Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Sabine Kuegler, Jungle Kid.
January 17, 2007 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Sabine is an ordinary German woman - except that she grew up among the Fayu tribe of West Papua and only moved to Europe at 17.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (43 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting Dutch TV report.

See also: Third Culture Kid.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:33 PM on January 17, 2007


BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour reports: 1, 2
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:34 PM on January 17, 2007


Interesting. Le bon sauvage inverted.
One does wonder wether she idealizes her previous life in the jungle or wether our western world is as soul destroying as she maintains....
As in "we're unhappy, we just don't know it"
posted by jouke at 1:46 PM on January 17, 2007


I thought Fayu was scottish.
posted by hal9k at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2007


Well, she moved to civilization at 17 and within a year was pregnant after a night of drunken, anonymous sex. Married the father, had another kid with him within a year. After that marriage broke up, she found herself out of work, at times cold and hungry, and "did what was required for survival" until another marriage, which also hasn't lasted (with two more kids, also within a year of one another).

I'd idealize a happy childhood, too, jungle or no.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:58 PM on January 17, 2007


Now, I am getting to the point where I just want quiet. I don't want all this pressure around me, the noise, the people, the appointments. I just long to be able to go back and wake up in a place where time goes very slowly.

Oh, yeahhhhhhhhhhh. Thanks. I can't wait to read this one. I might not have found it for months/years without this post.
posted by Listener at 2:04 PM on January 17, 2007


someone wise once said "Happiness can not be accurately experienced in the present. It can only be judged in the past."

Or, "you never know what you've got, till it's gone"
posted by Parannoyed at 2:33 PM on January 17, 2007


One does wonder whether she idealizes her previous life in the jungle or whether our western world is as soul destroying as she maintains

Probably a little of both, but I vote for the latter.

I won't pretend that life in the modernized world isn't statistically "healthier" with longer expected lifespans, but quality of life for most people these days is shit. Work - food - TV - sleep - work. Bo-ring, and certainly not the type of stimulation that kept early humans invigorated (and terrified).

Unfortunately, I don't think there's any going back. Too many people on this planet now. I suppose a cataclysm might do it.

"life in the jungle is more challenging physically but psychologically much easier. Life in the Western world is physically easier but much more complicated for the soul."

I guess that's how I see it (from my much more limited perspective). Western life isn't so much "soul destroying" as "exceedingly complicated." I mean, compare: make a home; find a job (or food); start a family. Is this more difficult in the Western world as opposed to the jungle?

I also found it interesting to learn that some of the Fayu women were cutters, which is something most people blame on modern society.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:50 PM on January 17, 2007


yeah, it's very interesting what a primal response that seems to be. Seems like humans don't change much on some levels.
posted by Parannoyed at 2:52 PM on January 17, 2007


Excellent post, gnfti!
posted by Dizzy at 3:01 PM on January 17, 2007


I consider my soul far more edified than injured by modernity and modern technology.

I have at my fingertips vast swaths of human knowledge, and on my desk I have a box in which I can (and have) created works of art that my poor penmanship/non-existent painting skills would never otherwise allow, stories and poems that can be read by millions (not they have been), and music using software that would have made Bach or Beethoven drool in envy (the music itself? They probably would've shrugged or laughed at my relative incompetence).

Needless to say, the simpler life in the jungle would not have given me these means of fulfillment and actualization.

I thrive on new knowledge, new creativity, new goals and horizons, new dangerous ideas and yes, as a kid I read the encyclopedia for fun (now wikipedia gets many of my happy leisure hours). Others thrive on familiarity, the reliability of routine, and gain satisfaction in seeing the work of their hands directly in the food before them or the roof under which they sleep.

I like the fact that I live in a culture that stands on the foundation of intellectual giants. Though life here is complicated, it is only soul-destroying to those whose souls are prone to injury by complication. In the same way, you have to wonder how many Fayu children over the centuries would have thrived in complex and fast-paced situations and found the simplicity and routine in their lives stifling... soul destroying, even.
posted by chimaera at 3:16 PM on January 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


I just watched The Mosquito Coast the other day. I guess this story is what would've happened if Allie and family had stayed. Good post.
posted by zardoz at 3:20 PM on January 17, 2007


How many goddamn times are we gonna have to listen to this same old 'Waaa poor me I grew up as a child in the rainforest in Indonesia and now I'm lost in Western society' bullshit. I'm sick of it.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:22 PM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think Trader Joe's is carrying fatty white grubs now, she should shop there.
posted by Falconetti at 3:28 PM on January 17, 2007


Needless to say, the simpler life in the jungle would not have given me these means of fulfillment and actualization.

