my memories

when i was a kid and we went on our summer camping tours or family vacations, my dad always made us keep a journal. every day, whether we wanted to or not, we had to write something in a diary. at the time, i considered it just another form of legalised child abuse. today, more than 20 years later, i still have those journals, and they are so precious to me – reading them brings back flashes of memory that would have otherwise long since faded into nothingness. not only of what we did and where we went, but of who i was as a ten year old kid – something photos can never bring back.

what can i say – old habits die hard.

so being the nostalgic sap that i am, i started re-reading some old blog entries from the beginning of this adventure. and i am so glad i started this little project. one of the things i love about keeping a blog is this: searing these memories, capturing them, sharing them, evoking them for people. when i have to sit down and describe a unique place and time that no one else but me has seen or felt, it puts me back into the moment, fixes it to my heart. 20 years from now, i can look back and remember not only what we did and where we went, but who i was.

we have only a precious week left. so i think perhaps this is an appropriate place to recap a few of my favourite entries. and for those of you who’ve told me you enjoyed reading them – thank you. it means a world to me.

here’s excerpts and links from a few of my favourites (for reasons best known only to me):

“packing is such a bittersweet exercise. the unavoidable culling of personal detrius, sorting out one’s mementos and effects, and ranking their importance. What’s expendable, what’s not reflecting the shifting internal landscape… i’ve left a trail of belongings like breadcrumbs through 4 cities, 3 countries. artefacts of the lives i used to lead, and my changing priorities. pieces of my old self shed like a skin. what i no longer needed or wanted or loved became junk. objects once infused with sentiment, now refuse… i’m tired of discarding things because I have to. i want some stuff that is *mine*. things that feel like home. things that i keep just for the hell of it, just in case. i want the luxury of the non-essential.”

“we hope we’re heading in the direction of moon hill, about 10 km away, and the highest point around, but as we wend our way further, it becomes clear we are not. still, it’s an incredible ride and we’re hardly complaining – our dirt path taking us through small villages of spectacular beauty. thousands of tiny froglings sprinkling the road, the river widening and rushing past, then narrowing peacfully again. villagers chanting in buddhist prayer, leading their cows home, harvesting their crops. intimate scenes which felt like we were intruding, but we kept pedaling on.”

“in macgyyver-like fashion, we strung up the mosquito netting with dental floss and plasters from the first aid kit. setting up the bedding and widening the net, we managed to establish a small “insect-free” zone. and there we hid for the rest of the night – the only light my tiny travel booklamp, the only sound the patter of wings against the tin roof.

“the things men do in the name of war do not speak to how highly we prize our life and liberties, but rather to how little we value the lives and freedoms of others. “

“the slow boat is uncomfortable and long and , true to name, slow. but it’s an essential part of the bonding process. to understand life in laos, you must understand the mekong. appreciating that is something which cannot be rushed.”

“such beauty exists in this world as my eyes would not have believed, and it restores me, heals the damage of neglect like a balm, smoothes the thin patches and fills up the careworn gaps of my soul. it is everything i have needed and more than i could have asked for.”

“and so i feel compelled to bear witness. to try to examine in my own way, the cruel cancerous biology of genocide that invades, multiplies quietly, ravages and destroys a people, and is always identified far too late. to pay my respects to those who died unnoticed by the rest of the world… i feel compelled to see for myself the worst of humanity on display – the stark indisputable evidence of our most craven and cowardly need to deny the existence of evil and suffering in front of our faces. i feel compelled to look it in the eye, because so many do not… for how else are we to recognise it? millions died because we failed them. we can’t keep looking away.”

“and then he is sprinkling us with water as he chants the words by heart, blessing us with humble sincerity, offering prayers for peace or love or charity, reciting the desires of earnest and pure faith which one need not understand in order to feel deeply, be moved by, be grateful for.”

“this is my earliest memory – slumbering cradled under the hull of the little “sunflower” to the lullaby of the sea. cool water and hot sun-sparkles in my eyes. sand in my sandwich. the insistent caw of circling gulls. the loughing sail against the sky.”

“what i know is this: when every ounce of experiential learning and self-preservation instinct is screaming up and down your nerve endings as your foot is poised over red hot coals… you will never take that step unless you believe in something.”

“speechless. breathless. heart-stopping… these are all the words people use to write about beauty so unreal that you can’t quite wrap your brain around it. these are all the wrong words. dead words.”

“and then on day four, we’re up before dawn to catch the rosy hues of first sun rising over the salt plains. as the sun climbs higher in the sky, the endless salt pans change personality – from the cold pebbly white of opaque ice, to the hallucinogenic glare of dizzying white-on-white like a blinding snowfield from the antarctic. holographic effects, mirages and infinity illusions create a surreal scene right out of a dali painting. it is vast and pure and stretches out to meet the cerulean sky in a perfect horizon. spectacular constrasts dazzle the eye, incomprehensible tricks of the light. it’s unreal, unlike any other earthly landscape. we’re like children, playing with photos, dancing, lying down to make salt angels.”

we continued on towards the hospital. i became fixated on the woman in the aisle nearest me, who was twisting and moaning in spite of the morphine. her skirt was akimbo and all i could do was stare at her stockinged leg. the nylon had a tear in it and small droplets of blood were seeping through. she’d lost her shoes in the impact.

eventually her leg stopped moving, and her stockinged foot became still. i turned away.

“two young girls hop on the bus and begin unwrapping their cloth bundle on a ledge in front of our seats, take out a roasted lamb carcass and a machete, and begin hacking off juicy greasy pieces to wrap in brown paper and hand to the eager customers. the dust continues to rise and fall. “

“it is said the incas used to take 2 weeks to travel from cusco to machu picchu – they knew there is merit in overcoming obstacles. there is wonder to be found at the top of a mountain you didn’t think you could climb. there is awe in coming around a corner into a clearing of majestic peaks as far as the eye can see. there is the heartening of hummingbirds that flit about like magic when you are gasping for air. “

“we watched “the motorcycle diaries”again tonight – the movie about che guevara’s seminal road trip through south america. i remember seeing it before, but i am struck by the difference now. i see flashes of familiar – places i’d only dreamt about when i last saw this, now mine in memory. these are parts of me that i get to keep. i have these, tucked away under my belt for reminiscing, tomorrow or a lifetime from now. when it is winter in london, i will always have summer in bangkok or spring in beijing.”

3 Responses to “my memories”

  1. daddio
    October 9th, 2006 07:36

    what can i say, you are the spirit i wish i had the courage to be. no matter what else you do in your life, you will always know that the person who you are and and the person you will become will always be woven from the cloth of your FIRST world adventure. i know there are many more to come.

    i am very proud of you and the person i have seen evolve on this journey. you are the massai warrior hunting his frist lion, the american indian staring into the sun seeking visions, the hermit leaving their known world behind to contemplate lifes beauty, the new mother accepting the unknown world that lies ahead …you are wise, honest, compassionate and funny. you’re the best and i am very, very proud of you.

  2. Nicole
    October 10th, 2006 20:33

    I can’t believe you are end the end of this particular adventure! I have certainly enjoyed reading your stories- I am so impressed that you have managed to share with us even though you were often in the middle of nowhere.

  3. Jen
    October 10th, 2006 23:55

    awww, thank you! yup, the internet really *IS* everywhere!

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