Underthecurrent


pending
January 26, 2017, 1:20 am
Filed under: runaway, voyageur

The agony and ecstasy of attempting to legally live in other places.

When starting travelling, it seems easy.  Arrive somewhere and stay.  Work, maybe under the table, maybe with some visa cobbled together.  Advice to navigate passed along, anecdotes about consequences shared.  It was almost all a dare, roulette, an experiment.  Failure meant packing a bag and trying not to be detained for overstaying, maybe a black mark in a passport.

*

The first document arrives – an address is wrong.  This wouldn’t be a big deal except we know someone for whom the wrong address led to months of delays and an attempt to cancel the application completely.  Eventually, a portal opens and a change can be registered online… which takes effect in fifteen days.  Fifteen days in the digital age, amazing.

The first round went unexpectedly quickly – a year was suddenly four months and everything was thrown forward.  The next step seemed accessible until the rules all changed.  Now, again, it’s hurry and wait.

*

Every document has a price tag and an inconvenience.  The police checks, health clearances, unabridged everything.  In three months, the documents change, in six many start to expire.  Luckily, the kind lady at the station did a few sets of finger prints.  And then? There are no instructions available what should be done with this painstakingly gathered, increasingly valuable package.  Submit in person, thousands of kilometers away, or via tracked mail and prayers?

Message boards warn about more than a year, about unanswered calls and questions.  Some hint about legal applications to force decisions.

What if it doesn’t work out? If it wasn’t a serious plan it wouldn’t be worth the trouble or cost.  But what if it doesn’t work out?

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since you’ve been gone
January 24, 2017, 12:32 am
Filed under: unrelated thoughts, voyageur, work work work work work

“You can stand anything for 10 seconds.  Then you just start on a new 10 seconds.”

The countdown came and went.  Holiday time was jet-lagged and rushed but still a break from the pinging messages and churning pointless to-do list.  The countdown (which has now ended) used to represent the time after which it would be okay to just quit; paid holidays cashed out, enough money saved to walk away.  When the countdown started, that is where things were focused, just making it that far.

Now there are all these small goal posts, like trail markers on a marathon.  Just. A. Little. Further.  As every one goes past, the load gets a bit lighter.

*

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get to hold your children,” she says.  She starts to cry a bit.  We are helping, half helping, pack the house they have been in for almost two decades.  She will pack the leftover pieces up for us, for when we come back.  Wine glasses and casserole dishes.

*

We buy them cigarettes, bread and washing powder.  They kiss us goodbye.  It’s complicated.  This place never stops being complicated, maybe that’s what’s so attractive about it.  This time, again, there are changes.  Those paved roads, hydro poles and preschools.  Maybe not enough, not fast enough, but something forward.

Our friends there talk about the same things our friends here struggle with.  Uncertainty about the future.  The price of property, being able to afford to have children.  How the older generation pays us poorly as they spend freely on themselves.

*

The world is a crazy place right now, women marching all over everywhere, questions about the future of free trade, political maelstrom.  More questions than answers, big questions shaking the foundations of the West.  The markets hold, Atlas shrugs.

We spend the weekend cleaning our apartment.  Taking long walks to see what is opening and what is closing.  Shutting down the news cycle, the talking heads, the rotating scandals and smokescreens.  The impulse to refresh in hope of answers instead of venturing out into the world to find them.



Texas Forever
June 13, 2016, 4:00 am
Filed under: voyageur | Tags: , ,

The plane loops and winds before it diverts, stretching four hours into eight.  The shuttle driver at the airport, more than twelve hours after leaving home, is a blast of happiness controlling the A/C with enthusiasm that gets tipped $5.

This hotel is fancy, like maybe they think I might rob the place? That I’m famous? So many people are talking to me as I wander up to the elevator.  Pushing the buttons.  This is a Pretty Woman moment.

The bellboy brings in a cot nicer than my bed that isn’t supposed to be in here and there is no charge for, gets tipped $5.  Talks about working at a coffee shop for six years, recommends we check it out.

The weekend is a blur of hazy heat, big portions and some dance clubs.  At one point, two men do full splits at the same time on the dance floor and the bar buys us shots.  There are some free nipples, actually quite a few. We eat BBQ.  We accidentally crash the VIP area of a sold out concert.

There is some strangeness, has it been five years? More. It’s a meditation on friendship, which is a less predictable thing than we like to think.  It feels like there’s not enough time, too many words, maybe this is the last time, who knows.



Nord-Americano
January 18, 2016, 12:27 am
Filed under: Canada, runaway, voyageur | Tags: ,

Mexico.  Going to Mexico.  To sit on a beach, eat tacos, drink beer and horchata, be reminded of a lack of Spanish fluency.  Because it’s reasonably priced in a year of currency chaos and one direct flight.  Because the ocean is clear and moving.  Because it’s been nearly twenty years?

For the first time as an adult, staying at a resort.  Not just a resort, an all-inclusive resort.  Please hand your rough travel credentials in at the door, bourgie life.

