Kiss the Accent

A mutual attraction instinct,
preceded by sexual innuendo.
Honourable intentions
or desire for perverse pleasure.
You offer no indication
as to your motivation.
Tell me it’s my accent.
But you can’t kiss an accent.

But I would kiss you.
In the still of a
Lexington Avenue night.
Kiss your tanned body all over.
Til morning interrupted
the pleasure with the pain
of trivial matters wanting attention.
Awake to fear and insecurity.

Indian Opportunity

Bright, crisp
September mornings.
The elusive magic
of railway stations,
foreign faces.
Chai in clay cups,
red earth recycled.

As life’s own cycle.
Adventure on every corner.
Sadhu’s promises
of grace and nirvana.
Reflections of life’s
second chances.
Sunrise itself
their metaphor.

Running out on the Hill………..Himalayan Dispatch

So what’s this Everest Base camp trek about then? Pilgrimage or punishment, depending on your point of view on the day.  Oh, and being a medical research guinea pig.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. “Gym” had previously been a dirty word in my house. (Remind me again why I signed up for this?)

However, you know you don’t need the psychiatric referral when…… The Everest marathon runners bound past you on the trail. The marathon is 42km – Everest Base camp to Namche Bazaar, over some interesting terrain.

So what does lack of oxygen really feel like? A bit like you’re drunk.  A legal high (if you will).

You know you’re at 4,200m when……….. You go to change your socks, and put your boots back on, without actually changing one of them.

Wasn’t it bone numbingly cold? Only really at Base Camp at night. Tents perched on top of the glacier, and you get some good close-up’s of ice crystals in your tent.

And don’t folk get sick? (Remind us again why anyone in their right mind would do this?) Acute Mountain Sickness is one of life’s last great mysteries – you can’t tell who’s going to suffer.  Getting sick (as I did) may have helped the research.

Wouldn’t want to have a fear of heights either then? Getting over suspension bridges, was, for me, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and A Course in Miracles (in action!).

The word of the day was? Bistaari – meaning slowly. (Too right!)
And what does the M in Group M stand for? Marvellous Mates, Mountain (sickness), and plain ‘ole Mad.

A very big thank you to Group M, and my friends at home. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you all.

Written 17/06/07

Running out of….time and money…..final dispatch

Thought she had all the time in the world? Not when you’ve got to get to the church on time to be bridesmaid for your best mate.

 

So, the inheritance is spent, and the tan faded? I’ve gone (to the dogs), in Walthamstow. Living there, that is.

 

Quick recap please. (It can’t possibly be over, over!) The travel CV looks something like this:

Intrepid heroine moments:
Sailing high seas; crossing deserts and mountains; braving three cyclones, 45oC heat, rapids, jungles, earthquakes, giant red centipedes and wetas; missing planes; running for trains.

Medical expertise:
Been: seasick, sunburnt, bitten, bruised; had stomach bugs, heat exhaustion and bad back. (And that’s just the standard issue traveller stuff!)

Been a good Catholic girl:
Said my prayers in:  mosques, Jain, Sikh and Hindu temples; doing my Buddhist prayer wheels; Tibetan astrology; and receiving various blessings (and boy, did I need ’em!).

Getting there on anything that moves:
Planes, boats, trains, sleeper trains, buses, motorbikes, scooters, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, songthaews, bamboo raft, kayak, and the occasional elephant and camel.

Game enough to try:
Local beer and whiskey; kava; lassi; bush beer; bird’s nest and white fungus drink. (All in the name of science, you understand).

Gone native in;
Salwar kameez (India); krama (Cambodian headscarf); cheong-sam (Vietnam); pareu (Cook Islands); and daily fresh frangipani behind my ear (which I really miss).

Collapsed with exhaustion (from the above) in:
Old maharajah’s palaces, tents, hostels, fleapit guesthouses; on village hut floors, boats, beaches and trains; in 5 star hotels (despite thinking they’d ask me to leave at any moment).

Ooer. I’m dizzy just reading it. It has been an amazing journey.

Wot? No life lessons then? Erm. Yes. Those too. For me particularly: impermanence, the connectedness of all of us, letting go, and the importance of those you love. (Oh, and chopstick skills).

Aaww. A massive thank you to everyone for all your support, and taking the time to read my ramblings.

Written 07/08/05

Running out on Asia…………dispatch # 10

Asia? Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to stop there first time around the world? Bad planning, and a touch of fear.

And the new route? Vietnam, through Cambodia to Thailand.

Isn’t she tired? Homesick? Sounds dreadfully trite, but I might even be beginning to learn something.

She must be missing home-cooked food by now? The availability of snake, dog, frog, rat, scorpion and cricket as delicacies is enough to turn anyone vegetarian.

Being vegetarian isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. In South East Asia, vegetarianism means tofu, morning, noon and night. If I never see another piece again, it’ll be too soon.

There must be something else to do besides eat? Lots of war relics and sites. Apparently, when a visiting American general saw the Cu Chi tunnels (used by the Vietcong), outside Saigon, he understood why they lost. Also, trying to sort out the various influences left over from the days of the IndoChinese empire.

Isn’t that all a bit dangerous? Only if you stray from the marked paths.

