Today however is a much brighter day and even though i still look like something that crawled out of a cabrini green gutter, i'm managing to crawl out of my funk and embrace everything by the roots. A brief aside: there's a company of malaysian sailors on shore leave in Saigon and they prowl the streets at night in spiffy white uniforms... they're everywhere and i think they've taken to following random strangers around to see where they go. I'm staying down a side alley (though i don't sleep IN the alley, just so that's clear) no one in their right mind would randomly venture into at night. They once turned into the alley right after me, which REALLY freaked me out. Anyway, I'm in an internet cafe / international call center and one of the malaysian sailors on the phone is sobbing his heart out in his cubicle. Now that my spiffy-no-longer malaysian assistant has set the mood, this is going to be a long story... deep breath and dive.
I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning and took a bus to a town in the Mekong delta thinking it would be fab to drift down the river in a boat, picking flowers along the way and watching the fish jump in the water. The river is as wide as a lake down there and has all these wonderful little canals lined with coconut palm and flowering trees... but it's no pristine wilderness. Every inch of available land is used to cultivate fruits or rice, and every inch of non-available land usually has a house floating on it. Still, it was nice to get away from all the buzz in Saigon and row around the water while munching on mangosteen and dragonfruit and all sorts of fruit i can't even pronounce much less spell. We sailed for hours down the canals that carve up the delta into thousands of islands... up one canal, down the other. Every now and again the... shit, i don't even know what to call him... the guy who rows the boat... captain?... so every now and again the captain would pull us to shore where we could stock up on essentials for the next hour. Fruit and coconut moonshine mainly, and the coconut hooch is DIVINE, but sometimes we'd go for something more practical like lunch or to check out that broad washing clothes near the water (i guess the captain had enough moonshine by this point). It was a lazy day spent floating.
He dropped me off at the docks of a sprawling modern town, which is one of the major towns in the delta i suppose and one where i could catch a bus back to Saigon. Giant wooden fishing boats painted in vivid primary colors were docked in rows with the crews unloading their catch. Little kids ran around selling tiny wilted flowers... maybe they used to be chrysanthemums, but it's hard to tell... at ridiculous prices. I bought 3 yellow ones considering i plucked the shit out of the ones i had earlier in the boat. Not seeing any buses around, i thought i might splurge on a moto and set about looking for someone who wouldn't totally rip me off in the deal. I asked around and one guy said the reason the price is so high is that it's rush hour on the way to Ho... i mean, really, doesn't it have MORE to do with the fact that i'm going to be ripped off no matter what? Whatever, i decided to wait until after the afternoon rush was over to proceed back home and took my place by the wharf with a cigarette and wilted flowers. The giant fishing boats came and went in front of me, some docked, some set out again for another catch before sunset and i wondered how close i was to the South China Sea. I asked.
Two minutes later I was on the back of a moto flying down the highway at such a speed it felt more like we were escaping with loot rather than going to a lazy beach town. We arrived as the sun was setting behind the palms and I sat on the beach and waited, in much the same way i waited at the docks: with a lit fag and a handful of flowers. There were thunderstorms offshore and the water looked purple under all those clouds and was flecked with orange from the sun behind me. The horizon was scanned for answers.
Exactly 2 years ago today i boarded a plane in new orleans and woke up in london determined to start a life abroad. I was pluckier then, maybe a little more confident because i was so naive and everything seemed so tangible. Even intangible things became cues through the tangible: i left the US because of the horizon on the Gulf of Mexico, a handful of paintings, a random sculpture, and a dead poet. Today i'm exhausted and wondering where all those things have gone.
It was an anniversary of sorts, and i'm glad it involved a beach. I looked out across the sea... my own country is on the other side of it and the world, but the US felt so close like a big island hiding just beyond the horizon. I threw the flowers into the surf and told the driver i was ready to head back to Saigon, with the whole event lasting only 10 minutes.
Before I left the US i had no idea where i'd end up -- maybe Seoul, maybe Berlin, maybe Cairo... not a clue. I remember feeling torn over everything, but now it's beyond being torn; it has more to do with being ripped apart. My indecisiveness is violent. But what i realized on the beach was that i can't stay in vietnam, that it doesn't feel right and that i honestly can't picture myself staying here for an extended period of time. I've been grappling with the Syrian Issue over the past few days... Damascus in sept. About 12 hours later, the Syrian Issue turned into the Yemeni Concern... Aden in oct. Within the next twenty four hours i seriously considered moving to Cairo, Rabat, Beirut(!?), Jeddah KSA, Sharjah UAE and Tripoli. Jakarta briefly made the list for some reason.
I need to go back to Khartoum.