Entries in Paradise was here (16)
I’m assuming you were expecting an update. So.
The ‘new’ flat smells.
The ex-occupiers included a couple of four-legged creatures. I found a small gate attached to the kitchen door and assumed it was to stop the dogs entering the kitchen; until I spent long enough in the kitchen to realise the smell that lived there was far more pungent and gag-inducing than the one that resided in the living room. Gate’s true purpose- to keep the dogs IN the kitchen.
There are certain things that register 9.8 on my Somalino scale. Dogs living in kitchens is waaaay up there with mooning.
I still have not moved into the flat.
The smell’s only part of the story but pungent enough to keep me away had it been the sole reason. I spent a little time in the flat on Saturday, looking for poop stains, pee marks, matt dog hair, dead pups behind cupboards- that sort of thing. The smell and focused searching- like watching a horror movie through splayed fingers was headache inducing. Not wanting to see what you’re looking at is self-inflicted brain torture. I was also hungry and irritable- both entered the flat with me and then the smell got to work on them and made them bad-ars*(it doesn’t anglicise, ho hum). I lit a candle under a litre of green tea oil and left it unattended.
At the supermarket I spent £20 on cleaning paraphernalia. Back at the flat, I emptied a giant can of Oust into the carpet zig-zagging, criss-crossing and up-and-downing across beige carpet that looked suspiciously beige and finally stood up to the mother of all head rushes. I couldn’t smell or see.
Of course none of this explains my absence from cyber space and indeed from my own life but that, that, dear readers is too deep, too sentimental, too much for a woman that has a smelly flat to contend with it. Suffice to say, 2007 was annus horribilis and most of 2008 has turned into a prayer-answered, surprisingly easy delight and I just don’t know what to do with it all without gushing.
Praise the Lord.
When you’re a shopaholic and a traveller, Spring cleaning is not an option. It needs to be seasonal yes, but all-seasonal. The sheer number of items that have to be D-ed- dug-up, dumped, donated or domiciled elsewhere and the stories they have to tell slow the process down considerably.
I start with the summer clothes that I had housed in a couple of drawers in the autumn. I move them from their temporary home to a suitcase. It fills up faster than I expect. Soon I find items that still have labels on them- not unusual- and drop one into a bag designated for girl cousins my size and half my age. What was I thinking buying that? I remember posing in front of a mirror once home from that impromptu shopping spree 18 months ago. Never having the patience to queue, disrobe and try on clothes in shops it is often only when I get home that I decide whether a buy is a keeper or not. That one time I looked and saw to my horror what some women don’t want to see- looking good in an inappropriate way. I was NOT going to go out in that! Still I looked and tried the item on with other clothes to try and inject some modesty into it but it was ruined like that. Really it looked best inappropriate. I threw it into the back of the wardrobe, saved from a return by looking so damned good on me.
I reach the underwear drawer and smile at something old and tattered. Ah, Vietnam. It needs to go. Underwear from Vietnam I think, I can’t throw it away! It’s made in China you oaf, like everything else, bin it. But, but, remember that magical, painful day spent getting lost in Hanoi and finally finding a department store where you found cold air and a whole section of underwear where you spent many…Bin it! Alright, alright. I sneak a look at the label as if looking for ancient Asian wisdom and find squiggles. I drop my arm to let go of it and am momentarily stumped, just what pile should it go into? Dump or donate?
Once upon a time I would never have paused for thought but experience has widened my considerations. I remember the time I crawled around in piles of donated clothes being sold on a street pavement. Like in any decent store, the wares were sectioned off- men’s, women’s, children’s. I was looking for shoes for the boy who seemed to work day and night and whom a friend and I had spotted walking in a pair of over-sized flip-flops. My friend who somehow always saw an opportunity to give suggested we get shoes for the boy. We pointed to the heaps nearby(we happened to be walking by) and then pointed at him; it didn’t take him long to work out he was in for a treat and he leaped into the pile of shoes with gusto. I dug into the shoe-pile for a pair that would fit and again and again located shoes too big for the boy. Now and then I stopped to consider a shoe for myself, such was the quality and brand of the shoes. Or so my excuse.
When we gave up on finding him a shoe we pointed to the trouser section and on our way to it discovered there was a roaring trade in donated underwear. I blinked at the pile of underwear and watched the people sift through it. Were they new or worn? I tore myself away from gawping at them.
The boy seemed to know what he wanted. He pulled out his first too-big colourful creation from the trouser-pile and held it up for us to see. We shook our heads, I said Nooooo in Khmer, then ‘big’ in Khmer but he hugged it to himself and made a face. OK, OK, try it. His face lights up and he drops the old trousers he’s wearing. We are faced with boyish nudity and open our mouths and look away in semi-mock surprise. He giggles and tries on the new trousers. They slide off his hips and even he can’t persuade himself that they’re the ones for him. Over and over he tries on trousers.
I crouch on the pavement and think what a luxury my life back home is. I don’t need to wear donated underwear or go without underwear at all. The boy finally settles on a pair of trousers that look like they are made of plastic that will melt in the sun he spends so much time under but he loves them. We relent. He walks away in his new trousers and too-big flip-flops, turns around to wave one last time. I leave with a green T-shirt.
I can’t not shop. I told you, I am a shopaholic.
