Back, back, back

I’m back.

The wedding was lovely, low-key but a lot of drinking in the afterward bit, with which I couldn’t realy keep up. But happily I turned that sow’s ear into a cheap silken purse, by taking many pictures that shall (dis)grace Flickr soon. It was very good to meet my old friend Charlie and my slightly-less-old friend Claire.

Melbourne the next day was okay, but I was a bit constrained in terms of time and foolishly missed the Picasso exhibition — damn fool me, I didn’t go straight there when I got downtown, but hunted around for cheap winter jackets instead. There were none to be had, none cheap enough to convince me it’d be better to pick it up instead of getting the zipper on the goretex jacket I already have replaced. I wandered, had good food, and basically got a feel for Melbourne. It felt a little like Vancouver, actually, just… I don’t know, tidier, maybe?

The journey home… I think I must’ve done something karmically bad a long time ago on a plane, because it seems now every time I get into a plane, the person seated directly in front of me is one of those types who has an instinctive drive to jam the seat back as far as he or she can, even before takeoff. Actually, this happens on buses, too. Pretty much any form of public transportation I use.

I was reading a magazine, had my legs crossed, and the woman sitting in front of me on the flight out of Melbourne jammed her seat back hard, and fast as she could. It hit me in the knee, and I yelped in pain and pushed the seat forward so I could extricate myself. She turned and gave me a dirty look, and I noticed that the person ahead of her hadn’t even pushed his seat back at all. Must be nice to get as much room as you can for yourself. I apologetically put my own seat back a little. The fellow next to me, he thought that since he was in the aisle seat, he was entitled to both armrests at all times. Even when he got up and went to the toilet, and I could finally uncross my arms and lean on it a little, he’d come back and slide his elbow back behind mine, which provided annoyingly enough contact that finally I’d move and he’d get the armrest to himself again. And the support for the row of seats ahead of me, it took up a third of the space into which I was supposed to stick my feet. Oh, and the footrest dug into my shin.

All I remember beyond that was (a) trying to make Mission Impossible 3 distract me from how contorted and continually annoyed I was, and (b) waking up, going for a walk, and asking a flight attendant not, “How much longer is this flight?” but “How much more is left?” Took her a second to figure out I meant time onboard. I swear I thought I’d go crazy. I had visions of dumping a drink onto the head of the woman ahead of me, especially when she repeatedly had to be told to move her seat back into the upright position when meals were being served. How stupid can a person be? Or, wait, it’s not stupid, it’s just inconsiderate. “If I can’t see you, you don’t exist.”

But I didn’t go crazy, and I even managed to sleep some. The flight from Singapore onward was a lot better, at least — I went and asked for a seat with extra leg room and they gave it to me. Maybe I’ve worked off the bad karma?

Actually, it’s not karma, it’s just that little thing about my passport being due to expire in a few months… which is why I
couldn’t check in on my flights a day or two early, online. Must remember to renew it in time to get my work visa renewed before it expires. And once I have that, I think I’ll go apply for my British passport. Why not have one, if I’m entitled to it? It seems to me a whise decision, if for no other reason than a spare passport, and the right to easily work in a bunch more countries across Europe, suits me just fine.

Lime’s at a new hospital, in a bad neighborhood an hour away. The bad neighborhood is on the same line I live on, at least, which means I just get on one train and ride. It’s a pretty empty line, too, at least coming back. We went for dinner and a somewhat eye-opening walk: there were brothels all over the place. Pinky-red lit windows in which Korean girls (really, so young as they should still be called “girls”, as in “college girls”) sitting there smoking and waiting for business. The hospital’s nice, there’s a coffeeshop and bookshop close by, but that neighborhood, man. Though by local logic, it’s the safest neighborhood around since anyone unsavory will have worked off his bad energies and be in a good mood.

She’s been thinking about the future, as have I. Travels always make me think about the future more carefully. Not going to get into what I or she thought about, but there may well be big changes afoot. Lime can see what I’ve been coming to sense over time, which is that while I’m okay with living in Korea right now, and for a while longer, it can’t be too much longer. I’d like to do as much time as I can in the position I’m currently in — if they’ll continue to have me — but after that, we’ll have to see.

I think she’s also getting a little fed up with the system here. The medical system here is hard to work within, is the vision I’m getting from her.

And right now, I feel much more driven to just write and write. Recent readings make me feel, more and more strongly, that I had better get my SFnal book about Korean reunification out soon, because it may not be very future-proofable as topics go. Happily, though, I have figured out a lot of what’s wrong with the novel I wrote, and how I can fix it. You know, the ghost story I set in Korea, and wrote in January-February 2004. I may try to revise it this winter, and start sending it out in the spring. We’ll see… I still want to keep working on short stories like mad, well, shorter works, anyway. I have a few ideas bubbling, and a couple of projects which are, well, linked novellas/novelettes that could form a kind of “novel”, either using the structure put to use in Maureen McHugh’s Nekropolis (which I finished on the plane, and will post about soon), or a more “mosaic novel” approach.

Anyone know a good travel-writer?

Writing snippet, from “The Crystal Methuselah”:

And then, one day, my wristlet alarm went off while it was still so dark that all the stars were still out. I ran from the computer hall that night, out into the courtyard, breathless and terrified. All the girls were already on the roof of the dormitory, yelling “Fire, fire.? I couldn’t see anything from the ground, but when I sped to the roof, I saw it off in the distance. It was just a glow, like a faraway crack in the earth had opened up, but one of the older girls said that it was where the city was, that the army of one of the cities must have finally begun making its way inland and finally come for us.

Eek. Time for a shower. I need to get to the dentist and have my temporary filling replaced today, and my first class of the semester is at 5pm this afternoon!

5 thoughts on “Back, back, back

  1. Stephanie:

    Yeah, the first meeting for each of my classes went quite well. Most of the kids seem eager and bright, though not so accustomed to teachers who ask questions that they’re actually supposed to respond to. I have a class for which I’ll actually be lecturing, which is new to me, and I imagine it might take some work to prepare all the lectures and the occasional powerpoint presentation when appropriate.


    Oh, no, I just mean, can anyone recommend a good travel writer or two? There’s a project I’m thinking of writing a year or two from now, a kind of memoir by a character living in the future about her past, a past which would be in the future to us, and it involves travel to several different parts of the world. I figure travelogues are as good an exemplar as anything.

  2. Pico Iyer used to be one of my favorites, back when I was reading a foreign edition of Time magazine. I googled him recently and got lost in his writing again. I’ve never read any of his books (just his essays), but this has reminded me to add them to my library list.

    Carsten Jensen’s I Have Seen the World Begin: Travels through China, Cambodia, and Vietnam is still one of my favorites.

    I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia earlier this year, but that’s more about the interior journey than external ones, in spite of the title. Still, it’s a worthy candidate.

    Those are the good ones I know about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *