Tag Archives: travel

Eating Dog

Cycling down the western spine of mountains on the Ho Chi Minh Highway one day, I once trickled into a settlement which I can’t be bothered to look up on a map. It was small. The “Internet Here” caught my eye. Vietnam is famously disconnected. This could give me a chance to research my next leg. Fuck yeah.

I had a travel lifeline. A pretty, English speaking Vietnamese mom had translated the following emergency English onto a piece of paper, the back of some crap:

note

The idea was that one of the more literate locals might be able to assist in times when the circumstances had abandoned me to some isolated backwater between my left palm and a palm tree. Perhaps I should have put in a food clause because by the end of the evening, I was eating the fine, powdery flesh of a dog.

It was an odd settlement, directly off the highway. Peaceful for the world leaders in head-on collisions. Most traffic opted for the parallel Highway 1, on which I also had the grisly misfortune of spending some time. Trucks overtaking other trucks while being overtaken by buses, that kind of thing.

The hamlet featured not bamboo huts, but a grand, palatial house. I wheeled the bike into the open property and propped it up alongside staircase leading into the spacious, tiled porch. Wooden doorways, high ceilings, a family of ten. Bizarrely un-Vietnamese. It must have once been the abode of Catholic missionaries, and from the porch I could see an even grander cathedral across the highway, silhouetted against the falling darkness.

Then, it was time for the “fallen alien” routine to take place. I would arrive. The first local to notice would giggle and rush off to call for backup. Four to six units would arrive. Step one was repeated with exponential effect until a leader was reached. Then, I would escort twenty-seven people across a courtyard to an Internet room. I would log onto Gmail while a younger, braver would unit pull at the magical golden hair on my arms, legs, and sometimes head. Apparently, it’s good luck. I would check messages from my girlfriend as they stood over my shoulder and practiced reading English. I couldn’t dispel them. They were legion.

The pants of the household, a sturdy matron, accepted my fumbled request to stay. I paid her around $8 for a room before I noticed that there was no door. As I changed out of my underwear, as soiled today from the 100km ride as the same pair had been the day before, they watched TV in the background and glimpsed over every so often to check on me. It was comforting. It was disturbing.

Dinner time. Ooooh, what’s this what’s that. We all sat around an ankle-high table on mats on the porch. There were a few dogs ambling around in the darkness nearby. That’s nice, they keep pets. You know, they’re actually just like me, aren’t they? Mmmm, this spoonful of fragrant rice, garlic beans and beefy meat is delicious! Dark and fine and it reminds me a bit of liver. What’s that? Oh, no thanks, no more. I have enough. What’s with all the over-persuasiveness and giggling?

Pointing to the nearest dog and the food in my place, I shot her a questioning look. She exploded with laughter, pointing and affirming. The family followed. It was a fun-fest! Watch the blonde alien gorilla eat a dog! The mirth, the stories we’ll tell. The camaraderie. A blonde gorilla! A dog!

Fun times.

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5 Fears Of Going Home To South Africa

The brute truth about how I really feel coming down off a period of two and a half years working and travelling in Korea and South East Asia. Here are the situations I fear most about returning to Cape Town in four weeks.

1. Crime


A group of men threaten me with knives or guns as I’m leaving the building with my expensive music equipment. My life and everything I’ve worked for is now in their hands. My career takes a five year step back in time. I am surrounded by the heaviness of spirit of an angry nation. I don’t know how to fix this.

2. Commitment


The freedom of living life alone is gone as I return to my long-distance girlfriend. I can’t just decide to up and leave when I feel like it anymore. I have to now think for someone else, about someone else’s feelings. I have to sacrifice, negotiate. Although I have been faithful to her during our time apart, on some level there’s still a loss of freedom as I return to her.

3. Career


Opportunities in the creative arts are scarce. I can’t progress as an artist because there’s no work. I am surrounded by unambitious people who cannot gather the motivation to share my vision. I am creatively stagnant and forced to do a job unrelated to my passion, to split my life down the middle, yet again.

4. Convenience


From a life of ease and the luxury of backpacking, I plunge back into the reality of trying to get by, instead of getting ahead. It’s both the lack of convenience that I fear, and the abundance of it; more so that I’ll become coddled by unnecessary comforts and lose the creative edge.

5. Community


I have to return to the soap opera of society, of relationships with others. Forging ahead takes energy and travel can no longer be an excuse for not doing so. Of course, I love and miss my friends, but along with the joys of trusted companionship come certain obligations that I haven’t really had to fulfill while living surrounded by strangers.

So that’s it. I hereby give these fears license to be gone. These words are their catharsis. I understand that none of the scenarios are likely to play out as heavily as they often do in my mind. I am looking forward to going home, but first I need to drop these bags somewhere en route. Thanks for reading. More travel stuff.

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Violin Exploded In My Face

Humidity problems in Asia almost cause a loss of face.

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Final Post From Seoul, 2012

There’s the window. There’s the city beyond it. I’ve been looking out of it for two years, but now it’s getting boring. Give me more data. Get me on a plane, to a new environment. I’ve promised myself that. The metropolis is no longer turgid with sensory input. Yes, I’ll miss it all, the smoky galbi restaurants, riding solo on the Han River with forehead sweat refusing to evaporate into warm, humid air; ice reflecting headlamps in the the long winter months, the ghostly decay of the subway train pulling out of a neon station in the late evening. Stimuli too abundant and rich to be quantified and counted, a thick data torrent snaking through the bedweb of undercity cables.

It’s all three-dimensional, popcorn and coke and soft seats. It takes no stretch of the imagination to be in Oz, somewhere faraway. Every day a flipbook mega-identikit of schoolgirl face recognition requests, the welcoming attention thieves of my corridor strolls. Data, begging to be processed, downloaded.

Remembered.

Evenings at my place. Software. Violin. Volume. Cables. Speakers. Mike. Guitar. Neighbors. LEDs and the aircon hum. Corners of cabling, bunching underfoot, wired to the world. The florescent forehead of the 402, blinding the sidewalk as it roars past in the 6-laner below. Evening falls from the ceiling, buildings grown on the horizon, feeding me with new data, subtle changes to the busy system. Defrosted dumplings and the faulty freezer door.

All these things, yes, sir, I’ll miss em.

T minus ten days till a big adventure. Hanoi to Jakarta on a bicycle. When I sum up the trip in so few words, it always seems necessary to clarify that I’m skipping Thailand by flight, or that I’m possibly dismounting halfway and continuing on foot, or that I may also use public transport while cycling.

I feel that omitting these small details would be cheating, as if I’m pawning off my travels as something greater. But succinctly summarize must I, for I’ll most likely be explaining it every day to people with less than perfect English, and my teaching days are over for a while. Floor piles: to be packed; to be shipped; sold; given away; thrown away.

I’m trading in my life for something better.

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