Happy New Year guys

I had written something. So much to tell. The last three weeks have been crazy, even by my standards.

In Cambodia. As expected, it’s an experience. The internet is painfully slow so I’ll wait till I am in a better place to post as it’s not posting much.

Just wanna say, see u in 2006. and I will, you have been warned.

take care

dan

The Good, The Very Bad and The Really Ugly

 

After a crazy night in Phnom Penh, Tom and I had to flee town and I mean flee. We had restricted ourselves to the more modest establishments but were still overrun by girls and felt we couldn’t go back to a few places. Cambodians are known, despite their exceptionally troubled past for being smilers. But when you go to the bars and nightclubs, it’s difficult to differentiate between the really happy people and the “smilers”. It’s a game I get tired of very quickly.

The bars seem to set up for the middle-age divorcee, unwanted he feels by women in his homeland, who feels too old to be reconstructed, too cynical and broken to be fixed. It doesn’t leave the rest of us much choice and that seedy world gets somewhat attractive for a short period. The bars and the city exhibited a naked aggression, a feeling that things might kick off at any minute; if you get yourself in a difficult situation, you are one step away from trouble. I am not saying it’s a dangerous place but it is. Safety is a matter of positioning in life. Like quality. You choose where to place yourself, feel strong and confident and you won’t get into such problems. I guess awareness is what I am talking about.

Before we left the heat, humidity, crazy traffic, where driving on the correct side of the road seems to be a matter of choice, not rule, we travelled out to S21, the notorious execution camp for the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. Up to 9000 people were killed here and the skulls, stacked haphazardly with varying degrees of intactness are a visual reminder of what happened and was ignored by others. Native Americans say ‘be careful where you walk as you might be walking on your ancestors.’ It felt that way walking around those fields. But the true horror stories are the methods by which men and women, boys and girls, grandfathers and grandmothers were killed. It was almost an experiment, after all, these people were merely guilty of being in the wrong place and the wrong time. Just one story: a man killed by being buried up to his head in sand, wood placed round his head, stove above it and the kettle was boiled. Visiting the Killing Fields later and seeing the pictures of the victims and the images of death asks many questions about mankind.

So we fled town, a town I liked and a town we were to return to, for the beach at Silhanoukville, a pretty, quiet beach with the usual hawkers, backpackers, Bob Marley songs and motorbike taxis every 5 yards. Nothing much to do but sit on the beach, trying to avoid negotiations with hawkers, where you soon learn don’t say maybe because that means ‘sure’. The worst are the moto taxis. A typical conversation….

Moto: You want taxi?

Us: no, thank you.

Moto: You want smoke?

Us: no, thank you.

Moto; You want girl?

Us: no, thank you.

Moto: You want boy?

Us: no, thank you.

Moto: You want DVD?

Us: no, thank you.

Moto: You want sex DVD?

Us: no, thank you.

Moto: You want taxi?

Us: no, thank you.

After a few days, we returned to the hustle (and hassle) of Phnom Penh. Architecturally, Phnom Penh is an attractive city, hugely impressive temples, grandiose old houses liberally daubed in paint and a riverfront to match many cities. There are also many beggars and amputees, great poverty if you step off the main streets, unreliable electricity and an underlying feeling of abuse. Things don’t have to be like this. Bars advertise with pictures of disturbing young girls, massive  streets exist with names like The Chicken Farm, the Western and Far-Eastern men come in droves and never see a temple or a real smile. The Western men who run these bars would never call home and say they are a pimp, but that’s the truth.

New Year came and went and nothing much to tell. Tom had left for Bangkok early that morning so I just had a few beers with an American and English guy and wished I had more fun. I spent the night talking to an Australian girl, just because I wanted someone to talk to, not a brown body as the English guy put it, who just flutter their eyes, look away and hope I’d take them home. Travelling is a major part of my life but these places felt wrong for me. It was fun but not where I should be. None of this Cambodia’s fault. I just need to position myself better.

Talk to you from Vietnam.

Love

Dan

I’ll post pictures when I figure out how.

And it was merry

It’s Boxing Day and I feel it.

