Lugies, Waterslides, Commemorating a Day of Birth, etc.

As per the caveat in the former post, this blog entry regards life mid-May onwards. However, instead of taking the tradition “dear diary, today we…” trajectory, let me begin with a little ‘survival guide’ to Nepal that I’ve accumulated in my notes.

The Nepali Survival Guide (or rather, Things to be Mindful of When in Nepal)

  1. Go with the flow/Nepali time: For example, when someone says the bus will depart at 13:30, be ready for the set time, but always bank for at least and extra 30 minutes to one hour of that set departure time. Further, being late isn’t the end of the world; far from it in fact: folks seem to just go with the flow, and let their activities melt with the passing time.
  2. Snot central/lugies: “Hcwhaaack puu”. Don’t know if it’s from all the dust in the air, but a rich lugie being hucked out into the big, wide world is fairly normal, and by no means nasty as it may be in some nooks and crannies of the world. To all those sensitive to ‘inappropriate’ sounds such as belching, farting, and all things booger-related, brace yourselves for a thick blend of saliva and snot being skillfully accumulated in the esophagus and fired out of the mouth with good aim. Nonetheless, however, practice your reflex when sitting behind a cab driver, as the wind my counter their lugie’s intended trajectory.
  3. Face masks: With dust in mind, you may want to conjure the surgeon-esque look with a chic face mask. You can find patterns ranging from tie-dye, to cute flower prints, to abstract and bold designs, and to simple one-coloured face masks in order to coordinate your garb with these dust-fighters and up your fashion game (if that’s a thing).
  4. Electricity and water: Both of these babies are scarce. In regards to the latter, use it precariously when washing dishes and/or taking a bucket shower. With the former, note that power cuts change day to day. You can download nifty applications to your Smartphone or Android device in order to plan for the day’s loadshedding schedule to ensure that you can boil water (in the event that you don’t have a gas stove; cold coffee doesn’t quite make the cut); charge any necessary electronics (jumped on the chain-smoking train after Smokey Robinson – my e-cigarette – couldn’t be charged); or need to have things cooled down (what can I say, the mushiness of warms apples and grapes just get to me).
  5. “Are you Nepali?”: for my fellow Caucasian-Asian hybrids, be prepared to be asked if your Nepali at least once a day. Not bothersome for myself at all; in fact – with by no means of consolidating the ‘science’ of eugenics – the blend of my pop’s ivory juice mixed with my mama’s mocha juice birthed a questionable Nepali broad (i.e., yours truly). Personally, I’ve found that the product of this mixing has resulted in a quasi comradeship with the locals that is only separated by the fact that I’m not actually Nepali.
  6. Head nod or neck stretch/dance?: Sure, what we know as a head nod – bobbing your head up and down – means yes here as well. But what is more common in Nepal (and I’m sure many other parts of the world) is a little dancing of the head side to side to denote “yes” (or, “ajer”). For myself, I initially found the latter a bit ambiguous: at first, it looks like the person is indicating a sense of uncertainty – kind of like an “eh, I don’t know”, or “your straight up crazy, but this is a subtle way of noting my feeling towards your question”. But increasingly, not only do you become accustomed to fact that this does indeed mean yes; but it’s a convenient way to loosen up the muscles in your neck, a groovy/funky way to respond to someone (I feel like I’m dancing at the clubs, hey), and it’s overall pretty contagious.
  7. Why are people always talking about China?: I’ll admit, I didn’t bother studying even the basics of Nepali before coming here. Because of this, I thought there was way too much conversation revolving around China (but then again, hell, who am I to say what people can/can’t talk about); or that too much attention was being brought to my ethnicity (I’m not Chinese for god’s sake!). About two weeks into my arrival, I found out that it means “no”. So, with that, “china, I’m not Chinese”.
  8. Dal bhat: Literally, lentils and rice. Every. Damn. Day. Two. Times. A. Day.

These are just the highlights of ‘survival tips’ that I’ve accumulated, and I hope that they can be of use to those traveling to Nepal, or spark are chuckle for fellow nomads who have encountered similar experiences.

Okay, so now to the classic “dear diary, today we…” post, with shenanigans organized on a weekly basis.

