Another thing I always kind of knew, but I’ve never thought about it as much as I have here – there is this strange need I feel, an aching almost, to be surrounded by beauty, or at least what I think beauty is.
When I say beauty, I don’t mean some material things that I wish I could buy, but rather the environment I live in. It can be simple, but it needs to be beautiful. Like a room where I live and spend most of my time, or the streets of the city where I can walk around to relax, places around the city that I can visit, or places of natural beauty easily accessible.
I’ve lived in European towns all my life. They were never huge cities, but they all had some kind of beautiful architecture, green parks filled with people and pets, maybe a river or a lake in the city, interesting events. I am used to walking the city streets and seeing something intricate and classically beautiful everywhere around me, hearing beautiful music from comfortable bars and cafes. Walking around aimlessly is one of my favorite pastimes, but here in Thanh Hoa I didn’t find it relaxing or therapeutic at all.
Too much traffic everywhere, wherever you turn everything is so dirty and polluted, loads of unpleasant smells coming from the road or from that toilet in the street food place, knots of electric wires tangled with tree branches, messy infrastructure . . . It’s impossible to have a relaxing stroll down the street, you can barely see anyone walking – everyone is always on the motorbike. Even the houses that are supposed to be pretty are packed with flashing, tacky commercials. There is no order in anything and chaos prevails. While sometimes chaos can have certain beauty, I just couldn’t find it here in Thanh Hoa.
This is what I wrote in my diary related to this topic:
“Sometimes with places it can be just like with people’s appearances – maybe we don’t like them at first, but when we get to know them, we start seeing them as beautiful because of what’s hidden behind the face. We even take special pleasure from the flaws. The more we observe them, the more beautiful and necessary they seem.
Maybe that is what I need to do with Thanh Hoa as well. I need to penetrate it – I need to get inside of it, and I need to open myself to it. Only then will I be able to see the beauty behind the ugly facades, dirty streets, and tacky commercials.
Now, after a few weeks, I am starting to slowly enjoy the small things, and I do hope I will reach the point where familiarity and emotion will make the place beautiful for me.” (December 10, 2015)
So that is what I tried – I tried looking for beauty in details, and sometimes I succeeded. But somehow, for some reason, I have failed to open my heart to the city and the life I’ve been leading here, and it has never managed to win my heart.
Next time I decide to settle for a while in a place, I need to make a bigger effort to surround myself with what I consider to be beautiful. If nothing else, I need to decorate the space where I live so that if feels comfortable, so that it feels like home, a personal sanctuary where I can connect with myself and charge my batteries.