Yesterday we ate turkey and beef, roast and mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli. Red wine flowed, Norweigan whiskey was plundered and beer consumed. We, being about 20 farangs and girlfriends. I also spoke to the folks. We ended up in go-go bar but I have no memory of that. My first, truly drunken Christmas.
Tom and I are off to Cambodia tomorrow.

Seoul Survivor

Historians debate whether history is a linear or cyclical process. Whether man’s character is inhibited from change by the our very natures and so merely repeats itself in another variant, or whether man is moving onwards, forever changing his destiny though to what, he rarely knows. I guess, on a personal level, it depends how much you learn from your mistakes. Whether you know, from self-awareness or lessons taught, that to avoid a similar circumstance, you take on board the consequences and move on a wiser person.

After near-on two years here in Seoul, I tender the question: Where is my personal history? Am I closer to somewhere? Have I drunk it away ?

My last weekend, if not by the calendar but in my mind as Scott and Sarah wouldn’t be able to attend the final few days, I ended up in Hongdae, in a club, in freezing weather, with no phone and a home to return to which was made up of a comfortable mattress on a heated floor with only the wonderful AFN (American Forces Network) for companionship. As I lay in bed, hungover as usual, wondering if Sunday mornings truly exist, deja-vu struck me. That weekend was a mirror of my first weekend in Seoul, club night, bitter, snowy weather, the bedroom, everything. So I started to mull over my personal history and destiny. What have I learnt? Am I getting anywhere and does it matter?

I’ve realised somethings: That beer is not a panacea and whiskey is not the solution. I know that double-chins are not temporary. With friends, quality far out-weighs quantity; that anyone can be funny, no matter what you thought of them at first. I need to follow Aesop’s Two Bag fable about man having two bags tied round his neck with faults inside. The front bag contains his neighbour’s faults, the rear his own faults so that men are blind to their own faults but never forget their neighbour’s faults. Alcohol brings us together and drives us apart and guilt is usually somewhat justified; I know now I have little patience and my directness can be interpreted (not mis-interpreted) for rudeness; but good words last forever and hugs mean a lot.

Ajumas don’t get more polite; mono-culture isn’t for me, that to learn you have to take a step back. My friends in Seoul are older and wiser. They’re good people with hearts in the right places and I am fortunate they let this stupid wanker know them. There is nothing more to strive for in life than to be surrounded by good, interesting people (especially with nice cast-offs!!). Milan Kundera’s Ignorance talks about how people remember the same events differently but I hope we remember things in a similar vein even if I can’t remember at all!

I know that I hate spitting; Apples are better than Windows and bananas are best of all. Envy and jealousy really do have different meanings; you need a little stress in your life to help them through the unexpected trials, to give us balance. I learnt that I can’t travel with a woman; and meeting girls in the toilet is no basis for a relationship. I know that I love my job but hate teaching kids. And age allows us to blossom, not wither. Life is best served older and revenge never at all.

My recent highlights revolve around the same thing; the Hilton Hotel/transvestite night with Nev, Young Soo and the Gorings, the October house party, the K1 show with Dave, preceded and followed by night outs including with the K1 guys, the November test matches with Scotty and finally the December nights out with Ronnie and Debs, Yoon and Christine, Bryan ,Dan, Paul and Andy. The common link is friends. Thanks guys.

The hardest part is not walking away from my friends cos I know I’ll see them again but instead erasing this stupid smile I have when I think of them. I could be sad but rather I’m proud and it’s time to walk on. As I’ve said, the next words we’ll exchange will be hello. It’s been near two years since I left for Seoul and for some important reasons I could come back, for others I couldn’t. Knowing when to move on and when to stay on, is a defining moment in a man’s life. Being an indecisive Englishman, that ain’t easy but I know it’s now. Well, this is me and the search for the Way of the Dan continues.
Goodbye and take care.

It’s Good to be Alive

I’ll be heading out of Bangkok for a few days but so far….

