Published: December 15th 2010December 15th 2010
At 7:00 AM I am out the door, on my way to the train station. The sun is not yet up and I tramp along in near darkness, dawn blushing ever so faintly on the horizon. It's cold and my breath hangs in the air like a spritz of perfume. Only a few other souls have ventured out so early on a Sunday, and I imagine that I am in a disaster scenario movie where everyone else has fled or died or turned into zombies. We are the sole survivors. A few more people congregate at the train station but the carriages are hardly full--maybe 10 other people are in my car. We pull out of the station spot on time, just as the sun rubs the sleep from its eyes. As we make our way out of the city, the landscape opens up onto meadow and pasture. Frost crusts the ground with a sickly skin. A low fog obscures the blackened trees, turning branches into ghostly skeletons playing in the mists. It's like trying to look through the steam on a bathroom mirror.
As you may have guessed, I am no longer in Asia. Though I wanted to write one last entry from the East, I couldn't find the right words to "wrap it all up," so I just avoided writing altogether. My last images of Asia were another pre-dawn scene. Neon signs illuminated the streets so brightly as to imitate the sun itself. People were still out from the night before, teetering in high heels, arms locked tightly around shoulders and waists amidst proclamations of everlasting friendship. A few lonely food carts still hung around as the owners washed away another night's work, hurling buckets of soapy water into the gutter. I had to step around the bodies of a boy and his mother asleep on cardboard mats. Further down the road, a man sat calmly cross-legged, appealing to the few passers-by for spare change.
These images couldn't be more different from what greeted me in London and Bath. Everything clean, everything cold, street signs obeyed, healthy looking pets, neat and sparkling store fronts selling, as my friend Molly put it, "a lot of wank." It's not as though I am returning to civilization after years of living in the bush, but it did take a few days to get used to it all. No doubt I started sounding a bit obnoxious as I started many sentences with "Well in Asia..." But I suppose it takes being back in the West to truly appreciate the stark differences between the two places. It all seems new minted, and I still get excited about the most mundane things. "I love how they bring everyone's food out at the same time!" "Oh my god, the bus is SO CLEAN." "Look at all the wine I can buy!" "I'm so happy you have a real shower."
My plane leaves in a few hours, so I suppose it's time I leave the blogosphere and get myself to Heathrow. I intend on doing a final "that's all folks" entry, so stay tuned...because hilarious things tend to happen in airports....