Aaah, but would you have cared? You have no way of knowing. I'm pretty sure "happiness" is absolute; the smile on a child from Papua New Guinea's face is a real smile, despite the fact that they don't have a Wii and a wide screen television back in their hut.

Why should we consider them backwards, or prehistoric because they don't have the means any bit of information they need in Wikipedia? Wikipedia probably won't tell them anything about the mushrooms they can eat from the forest, or when best to plant the yams. And I'm damn sure they get just as much out of playing lizard-skin drums as you do playing with MaxMSP.
posted by Jimbob at 3:29 PM on January 17, 2007


She's rather old news isn't she? I've read at least four or five pieces on her over the last couple of years. And, incidentally, I've been to West Papua: it was fascinating.
posted by rhymer at 3:37 PM on January 17, 2007


Why should we consider them backwards, or prehistoric because they don't have the means any bit of information they need in Wikipedia? Wikipedia probably won't tell them anything about the mushrooms they can eat from the forest, or when best to plant the yams. And I'm damn sure they get just as much out of playing lizard-skin drums as you do playing with MaxMSP.
posted by Jimbob at 3:29 PM PST on January 17


yeah but i enjoy surgery and clean water and not having insects crawling up my ass so
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:48 PM on January 17, 2007


Interesting story, but I was hoping the FPP was about this Sabine. A blond German goddess who can drive around the Nürburgring in 10 minutes. In a transit van.

It isn't about her, but this story is damn fascinating as well, although it feels a bit more tragic.
posted by quin at 3:50 PM on January 17, 2007


I never said anything about people in Papua as being "backwards" or "prehistoric," neither did I indicate that they are any less happy for their lizard-skin drums or their formidable knowledge of their local environment.

My point was simply that the complexity that some call "soul destroying" can be invigorating for others. And what some call being nourished by time going by "very slowly" others would call mind-numbing tedium.

There are plenty of people unhappy with the speed and complexity of their lives. They should do something about it. But as I said above, surely there were plenty of Fayu children over the generations who were happy with their lives but may have been even happier living life at a higher pace, with more possible methods at achieving a livelihood?
posted by chimaera at 3:52 PM on January 17, 2007


Forget about the jungle story, something a lot more typical going on here.

She has a nanny, a housekeeper, her own company, a book deal, four child-support paying exes, went to boarding school in Switzerland ('ordinary woman', eh?)... and she finds life complicated?

Doing my best to refrain from a full-on 'ungrateful middle class tossers' rant...
posted by pleeker at 3:54 PM on January 17, 2007


Why should we consider them backwards, or prehistoric because they don't have the means any bit of information they need in Wikipedia? Wikipedia probably won't tell them anything about the mushrooms they can eat from the forest, or when best to plant the yams. And I'm damn sure they get just as much out of playing lizard-skin drums as you do playing with MaxMSP.

Yeah, but if they had Wikipedia they could correct any mistakes people made in the "edible mushrooms of Papau New Guinea" article (as long as they maintained NPOV). The "yams" article is pretty thorough though, so they probably wouldn't need to change it. Finally, there is a lizard-skin drums filter on MaxMSP.
posted by Falconetti at 3:55 PM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Speed and complexity of her life? Come on, she's a drama queen.
posted by TorontoSandy at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2007


I'd hit it.
posted by Slothrup at 4:03 PM on January 17, 2007


Doing my best to refrain from a full-on 'ungrateful middle class tossers' rant...

If she has two servants and her own company, surely she isn't middle-class. Or is she, for Germany?
posted by booksandlibretti at 4:47 PM on January 17, 2007


yep, she certainly does sound like an ordinary German woman. Didn't take her long.
posted by lastobelus at 5:56 PM on January 17, 2007


I think the complexity of the soul is worth it for a daily hot shower.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:18 PM on January 17, 2007


"I'd hit it.
posted by Slothrup at 4:03 PM PST on January 17"


what is that? I read that line on digg too, is it some kind of insider joke or what does it mean?
posted by kolophon at 6:38 PM on January 17, 2007


kolophon, a quick look at MeFi history should answer your question.

