A young girl stands weeping,
Waiting in line to board the plane.
Behind her a family of four
Shuffle forward their assortment of
Bags and purchases.
Teenagers splayed out on the floor,
Entangled phone chargers and
Tannoy announcements ripple in the distance,
White noise to all.
Outside, convoys of suitcases
Zig-zag across the concrete apron –
The sky painted grey and about to strike.
This motley queue of human cattle
Marking territory, clenching fists.
Talk of putting “a man on Mars” seems over-stretched,
As the minutes tick by and I wonder why
Putting one hundred people
On an airplane appears so much of a test.
We are airborne as my eyes open
And wince through the glare of the clouds,
Broken up and disappearing.
Many thousands of feet below and Monday morning
Crankily tilts on its axis.
The ennui of emails, the promise of lunch.
As tail winds pick up, the urban fringes of Saigon blur,
Our metallic tube arcs over Cambodian borders,
Paddy-fields and water buffalo,
Agrarian pastures – a daily grind of different stock.
Through glimpses of rubber smoke we land,
Suvarnabhumi airport, again.
Ten years of touching down here,
Too familiar a pilgrimage,
My toes twitch as I wait once more.
The young girl has long stopped her tears and stands nearby,
Nodding politely at the customs official –
Breathing in new beginnings,
Or the tingle of something left behind?
“I need to laugh, and when the sun is out, I’ve got something to laugh about.”
As seems to increasingly be the case, several weeks have lapsed since I last started scribbling, as I do now, on the blank canvas offered up by a click on the ‘new post’ button of this blog.
Saigon is easing into its most nourishing time of the year, when the sun’s heat softens, the humidity lessens, and the monsoon rains of the past months are eventually turned off.
It feels like the perfect spring climate, and despite my occasional longing for the slate-tiled flooring and red wine, wood-smoked infused charm of a local pub during the cold festive season back in the UK, living in Saigon right now you would be hard pressed to find more agreeable weather to whisk you off to work each morning – and for that I remain a very lucky chap.
Perhaps in the spirit of bringing some sort of English-isms back into my now familiar Asian surrounds, I downloaded lots of Beatles tunes last night and, as I always do, experienced that surge of familiarity and foot-tapping glee derived from any re-discovery of something very special.
It’s a great realisation, in fact, that when much of my time can be spent on learning new things, grasping at new experiences, and projecting thoughts forward that, to revert in the other direction – whether it be through music, photos, anecdotes, writing, reading, reflection – can instantaneously be all that is required to spark life back into one’s day.
Speaking of bringing English-isms back over here, last week was a true 2013 highlight, as my folks traveled out to meet me and the girls for a week’s retreat in Thailand (them via the rather grandiose spectacle that is Dubai, where the ATMs dispense gold, and me and the kids via a short one hour hop from Saigon to Bangkok, normally a tedious journey for me, but with them in tow it turns into a much more exciting prospect given the deliriousness at which they encounter each part of the experience – I have never seen so much excitement expressed by two little people at being given a “refreshing” airline wet-wipe just before take-off, nor in chasing round the luggage carousel in pursuit of a car seat!)
This evening, a second English-ism of the month will also descend upon Saigon, in the form of “Uncle Cakey” – my dearest friend from South East London, who is making his second visit out here, albeit this one without his gorgeous family, for a long weekend of eating banh xeo’s and drinking Tiger beer, resplendent as he will be in the shorts and sandals that haven’t themselves ventured out of his wardrobe now for many moons.
I am also assured that, in between such indulgences, a guest blog by Uncle Cake will be penned on this very canvas. Watch this space.
In the meantime, I have pasted some of the latest holiday snaps from the Bishop girls below, underneath today’s jolly tune…