Can’t imagine the Health and Safety implications. Cambodia was worse. The Tonle Sap lake ferry has no safety railing, and crocodiles in the lake (I found this last bit out later). Plus no lifejacket demo on the flight between Siem Reap, and Bangkok. (Does that mean they don’t have any?)

And it was all worth it for? Angkor Wat – a temple complex of some 300 temples and ruins outside Siem Reap. Including Ta Phrom – the jungle temple, which has 300 year old trees growing in, around and out of the temple ruins. The conservationists are having a right headache in deciding what to preserve.

No need to read War and Peace. It’s all there in front of you. Monks, landmines, pagodas, temples, the Killing Fields.

Thailand must have been positively sane in comparison. It is, as they say in Asia, “Same, same, but different”.  Bangkok is like London and New York combined – on speed. One night may well be enough.

Sounds like a right headache. Until you go bamboo rafting up North, near Chiang Mai. Silence, save for the bamboo creaking, and the gentle dull clang of bells signalling elephants nearby.

Best bits? Being in Phnom Penh for New Year 30 (30 being a leftover from Pol Pot’s Year Zero social policy). Waterbombs are the order of the day. The Cambodian response is laughter, and the tourists, anywhere from game to annoyance to confusion. Sunrise over Angkor Wat.

Does that mean it’s over, and we’ll have to deal with her in person again? The King of Cambodia is looking for a wife. Should I apply?

Written 07/08/05

Running out on Western civilisation….Again….dispatch # 9

The US was great. After no TV and mobile for nearly two months. I can see why people regularly lose their heads there. I couldn’t wait to get out.
What? They let her in? I thought they were fussy these days? They let me in alright. Not before I had a quiet rabble-rouse in the queue for fingerprinting and mugshot, though. Treated us like criminals, they did.
And the good bits? Seeing a lady dressed head to toe in the American flag, including her luggage, made me laugh (and shake my head in disbelief!). And Guy Davies, an old school blues musician, live, was amazing.
Didn’t we see her in London there? A bad hallucination perhaps? No hallucination.  Was en route to India again. My planning skills need a little work.
Why on earth? (We knew she really was an old hippie at heart!) India really seems full of possibility. Despite the incongruity of it’s filthy streets, and how fastidious people are about their own personal hygiene.
And what route this time? I followed in some of Michael Palin’s Himalaya footsteps (by chance), through Kalka and the hill stations of Shimla and Dharamsala.
Tsk, tsk. She’s at it again. Hobnobbing with celebs (yawn). I didn’t actually meet Michael (more’s the pity). But I did see the Dalai Lama on my 30th birthday, in Dharamsala.
So much for being a good Catholic girl then? I went for a spin on the prayer wheels at the Buddhist temple most days. When in Rome…..
Nothing like a bit of multiculturalism eh? We were in Amritsar for the Hindu festival of Holi. The locals celebrate by throwing coloured powder at each other (and at as many unsuspecting tourists as possible).
Nothing better to do with their time? Well, there’s always the closing of the border between India and Pakistan . A very ceremonial spectacle (taken very seriously by the border guards involved), a bit like being at a football match.
Sound like it’s all go, then? I do miss the peace of Dharamsala; sitting on the balcony in my favourite cafe, listening to the Dalai Lama chant prayers in the temple below.
That’s it. We’ve lost her for sure now (hooray!!!)

Written 24/06/05

Runnning out on the South Pacific (blub!)….dispatch # 8

The silence has been deafening. (Thank God). Sorry gang. Not lost in the jungle, just yet.
So. How was the inaugural sea-leg testing experiment? I had about 3 hours in 3 days where I didn’t feel sick.
Less exaggeration please. She coped like a trooper, surely? Everyone, experienced or not, was sick. It was really rough. Wish I could say I trooped better.
Bailed out then, did she? (You just can’t get the troopers these days!) Had to anyway. Cyclone Nancy was on the way in.
Cyclones. Rough boat journeys. Thought this was a tropical paradise? I went from cyclone virgin to veteran, courtesy of 3 cyclones in 2 weeks.
She’s always on about the weather. Really! You do expect the sun to split the stones, not hurl them at you.
Tell the truth. It’s been an awful hardship, really. Brilliant sunsets, fresh coconut, duty-free. In February.
Stop. Stop now. I can’t stand it anymore. I’ve nearly forgotten how to text, and barely seen TV in 2 months.
What did people do before mobiles and TV? In the Cooks, people go to the airport to see friends off, meet other friends, even do business. And for jetblast. Listen to CNN (Coconut Network News), also known as the coconut wireless. Oh, and drink tumumu (Cook islands bush-beer).
Even on the other side of the world, in the middle of the ocean, you can’t go anywhere. (Serendipidity really). Ran into Mary (Irish friend I’d already run into in New Zealand), and her mate Hilary. Again on Rarotonga. Totally unplanned.
What about this fella her Dad stayed with in the Cooks in 1956? Found his son. It took four weeks, what with telephones down, and business premises damaged.  They treated me like their own daughter.
Getting in with the locals, eh? (Knew she didn’t really want to leave) I was still packing half an hour before going to the airport, and was the last to get on the plane. In floods.
So. It isn’t a case of if she goes back to the Cooks. It’s when. Even the bus driver was treating me like a local.
And a final note on flower wearing protocol. Left ear means you are single. Right ear means you are spoken for. Both ears, means you are confused!
Written 05/05/05