WEEK 3:

  • Started a daily ritual of climbing up the Swayambhunath Stupa (or, the Monkey Temple) in order to ensure the intense definition of my legs (not). But seriously, the combination of monks chanting, spinning prayer wheels, and the lighting of candles to symbolically offer to the Triple Gem, makes this sweat-inducing climb of its 365 steps that much more of a meditative way to burn off all that dal bhat.

Monkey Temple, and of course, monkeys.

  • Accompanied the national Hong Kong rugby team to Sukute Lower Secondary School aforementioned in the post before this, of which they’ve made substantial donations to. That weekend consisted white water rafting, watching Monica bungee jump, sleeping in tents near the Nepal-Tibet border, and overall, exercising our roles as representatives on behalf of the NGO we are volunteering for.

HKFC at Sukute Lower Secondary School.

  • That same weekend, we took the kidlets bowling and to the HKFC vs. Team Nepal Friendship Rugby Tournament, in which monsoon-like conditions during the latter made for a rather soggy group of people watching an even more soggy and muddy bunch of competitors during the match.

WEEK 4:

  • Monica and I surprised Darren (who popped over for the weekend to the Kathmandu District after a week of his rural school placement in the Sidapolchoke District) for his birthday with a cake at a restaurant in Thamel (which came before even ordering our food – perhaps due to the rarity of partaking in what is standard in ‘Western’ cultures?; that is, having a surprise cake in public eating places). To be sure, Darren’s birthday wasn’t until the week after, but since this would be the last weekend our trio would be together – as Monica was heading back to Canada in a few days – we decided to celebrate a tad early.
  • The next day, we took a very authentic excursion to Kathmandu Fun Valley – one of Nepal’s leading water/amusement parks – ft. one of the kindest, humble and honest workers at the NGO. The day consisted of cheeky grins, the 2.5 gringos foolishly dancing around to the blaring club music, and later, attempting to hail trucks and buses to Sukute of the Sindhapolchoke District to spend one last night in a Three Muskateer fashion.

The posse ft. Mon downing some jhai muri.

  • After finally catching a bus that was headed in the direction of Darren’s hut located at some beach resort, the three of us wined and dined with some workers at the resort itself and the adventure tour company it’s partnered with.

Looking hella candid in Sukute (especially Darren’s “do I need a tetanus shot?” face).

  • Monica and Darren saying their final goodbyes were suitably situated against the backdrop of light rain and grey cloud. Us broads then headed home to Swayambhu.
  • This weekend and the following day was comprised of a traditional farewell at the office (i.e., people giving mini speeches, applying of tikkas, and the continuous tying of scarves around the departing individual; so much, in fact, that Monica looked like a lass from mid-sixteenth century Europe sporting a ruff); as well as saying goodbye to the youth at the NGO’s childcare homes later that evening. Still fathoming the sentiment that Mon was going through during all this, I can only imagine how emotional these farewells were: not only did a tear or two crack during the office farewell, but while walking with my new gal pal to our home after saying goodbye that evening (during which the youth smothered her in hugs, kind words, and hand-made cards). It truly was a reminder of why the volunteers and employees are all really here, and the experiences and attachments we develop during our time.
  • Oh yeah, and Monica got a tattoo of Swayambhu’s geographic coordinates to top it all off.

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  • However, counter to the influx of feelings of warmth and connectivity developed that evening, Monica was completely fucked over the following day at the airport. Only to arrive during the early hours of the morning, Mon found out that her flight from Nepal to India, and then India to Canada required her to get an Indian visa as her flight back home to Canada was a standby ticket. After dropping her off in Kim Dole Choke to fetch a cab to the airport and anticipating a lonely day at the office, to my surprise, a broad who looked an awful lot like Monica (i.e., Monica) was perched at the desk, madly searching alternative routes that allowed her to transit in their country on a standby flight, without requiring her to get a visa. Fortunately, she managed to find a route that would have her taking a arduous journey at 23:30 that night to Kuala Lumpur, to Hong Kong, to Vancouver, to Toronto, and finally, to Moncton. Bon voyage, Monica; I’ll be seeing you in Spain in August.

