November 15, 2010 § Leave a comment
My last week in Laos was not as expected.
The brand new (rather fancy) phone I had just bought got stolen. After 4 months of good health, litres of street food & tap water, I got sick. Whilst eating a pizza part of my molar fell out. & I met more people in that week then I did my entire time in Vientiane.
It was not easy to leave. 4 months seemed like just the beginning.
My last weekend was a lot of fun- as blurry as some parts may be-
Lunch with dear friends – Nights out dancing and being foolish- 3am dinner parties- New faces, new stories – Lovely dinners with wonderful people ~ the perfect end to an interesting time.
The wonderful people are always the hardest to leave behind, and even though my new adventure was exciting, my heart was heavy as I packed my things and headed to the airport.
Turns out my flight was delayed, and I was sent back into town (the Novotel) to wait – kind of strange as I had just made peace with leaving.
Laos had become so comfortable – truly felt like home. To leave and enter a new place seemed a little daunting. Even my first stop – 9 hours in Delhi airport. Every one tells horror stories of India, and Delhi Airport was no exception.
When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find a brand spanking new airport, something that had been done for the Commonwealth games. Shiny and modern, and not at all like the writhing dirty airport in my head.
I don’t know if the relaxed culture in Laos was to blame, or my own lazy nature, but I didn’t seem to do a whole lot there. The little spark inside me kind of went to sleep, and my inspiration took hibernation.
It is strange to have a profound experience inside an airport, which are always such sterile places. But perhaps it was a little of the magic of India finding it’s way through the cracks under the doors.
Firstly, it was so strange to be in India – but not in India. After all these years of dreaming and yearning, I was there, but unable to actually touch it.
The minute I stepped off the plane it was like the little dorment spark re-ignited, and my inspiration crawled out of it’s dark cave.
Outside, the fog of Delhi air pollution limited my view of the land I have been so desperate to see. Inside, in the clean sterile environment was balanced out by the fascinating people inside it.
Ridiculously confident, handsome men, in all sorts of different attire. Stunningly beautiful women in multitudes of coloured Saris. Adorable children with huge eyes and intense curiosity. All the cliche things you would expect.
But it wasn’t the look of the people that snapped me out of my dark cave – it was the words – the conversations people were having.
Nobody speaks English like a well educated Indian person. I think we should hand our language to them, as they truly use the words to their full effect. Words we haven’t used for years are common, and every sentence is arranged in such a poetic way. I couldn’t help but grinning as I listened in on all these conversations. & the people had fire. The ability to tease and make witty remarks. I would ask a question and would get the most sarcastic response. In Australia I would find this rude, but there it brought me such joy.
Every encounter left me laughing. At the “Airport Information” desk I asked if there was anywhere to sleep, and the (extremely handsome) young man replied, “I can tell you where is the most cosy place in all of Indira Gandhi airport,” like he was telling me a precious secret.
In the ladies bathroom two young friends were using the toilets. One finished first and came out to wash her hands, then proceeded to ask the other girl when she would be finished. Halfway through a conversation she would say with irritation “oh, when will you be finished?!”, then continue the conversation, and again ask “tell me when you will be done.” After a few minutes the girl in the cubicle relied “Oh won’t you give me 5 minutes and I will give you 2 back!”
Having come straight from Bangkok airport I only had Kip and US Dollars on me. As I had a connecting flight to Kathmandu I stayed inside the airport. Apparantly, only Indian nationals were allowed to change money into Rupees. This would not have been a problem if the shops took dollars, but they seemed to only take Rupees. Also, this would not have been a problem if I wasn’t staying there for 9 hours, but in that time I was bound to get hungry or thirsty.
I ask the man behind the money changing desk how I was supposed to eat (jokingly) and he seemed very concerned, but unable to provide an answer.
A handsome young Indian National who was waiting to change money asked how much I needed, and I told him I just needed enough to buy a meal, and if I could give him $10 maybe he could change it for me? But he refused, instead insisting he buy me dinner.
Most of these situations end up being creepy and weird, but this was genuine and one of the most lovely meals I have shared with anybody.
We ate McDonalds, which was kind of ironic as he was a budding chef about to start culinary studies in Singapore. We talked as we ate, but he was a quiet young man. Not shy, just didn’t seem to feel the need to fill every moment with chatter. Sometimes this makes me feel uncomfortable, but in this situation it was like we were two old souls who didn’t need say much.
I thought he was going to go off after dinner, but again he insisted we share some of the chocolate he had bought. We sat for a few hours, talking when needed, and comfortable when there was nothing to say.
I watched the people around me. A huge grin on the inside. People were discussing world politics, religion, spiritual practice, self development. It was quite incredible to listen to.
Eventually he left to board his plane, and start his new life in Singapore.
Usually us Westerners demand each other’s details; facebook or email, but in this case it wasn’t so, there was no need. A simple impermanent encounter with a stranger.
Later that night I walked around (still grinning). Behind all the of the white tiled counters were characters bursting at the seams. At a coffee shop I encountered a Swedish woman, white skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, in a beautiful Sari, singing a Hindi song. The staff of the coffee shop, in their perfect matching uniforms crowded around her, giant grins plastered over their faces, clapping in time and joining in the chorus.
I found a chemist and asked if they sold pens, the woman looked at me with pity as if I was painfully stupid and pointed across the way “try over there, after all, they carry books.” Her tone was horribly sarcastic, but still, my grin was firmly in place.
Having been brought up only with natural remedies, it brought me great joy to find the airport convenience store full of Aruveydic medicines and herbs, all for under $2!
I guess it’s small things that bring all of us joy, and these experiences, whilst not seemingly that interesting, managed to shake the dull veil I had been wearing in Vientiane.
Later that night when I went to my “cosy” place to sleep, I was just about to nod off when I heard what sounded like a hundred men shouting. It was frightening, as airports are rarely that loud, and the people within, are rarely that expressive. The shouting was a kind of call and respond, and the only words I could pick out were “Allah, Allah.”
To be honest, I felt a sense of panic rise as my wild imagination took over. It sounded like a riot, and the shouting sounded angry and heated. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.
But as I looked around, I noticed none of the Indian security guards seemed to be too concerned. Guards of all different faiths, some Hindu, some Sikh, some Muslim – all standing together with a look of bemusement on their faces. The shouting stopped, and then a few minutes later started again. Eventually it was only once every hour, and then, it stopped all together.
Somehow, even this added to the sense of re-awakening inside of me. Even in this sterile airport people were full of fire, and fire was just what I needed.
At 6.30am I boarded the plane for Kathmandu with a little candle burning inside. A fresh mind, a new outlook, ready for my next adventure.