I am exceptionally fortunate to have a handful of friends where distance and time have little impact. Friendships forged in childhood or adolescence take on new forms into adulthood and across continents.
Shacks operate behind curtains, selling hot tea and sometimes food. Men gather to smoke and hide from Ramadan. I’m often greeted with startled looks, as I take a place on a bench and ask for tea. Always the only woman.
The jovial and ruthlessly efficient bath attendant gets to work – sluicing water over me, and scrubbing me down with coarse linen. I am the most docile creature in the world, and entirely obedient to this slightly maternal lady who stands beside the marble slab in her knickers, and washes me. I’m sat up, in a cloak of soap bubbles, and I realise how tight my shoulders are as the attendant starts kneading.
Just 36 hours in Amsterdam. Yes, your gentle hero has invested her time loitering in a gallery, drinking European coffee and discovering that Australian directness and Dutch bluntness are perfectly matched for very productive business.
And by European coffee, I mean wine.
I’m trying to feel normal. I’m trying to get used to feeling comfortable. I’m seeing other people’s normal. And I want it for myself. I haven’t had this for far too long. The language may be different, but in my heart these few hours have been entirely Melbourne.
I’m a sexualised piece of meat, irrespective of what I wear, or how I conduct myself. I am nothing more than a uterus that some man has let out of his house.
The urge to follow the lead of so many women and girls here, and throw a big black sheet over my head is palpable. Just have my eyes exposed. Just make it stop.
“Piglet,” said Rabbit, taking out a pencil, and licking the end of it, “you haven’t any pluck.” “It […]
Sitting under a tree with sixty policemen. As I sit, he pulls his boots back on, and adjusts his rifle. I am grateful for the occasional gritty, soggy breeze.
I’m in a bubble – beggars, pervs and the curious are kept away.
The man sitting beside me purchases two small bags of peanuts. They are diligently weighed out on an ancient hand-held scale.
As he passes me a bag, the ice is broken.
Charging through the jungle, following the sound of many hoolock gibbons. Clambering up and down dense undergrowth, slippery and wet underfoot. Bamboo, and spiky things whipping my face and legs. We are running. Flat out, pounding through the jungle after a family of gibbons.
Gah, spiderwebs. And worse – orb spiders the size of elephants. Cunningly positioned at face height.
Passing a soda bottle between friends, that may contain whisky, not soda. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s not soda.
Lulled by the rocking, the noise of the wheels on the track, warm air gushing through the window, the warm, close night.
Leaning out of the window into the darkness to have a cigarette as we pass over a bridge.
When I arrived in Dhaka, I purchased a few salwar kameez and I gratefully received some appropriate clothes from other Australians who were leaving – I had them altered, and have been living in them ever since. (Thanks Viv).
I have sweated through my clothes to the point of disintegration, so in an effort to keep myself nice, I have had to update my Sub-Continental Uniforms For Ladies.
After a day of vagueing out in the heat, my friend and I drag ourselves out to a French house party.
On my way home at 1:00am – sweat dripping off my face and getting in my eyes.
The street is silent and empty – no cigarette vendors squatting in the dirt, no traffic, rickshaws, or chai sellers. The stray dogs are silent.
It’s been six months, and I have learnt a lot. This experience helps me see my life in sharper focus, and I am grateful for so many things.
The rickshaws in this town are not built for 5’10” ladies – with the canopy up to protect from the rain or the blazing sun or the continual sexual harassment has my head, tilted to fit, smashing into the metal frame.
Hair covered, body completely shrouded, I’m the object of comment, random suggestive noises, and hostile stares from the men as I pass by.
I left Kathmandu on Friday night and came back to Dhaka.
Whilst I feel exceptionally fortunate to have changed my plans and left Kathmandu, I am acutely aware of the difficulties and pain the locals are facing.
I have a few mates still in Nepal today, and have heard that most of them are ok.
Well then, this isn’t what I wanted at all.
I have been longing to dance in the jungle to music that I understand, with my tribe. I need this. I miss this. I can forget Dhaka and my life for a few wonderful nights and just dance and smile and be my normal self.
That’s my very best self. Not this Dhaka version of me.
Today, Dhaka knew what I needed before I did. And gave it to me without reservation.
Sitting on a Fendi couch – green tea in exquisite china – a private collection of Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Dali, Mr Brainwash, and so many others.
I barely knew where I was. I’m talking quietly about modern art and other wondrous things.
Surely this isn’t Dhaka? It can’t be.
Two and a half hours into a meeting that is running late. Clever things are being said, lightly peppering the waves of noise blaring out of people who must be heard.
Thirty frustrated people. And a couple of angry ones. And a State Minister who is very much asleep.
It’s 7:45 pm and it is divine outside.
This morning, the first thunderstorm came, leaving small lakes, clearing the air, and dropping the temperature.
For several hours this evening, the sky was heavy and filled with promise.
And then the deluge came.
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.