Jul. 19th, 2007 11:04 pm
devi: (Default)

Originally uploaded by bluedevi

Here are the photos from the family camping holiday in Fanore, Co. Clare. I want to turn this one into a painting. And check out the amazing flying dog at the very end of the set.

devi: (bluehair)
I am in the bosom of my family and my mother is stealing my clothes. She likes a red paisley-ish top of mine and has asked me for it before. I pointed out that at the moment I live out of a bag and have maybe five tops total. Yesterday she took in my laundry and spirited the top away to her room. Now, my mum hates ironing and only the other day she was announcing that she doesn't iron anything if she can possibly help it. Today I caught her ironing my top while packing for her ballroom-dancing week in Kerry. "Oh, I often give things a little rub when they're dry. I was doing it for you," she said.

Anyway, some more travel journal.


I never knew how it felt not to be able to read until I came to China.

Russia was relatively okay. There’s a pretty close correspondence between Cyrillic letters and our alphabet, I is backwards N, N is H, R is P, V is B, etc, fine, sorted. I could never remember what the one that looked like ‘bI’ sounded like, but even that would have sunk in given a few more days. But Chinese... whoa. I was helpless. I wished I’d done a course or something before I went. It refused to go into my head. After a week and a half I had two or three phrases and recognised maybe ten characters. I'd look at a street name and seconds later all I could remember was that it began with J. I felt guilty that I was there and [livejournal.com profile] robot_mel, Chinese scholar extraordinaire, wasn't.

I have often been snooty and withering about coddled package-tourists in the past, but because of the language barrier, trying to organise things in China was enough to make me cry. All my life-admin, coping and sorting-things-out skills were useless. Intensive bursts of telephoning, Google-fu, looking things up, navigation, persuasion: they’re all based on language. I felt so overwhelmed by it all one day in Shanghai that I wanted to hide in the hotel room and not come out. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn’t dream of discouraging anyone from experiencing it themselves. It’s... an experience. But it’s hard.

Now see how hard.

Adventures in medicine-buying! )

Weeks of fun with boat tickets! )
devi: (angst)
or, Fear and Loathing on the Trans-Mongolian Railway (September 18th)

I was going to friends-lock this one because it contains a pretty comprehensive character assassination. Then I decided I couldn't be arsed. But before I get to that, I need some input.

Everyone we meet on this trip, everyone, assumes Ivan is my boyfriend, not my brother. They think it's a bit weird to be travelling with a sibling. "Are you sweetie lovers?" we were asked by a little Chinese girl on the street. Ew! No! Stoppit! I'm starting to think I should have a T-shirt made saying "NO, HE'S MY BROTHER" in English, Chinese and Japanese, so as not to entirely scupper his chances of pulling.

They assume this, it seems, because we get on. Tamara and Natalie on the train trip you're about to read about said they thought we were a couple because brothers and sisters are supposed to fight and tease each other. Really? Okay, I used to inflict horrible violence on him when I was eight and he was four, but I'm nearly thirty, for christ's sake. So I was wondering:

[Poll #579791]

Anyway, back to the travel journal. It hasn't been such a good story so far because it hasn't had much conflict in it. By God is that about to change...

7am. Board train at Irkutsk. Been up since five, didn't get to sleep till two due to poker-playing hijinks. Dying to fall asleep in our cabin, except whoops, there are four of us (me and Ivan, another Tamara - this one is an epidemiologist from Ecuador - and Natalie, the Australian girl we met in the hotel in Moscow), and two Mongolian men are sleeping the sleep of the dead in our four-bed cabin. The air is fetid. I can smell their feet. We crowd into the bottom of the cabin, compare tickets, and try to wake them up so we can see what tickets they have. They snore away. We turn the lights on and poke them in the arms. They keep snoring, cartoonishly, the way you do when you're a kid and you're pretending to be asleep. I think with a sinking feeling that we've been double-booked and I'll have to spend tonight sitting up on half a bunk. Down the hall an English couple are pointing out that they paid for a whole cabin to themselves, so why is there a family and twenty boxes of stuff in it? Finally the provodnik comes along, and doesn't even need to look at our tickets. From her tiny body she unleashes a shockingly ear-splitting torrent of fury at the two men and in split-seconds they're down from the bunks like eels and running for it down the corridor. It looks like she's had trouble with them before. Stowaways?

We air the cabin out and settle down for a few more hours' sleep. The family in the next cabin are moving their stuff out bit by bit and stacking it up at the end of the carriage. I don't know how long it takes them altogether because shortly I'm sleeping like the dead myself.

six and a half hours of hell at the border )

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