I’ve been on the road now for just over six months and in that time I’ve visited Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. I’ve met many wonderful and wacky characters and had numerous, memorable experiences along the way.
A few weeks ago, one of my favourite travelling bloggers wrote a wonderful post of short stories about his time in Nepal and in the accompanying video, lay down an invitation to a few of his travelling blogger friends to do the same. My name was mentioned and this post answers that call. It contains nine short stories of some of the more memorable experiences from my travels so far, I hope you enjoy them.
We sped along the road, with the warm air stroking our faces. It was evening and the sun had long set. He hadn’t been here long and I was enjoying sharing with him my experiences. I shouted to be heard above the roar of the motorbike, as I bemoaned the amount of flies in the night sky. “Every now and then you get a really big one that really hurts as it hits you in the — ” Thwack! A giant bug ricocheted off my forehead and we laughed so hard, we cried.
“I’ll help” I had said, drawn towards the activity as though I had a moral duty to do so, but barely masking my morbid curiosity. I tentatively opened the freezer, feeling relief as I saw only bags and cautiously, not knowing how heavy a frozen dead body would feel, picked up the bag nearest the top. I carried it outside. It was heavy and that combined with a feeling of nervousness at seeing someone and having to explain, I hurried awkwardly towards the open grave. Once by the side of it, I knelt down and began to tear open the plastic bag, my heart quickened and then I saw her, neck broken, face contorted and fur bloodied. The sight left little to the imagination, the story of her death at once both commonplace and tragic. At least she had made it to a grave, I told myself.
“Hold your arm out with your hand up” he said. “I don’t know if I can do this” I replied, feeling giddy with a mixture of nerves and excitement. The rest of the group stood around and watched and I knew in that moment I would never forgive myself if I chickened out. He assured me that it wouldn’t sting and if it did, it wouldn’t kill me. After flinching once, I steeled myself and held out my surprisingly steady arm as he slowly lowered a jet black scorpion onto it.
We looked down from our elevated position and analysed the horizon, the sea looked calm but we, as onlookers, less so. The warning had been sounded and most of us had already made it to high land. I hadn’t given my belongings a second thought as we’d sped up the hill by motorbike, but now as people anxiously discussed the potential impact time, I started to think about my precious and expensive laptop and all that it contained. I figured I had time, if a Tsunami was going to hit it wouldn’t be for another hour at least. I picked up my bag and started to head back down the hill.
His face contorted in agony as we rocked from side to side in the back of the tuk-tuk, as it weaved and swerved around the midday traffic. He was breathless and couldn’t speak for the pain. As he clutched his side, I asked him again, “should I ask the driver to take us to hospital?” I had only met him the night before. I was the first on the minibus and he the second. We hadn’t talked much on the overnight journey from Thailand to Laos and now as I sat there, I wondered if he might die on me.
We sat at the bottom of the beautiful garden, the waiter brought teapots, teacups and saucers. Despite being in Asia, it felt like something so English and so quaint. He poured the tea as I watched. We made small talk as I wondered what direction the conversation would take. It seemed as though he had invited me here for a reason and as I lifted the cup to my lips to take a sip of my tea, I paused to hear what he was going to say next, “I’d like to photograph you naked” he said.
It had been two whole weeks since we had met up again and since then we had spent 24 hours a day together. Now as we stood in a goodbye embrace, I could barely get my words out. I turned, unable to contain my emotion any longer and as I started to walk away, thankful that he couldn’t see my face, the tears began to flow. They fell as I walked through the crowded bus station, they fell as I got onto my motorbike, they fell as I drove back home and they fell as I walked through my door and dropped onto my bed. As I sat there contemplating my now empty apartment, I realised that I could barely remember a time I had felt so alone nor a time I had felt so determined.
It wasn’t the longest bus journey I’ve ever been on but it was going to be at least six hours. I had managed the impossible and secured myself a single seat next to a window and I felt smug as I settled in for the journey ahead. About an hour in, the man in front of me turned to look over the back of his seat at me. Unable to speak English, he made a drinking gesture with his hand. Without thinking, I handed him my small, but full, bottle of water and as I sat there, I watched him, all but for a mouthful, finish it. In stunned silence, I shook my head as he offered me the near empty bottle back. I sat back in my seat, contemplating how thirsty I now suddenly felt. For the rest of the journey he sat, twisted in his seat and stared at me.
We talked about a lot of things, my sex life or lack of it, his love life and the highs and lows of it. He mentioned his passion for tea many times and we chatted freely about the friends we had in common. We talked a little of work and all in all the conversation lasted three whole hours. As I closed my laptop and stretched out my achy body, I smiled to myself in recognition of the way things had gone. That might go down as the most unconventional job interview I’ve ever had, I thought to myself, but I definitely have a good feeling about it.