WATERMELON CHRONICLES | TRAVEL | CHINA

Today is a perfect day to write about watermelons

(a tale of cosmopolitanism and traveling the world)

Francis Laleman
8 min readNov 10, 2023

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image by Floh Maier (Unsplash)

If today wouldn’t be a perfect day to write about watermelons, then which day would be better?

For sure, this is watermelon story season. I am so much looking forward to reading more of your watermelon stories on Medium too.

Here is a watermelon story that I will never forget. In the early years of the present century, when we were all recovering from the Y2K craze and the idea that nothing much had happened with the millennial change was still sinking in, I engaged on an intensive travel spree in the Southwest and the West of China.

Trek from Subashi to Muztagh Ata Base Camp (4450 m) — photo source

The land of the Tokharians

I had developed a special interest in the area since my student years, when upon graduation and getting my Masters in Sanskrit and Buddhist Studies, I prolonged my stay at university for another two years deciphering Buddhist manuscripts and reading Tokharian languages with Dr. Prof. Walter Couvreur — who was one of the most erudite human beings I have ever met in my life and whose company I loved so much that I would have done anything at all to not miss a single session with him.

My teacher Dr Prof Walter Couvreur as a young man — source: Gent University, Liber Memorialis 1960

One of these anything-at-alls was reading Tokharian dialects. Earlier, with Couvreur I had done a course on the Dhammacakkappavattina Sutta, Buddhism’s foundational Discourse on the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of the Dharma, which we had read in a wide array of versions, in Pāli, Sanskrit, and a so-calledly corrupt language called BHS (Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit). The bonus I got from reading Tokharian, was that we revisited Buddhist storytelling and we embarked on a great deal of philosophizing on the inherent emptiness of concepts such as individual or collectieve identity. Time and again, we learned how othering and dehumanizing peoples had led to all…

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Francis Laleman

a husband, father, painter, writer, educationist, designer, facilitator. author of “Resourceful Exformation” (a book on facilitation) available from Amazon.