The made-in-China Vietnamese underwear end up in the dump pile of my bedroom floor. I don’t imagine anyone would accept worn underwear and I couldn’t imagine my asking being received in any other way than disgust.
I move on to the hijab drawer which at some point became the hijab drawers. I grab a few hijabs and throw them into the summer suitcase. I couldn’t remember when I had last worn those. Snuggled amongst the colourful mass I rediscover the Malaysian hijabs. Jet black and detailed with colourful, sparkly patterns they have had pride of place in my various hijab drawers for years now. Next to them I place the Cambodian kramas lovingly over the Indian shawls. Each item screams its story for my attention and I spend many pleasurable minutes reminiscing. I buy head-covers from every country I visit, the latest from Dubai and Morocco; the ones from Dubai my daily work-wear, the Moroccan ones too beautiful to wear. I also find the headscarves I had made for me by a tailor in Vietnam from a material that was so puffy they made me look like a thick-necked beefcake last I tried them. I try them on one last time but they still make me look like I am on steroids and I leave them in a new D pile- decorate home.
I find paintings from Vietnam and Cambodia and drop them into the decorate pile; a theme was developing, who said recycling was boring?
I come across a white vest from Turkey and bin it with enthusiasm. The place was clearing up and I could actually see at a quicker glance just what I owned. I estimate there’s enough in my wardrobe to cater for two of me quite easily and I am relieved. I had promised myself to cut down on shopping recently. I have since managed to go shopping for hours during the Sales and not buy a thing!
If you’re looking for a festive miracle, there it be.
I ended the clear-up with a desire to burn some bukhuur. A new habit, I am normally an aromatherapy woman. Still it is not an easy decision as I look at the choices available and am flummoxed: what did I feel like tonight? Khaleeji? Morroccan? Somali? or Parts Unknown?
spot the monkey, the snake, the baby, the guy doing up his flies and more....
walking through the souk-
A few pictures here.
This keyboqrd is all over the place- if u see ,isspelings itùs becquse of thqt1
It is a French and Arabic combination. Writing about Mqrrakech will hqve to waitr until I get bqck:
C est impossible1
Lots of photos and videos when I return inshallah. So far so fantastic. People are grqcious qnd well-mqnnered qnd I cqnt spell for jqck aith this keyboqrd:
Give up: see u ahen I get bqck: LoL:
Sunday, before the Poles:
I took time out to dream today. I sat in a coffee shop and flopped back in those coveted cushy sofas that all too often have a couple draping them. Today it was mine, all mine.
I rested my head on its back and instantly I had a flashback to a coffee shop in Bangkok- sitting alone in refrigerated funky surroundings slightly homesick and sick that I was homesick. India had worn me out and in the cool quiet of the Bangkok Starbucks I wanted my friends seated with me, lattes and teas ignored whilst I told Indian tales.
I snap back to London April 07. The lady in front of me types determinedly on a laptop, now and then she confers with a little book. Writing. What happened to that dream?
I write a lot when I get away.
My mind whisks me back and suddenly I am in, I don't really know its name, I took a boat and got off where everybody else did, Laos somewhere, 9 hours upriver from Luang Prabang.
The village has no electricity but I don't know this when we arrive and I make my way up a hill following the others. At the top I walk letting instinct guide me, through the village's main road, a reddish brown dirt lane, lined on either side with homes that double up as shops. I have gotten used to dogs and no longer watch out for them. A village in Thailand took care of that years ago. There were so many hungry dogs running around my feet the overwhelming experience numbed me of further fear. I think pyshologists call it 'flooding'.
I walk slowly and follow the dirt road as it curves to the left and at its end I find a clutch of bungalows on the edge of the land. Through the trees I glimpse the waters I've been floating through all day, I don't know if it's the Mekong or one of its tributaries. I had spent the day with my hand in the water, clean, like they all were once, so close to me I can touch the bed if I dare as the narrow, long boat chugs forward. Every moment I think are we there yet I am met with pale white buffaloes, children bathing and collecting creatures from the water bed, undulating green mounds, trees of breathtaking height, glistening water, turquoise-green, so beautiful you want a lover to make a ring out of it for you and I don't want to be there yet.
A man finds me looking at the bungalows(bamboo shacks really) and shows me to one. I have learned the language of the traveller, smile, smile, smile and say hello anyway. He also shows me the communal bathroom, a spacious clean hut with privacy and water. He leaves me and I climb the steps to the bungalow, leaning forward as I ascend the angled wooden steps, curling my feet over the rails. My centre of gravity does not want to shift and I do this like the oldest woman in the village can't- ungainly.
A hammock hangs on the deck outside the bungalow door. I sit in it and swing myself as I draw in the view in front of me. I want time to stand still.
The clouds swift by , the lights shifts, the water gushes, boats drift by, birds call.
Somewhere life and death swap soul-space, love and hate exchange surprised places, hope transcends circumstance, dreams soar unshackled.
I can't stop it.
It's wondrous- life. I try and memorise the scene, count the number of shades of green, the kinds of bird song, the rhythm of the boats, the rhyme of the water-gurgle and still it changes and I can't keep up.
Soon I too have to move on, find someone to walk me through the hills tomorrow. I don't know how or where to find this person whoever he may be but there is a dream to walk through those hills and it guides me down the steep steps in search of the unknown.