Some travel notes

  • “$22, one carton.” Cigarettes for sale on the plane. Lights are dimmed and switched off – peach sunset.
  • Time to KL: 6:26
    Distance to KL: 5,426 km
    Outside air temp: -18 C
    Altitude: 10364 m
  • Old Indian man stares ahead at the blank screen as if there is something showing, sips wine from a plastic wine glass, pinkie finger erect.
  • Chased by the night, the horizon red as blood in a protracted sunset.
  • Adverse weather conditions over the Arafura sea and I realise completely that I don’t like flying anymore.
  • … but there is the mother across from me, veiled and wearing spectacles. For hours she has stayed awake while her children sleep, one across her lap, the smallest. A tiny brown foot pokes out from under the blanket.
  • The hustle for the inauthentic. Livelihoods depend on fake versions of luxury goods. Fakes.
  • Day two in Beijing; the sun is bright at 6:12 am. I realise I am on a part of the planet I haven’t been before.
  • As if the city was built on the edge of an angry desert, everything exposed to the day has an coating of fine brown dust.
  • You pity someone when you think the world is too big for them; Jiang doesn’t even live in Beijing – he commutes here and stands outside the Forbidden City, asking Westerners if they want a tour guide. He refuses the offer of an ice-cream but is eager to talk philosophy. I forget to look at his shoes.
  • In the early hours of the morning, I dreamt of what I understood was my wedding. It was a long and detailed dream, as long as a wedding.
  • At the Great Wall, thinking of walls.
  • In front of the hotel, two men take apart the front section of their jeep. Other men come and stand by to watch while the paths of cyclists deviate around them. Cyclists with cigarettes hanging from their lips.
  • 6RMB = 1AUD
    2RMB = 500 ml bottle of water
    3.50RMB = Vienetta ice-cream on a stick
    28RMB = Average paperback
    300RMB = 1/2 Peking duck, rice, other dishes
  • The golden flashes of an electrical storm somewhere in the clouds below; in the sky, I miss home.
  • Last night: An at-times violently turbulent flight with a near-full moon over the left wing, technical problems at the baggage carousel, haggling over taxi prices, a highspeed Hyundai Excel ride over bridges and into town, forms in the lightless city alleys, greeted at the hotel with jokes and watermelon at midnight. Now: Not sure of the time, date, place, but also not sure that it matters.
  • It’s been a few days since I’ve written to you. It isn’t that there’s nothing to say, just that I can’t gather my thoughts in tight enough. I’m not able to pull them in to something less abstract. I blame Hanoi, or maybe I am tired; Hanoi is chaotic, tense, electric. As I write, the sounds of scooter horns stretch by on the street outside, winding into the city’s unlit alleyways, where people sit on tiny seats, in the same spot they were fourteen hours ago, drinking tea from hard plastic cups and gossiping, watching the street, pulling a bald child in closer, or flicking a thin cigarette between fingers.
  • A cluster of headstones in the open plains of the rice paddies. Often, hunched and straw-hatted rice farmers are also in view, creating the impression that they never leave this, knee-deep in the fields in life and in death.
  • White ducks, heaps of marble and brick, solitary and opulent terraces in wide spaces, four or five and even six tiers and faded Viet flags hanging at their fronts, brown cows on the side of the road or lounging in a rice paddy, structure after structure – houses, roads, bridges, storeyards – that are either under construction or or abandoned half-built or incomplete but good enough, leaving me thinking of completeness.
  • “The reason for printing this picture is not to put down G.I.’s but to illustrate the fact that the army can really fuck over your mind if you let it.” Caption from a photo of G.I.s with beheaded Vietnamese patriots.
  • Despair and sadness and nausea at the war museum.
  • Went to a GP. There was a lizard on the wall.
  • Doosan Bears vs. Nexen Heroes: Doosan wins.
  • I’m thinking about three things tonight: how I only get homesick on the plane, the cross P & I bought M at Notre Dame – red and gold and how she doesn’t take it off now unless she has to – and the head of Alexandros the great, or, more specifically, the clean slice across the top of the sculpture.
  • One of the most memorable things in Seoul will be something I can’t exactly remember.
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