A quicker response, it's a generally crude remark about finding someone in the linked article attractive, and thus, commenting on the fact that you would consider having sex with them.

It was the source of some hostility in the past, and has now become a sort of ironic slang. Although on occasion it still raises the hackles of some upright citizen. On those rare moments, much fun is had by all.
posted by quin at 6:51 PM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think the reason that she's been so successful is that dissatisfaction with the high pressure 'Western' lifestyle is ubiquitous. Telling people what they want to hear is an outstanding way to make money.
posted by atrazine at 6:54 PM on January 17, 2007


I have to admit I found the story a lot more fascinating before I read in one of the secondary links that she moved there when she was 7. I was imagining a 'this is the only life she's ever known' situation, but it sounds like she had a pretty normal childhood up to age 7, and would have been initially socialized in German schools. I mean, sure, 10 years of changes would be pretty strange, but it's not like she'd never seen a car.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 PM on January 17, 2007


jouke: One does wonder wether she idealizes her previous life in the jungle or wether our western world is as soul destroying as she maintains....
As in "we're unhappy, we just don't know it"


atrazine: I think the reason that she's been so successful is that dissatisfaction with the high pressure 'Western' lifestyle is ubiquitous.

I don't see how it can be both of these.
posted by Listener at 8:26 PM on January 17, 2007


I was imagining a 'this is the only life she's ever known' situation, but it sounds like she had a pretty normal childhood up to age 7

She says in the excerpt of her book that she and her brother were born in Nepal. I don't know how long they lived there, but it was long enough for her brother to have a Nepalese nickname. It doesn't sound like she had a typical German childhood.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:11 PM on January 17, 2007


Jimbob: I'm intrigued by your notion of the absolutes of happiness. Is misery absolute too? From the sample chapter on her website and other articles, I inferred that life for grown-up Fayu was hectic and miserable in it's own way: men brooding over revenge and war, women cutting themselves. It doesn't seem to me that she really experienced life as an adult Fayu. I wouldn't suggest that her cross-culture comparisons are without merit, but they're biased, just as my adulthood biases my reflections of childhood.
posted by wobh at 9:46 PM on January 17, 2007


There are plenty of people unhappy with the speed and complexity of their lives. They should do something about it. But as I said above, surely there were plenty of Fayu children over the generations who were happy with their lives but may have been even happier living life at a higher pace, with more possible methods at achieving a livelihood?

but who is given the dignity of choosing one or the other, and why? why not all?
posted by eustatic at 9:48 PM on January 17, 2007


this sounds like a pile of malarkey cooked up for a book. she did have a predatory, animalistic hotness about her in the pic, grrrrow! really, a swiss boarding school admitted a girl in a loincloth with dried grubs in her purse for quick energy? kudos to the swiss girls for curing her of extramarital sex=death. i'm holding out for the book from the fayu warrior she could have married, about the soul-destroying aspects of dating unnecessarily complicated western women who will abandon the jungle theme park for the comforts of a nanny, fudge cake and a kitchenful of brushed steel appliances.
posted by bruce at 11:58 PM on January 17, 2007


I get the impression that "lived in a tribe as one of them," is on further reading "lived beside a tribe without the attendant consequences or poverty." She was able to leave that society at will, was not bound by its social mores (she mentions that she'd have been able to get off of an offense that normally merited death) and, I note, refers to the people of the tribe as generic people (a boy, women of the tribe) instead of unique individuals.

I mean, it's fascinating to see yet another variation on how the wealthy grow up and all, but that seems to be what it is. Unless, of course, there's something about tribal societies that helps you beconme an administrator or executive. If that's what does it for Third Culture Kids (since wikipedia says they go for these jobs), why not go to the source and recuit Fayu to do all these difficult German arts administration jobs?

Oh? I thought not.
posted by mobunited at 12:06 AM on January 18, 2007


If she has two servants and her own company, surely she isn't middle-class. Or is she, for Germany?

booksandlibretti: I don't know, what would you call that? the 'middle class' was already in the article and this is the Telegraph anyway, not a German paper. She is middle class in the British sense, and I would guess for Germany too... she's definitely not an ordinary working class woman is she?

