Sunday, April 29, 2012

Island saunter

Barely in Chetwynd for more than 24 hours, I reorganized summer gear into Road Trip acceptable kit.  Destination: Spring! 

Still shaking off its winter coat, Chetwynd was cold and blowy and I was keen to escape.  Sleeping bags, dodgy stove, tent, portable music devices, ample space for tetris-ing Big City purchases into a wee Civic and we were off!

Highlights included: Vancouver eats from sushi to dim sum with legit Chinese speakers; Salt Spring Island with its farm stands on the side of the road offering garlic, dried tomatoes, ginger cookies and daffodils, oh the daffodils! to local beers and oysters to sea walks looking for seals, otters, whales; Campbell River's exceptional museum and night in with the ever lovable, passionate and hospitable Prestons; cycling around Victoria in between visiting Dan's family and catching The Skatalies lackluster show; looking out the window on the way from Kamloops to Chetwynd.  

Whoa birds! On the boat from Vancouver to Victoria 

From the ferry again

Dan and his dodgy stove 

We caught crabs! 

Beach baseball location

In front of the tent 


A whole blooming yard

Ferry home :(

Dan enjoying the sunshine

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On sequels

I had mixed emotions of returning to SE Asia and later Bimini’s Sharklab this past winter.  Eight months since I left from Singapore via Manila and I was back in Singapore on my way to Bali.  Like Manila, you aim to leave Bali as soon as possible.  If the bedbugs in Sanur don’t get you, the lying-to-you-face-and-smiling-about-it locals will.  Spectacular diving made up for the Philippines and Indonesia’s lackluster food – compared to Vietnam and Malaysia’s street eats – while men throughout the region with the same leery lineage had me second guessing.

Returning to two areas I’d previously enjoyed, I was reminded of Heraclitus of Ephesus that you can never step into the same river.  Amid my transient lifestyle with supporting tattered, water stained passport and scattering of friends, family and lovers around the globe I was surprised that I’d purposefully chosen to visit the same place twice.  

Feeling SE Asia’s pull through the previous summer coupled with the dissatisfaction I’d neglected significant pieces and places and feeling a homesickness for a place that wasn’t my home, I observed a rare place fidelity.  The diving kept me entertained as I climbed into Robyn’s wetsuit and followed her fin kicks all over Indonesia, the food in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam made my tummy smile but I didn’t clichély “return for the people.”  

Quite the opposite.  There were plenty of people who legitimately could have held me in Canada.  A budding relationship with an are-you-real? man; a returning-from-where-I-wanted-to-go cousin; a previously incarcerated brother desperate to fall into a support net; girlfriends getting engaged, having second children, looking to sell their first home; a mother who, like me, cries at each parting.  

Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler’s “all you've got to do is decide to go and the hardest part is over” bounce through my head as I contemplate where I don’t know I’m going against what, where and who I’ve (temporarily) left behind.  

Attempts to adequately stay in touch are in place but exchanged emails and unreliable postcards home cannot rival the former ease of daily life.  Even if I chose to dive into the time consuming and frustrating Skype, all would continue to be a tease of the former intimacy enjoyed amongst friends and family.
Friend and fellow wanderer, Steph, celebrates the advancements in communication currency.  I, too, am pleased that I can chat online and mobile phones (that are financing a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo) are more widespread than passable roads but I grieve the loss of travelers congregating in the common room with nothing to do until someone produces a pack of cards or, more likely, a box of wine.  

The wanderlust incest is still alive and evident as I bumped into a lifeguard from Bonnie Doon pool on Koh Pha Ngan the next bungalow over.  “Small world!” we exclaimed.  Boarding plane four of five to the other side of the world months later I’m reminded that the world, is in fact, still a very large place.  

Fifty-four hours from Bali to Calgary – the majority of those legs likely plagued by at least one colicky baby in the cabin.  WestJet’s timely April Fool’s joke of announcing child-free cabins was an outward expression of not only my mile-high and, if online forums are to be believed, many other travelers’ grievances.  My compliments to a girlfriend who drugs her children for air travel.  

While 15 hours of plane travel amounts to a considerable distance, the same cannot be said of non-air travel.  In the same hours required to cross the Pacific, Robyn and I traveled from Sabang, Mindoro to Sugar Beach on Negros and were still in the same country!  We took multiple boats, an airplane, a jeepney, a tricycle and numerous there’s-space-in-the-aisle buses.  

While I’ll likely be back in SE Asia – possibly as soon as this winter – I can’t prematurely predict the same for the Sharklab.  While the cast had changed from my previous stint in 2010, the spectacle had remained the same.  Collectively lured to Bimini by the possibility of a spectacle, the tears on the porch as I bid the stayers-ons farewell, were for the cast that had enriched my life.  I had arrived with the expectation of extraordinary experiences, and more than fulfilled, hummed Colin James’s “Just Came Back to say Goodbye” as I was driven to the airport to begin taking the long way home – where ever that is...