This post is going to provide a simple answer to the question, “Where have you been these last few months?” It’s probably a good place to start.
I left my job at UTS on 20 Feb, and on 22 Feb flew to Malaysia. I had a really amazing few nights staying with a couchsurfer in KL, Audrey, and hanging out with her awesome friends and awesome dogs. On 25 Feb I flew from Malaysia to Istanbul, where I met Grace.
Grace is going to be a recurring theme on this blog. I met Grace in Singapore in 2010, when we were studying together at NUS. We were good friends then, but had been in only distant and sporadic contact until late last year, when I was single, Grace was tipsy (actually, now that I think about it, I’m not sure about that), I was bored at work, one gchat conversation led to another and before long we decided to meet in Istanbul.
So we met in Istanbul. It was perfectly romantic, we kissed at the airport, ran for the ferry, caught the ferry, shivered together on the top deck, bought some cheese and olives and cherries and yoghurt and realised that we got on pretty well. When it got too cold we went to Antalya, walked around some Roman ruins and ate fish. Grace flew back to America (she is American) and I flew to India.
When I got to India I discovered that all my valuables had been stolen (more on that here). I spent some time in Delhi, some time in the mountains and then I went to Pakistan.
Pakistan was really amazing, I generally felt less threatened there than I do in India, though I did have a strange feeling that was something like a bigger, more hefty, more profound but at the same time less in-your-face fear than the fear of being robbed or swindled that one tends to carry around India. Anyway it was very interesting, I met some very amazing people who introduced me to more very amazing people, I studied Urdu with a famous Urdu teacher and saw most of the sights of Lahore. While I never felt unsafe, it did feel like a weight off my shoulders when I left.
When I got back to India I immediately found myself in a large slanging match with the autorickshaws waiting on the Indian side of the fence. Then another one when I arrived in Amritsar, when I tried to get around Amritsar, when I tried to leave Amritsar. To everyone who hassled me I told glorious stories of Pakistan, where in three and a half weeks no rickshaw driver had taken so much as a second glance.
I went back to Delhi, got sick as I always do in Delhi, spent my first Indian Holi in bed with a fever and then, not for the first time but hopefully for the last, went overland to Nepal.
A good day and a bit later I arrived in Tansen, where I wanted to reconnect with Manmohan Shrestha, a very interesting old guy who runs a nonprofit tourist information office called Getup Palpa as well as a small and informal family guesthouse. After a bit of prodding he remembered me and we sat up late at night, drinking beers on the rooftop and talking about the terribly incomprehensible world of western relationships. The next day the picture was further complicated by the arrival of a Swiss man who ran a guesthouse in Rishikesh and had over a hundred girlfriends, having worked out early in his life that “marriage puts two people together to solve problems that they wouldn’t have had on their own.”
From Tansen to Pokhara to Kathmandu (oh, how cliché), where I rented a bike and rode out to Palubari to meet the KC family, who are also my second family. I have stayed with them for a few months over the last few years, living the simple life at their house about 25km, or two hours by bus, from Kathmandu. We didn’t have too much time together but we enjoyed what we did have, and after meeting and staying with a couple of other friends in Kathmandu I flew to Dubai, and then to….
I’m going to continue this in part two!