I just meant, regardless of the 'grew up in the jungle' part of her story, few things are more annoying than wealthy people from an educated middle class background moaning about how complicated their lives are. Sure you can still be unhappy, but please have the decency to acnkowledge the luck you had and not attribute your unhappiness to the privileged situation you're in.

Of course living in a modern society is more complicated than in a rigid isolated traditional one, it's less scripted, you have more choices and opportunities, you also have more responsibilities. No one's going to sentence you to death for getting pregnant at 18, it's up to you to decide what to do about it and live with it. But if she hadn't had the means she has to deal with that, it'd have been a lot more complicated both in practice and 'for the soul'. She doesn't really seem to acknowledge this.

mobunited: I mean, it's fascinating to see yet another variation on how the wealthy grow up and all, but that seems to be what it is.

Exactly. And yes, she and her family were more like guests in the tribe, she could leave and go to boarding school, which means her parents still had the money, they didn't give it all up, they kept the doors open for their kids (wisely). It's not exactly the same as being born and stuck in such an isolated society all your life.
posted by pleeker at 2:56 AM on January 18, 2007


Jimbob says:Why should we consider them backwards, or prehistoric because they don't have the means any bit of information they need in Wikipedia? Wikipedia probably won't tell them anything about the mushrooms they can eat from the forest, or when best to plant the yams. And I'm damn sure they get just as much out of playing lizard-skin drums as you do playing with MaxMSP.

Actually, wiki is pretty helpful....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_mushrooms

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yam_%28vegetable%29

Just saying is all. Just saying.
posted by jaded at 3:37 AM on January 18, 2007


What pop up here is that she is also relatively wealthy , so her problems are greately easied by having access to services she couldn't otherwise afford.

Yet having wealth makes life practically easier, but that doesn't imply she is adapting to the realization of how much wealth is _needed_ to take advantage of western comforts.

House heating, electricty, goods that use electricity, transportation, distance between home and workplace..all of these require money, time. They are not technnically a "need", but life in west without a car these days has, absurd as it may look, a signficant weight on job opportunities and is a significant additional stress. Ask many of these who commute by public transportation daily, which is intrinsically less flexible then a car and not as ubiquitous and efficient.

going my best to refrain from a full-on 'ungrateful middle class tossers' rant...

Yes she have access to a lot of benefits, upper middle class I say and she surely suggests, willy nilly, a lot of envy in these who think she is not realizing how much she got.

Yet if we pay a little attention we can see she is heavily dependant on the ex-husbands for the kids welfare (that's a safe assumption , four kids cost quite some money) . The book deal may be very good for her and let her put aside some money, which will likely be invested in kids...she is also slightly insanely thinking about one more african kid..which smells much of an idea of her actual boyfriend, but is insane enough to be her idea.

I think that left alone she would fall apart in a snap, like many many others, as the extremely early pregnancy , the addictive behaviors suggest she couldn't make it with one kid let alone 4-5 !

If one strips the esotism of a medieval childhood out of the frame, what seems to be left is a maladapted young woman, self-thrown from a relatively extended simply life into what is a relatively EASY adulthood she just can't afford on her own.

No doubt she think she would be better off in a simple society she _thinks_ she could manage better.
posted by elpapacito at 4:28 AM on January 18, 2007


I've known other cases of culture shock, same kind of out of the home country from seven to seventeen scenario, and the dislocation lasted lo into the person's thirties and even forties. (It's one reason many large organizations insist on periodic home leave for their expat employees.) Not pretty, but not inevitable either. This woman clearly has other problems. Have to wonder how she would have turned out had she stayed back.

I'd be interested to know how are her two siblings are doing.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:48 AM on January 18, 2007


A really terrific post, nicely balanced links and totally engaging to-and-fro comments.

(creeping off somewhere else for a snark...)

Thanks very much goodnews.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:07 AM on January 18, 2007


Maybe she misses the jungle.

Or maybe she misses her youth.
posted by notyou at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2007


she could leave and go to boarding school, which means her parents still had the money, they didn't give it all up

Except it was an uncle who paid for her school, not her parents.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2007


« Older Tube Wars:...   |   In the Future, our drinking st... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments