Nothing overly special going on in my last class. I write a couple of sentences on the board, then get them to repeat a few times in between throwing a ball at each other. They take out their books, write a few more similar sentences, do the spelling test, we read a story about a cat getting stuck up a tree, play a game of Marco Polo and then I’m outta there.
It’s Friday night and I’m in the mood to get wasted. Like there’s anything else to do? I hear myself thinking. Heading home amongst once so unfamiliar surroundings, I marvel at how quickly one adjusts to this new environment. Crowds of dark, smiling faces, side stools selling everything from fried intestines to confectionated chicken feet to mango and ice cream kebabs. I purchase a king sized plastic cup of tapioca milk tea; already immune to the stink of steaming, putrid drains, I happily sip at my beverage, dodging through the rush of scooters, taxis, bicycles and car horns. If you’ve ever been there you know the score. We’re in any Asian city so I may as well leave it at that. You’re far from home, and how quickly us foreigners fall into the expected stereotype of becoming alcoholics in a distant land. A niche we fit into so well. For those of us who are able to survive out here for more than a year of this weirdly addictive loneliness, it is but a necessity.
Beneath towering Skyscrapers, I continue my journey home. Attractively modern buildings mix with shorter, more hastily built concrete obscenities - and these in turn seem out of place next to the few remaining ancient temples that shine with a proud but humble determination amongst the glittering neon lights. Wading through this regular conglomerate of ancient and modern, of past, present and future, I’m making my way into a Seven-Eleven to grab a bottle of local medicine wine, a preheated chicken burger and packet of chocolate corn chips. For me the place is a whirl of incomprehensible language, both audible and visual, but being used to such an environment, I’ve found there’s something relaxing about it too. I stand apart, and mostly I’m ignored. I’m like a ghost, coming from a different world, another dimension, and due to my ignorance I’m able to remain in that world apart. I slide silently amongst the other customers, happily immune to the surrounding babble. This is the way it’s always been, and this is the way I like it.
Whilst queuing up to pay, I’m therefore disturbed and rather put out when I receive a tap on the shoulder from a girl standing behind me who’s keen to ask where I’m from.
“Where are you from?” she blurts, in a twangy accent. High spirited, false friendliness; it’s