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  • In addition to the workshops held at the office for newly recruited fieldworkers, I had the pleasure of joining the guys and gals to the British School of Lalitpur, one of the NGO’s donors, who, in addition to their contributions, provides a day of sports and arts for the kiddos. The individuals presently living in the childcare homes were also accompanied by youth who have grown up in and out of the NGO’s facilities. Between the three of them and myself, we were in charge of chaperoning the event; being middle (wo)men to communicate with the staff at the office on how the day was panning out; and sorting out donations between the school and the NGO. Relative to my experience working as a camp counselor, this was by far less stressful, as – growing up in Nepal, a country which is fairly densely-populated in core areas, and therefore, crowded – locating one another was never a bother, and we always managed to find one another if separated.
  • As Darren’s birthday was actually this week, some folks at the office, the kidlets and I coordinated a surprise fiesta for him at the boys’ home. After tricking him into thinking that Shyam Brother needed help moving furniture at the boys’ hau5, we all piled up into the main gathering room, which to Darren’s avail, was a celebration of his day of birth, rather than spending the day lifting heavy objects. We celebrated in style with bottles of Fanta and Sprite, and packets of assorted biscuits.
  • Later that night, Darren and I continued this train of healthy eating with getting greasy-ass, delicious street grub on New Road. In addition to experiencing every flavour under the sun that can be deep fried, one of the most memorable things that came out of this night was a gentleman’s eagerness to ensure that we ate our food in comfort. While perching ourselves on a step just beside the main road, a man with an everlasting grin kept on giving us newspapers – not to read, but to place our food and asses on. Constantly putting his hands in prayer position to his forehead with a gentle bow, it was clear that he was doing this not for donations, but to genuinely ensure that we enjoyed our greasy goods. However, we’ve seemed to experience this intense generosity time and again, and when sharing our experience with other foreigners, there seems to be some sort of speculation of an unwritten rule to be polite to ‘white’ people (for example, in addition to this, we got priority in different queues throughout our time here). No matter how much you turn down the offer and/or present yourself to be treated as an equal, the unwritten rule (unfortunately?) tends to prevail.

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Anyways, hombres, that wraps up the life and times of Gonzo for now. Coming at you from a futon from Swayambhu, and recovering from a food hangover, Gonzo OUT.

Pastry CentralBlessings from the land of everything deep fried (hence the haggard mug shot).

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The Essence of Compassion (AKA: my Bad Ass Mother)

Wow, so after some strenuous defrosting of the ice block that I’ve apparently been frozen in, I emerge from my hibernation in the attempt to share an update on la vida loca. So, here I am breaking the ice (ha! Get it?). After five months of not writing a post (minus my coltan in the Congo paper), I fill you in to the tune of my clicking keyboard…

I begin with wishing my baby bro a happy belated 19th birthday. May the freedom of legality bring you the liberty to purchase booze and cigarettes at the flash of a government-issued photo ID. I’d also like to take this paragraph as a chance to thank him for teaching me how to better communicate with people. Because of your ability to be straight-up and honest with me, Kaleem, you make it that much easier for me to realize how much of a (1) nuisance, (2) royal pain in the arse, and (3) mellow-dramatic baby I can be at times. Further, I honestly do not take your trust for granted. Whenever you’re sweating the small (and large) stuff, and find comfort in opening up to me, I not only consider myself privileged to have a snippet of your trust; but I also see an opportunity of learning more about you and myself in this brief moment of “spilling the beans” as some would say. If you’re reading this, and rolling your eyes at how sappy this is, I’ve done my job right. Love you like a brutha – oh wait…

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ImageKaleem poppin’ squats and getting his pre-game fuel since his junior days. Always were a little body builder, wernchya’?

As a ritual in my writing, I usually touch base with the academics; followed by something travel-related; proceeded by alcohol references/jokes (I swear, I’m not an alcoholic, but honestly some of the most hilarious moments I’ve ‘remembered’ or witnessed, have been that much more funny thanks to a cheeky little bevvie); and most likely continued by how my dadi-o has been a consistent inspiration throughout these moments. But I feel the unwitting need to dedicate a good chunk of this post to the person who I consider to be the epitome of humbleness without effort, optimism that comes naturally, and all around loveliness; and that person is my forever-smiling mama.

