Your encounter with otherness
It's time for a new project.
We have nearly finished the 'Nightly Express' project of the dreams around the world, which can also be seen here.
Our Nulla Dies Sine Linea project continues, but I'm also now thinking about 'otherness'.
I'll tell you where it comes from.
I have a strange person inside of me, who is so fluid, that sometimes he wants to be an Englishman among English people, or a Chinese person among the Chinese: at other times I would like to be Russian, Jewish or Swahili.
Strangely enough, nobody accepts me as one of their own.
Though ethnically I belong to the Uzbeks, very often even Uzbeks don't recognise me as one of their own and say to each other when referring to me: "Ask that beard, whoever he is".
It's exactly the opposite with my wife: in Paris everyone speaks French to her, in Berlin they think that she's a German, in Russia she gets treated as a Russian lady and in Georgia for a Georgian.
Once, when we came to a maternity ward in the UK a nurse asked her: "What's your ethnic origin?"
She replied: "I'm an Uzbek".
The lady wrote on her form: "Uzbek, Caucasian".
"And you are, darling?" she said to me.
"I'm also an Uzbek", I said. She scribbled down: "Uzbek, Asian" - once and forever separating us in her classification.
When I joined the World Service there was a happy time when there were 44 language services and our canteen was a real Noah's Arch of speech, culture, and even costume.
That world of mine has substantially shrank, but what worries me most is the discourse of the world which is changing.
Nationalism is becoming more vocal and appears to be becoming a mainstream topic - not just in the third world, but in many Western countries, too.
Leaders sombrely preside over the wake of the multiculturalism.
The description of the world is becoming more and more black and white.
Over the last few years I have had an optimistic thought about what I like to call the Google generation.
When I have seen kids in London or in Accra, or in Tashkent or in Islamabad playing the same games on the net, I can see that they are sharing the same outlook and somehow valuing the same things.
I know exactly what my son is talking about with his coevals in Oviedo or Bishkek, or Burgas.
But if you followed for instance the nationalistic riots in December in the centre of Moscow what was frightening was that the faces of people taking part in these riots were not faces of skinhead thugs - the majority of them were normal people, young people sharing with you the Facebook or Vkontakte.
Are we becoming less and less perceptive of the otherness, are we becoming less tolerant to others? What I would like to ask you is to tell me your story of encountering otherness, be it cultural, national, racial, religious or else. What was shocking, what was strange, what was different, what was enriching in your encounter?