Turning Circles

by Ant Stone on July 25, 2008

in Indonesia

Déjà vu: a flash flood of familiarity bursting through the secret sluice between our worlds. I’m sitting on a tiny tropical island that wears a golden ring of sand engraved by faint footprints being slowly blotted out by the sapphire of the ocean. I know this island well. I know where the sun sizzles the horizon at the end of play and I know where she washes the sleep from her morning eyes. I know its highest point, its longest route and its shortest way. Then this, is surely déjà vu? Non, Madame, Monsieur. I just believed my heart, and bullied my head to bring her here.

To cut a long story short (as is always the case with The Trail); I’d flown to Singapore, picked up a new credit card and priced up a bus ticket into Malaysia to start a foray around Asia’s south-eastern playgrounds. Then an email pinged through that read “…prove it x”. 36 hours later I completed the u-turn and landed back on the island of Bali. I slipped and slithered through the usual patter of questions from immigration about my new passport (that now appear to revolve around my photo showing a bright-eyed impish face framed by styled hair and the complexion of a geisha girl, whereas now I’m more akin to a scraggily haired, blistered beachcomber). I’ll come back to the roundabout account in a sentence or two, I just need to get something off my chest.

During the routine “where you from, where you go” Q&A session, the young stern-faced Balinese immigration officer was scribbling notes to aid my ‘here we go again’ thought process that I foretold would see me doing the walk of shame passed colourful troops of tourists to the dark office in the corner, but then he handed me the note and smiled the kind of smile that could kick-start an impromptu musical and softly spoke the words “if you need anything, call me, ok”. It was a familiar play. My time in Indonesia is captioned by approaches from my less-favoured variety; always I hasten to add in a respectful manner such as this. My mobile phone barely contains its excitement when an effeminate fellow named Richson texts me, his “…little boy”. Another point in motion was just prior to leaving Bali to catch the aforementioned flight to Singapore. I was threading a scooter through the ebb and flow of city traffic when an intent beau targeted me. He followed me through traffic as though attached by an elastic band to my screeching rear tyre, “where you go bulé boy, I liiike you! Where you go? Come back, ohmigod, come baaaaack!” That Scooter Suitor tracked me between no less than seven traffic lights before I accidentally-on-purpose cut suicidally across three lanes of traffic and into the salvation of a forgotten side road. Maybe word of the potential of my passport photo got out, who knows, but that’s just a select handful of episodes.

This could be the real reason I came back, for Reb – because I’ve barely let her out of my sight since ‘…I proved it x’. This travel blog, or travelogue, (or to the majority, I’m learning just ‘literary fog’) is at what you may call a pubescent stage. The raw essentials of travelling, I now understand; respect, patience and respite. In a year, The Trail has become a real thing, not just a route for my existence. When I rotate my eyes through my memories, I get a distinctive taste at the back of my throat. Bitter does not mean bitter, nor does sweet mean sweet. My gullet secretes what I can only presume is a marinade of moments. My inner head, also, experiences a unique sensation. I don’t associate my inner head with my mind as the feeling is outside my mind but inside my head (could you send me a literary fog horn?). No, seriously ohmigod, listen! A curtain seems to come down in my inner head, as if trapping the travel memories there so my system can marinade them in sensations. Yes, that’s it! The Trail – or at least its residue – is therefore physical in every sense. I hear it. I see it. I feel it. I smell it. I taste it. It’s like the excitement I find in sadness and the sorrow I seek in euphoria. I’m not crazy; it’s real. Shhh. Shudder.

The Return to Bali signalled the Downfall of Playtime. Southeast Asia, and my reunion with the beautiful Buddha are stored in the ‘to do’ tray of my life. Regular readers already know my route there (or anywhere) was never really assured, and after a chapter of cuddles and cocktails my plans have magnetised to those of Reb’s. Melbourne beckons for a sojourn of routine. If truth be known, my budget isn’t dictating that I go and earn the Sunshine Dollar, but nor does my budget allow me to doss in costly Australia – it’s a compromise. The plus sides are; it will stop my drift; it should fence me in enough to stimulate the desire to push on; and allow me time to learn fresh skills either through the infrastructure for research or the occupation I indulge in (note to the literary world, I’m a free agent). I’ve recently realised the benefit of having an address and contact number, so I’ll be utilising this novelty to the full, and my mum won’t stop telling me how much she and dad enjoyed the library in Melbourne. I should point out, that we are not what you would call an academic family, and to my knowledge we have never been active members of a library, but I will appease my mother by visiting her shrine of spines, and probably reading a book or two on the cultures and customs of faraway lands. This is something I’ve become quite terrified of; that there’s not enough time to know everything.

I turned twenty-six on Thursday, on the same day last year I was sweeping through the shadows of the Great Wall of China, this year I dovetailed my girlfriends hand and strolled around Ubud, the spiritual pupil at the centre of Bali’s gold and green eyes. The evening of my day of birth saw a rare return to western ways, candlelit cuisine beside a bottle of Chilean Merlot. There was a new experience for me here also; a “Happy Birthday to You…” dedication from the entire staff of the restaurant, which faded to a crescendo of applause from a capacity crowd. The next day however I was cramped with Bali Belly (which should not take away from my delight that evening) and the irony that my body had rejected the rich food. I’d tricked it into thinking I was Asian, that I could live on spiced vegetables, tofu, tempe and crackers while filling myself with steamed rice or fried noodles and washing the whole horrific thought down with sweet hot tea. Ha, can you imagine! No siree, I need pastas and pestos and fish and chips and pie and mash and sausages and gravy, I need five slices of stodgy bread and steaming-but-not-boiled baked beans and a mug of Yorkshire ‘like things used to be’ Tea. I could go into the finer points about the baked beans inclusion, I could go all the way to the point that I’ve been considering opening a Baked Bean Café and that Ubud would not be too horrid a place to not boil the (Heinz) beans.

So there it is, you’ve waited nearly three weeks for me to tell you that I’ve spent the last nearly three weeks going round in circles evading come-ons and considering baked bean cafes. But as it’s taking me so long to complete the Big Circle, I think it’s fitting that I should from time to time complete some smaller, slightly quirky ones. I know not where this site of literary fog will take us over the coming months, your guess is as bad as mine. Australia is a faraway land to me after all – in fact as faraway, as away can be – crouching in the corner of our world, lays this vast continent of curious, canny kinds who I will endeavour to relay to you from a space, that for once I can call my own.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

[F]oxymoron July 25, 2008 at 3:21 pm

“I know not where this site of literary fog will take us over the coming months, your guess is as bad as mine.”

Haha… but my guess won’t be nearly as long (this post was about 1390 words)

Ant July 27, 2008 at 2:25 am

True. But my guess is you’ll still read it… and probably still count the words! No one complained about thou dearest Shakespeare babbling on, so I figured it giveth me free raineth

Becki July 29, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I forgot your birthday! I’m rubbish – sorry! Hope you had a good one in Ubud – I should be there in October, when I presume you won’t be, but I’m sure the locals will still be reminising about that crazy man with the silver hair, who revved into town and into their hearts, changed their lives, and revved back out.

ben holmes August 2, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Happy Birthday, belatedly.
This is just a short message wishing you luck and good travels. Melbourne is one of my favourite cities I recommend two things, $2 fish and chips in the Casino (though factor in inflation), and a colombian breakfast smoothie from the Tropicana cafe on Elizabeth street (I hope it still exists).
Oh and a night out on Brunswick street.
all the best.

Sue Pathak August 14, 2008 at 10:48 am

Hey lovebird! When is the next episode of the saga? It’s almost 3 weeks now,are you ok?

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