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Rewind to over 21 years ago to a time to when a newly-wedded lady emigrated from one of the Indonesia’s larger bodies of land, Sumatra, to huge-ass, chunky, Canada (to put it eloquently) in order to start up a new life with some gringo (my dad), who had a mustache that was strikingly passable for that of Tom Seliks. After a couple of years of putting a dent into the West Coast, a super excellent humanoid (who only gained her excellence through genetics) was sliced out of the Sumatran native’s belly, and two years later, the birthing process repeated itself, only this time, excellence came with different reproductive organs (i.e. dude, not dudette).

ImageExcellence pt. I ft. Sumatran goddess.

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Excellent pt. II ft. a very intellectual conversation with some gringo.

Fast-forward 21 years, and the Sumatran lady (my mother, in case y’all haven’t clued in yet) continues to be tough as nails, and I cannot fathom what an incredible person she is to this day. Now, let me just say that the idea of permanent residency in a foreign land poses as exciting as equally as it does scary to me, because of the both travel- and family-oriented broad I am. But my mom’s case is especially unique because of the large family she comes from, that consists of so many complex layers: all which make the idea of moving overseas near impossible.

Let me just paint a picture for you here: because of the former Dutch colonial rule, the idea of an Indonesian marrying a Caucasian lad challenges the pre-existing bitter dynamic between the two groups – although that’s a very general statement, but you get my drift. Out of the seven sisters in my mama’s household, there was a widely-held assumption amongst family and friends of their family that she was my Opung’s (Bahasa for “grandpa”) most ‘prized’ daughter (excuse the objectification). Because her birth followed the miscarriage of the only boy my Nenek (“grandma”) and Opung managed to have, she was like the son he never had. Furthermore, her against-the-grain demeanor (e.g. going to a Catholic school, when they weren’t even Catholic; majoring in Japanese in university just cause; informing her parents the day before departure that she had signed up for a CWY exchange to Canada) made/makes her distinctive to the already fascinating characters that are her sisters.

I find that having this relation at the core of her departure is not only inconceivable (because of her family’s deeply embedded roots on Sumatran turf – both mental and physical), but inspirational. By dedicating her life to the unknown, my mum’s kahunas and bravery are truly moving.

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Ma’s pad back in the motherland (Tanjung Merawa). How could you not miss a place like this?

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3/7 of the sisters: Mida, Tetty, Itot.

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Mama in the middle, with her sister to the left, and of course, the queen of the household to the right: my Nenek.

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5/7 of the sisters (including my ma) and Tom Selleck.

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The chicest and most beautiful.

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Dinner with Opung (with dad about to crap his pants).

After a recent arrival from a trip back home, I can hear the sparkling nostalgia in her voice as she speaks of the rollercoaster of adventures she shared both solo, and with her sisters and their families. Despite the sturdy façade, I can’t help but question if that there is an imbalance of emotions (i.e. the longing of wanting to be in the motherland). Regardless, this Sumatran broad is what I consider to be the essence of compassion. Ma, if you’re reading this, I just want to say “terimah kasih, for all the sacrifices; the blood, sweat and tears; and the care that you have given to those around you on Canadian soil. I hope that the seeds that you have planted here can continue this legacy – NO MATTER WHERE WE ARE IN THE UNIVERSE. You inspire me to be kind; to not be engrained in my ways; and to treat the world as my oyster. You remind me that regardless of our location, we always have family and friends somewhere”.

So folks, let this post serve as an inspiration to be inspired, and to be grateful for gratitude and not take it for granted (I’m sorry, but all those Gs just make me feel like a G-G-G-Unit). Love you mama, dadi and Kaleem. You guys are not only my rock, but rock my world.

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PS: MAJOR shout out to my dad for snapping these B-E-A-U-TIFUL photos back in the day.

PPS: while we’re here appreciating the small things in life, I just want to thank Mother Nature and all the farmers for peaches. Bought myself a bag the other day, and I speak the truth when I say that each bite was sheer ecstasy.