It’s pragmatism.  The hypothetical of having everything set up to run smoothly, of not calculating exchange rates and whether more cash needs to be converted, of in-room conveniences like beach towels.  It’s not having to decide at the airport to spend cash on a cab versus spend a hour on local transport with a significant language barrier praying you’re not actually off to an inaccessible part of the city where it may be dark and you may be robbed.  It’s the option of pre-travel research without the sense that if you fail to put the research in you may well not know about the entry visa/ridiculous airport ATMs that charge high fees and only let you withdraw $30/ferry that only runs on Tuesday at 3pm from the town with no accomodation.

Three years four months in one place has made the world feel smaller.  Quiet comparisons to how things are done elsewhere have faded.  An index of places to go and return to has more question marks than clarity, the world is not static.  A former sense of being able to critically evaluate information diseminated by the media is dulled, too few points of reference.

As though nothing else is out there.

In three years, four months, a complete summary.  A long weekend taking all forms of transit through the PNW until Portland.  About seventeen days on Oahu, mostly North Shore, split over two trips.  A day trip to Washington state, a wedding in Ohio and a flyby few days in Vegas.  No passport stamps, no new continents.  All Anglo. Not enough time, less than ten days per year, which is not even 3%.

Maybe this creates opportunities in the future, deferring the short and inevitably expensive long haul trips in favor of the better part of a year.  Maybe the world shifts and it doesn’t work out, or there’s another dream to chase.  I guess we’ll see.



Off Highway One
June 30, 2015, 12:21 am
Filed under: voyageur | Tags:

Mountains, pine trees, blue water, over and over.  Hours.  Nature’s meditation on giant glacial wounds.

“There’s a hidden beach,” he says, and there is, down the road, under the trees.

The stones circling the fire pit are carefully built up and fitted in place by some regular visitor, but no sign of garbage or glass.  It’s cold under the heavy forest, the river stream a few feet away, washing white round rocks.

There will be 1200 kilometers more, radio stations fading in and out.  Nodding off and waking up over several days through one big loop, checking in and out.  Making mental notes that won’t stick, town after town, about motel names and pokey bars; all between swims in deep cold water at the bottoms of the valleys.

This, this will be missed.



Unless You Go.
June 23, 2015, 10:13 pm
Filed under: voyageur | Tags:

The index on the side tells me this has been around for more than six years.  I flip back through to my own thoughts six years ago.  I can trace the outlines of that summer.

I started around Durban, I’m not sure why.  Maybe because Durban was the first place where I decided that I would absolutely travel alone, maybe because the weather was warm, maybe because it was far enough away from where I knew I was going that I would have time to remember who I had been by the time I got there.  I really don’t know and would be making it up to say, probably making the story better than it is.  In Durban, I hung around with a Francophone and stumbled into worlds that I understood only a bit later, for whatever reason I was always meeting French people in Durban (and charming them? with my nouveau lexical arrangements).

At some point, I headed south, through the Transkei – which literally translates to “the area beyond the river Kei.”  I don’t think I had been there before.  I remember feeling frustrated, like I was having trouble getting back into a place where I thought I should be, disconnected.  This is the biggest risk in revisiting parts of the world that you have strong memories from, that you can’t just pick up where everything good left off.  There was one night though, where I met some people, and then some more, and I ended up at a professionally trained private djembe show with some musicians who were passing through.

The world had changed.  From late 2007, when I had left, to mid-2009 when I returned, the global financial crisis had hit.  This changed who was traveling where.  Inflation had crept into the basics – beer and bus fare.

I walking into the place where I had been the happiest.  No one knew I was coming.  Like the first time I had arrived, my ride from the bus stop failed, and this time I hitched with a stranger.  There were familiar faces.  I was home.  I don’t remember when I made it there, how long it took, what that bus trip was like.

On June 23rd, six year ago, I organized a party that would end in my meeting LG.  It was a theme party on a rainy Winter day, it was huge, it carried on into a night with serious momentum.  In my mind, I had been in the country for awhile before I met him, but I realize now it was probably about three weeks.  The day after I met him, he asked me to take a trip with his friends, and I left with them for two or three nights, because that was how life was then – pack and go.  We headed down the coast and drank cool white wine around a fire.  Micheal Jackson died, according to the radio.  We stopped and had open faced hamburgers, he ate his with a knife and fork.  A few weeks later, I told him that we had to plan to meet up somewhere, someday, maybe years from then.  Years, he said, would be far too long.



Moving
August 20, 2012, 9:19 am
Filed under: voyageur

At the top of the Great Ocean Road, in a tidy motel room across from the beach.

Last night the girl with braces from Taiwan threw herself across her bed with a six of VB. I considered joining her but hit MoVida and The Toff instead for tapas and alt country up and comers.

Melbourne is a friendly city.

Earlier a guy at the Levis outlet made me buy mens skinnies due to their lack of stretch and low fit. He converted the size. They are glorious and were $35.

Later at the concert a girl came up to me, asked if I was alone too, made me sit at the bar with her.

I also had my first macaron, first warm jam donut, first tram ride. Drank mulled wine by the river watching rowers, had a flat white at one of the city’s best. Wished everyone was here for an off center almost perfect day.

Today was a little lazier, everything catching up. Charming as the city was, arriving here I felt everything calm down and booked into the first place I stumbled on for privacy, tons of towels and a double bed.