I got into a minor squabble the other day with Rarasaur and a couple of others over on http://rarasaur.wordpress.com/ about how being away from home was like being at home but with different buildings. I took exception to this, so here’s a brief list of things that I’ve seen or done or been involved in on my travels that made me go, ‘Hmmmm, there’s a surprise. Didn’t see that coming.’ It’s not the things that are the biggest, or oldest, or fastest, that make me stop in my tracks. It’s the little things.
Vegetation I go abroad, even to other bits of Europe, see woodlands and forests, and think ‘We don’t get those shrubs and plants at home.’
Power pylons Nowhere in the world do they look like the ones in the UK. I’m not saying they ‘re worse or better, just vaguely alien.
Who are these people? I’ll give you thirty seconds to read this list of names and tell me what they all have in common. Ready? Go.
Donald, Martha, their sons Godwin and Jason. Charlie, Elzira, their children Sandra, Joan, and Davis. Rocky, his brother John, and his sons Lawrence, Balthazar, and Joseph. Two of the sons have spouses, Maria and Patsy. Alex and Raquel. Walter and Sally. Marvin and Celine. Elvis and his son Elwin.
Give in? They’re all Indian, from a village called Bogmalo. So next time somebody makes a joke about how all Indians are called Gupta, set them straight, eh? I even met someone out there called Helicopter.
I’ve seen a one-armed orang-utan swing through the rainforest.
I once won a blowpipe competition in a bar in Borneo.
I’ve been in the dispensary of a traditional medicine hospital in a town called Changzhou in China.
I’ve been mugged for $10 in Havana, but the guy gave me a bunch of bananas and a vinyl album he’d recorded with his band.
I’ve been mugged twice in New York, once for 10 cents for a phone call, and once for a needle and thread.
Also in New York, when asked if I could take a picture of him for my Nana, a patrolman took me into the station, stood me up against the height bars with a false arrest number round my neck, and stood next to me while the official police photographer took a photo. He even signed it ‘With love to Nana from Officer da Silva.’ Cool, or what?
In Cairo, a bunch of strangers pushed my wife into a terminally crowded tube train, then held the doors and pushed me in too. They smiled and waved at us as the train pulled out, and waited for the next one.
In Turkey, while a barber was blow-drying my hair, the hairdryer over heated and cut out. He got the junior to blow into it till it cooled down enough to function again.
I’ve eaten snake.
I’ve been to a wedding where my wife had been accepted as a token man for the stag night. When we arrived at the wedding reception the next day, the band were playing Roll out the barrel, and followed this with Praise my soul the king of heaven.
The politest drug dealers in the world are in Kerala. If you say, ‘No thank you,’ they apologise for taking up your time.
The politest pickpockets in the world are in Zanzibar. They apologise if you catch them at it, which is very easy as they’re the most inept in the world too.
I’ve gone by raft through a sea cave into the middle of a mountainous island where there’s a concealed mangrove swamp.
In Sri Lanka, if you buy a 2l bottle of mineral water from a small shop, it costs about 50p the first time you go there. If you go there every day, the price drops to about 10p.
In Kuala Lumpur, three baseball capped youths with no English serenaded my wife and me with ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ by Oasis.
In Nairobi, there was an Internet café in the basement furniture department of a department store
I’ve been inside a pyramid in Egypt
I’ve hitched a lift in a government-owned Antar earthmover in Cuba. And a privately owned 1955 De Soto.
I’ve ridden a bicycle over there too
I found that the only way to get to the observation deck of the Komtar Tower in Georgetown in Malaysia is through the staff locker room
So, what do you think Rara? Everywhere’s the same? I don’t think so, but I may be wrong.