Archive for August, 2017

Drink, Dive, Dance 3: Laurence

August 17, 2017

Laurence is French, albeit an atypical one. When nobody is around us on the snowy Annapurna trail, I’d tease her about her Polish accents. She’d lower her head as a reflex and then sneak a peak at me in between her bangs, eyes betraying her anger while simultaneously trying to hold back a laughter. For the French, my Quebec accent is just way too funny to remain serious with me for long.

She is the first French traveler I’ve met who wanders outside of the French circle and mingle with everyone else. Not only that, she is perfectly fluent in English (with that Polish accent). A walking Oxymoron for those of you familiar with how typical French travelers act.

Laurence, revels in finding the cheapest place to eat and then proceed to negotiate the price down. We’d often find ourselves in some hole in the wall local restaurant to eat; grimes on the wall with a fan that’s older than my grandma. She’d sit down after ordering, napkins on her lap, back straight and then proceed to eat her Dal Bhat with the most elegant command of the fork and knife I have ever seen.

Dining, it seems, is a very important event in her blood. I’d learned the difference now her different needs after a while. “Quelque chose à manger” means, let’s grab something on the go and keep sightseeing. “Bon! On trouve un resto là.” means I need to sit down and go through the proper routine of dining à la Français.”

For her, my ability to barter even better than her was the biggest turn on. We’d often have bartering matches where we take turn at different shops to get the same items at prices lower than the other was able to get. Each one of us is fully capable of planning the whole trip by ourselves and is able to get the best deal out of it while the other person can focus on whatever frivolous adventure that we want to try. The complete trust in each other’s abilities as travelers is unprecedented.

Laurence, for me, is the perfect traveling girlfriend… except for her quirky need to experience proper dining from time to time, as if straying away too far from “culture” is too painful. But its the memories of these quirks that brings a smiles to my face.

Whenever I miss Laurence, I’d visit a high end French restaurant, lean back on my chair and just close my eyes.

 

 

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Drink, Dive, Dance 2: Alessia

August 6, 2017

The strange thing with me and diving is that I never experienced any anxiety at any stage of the diving experience, even when I was just a beginner. During my travels, I noticed that I have a natural affinity with anything water related.

The beginners nervously threw a glance my way from time to time, double checking to see if they are checking their own equipments properly. The new ones never just ask, somehow fearing that we’ll look down on them. They also, always ask how much air is left in the other diver’s oxygen tank.

If diving is meditation, then prepping the equipment is like the ritual you go through to get into the flow state before entering meditation. I enjoyed every bit of the the process as it is my own life and I am the sole person responsible for its outcome,  whether I fuck up or not.

Breath in, breath out, left hand at the back of the head, right hand on the BCD and lean back. One by one, we flopped backward into the water into the famously cold arctic water of West Coast Canada. My world blacks out as I instinctively closes my eyes. For some reason, I can never keep my eyes open when entering the water. Probably a reflex from the shock of suddenly being overwhelmed with cold water…

Exhausted from fighting against the famous strong current of Komodo island’s dive sites, I grab hold of the ladder as I await the others to climb up first. The dive master called the shot and we made the emergency ascent after only 40 minutes as the others are now too exhausted to fight the current. It must be because of the timing of everything together, but when I looked up into the boat, Alessia stood by the railings in her red bikini and flashed her big white smile at me. I had neglect to get to know Alessia before as she is a shy girl and I spent most of the time chatting with Leilani, an advanced diver whom I’ve been traveling with for the past 2 weeks, about the beautiful dive sites around Komodo Island. However, during that moment of exhaustion and delirium, seeing that welcoming smile, was like seeing an Angel smile.

Alessia is an Italian to put it simply. Dig a deeper into her roots and you are dealing with multiple citizenship and genes. But for the most part and simplicity’s sake, she is a traditional Italian who’ve had a protected upbringing and I am the dishevelled Vagabond, free and fearless. Alessia with the little curve at the end of her lips, long and shiny curly hair, the wider jawline from her other lineage and her propensity for single minded pursuit of something once she decides she wants it in her life. All of these combined made her a refreshing breeze for the me at that moment.

The trip around the nearby village with flat and dusty, nothing exciting, but we had each others company, the sun and the ocean whenever we got too sweaty. I would often tease her about her binary conflicting internal struggle. That of her clear desire for jumping me and her traditional upbringing of being a good girl before marriage.

Besides diving, sun tanning and making out after beer with Alessia, there wasn’t much to do at Labuan bajo. Leilani and I already went to the Komodo islands on our way east towards Labuan bajo, so there’s really no interest in taking that trip again and beside that and the diving town of Labuan bajo, there isn’t much else to do. So like that, we spent three day at this little unknown tropical paradise until Alessia had to leave to travel with her father. It was supposed to be their bonding trip.

Nothing further happened between us in those three nights. We’d always come back to find Leilani going at it with some guy she picked up from “Paradise” (if you go to Labuan Bajo, you will know this place) and a sock on the door knob. Besides, Alessia is still mentally panicking about the whole issue. I was in a good mental place at this stage of my journey so I didn’t push any further. Then, two more days later, after saying goodbye to the other vagabonds I met on the way, it was my turn to step onto the propeller plane back to Bali. You know you are in a very remote place, when the planes are small, propeller based and your luggage cannot be heavier than 10kg. It really brings about the feeling that you are on an adventure and along with it, all the things that make your heart skip a beat, like the huge dive your propeller just took because it couldn’t fight the strong downward air stream. I shut my eyes thinking “this might be it, I am going to die a happy man.”

And that’s how I am brought back to the current reality. The freezing cold water of the North. A different climate and a different reality. Every time I do something that I did on my long journey, I get flashbacks of a different place in a different culture. Feels like a lifetime, but happened in an instance with all the feelings compressed to a second. An explosion of nostalgia. I will meet Alessia again though, in another part of the country but I didn’t know it back then. Like all the people I’ve met on this journey, our stories continues on just as our lives continued on.

Travel anecdote: Labuan Bajo is an interesting little diving village, what surprise me is how the people I met on the way there seem to throw away their inhibitions once at this place and openly hook up without any fear of shame like in other places. Other than that, there’s really not much to do here. I would recommend every diver to go there to experience the dive sites as this place is, so far, the site with the most marine life I’ve seen.