Stay peachy,
Gonzo

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“This Meal Makes the Denny’s Grand Slam Look Like a Carrot”

Let me just disclaim that this is an extremely messy, spur-of-the-moment post that I feel the need to write for the sake of rejuvenation. After mustering up the courage to remove myself from the couch and finally post on update on life since landing on home turf in May, I just want to break the ice by wishing you all: a happy new year. May 2014 bring you all good energy, success, and new opportunities 2013 failed to do (namaste). Generally, I’m not one to have any resolutions for the new year, but more so for every month. However, it being a new year makes it extra fresco and makes me more inclined to live up to those new goals. Oh my god, what a boring and cliché way to kick off the first blog post of the year; let’s talk life from May to present, and that nagging desire that still sets up camp in my noggin to go places.

LIFE (AT A GLANCE) SINCE MAY:
So, as tradition holds, I worked (though it certainly was way too fun to call it that) as a group leader/counsellor this past summer. And – again, as tradition holds – met some very cool people along the way, some who I – without naïvety – claim to be some of my closest amigos. Not only that, but I had the most unique and genuine opportunities to get closer to mates that I formerly had done training with, worked with in past years, or gotten to know throughout the year, All in all, a really good summer made it that much more difficult (boo hoo, I am such a wimp) to adapt to the new school year. Here are some shots that only capture a glimpse of the summer:

July 27_0021On the job (part I).

August and September_0003On the job (part II).

July 27_0009On the job (part III)… just kidding, this is totally off the job.

August and September_0009Off the job (part II).

August and September_0018Having the honour of co-counselling with a long-time, long-distant chum. The most blissful days of my life.

August and September_0038Brother from another mother. Seriously considering NZ this April.

August and September_0046Sister from another mister. Mal, if you’re reading this, it’s embarrassing how little we see each other considering: (A) we live right beside each other, (B) we work as curry vendors outside at the same joint of working as counsellors, and (C) we now go to the same uni. Respect.

Now this may not pose as a big deal to some, but it’s very important to myself considering the transition from point A: my lack of knowledge of not having a single clue in this entire galaxy of what I wanted to do, to point B: finally getting my foot in the academic door.

LET ME RANT FOR JUST A HOT SECOND:
Having entered a new and larger educational institution as such an emotional wreck (yes, there were some shenanigans that happened during the last week of summer that scrambled my brains to a delicate pulp), I can say that I didn’t have the best start to my first semester at this new university. Further, in comparison to how I kicked off things at my former college (i.e. a newly formed self confidence, determination, and an all-around drive that allowed me to get shit done and get to where I wanted to), I was (stupidly) getting down on myself and just not living up to the potential I knew I could.

Though the catalysts in this weren’t clear, I think I can blame no one but myself. I don’t want to resort to issues such as family health, social relations, etc., because in the end, I always had such a good network of friends and family – maybe even better than I had before. As I sit here now, I’m thinking it was me who was closing off help or just being too damn stubborn (who knows!).

Anyways, don’t want to get too personal/intense about this little snippet of my ever-changing youth; just merely want to paint the picture of how poorly I kicked off the school year, and allowed the bad to trump the good.

So anyways, fast-forward to the end of the semester (we’re talking mid-December), and I’m fairly pleased with my final exam performance that I must celebrate with a huge-ass pancake from Jethro’s with my life-long guru (dadi) and bruva. Sitting with the two lads that I’m honoured to call my family allows me to start the winter break, and end the semester on a high note.

August and September_0048My fellow pancake munchers.

However, my winter break pretty much consisted of either recovering from hangovers or watching Anthony Bourdain’s travel series No Reservations or Parts Unknown. Picture this: a couch potato watching this ultra bad ass just travelling the world one country at a time learning all about the history, people, culture and food of every one of those places. And yes, the title of the post is indeed from one of his episodes – specifically when eating a series of deep-fried meats in Colombia. This juxtaposing image essentially portrays my time off in a nutshell, and not surprisingly made me nostalgic as equally as it made me long for future travels.