The flight was a pure nightmare; big fat Indian guy between me and a bird, moronic US soldiers and a film that cut out half way. But I finished my book, a recommendation by Andy, Kiss of the Spiderwoman and bloody good it was too. However, once you land, all flitters away and you’re left with Thailand, the meathead English and German and that optimist feeling that the good life has arrived. The rattling airport buses immediately get me smiling.

Thursday, we all went to a big beer garden and drank with live music and thousands of Thais. The development in central Bangkok just continues apace with any Asian city and Thais know how to enjoy themselves. Bertrand was here on Saturday and we managed to stay out until 8:30am with Sook Hui and a few hookers, talking and drinking in the street. Sook Hui left on Monday and Tom and I hit the town after a turkey dinner complete with….. brussel sprouts!! Go-go bars galore. Those places are so funny with the music, dancing, smiling girls, giving out flirtatious looks to any fat farang. Today, I lazed.
Tomorrow I’m off to see some Khmer ruins for a few days but I’ll be back for Xmas. My first hot Xmas. Merry Xmas everybody.

Exploitation?

Dan’s definition: just trying to live and learn
Dictionary definition: Dan: the art of bumming around?
Synonyms?: Exploiter? User? Abuser? Loser?

While reflecting on my life over the past year, I tried to count how many houses I’ve stayed in. Forgetting the backpacking, I stopped counting at 30. I didn’t need or want to go on further. Why need? Well because I’d made my point. Why want? Well it didn’t sit too well.

Most friends and they’ve all been friends, disagreed. “You’re welcome, It was great to see you” they all said. But when the time comes, when they need (or maybe want), you move on. After all, they have lives, jobs, girlfriends, husbands, wives etc; the usual to deal with. I? Well that’s what we’re talking about. I guess it’s give and take. While many say they are sometimes envious of my life, I can honestly say the same about theirs. And while I’ve stayed at others places, I can be proud of the many offers from friends I’ve had to turn down due to others getting there first.

Tom and I discussed exploitation the other night. Whether the go-go dancers were exploited or not. How we agreed that from a Western perspective, they are, dancing semi-naked, gyrating to the eyes of men and the occasional women. But these girls, mostly uneducated but pretty cannot get office jobs and have never dreamed of being doctors.

Feminists would argue that’s because the male-dominated societies close off these options through poor education and a throttling of the female spirit and aspirations. This is partly true but societies are also divided along wealth lines and these are far more fundamental than mere mortals. Wealth divides within and between countries. Unfortunately exploitation is often the dynamo for progress and history. Whether it be your progress or mine. Things aren’t fair and economics is a zero-sum game. We maybe getting richer but the cost mounts.

But as Tom and I sat in the semi-dark, glancing at the stage, averting our eyes at the smiles, drinking and watching the girls in schoolgirl uniforms, I felt the poorer for it. As Tom talked how these girls made more money doing this than they ever could in an office and how they don’t live in a rich society, the large bill came over with a smile. I knew who’d won here. But you can’t win them all and we paid up with a smile.

Are you free now?

I am at the airport, safely through immigration, shaking like a leaf, amusing myself at the size of some people’s carry-on luggage and Buddhist monks playing Playstation. The marathon drinking spree ranging from the photography study with Andy (where we blagged it) to Friday and drinking in Rebus with My-My, then Ronnie’s and with Bryan in Pollys. Saturday, Christine and Joe arrived and Scrooges and Nana were hit (psycho girl encountered), quiet Sunday, big Monday with Yoon and the member bar and finally Tuesday with Paul and Andy, Dan, Dave, My-My, RJ, Ben and Nick. The liver is twitching, the palate is dry, the vagabond has gone.

One more for the road

Managed to have a great night last night, dinner and whiskey with Yoon in a very posh bar with live music and entertaining girls. Picked up a t-shirt for the next world cup too. A Korean guy loved England so much he insisted I have it after a toast that is. Post a picture later. Today just trying to get to see everyone and organise everything. Naturally not doing very well, but I got a flight from Hanoi to Bangkok on the great Airasia for a mere $18. Meeting Dan, Paul and Andy tonight and Dave in 10 minutes. Gotta go. See ya by the pool tomorrow in Thailand.