initiate in our search for adventure and experience. When we invite a few friends over, or just happen to be at the same place at the right time, and we go for walks, we explore, we build something and play with it, or we just sit around and kick back with the locals and talk about ourselves, our lives, and our ideas, we have connected, shared, and developed our identity in the world.

So I say that the best way to live and learn in a new culture is not through planned activities, but to engage on a personal level with people and let activities happen in their own time under the initiative of the individual. It is only when the individual takes ownership of his/her education that ideas will connect, relationships will be made, and knowledge retained.

Cheers!

Trees grow in my mind

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Excited anticipation is not one of my attributes, I simply anticipate. I know what’s coming (well, on occasion) and that’s that. The up-coming SE Asia trip would be for some people a butterfly-in-your-stomach kind of experience as the anticipated day of departure draws nearer. That is not my style, I prefer to assume nothing and allow what comes to come, this way there is no surprises when things do not turn out as planned. I will admit to only one expectation and that is to grow, learn, and experience new cultures, traditions, and religious experiences. But that’s as far as I will go. These expectations are reasonable assuming that they are the very reason for going to SE Asia in the first place. I like to think of myself as calm, cool and collected type of person; not phased by unfamiliar territory. Well, this is not completely true, to be honest there is one thing that perks my interest. I look forward to climbing trees. This may sound like the underdeveloped ambitions of a twelve year old, but these ambitions are mine and I love them dearly. Though there is more behind this  than most people would realize. My family took a year off to become missionaries in the Philippines when I was twelve, an age when I was shy and not very open to new experiences. My sole joy and comfort while overseas was the new variety of trees and prospects of challenging new climbs that grew out of nearly every nook and cranny of the Philippine islands. When I reflect on my time in the Philippines what I remember most was the delicious fruit and the trees I had to climb to retrieve them. When anticipating the upcoming events of our Asia trip I cannot help but get a little excited, even a little butterfly-in-my-stomach kind of feeling when I think of all those large wonderful trees waiting for me to climb.