Tag Archives: Family

never miss your water

Now, I-I know that you never miss your water ’til you’re dry…
Diesel

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April in Koh Phangan and my body is a mobile irrigation system. Perspiration seeps unceasingly from pores that never close their eyes on the world. At the slightest sign of exertion – picking up a towel from the floor of the bathroom or tearing a square of paper from the toilet roll – a new response is triggered. I’m wet: perma-wet.

Cotton clothing works overtime in the heat, wicking moisture away from hard-to-reach places. Fresh sarongs, singlets and trousers become sodden in minutes, drooping un-flatteringly from my arms and legs in flaccid pockets that resemble a pelican’s throat pouch. My clothes have a permanent case of tuckshop lady’s arms, or is that just me?

The capacity of my body’s inbuilt sprinkler-system is astounding, if not slightly embarrassing. I’m dishing up salty water all over the place and meanwhile, more than half the island’s households, not to mention their gardens, are screaming out for water. Continue reading

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Vodka & mutton

vereniki!

Our friendship with Andrey began over coffee and zinger burgers. He was in the same boat as us, waiting for a visa for China. He’d seen our antics in the queue at the Chinese embassy – blue lips, dancing-to-keep-warm and our utter bewilderment at being spoken to in Russian – and took pity on us.

Within three days of meeting Andrey and his wife Anna, we were sleeping on their lounge room floor, waking up to pancakes and rice pudding, playing games of chess with their sons, accompanying the family on shopping excursions to the bazaar, fishing in the river and swapping banter in broken Russian and English late into the night. Anna was keen to brush up on her ‘modal verbs’, and thankfully Sam was able to oblige – 5 years of teaching English in China pays off!

There were no limits to the lengths Anna and Andrey would go to help us: we needed to find new accommodation – no worries; visit to train station to collect tickets – too easy; finding a ride across the border from Almaty to China in five days time – piece of cake. “All you need to say,” Andrey intoned slowly and clearly, unable to hide his amusement at our English reservedness, “is ‘Andrey, please help me’.”

Together, Andrey and Anna devised a rigorous regime of cooking and eating, encompassing all their most beloved national dishes, to keep our minds and bellies distracted from the tedium of waiting for visas. Seven days later, we all agree that we’ve had a wonderful time, and that we need to go on a diet! Continue reading

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Venice: between heaven and hell

If the devil is Venetian, wears storm-trooper boots, black sunglasses and operates via Couch Surfing, then Roberto (alias) is his name.

Roberto was our ‘fall back’ option for accommodation in Venice.
“Call me,” he said in response to our Couch Surf request, “in case of emergency, if you get stuck, or if you really can’t find a room.”

Within a day and a half (and a lot of rain) of arriving in Italy the conditions that Roberto had described had indeed come to fruition: we were stuck, it was an emergency, and we couldn’t find a room (that we could afford).

“Who should call him, me or you?” I asked Richie.
“You do it. You’re the one who wrote to him.”

Despite having a rather fearsome profile on Couch Surfing (think Sid Vicious crossed with Che Guevara) Roberto was gracious about letting us stay. He met us at Venice’s St Lucia stazione and took us back via a circuitous route to a squatted university building where a ‘happening’ was underway. He introduced us to his friends and gave us a running commentary on the history of the building; its apotheosis as a squat, and the reasons why Venice’s grand buildings were being systematically sold off as luxury hotels.
“There’s more tourists here than residents. We’re outnumbered 3 million to 60,000,” he told us flatly.

After the ‘happening’ at the university we were frogmarched to a bar on the other side of town where an anarchic bunch of rabble were loitering alongside the canal, drinking beer and listening to heavy metal music: more leather than the Fez tanneries and more dogs on leads than Miami beach.

It was not long before Jason wandered over and started talking to us… again. He’s joined us for drinks at the university, impressing us with his distinctive appearance (he wore what can only be described as a leather cape) and intriguing persona: part Ezra Pound, part Mick Dundee. His mother was Australian but he was born in Venice.

“Nice Irish accent,” Richie scoffed once Jason had excused himself to search out a cigarette.
“It’s no Irish, it’s Australian. Watch the pen. He’s got my pen. I bet you he’s going to pocket it. You can’t trust writers!”

Continue reading

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