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Friday, October 31, 2008


Computerless in Delhi

My lifestyle has become a mixture of travelling and staying put. It would be so easy to make a statement like 'I love travel'. And considering the lifestyle I have chosen for the past six years in particular, or perhaps my whole life in general, one might consider it would be an appropriate statement for me to make. But it's not true! The fact is that I hate travel. I hate the process of packing. I hate carrying all my possessions which equal more than one third of my body weight to strange places where I don't know the way, am not familiar with the transport systems and may not speak the language. I hate having to find suitable accommodation in yet another new city. I hate having to run the gamut of touts who think that your white skin is a symbol of your wealth and they are only too happy to relieve you of some of it. This is the style of travel that I have chosen and I want to say here and now that I hate it.

Of course there is another way to travel. I could stay in hotels that actually get star ratings. I could take taxis everywhere. I could go on guided tours. I could eat in the best restaurants. But what is the point? Except for the view, a five-star hotel in Bangkok, Hanoi or Delhi is just the same as a five-star hotel in Brisbane or Sydney. OK, so maybe the uniforms reflect the local culture. But believe me, when you are doing this you are not seeing the real Bangkok, Hanoi or Delhi. You might as well stay home and watch National Geographic Channel.

I am also not a typical backpacker, if there is such a thing. Hey, I don't want to stereotype backpackers. There's enough people doing that already. But I would like to distance myself from another kind of travel, ie getting pissed in cities all over the world. Getting pissed in Bangkok, Hanoi or Delhi can't really be all that different from getting pissed while watching National Geographic Channel in Brisbane or Sydney.

While I hate travelling, what I do love is being in places that are, to me, exotic. I love to stay in those places for an extended period of time, living amongst the locals. I don't want to live amongst expats. If I want to live among Australians, I'd go back to Australia and do just that. But I know what Australians are like. I lived among them for 55 years. Now I want to immerse myself in 'exotic' cultures; to live among the local people; to live their lifestyle; to learn what makes them tick and perhaps in some way to give a little back to their community. This I love and for the opportunity to do this, I'll put up with the crap that comes with my chosen style of travelling.

I've just spent seven months living in Bangkok. I lived out of town, in the suburbs. I lived in an apartment building amongst Thai people. Two days a week I went to Thai language class. I travelled on buses and trains, occasionally on motorcycle taxis but rarely in taxi cabs.

While living in Bangkok I did accumulate a few possessions: a small bookcase, a little cupboard, books, DVD movies, clothes. I did much the same while living in Mahasarakham, Kompong Chhnang and Melaka. This means I have to make decisions when I move on about what to do with all those excess possessions, all the stuff I can't carry. Occasionally I am able to store a few things in anticipation of a return but often I go through this process. I sort everything into three bundles: the things I absolutely must take with me; the things I'd like to take with me and those I can live without. When I have the 'must takes' in my bags, there is usually not much more room. I add a few of the 'like to takes' based on what fits and what will be most useful and I say goodbye to the rest. I give it away or throw it out.

I had been reasonably comfortable in my room in Bangkok because as well as the things I'd bought I'd also made a trip to Mahasarakham and brought back a suitcase full of useful stuff that'd been stored there. This meant that the sorting process in this, my most recent moving-on, was bigger than usual.

This is one of the aspects of travel that I hate. I hate trying to fit everything in and I hate having to leave behind things that to some degree I've become attached to. I've always been like this and I've always handled this issue in the same stupid way - I procrastinate.

And so there I was an hour before Ead was due to pick me up for the trip to Suvarnabhumi Airport, the bags half packed and accumulated possessions spread in neat piles around my room but there were one or two things that had still not found their way onto an appropriate pile. In particular, behind my desk there were a few electrical cables including the charger and cable for my Macbook computer.

After I reached Delhi I did a bit of writing. I wrote two blogs, one on my first impressions of Delhi and one on a caffeine incident I experienced. I also downloaded the 100 or so photos I'd taken at Suvarnabhumi Airport and processed a handful of them for my flickr page. When the battery started to get low I looked for the charger and that's when I realised what I'd done to myself because of my hate of travelling and my procrastination.

The following day I managed to get online (not on my computer) and find an Apple dealer that I could reach in Delhi. I got on the Metro and took a train ride to Srinigar Garden and found the Apple dealer who told me a replacement cable would cost 8,000 - 9,000 rupees (very expensive) and would take seven days to arrive. My plan was that in seven days I would be in Mussoorie, visiting one of the hill stations in the lower Himalayas, over 300 km from Delhi.

I thought it through and decided to confront the possibility of an attachment to my computer. I've decided, for the time being, to be computerless. Well, not entirely computerless - I still have the weight to lug around and there are, of course, internet cafes to help me communicate with you. I've also made some tentative steps towards getting my charger forwarded to me but it doesn't look like that will happen.

I had decided not to do any blogging until my computer was intact again but my friend Nazia had other plans. I might add that Nazia is a writer and that it was through our writing that we got to know each other and become friends. She was not supportive of the idea that my visit to India go unrecorded. She didn't argue the point. She simply went out and bought me a new notebook. No, not another computer, the old-fashioned kind made of paper that you write on with a pen. It has been hand bound with Indian fabric. It will be a souvenir of my visit to India in more than one way.

Perhaps my friend has an ulterior motive for her purchase. Recently I explained to her that writing was a form of therapy for me. When I have something on my mind, by writing I am able to get it out and to move on. Nazia has agreed to spend some time with me over the next few weeks. Perhaps she wasn't looking forward to my constipated companionship.

And it's working, already I've got this much down. In due course, no doubt I'll have access to a computer, either my own or one in a cafe and I'll be able to share my thoughts with you. If you're still with me, hang in there. There's a lot of pages left in this notebook.

And sooner or later I'll eventually upload the aforementioned blogs stored on my currently inaccessible Macbook.

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