Now for those of you who don’t know, I’m an intended International Studies major. What I’ll do career-wise: who the fuck knows; but what I can say from the heart is that any title with the word “international” in it sounds pretty damn alluring to me. I hate to come off unknowledgeable about the job opportunities and ignorant about my education, but let me clarify this: during my past semesters at both schools, I’m always learning new things, and with that, learning about myself and how little I know. That being said, I don’t want to be blindly picking careers and not considering the ethics behind it, and this has been a constant theme in the course material shared with me and other students. So folks, although it may take me eons to where I’m going, I’m sure it will be somewhat worth it in the end. And hey, who knows, maybe I’ll be getting my income from being the next celebrity traveler, roaming the nooks and crannies of our globe (i.e. the next Bourdain).

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE:
I have a fresh new semester to look forward to starting tomorrow. Although I’ll be pulling out my hairs for the next couple of years getting this lousy certificate that we are largely dependent on to get anywhere in society (we’re just lacking the creativity to get anywhere without it, really), I’m doing this because I feel like by getting some sort of an education, I can contribute – as minuscule as it may be – something to our crazy planet (Kumbayah, am I right?).

But let’s get real here: the best lessons I have ever learned have been through hands-on experience, listening, and stopping to smell the roses, AKA the marvels that naturally come along with gallivanting in your own backyard, to jetting to international turf. Note that these marvels consist both of the good and the bad, but it’s from those very unique experiences that I think have allowed me to be the broad I am today. Additionally, I think I owe a lot to my family and friends (holy shit, what a pompous bitch! I sound like I’m accepting an award or something. Pardon me), especially my pa, in allowing me to exchange a set of open ears for theirs. Some of the greatest lessons to be learned are often found in social transmission (I don’t have a study to back this, but it certainly has been an experience of my own).

July 27_0004My rock – who also rocks my world.

So, I leave you, my readers with a very general, pretty bland and uninteresting update of Gonzo’s vida loca since May. More updates in the future to come (and more frequently at that, I hope).

Yours truly,
The haphazard-yet-determined-nomadic student, Amira

Today Marks the One Year Anniversary of a New Layday

Actually, that’s a lie; today marks a one year and two day anniversary of a new layday. That’s right, folks: it’s been a whole year since Gonzo returned to the True North from gallivanting in some of the nooks and crannies of SE Asia. Since then, that monumental life experience has constructed the broad that y’all know and love today (yikes, make that a pompous broad).

But in all seriousness, I can genuinely say that the marvels of travelling have forced independence; ignited curiosity; and create some sort of enlightenment and acceptance with who you are and your ‘purpose’ (if that’s the right word). So, at precisely 13:41 on May 10, 2013, sitting in my boudoir, what was the major life-changing ‘lesson’ – if you will – that I got from exploring some corners of the globe?

If we want a particular future,
use your moulding powers to its full advantage.

“What in tarnation do I mean by that, and how in Shiva’s name have I applied that to mi vida within the past year?” you may be asking. I’ll make it short and sweet. What I mean is: don’t be lazy! If you know you have the ability to conquer a goal, do it. I’ve applied this to my life so far through mostly: academics and health (if you want to know the details, leave a comment).

So anyway, there’s my opener, BUT, I also owe you an update on the finale of this year’s adventure abroad. I left off on Day 03 in Ubud, which was written in the afternoon. As fate would have it, the evening unravelled some pretty gonzo-esque events…

UBUD, BALI (CONT’D):
Day 03:

  • So later on that afternoon, after writing the previous post, I walked back to my new homestay at Ubud Sedana, where I got acquainted with my new neighbour: a German lad, who is presently residing in Australia.
  • We were both nearing the ends of our stay in Ubud, so we decided to meet back up later that evening to go to one of the most ‘happening’ pubs in Ubud to finish off our trip with a bang.
  • After three rounds of Extra Joss and vodka, and whiskey and Coke, we found ourselves chillin’ at the pub with good company and shisha. However, after topping off the former drinks with six more shots and a lychee mojito (you can’t get any more multicultural than that), I had to run back to the homestay, only to cleanse my body of the drinks via my esophagus.

