A Travellerspoint blog

March 2013

Penang Arrival

Penang. A real city again, with skyscrapers and proper buses and everything. Chris already misses the beach, though we just spent 4 weeks in the sand. We walk around in a daze of smells, alternatingly tantalizing and putrid. Dazed walking is not safe here, though--there's not much room between the aggressive cars and scooters and the wide cement trough that serves as a gutter.

It is as hot as ever. All I want to do is eat and sleep.

We came across an outdoor basketball game in progress this evening. Delighted, we sat down to watch as we always do when we find a game, exclaminig, "Malays like basketball, too!" Slowly we began to suspect that the players were actually Filipinos. Laughing, we shrugged. Figures.

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Marcus is currently face-down on the pillow, blanket curled in a ball at his head and sheets half off, exposing the bare mattress below. (For the first time it suddenly occurred to me to think of Marcus as vulnerable, the way a puppy is vulnerable, but the image is tenuous and scatters before it even fully forms.) Tomorrow he will leave us, and the thought fills me with regret.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Water Caves

The bow pointed like a finger poking heaven. Always the same sense of peace in a boat headed home to friendly lights at night. It beats you into a frothy, ephemeral happiness.

In the inky cave your nervous laughter was excitement, not fear, as you watched the sparks dance beneath you--a quiet, humble, anonymous celebration. It occurred to you that nothing was recording this but your brain, and you regretted its faulty construction. How will you keep this one? Or that other cave, the light blotted out by a wall of fish so immense it gave you chills? Will you remember the blue and its finned army, fit to take your breath away? (All the same, you went quickly as the swell sloshed you around the narrowing cavern.)

Chris saw more because he had less fear, but you must not begin to regret what you didn't see, lest the disappointment overwhelm your wonder. You can only hope for a next time when you're stronger.

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You, too, are getting jaded. You meet travelers everyday. You strike up easy conversations. It doesn't mean anything. Just killing time. Or gleaning information. It gets easier each time--you have a retinue of questions, a retinue of answers. The only one you can't figure out is your profession. Sometimes you say you are unemployed, with a laugh, but then it sounds too mysterious, and afterwards their eyes are full of question marks. Actually, it doesn't matter what you say, as long as you say something. A job doesn't define you out here. You are only where you've been and where you're going. Or where you hail from. Everyone assumes your job is just what you do to earn money to travel. Unless they're young, in grad school, haven't worked much yet and think they will like it. It's a long journey to find out you don't--but a different kind of journey.

When you think of going back home for good your stomach seizes up with that distantly familiar ache. You realize this is stress, and you give a wry smile because it took some time to recognize. At home is all the comfort in the world, and all the weight, too. You remember what shifty ground your house is built on. You used to believe you'd wait it out, but recently you're not so sure.

Still, you're stronger now, and that came from some kind of love.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

Apo Island

It's easy to lose track of where we are and what happens next. As usual, when we are enjoying ourselves, we don't think about the future. We build a makeshift wall behind which the future grows larger and more mysterious because we haven't our attentions to focus it or pick away at it. Eventually the wall falls away, and we stare at the future in dismay. Why didn't we do something about this earlier? But we know perfectly well it's because we didn't want to.

On Apo Island we allow ourselves to dive and eat and sleep and read and play basketball and snorkel and conduct desultory conversations to our hearts' content. A gentle sea breeze sloughs away the heat, but somewhere outside of the shade is a hot, frazzled world that we can't bear to bother about.

I love our room here. Windows facing three directions, a deep, tiled balcony, and expansive room full of light and air. If we could extend our stay week by week, we might end up living here forever.

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