Featured Story: Election

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I woke up on my birthday totally disoriented. My head was heavy with drinks. I couldn’t see clearly. I had gone to bed barely half an hour earlier after hitting a couple bars in Istanbul with a friend, yet already it was light outside. There was smoke everywhere. The 23 other people I was sharing a rooftop dorm with were making their way down the stairs. I vaguely remember following. The next thing I knew I was sitting on the curb outside with my head on my knees, trying to shut out the pale morning sky. I couldn’t stay awake. I drifted in and out of dreams. A while later I ended up back on the rooftop, asleep in my bed.

My alarm woke me a few hours later. Feeling slightly dazed, I packed and went to the airport to catch my flight to Berlin. After checking in I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and splash water on my face. Details of the previous night started coming back to me. I remembered one of the bars, and laughing upon finding out that the local slang for “prostitute” is “Natasha”, a token of appreciation of the Russian influence in Istanbul. (This came out in the course of conversation, not through a birthday present.) I remembered trying “Raki”, the local alcoholic drink tasting of anise. And something hazy about an electric shower heater left on, melting and setting a room ablaze. I looked in the mirror and was surprised to find my nostrils black with soot. So the fire and smoke in the hostel hadn’t been a dream.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sticker Shock

I knew I would have some readjusting to do to get used to western prices after a year of discount travelling. Consider London shock therapy. Economists use the Big Mac Index as one measure of price comparison between countries. I’m finding it hard to break the habit of comparing everything against an index based on a particularly cheap dorm room I stayed in in Egypt.

A meal does not register in my head as £15; instead it becomes an outraged, “I could pay a month’s accomodation for that price!” Needless to say, this is a thought pattern I will have to change soon. Otherwise I’ll be forced to dye my hair grey, wear slippers and a cardigan, and start making up stories about my days as a young boy, hiking uphill through knee-deep snow to get to school.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Final Delhi Farewell

Driving from our house to the Delhi airport, my father decided it was time to introduce some order to Indian roadways. As we approached a red light, he slowed down and stopped. Meanwhile, cars and trucks in the other 5 lanes continued speeding past in both directions.

In Delhi at night, traffic signals undergo a transformation. Instead of guiding vehicles they become roadside entertainment: just another set of bright lights, like distant cousins of the mini Ganesh shrines decked out in flashing LEDs found on so many dashboards.

And so the end of my last trip to India served up one more example of the many futile struggles that occur when West meets East. (Another notable incident includes questioning the difference between your “good name” and your plain old name, and what about your bad name?)

I hadn’t planned to end up in India again, but when I got the news that my mother broke her foot and was in a cast for 6-8 weeks with limited mobility, I soon had tickets for a surprise visit. The tears of surprise on my mother’s face when she opened the door one morning to find me standing there let me know it was a good decision. I have high hopes of exchanging the brownie points gained from that trip for a big present at Christmastime. Maybe one wrapped in shiny paper, stationed outside, in the shape of an Audi convertible.

I apologise for the month-long silence. I've been lazy, but the blog's not dead yet.

Happy Anniversary!

Today, the 13th of August, marks the one year anniversay of my travels. It’s been quite a year, yet being in the UK, back in more familiar territory, it feels like I never went away. Thank goodness I have this blog to remind me it wasn't all my imagination.