Monday, April 25, 2011

Is this the end?

In less than 24 hours we'll have left the now-familiar realm of street noodles and tuk-tuk drivers for the skyway.  We'll be sleeping uncomfortably on a plane with our mouths open, making faintly audible gurgling noises while we are shuttled effortlessly at incredible speeds through the troposphere.

The whole trip already seems so far behind us.  I seldom recall the thrilling and terrifying bus rides around Laos mountains, trekking ever upwards to a Thai hill-tribe village, spending 2 days navigating the mighty Mekong River, kayaking in the midst of towering karst in Halong Bay, dining on sea bass in the tourist town of Hoi An, discovering the thick and delightful Vietnamese coffee in Saigon, walking through the killing fields and torture centers in Cambodia, climbing over millennium-old Angkorian ruins, studying sustainability and spirituality on Koh Phangan, discovering the richness of culture and diversity of cuisine in Malaysia, relaxing on the postcard perfect beaches in Krabi, or eating at the countless street stalls serving decadent banana pancakes every step of the way.

I've made a list of images I want to remember.  The one that comes first to my mind is from Hanoi.  We spent our afternoons exploring, trying to avoid crossing the street (which required the near suicidal act of throwing yourself in front of 18 lanes of motorcycle traffic which never slowed down but usually swerved around pedestrians).  As we walked along the sidewalk, we came upon a mother and her infant son.  She was holding him up by his naked legs which spread wide apart.  Underneath him was a sheet of newspaper.  He was pooping, spread eagle, facing the street on a busy sidewalk.  An unbroken brown sludge was hanging from his bottom.  He could have been pushing out chocolate-flavor soft serve ice cream.  Small circles, swirl on top.  Perfect.

The second image isn't that clear to me, because I didn't see it.  Jevin and Robyn did and I can put the scene together in my mind.  Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Local fish market.  Tables and tables of fresh, whole, raw fish pile up.  Some buckets are filled completely with live eels or frogs, writhing, climbing all over each other, trying to make their escape.  It is so hot, even in the shade.  It can't be good for the meat to sit out like that.  Even the locals are overcome in the oppressive humidity.  One lady succumbs, crawling onto her market stall table, pushing aside one of the smaller piles of fish which spill over onto another.  She makes room for herself and lies on her back, closes her eyes and starts dreaming, a big pile of woman sleeping on an even bigger pile of dead, stinky fish.

There's an image, or two, or three, from every day.  No photo could do them justice, although I've wasted a lot of time trying.  Most of my favorite scenes have been of daily life and its peculiarities: men having coffee, janitors squeegeeing entranceways, locals unaware of how bizarre their lives seem to me.

I can't say that the entirety of this trip has been amazing experience after amazing experience, although I'm sure it will seem that way as I recall the scenes I've stored in my mind.  A lot of the time I've felt lost, or misplaced.  Two months into the trip I would have gladly accepted a ticket home and never had another urge to travel.  But now, although I'm very excited to be heading home, I don't feel like it's been too long or time ill-spent.  I've simplified my expectations and settled into the relaxed pace of life without work, school, or rituals of any kind.  Now, I'm bracing for the shock of Saskatoon stimuli: job hunting, picking classes, doing taxes, seeing people I know everything about, sorting out 1600 travel photos, attempting a garden, and a whole list of other things that I can't even anticipate.

I'M SO EXCITED TO BE HOME!!!!  Saskatoon in the summer is so beautiful and so are the people.

David J Parker

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