Day 04:

  • Bless the souls of the roosters in the courtyard of Ubud Sedana: if it weren’t for them, I probably would have slept in, missing my flight back to Medan.
  • Because the doors can only be locked by a room key from the inside, rather than a standard lock, I woke up in laughter while still in a semi-drunk state, as I had momentarily lost my keys (which were hiding in the in crevasse of my bed), therefore locking myself in my room. Whoops.
  • Again, lucking out in Bali, my former scuba diving instructor that I had last year while living in Makassar (who over the past year has become a bro), was diving in Tulamben. He and his school mate from his studies in Holland – who is actually originally from Spain, but currently living in Koh Tao, Thailand (remember that lychee mojito? I take that back: you can’t get any more multicultural than this) – were heading down to Denpasar the same day I had to catch my flight. Perfect! Killed three birds with one stone: saved 50,000 IDR in transportation costs, travelled with old/new pals, and trekked in the comfort of the private auto mobile (a major bonus considering my nausea).

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Some hungover chick, the scuba diving master, and the Spaniard living in Thailand who studied in Holland (again, multiculturalism at its finest)..

MEDAN, SUMATRA:

  • After a four hour delay in Jakarta, my family back in Medan so graciously picked me up at Polonia International Airport during the wee hours of the morning.
  • The remainder of my stay in Medan essentially consisted of family gatherings, family gatherings and family gatherings. And I can’t complain. It was amusing reminiscing on and fascinating learning about my childhood in Indonesia (apparently I used to be covered in mosquito bites and calamine lotion. Fun fact: I’ve never gotten malaria), and discovering the Batak roots of the Siregar family (e.g.: being raised on Dutch colonial sites; the palm oil plantation bizz; each of the seven sisters’ – including my ma – adventures during their adolescence ).
  • One of the most genuine relations I’ve had with my mom’s side of the family has been with my uncle, Om (uncle) Kiki, who I remember used to carved me and my brother wooden pencil cases and draw us sketches of Earthworm Jim just for fun. When we left Medan, saying goodbye to him (and the rest of the crew, of course) wasn’t the easiest thing to do.
  • Here are some photographs of our last couple days in Medan:

ImageEnjoying ayam pecel with the most comical aunt.

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The legend (Om Kiki) himself.

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Over the short few weeks in Medan, this gazebo became the primo hangout spot.

ImageSome very modest cousins.

LIFE AFTER INDONESIA (BUT STILL IN ASIA):

  • After the expected few hours of sleep that we got during our final night in Medan, mi madre and I hopped on a plane to Singapore, where we spent one night in Little India.
  • Although we were burnt out anyway, we thought we’d exhaust ourselves out even more so we could go to bed early (having to wake up at 2:30 the following day in order to catch an early morning flight to Hong Kong). Activities included being overwhelmed by the craziness of Mustafa Centre, being overwhelmed by the craziness of Orchid Road, and not being overwhelmed by the craziness – but rather at ease with the tranquillity and aroma of shisha – on Arab Street.

ImageLittle India.

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Mayhem on Orchid Road.

ImageMosque on Arab Street.

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Alcohol-free perfume shop.

  • After our short stay in Singapore,we boarded a plane to Hong Kong where we had a short (just kidding) ten-hour layover. So, we did some exploring in the city centre and had dim sum (duh) in Kowloon.

ImageRia getting her bean curd dim sum on.

ImageSleepy time in HK (I am so with you gents).

LIFE AFTER ASIA (IN CANADA):

  • Well, obviously I miss Indonesia like crazy, but we gotta face the reality that all good things come to an end.
  • Exciting things are brewing for Gonzo (work back at the summer camp and transferring universities) in the months to come.
  • However, travelling will ALWAYS be on my agenda. In fact, as soon as landing on home turf and being reunited with family and freinds, discussion of future travels were already being talked about.
  • Picked up the bruv the day after our arrival from his rugby tournament in Japan, and I am genuinely thrilled about the new lad that this opportunity has made out of him.

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Travel sickness will probably take a bigger slap to my face once I get over this jet lag, but in the meantime, let’s leave this post on a optimistic note. Welcome home, Kaleem. Hope your recent travels have brought the same joys that mine did this time last year (plus two days).