A new chapter is starting in my life... but I have no idea yet what it will be called, though perhaps this is always the case unless one is blessed with uncommon prescience or cursed with absolute predictability in life. I will be travelling to Latin America (via San Fran) and then back 'home' to Southeast Asia (via Dubai) over the course of 5-6 months. I hope to share (some of) my stories with you as they unfold.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Two weeks remain before I fly to San Francisco and on to London several days later. My Latin American adventure is drawing to a close. It feels like good timing -- my feet are tired, my rucksack is heavy-laden (mostly with assorted alcohols), and, most importantly, I am now having difficulty distingushing one pleasant zócalo (Mexican town square) from the next, one beautiful church from the next, one charming street from the next.

But what a truly remarkable experience it has been, quite discombobulating in parts but always rewarding, always giving me something new. The sights, the people, the food and the drinks have all been tremendous, but what I'll remember is this first experience of travelling independently, in both senses, of being on my own for much of the trip and of making it up as I go along, especially in parts where a lone Chinese traveller is still something of a novelty if not a complete oddity -- in fact, I think the idea of doing anything alone evidently makes little sense to anyone around here.

The hassle I've had as a lone Asian/Oriental traveller has probably been the theme most often covered in my journal, and I can safely say I have learnt a lot in the process about myself and about others -- some are just curious (especially children), some are being friendly, some are trying to get something from me, and some are just being rude or pointlessly intimidating (especially if they yell "Chinito!" as they speed past me on the highway or as they swagger past me in the street, without the slightest hint of interest in stopping or talking to me). For pointless or intimidating hassle, Habana was probably the hardest place for me, followed by out-of-the-way places in Chiapas.

I've learnt to ignore them sometimes, try to have a conversation sometimes, and respond in kind sometimes... depending on the situation and my mood! I am grateful for the good fortune of bumping into and travelling around with some of my new travelling companions from time to time -- this normally offers a welcome respite and walking down the street suddenly takes a fraction of the energy it did when I was on my own. It's proved to be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, although, as with most rollercoaster experiences, one has a pretty good inkling that all will be fine in the end, that one is not likely to go flying off the rails...


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