Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Dangers Of A Comfortable Life

There is certainly something to be said for the life on the road: seeing new places, meeting new people, learning about different cultures and history, tasting new foods an the general, constant adrenaline rush of the unexpected. It wouldn't, however, be generally seen as a particularly safe way of life. In hindsight my 3 years on the road contained many incidents and adventures that, in the cold light of day, sound like I was just asking for trouble: being caught and interrogated by secret police in Karabagh, being detained by police for a couple of days in Djibouti, riding on the roofs of buses and trucks along some very hair-raising roads, hitching in strange places (talking of which, it's very sad for me to see that the Swat valley, one of the nicest places in Pakistan, has descended into sectarian violence recently) and living off food of questionable provenance and prepared under conditions of dubious hygiene. And yet, notwithstanding all these potential risks, everything seemed to fall conveniently into place, problems were resolved or opened up new, unexpected and exciting opportunities. Even when I did get ill (invariably a case of the runs) it generally wasn't too bad and didn't last more than a day or so (only three times was I ill for more than a couple of days) and not once did I have an injury (though I did try and make up with blisters and stiff muscles after overdoing it whilst hiking).

Now, in the year that I have been back I have been out of action due to injury and illness more often than on the entire trip. My latest incident was the most embarrassing of all. I managed to badly jar my foot just kicking a football, and so this past week I've been hobbling round the house alternately wincing in pain and cursing my clumsiness. But all's well that ends well and I am now back in the saddle (literally) and will resume my cycling to work from next week.

On a totally unrelated note, and only tenuously linked to the preceding paragraph, things aren't going well in Georgia - it's been hard seeing such a beautiful place being inexorably torn apart by a conflict which, in theory is extremely local, but is in fact part of a larger global power-play. Unfortunately it is a situation that has looked inevitable for some time, especially since the Kosovan independence (see my previous post) that set a dangerous precedent coupled with the rising assertiveness of Russia. It'll be interesting to see how things pan out, standing up to a powerful Russia will take a lot more balls and nous than beating up weak international pariahs like Iraq and Serbia. Of course it's easy to criticise from the sidelines, but I think that the West ought to put a lot more effort into resolving so-called "Frozen Conflicts" - where opposing sides are not fighting, but the status quo of separation, hate and mistrust deepens daily - before they turn round and bite us in the ass when we least expect it. Because in today's interconnected world every conflict affects us, though often in ways we fail to realise at the time, and a resolution which reinforces the primacy of force is a huge step backwards for everyone.

No comments: