Friday, 28 May 2010
10.16 pm – Beijing, China
9.16 pm – Bangkok, Thailand
7.46 pm – Colombo, Sri Lanka
Strange how just a few days in a new city can make you feel like you’ve been there for at least a month. Maybe being alone has something to do with it. You need to familiarize yourself with the place faster – learn where to eat, where to shop and what to see. Work out a route and routine for yourself each day. After just a day or two, you lapse into the pattern and all it takes is another couple of days to make you feel like you’ve been doing it forever.
My last day in Beijing, and it started to rain.
I looked out of my tear streaked taxi window through half closed eyes and felt glad to be going home. From one wet, exotic country to another. The taxi moved sluggishly through badly managed traffic. The fantastically smooth, wide roads, the sophisticated traffic-light system, the cables for electric buses – the infrastructure seemed flawless. But the air still looked and felt polluted with smoky rain; cars honked and confusedly veered every which way to avoid one another; drivers regularly ignored the traffic lights, especially at pedestrian crossings, cooly trying to drive through even with crowds of people trying to get to the other side of the street.
It felt sort of like being a part of a lie.
Granted, in Sri Lanka, the traffic is probably worse, but there is no pretense to the contrary. We are a messy, chaotic little city with terrible roads, terrible drivers – even terrible pedestrians. When it rains, trees fall down and block the roads. Potholes and bad roads are inevitabilities which take eons to be fixed by government officials and possibly give way in half that time. Still, we don’t try to show the world that we are sexy, sophisticated and developed. We aren’t. We know it. We’re happy that way.
This has turned into a bit of a rant against Beijing. I didn’t mean it to be – I think I’m just grumpy that I’m sitting in a plane, on a flight that got delayed by 2 hours. I should have almost been home by now. Instead, I’m in Bangkok, staying put for an hour while the cabin crew cleans up the joint and takes us to flight again, Sri Lanka bound.
Beijing was a great experience for me. I didn’t hate it at all – I found parts of it wondrous and others not so wondrous. I guess it’s the same with every city. I’m just a little sad that I didn’t feel like I could belong there. Whenever I go to a new city, I always try and wonder what it would be like to live there. I just couldn’t imagine it in Beijing. With Europe, it’s easy. I tell myself that even the language barrier wouldn’t prove a problem – the beauty of the place would compensate for it. Besides, the languages of the continent are so exquisite, I wouldn’t have an issue with having to learn them.
Maybe I’m feeling a little lost right now. There are a lot of changes ahead of me – some that I can’t control and some that I can. I am going to leave Sri Lanka next year and settle down elsewhere and that’s pretty scary. Tomorrow I’ll be 25 and I feel as if, for the first time, I will actually have to live up to my age and be and adult. It’s easy to be an adult part of the time – at work and whenever else I need to be. But when I am alone, I still feel like such a baby and I’ve always had the good fortune of being around people who just take care of me. Not because they have to, but because it comes to them almost instinctively.
But soon I will be alone and I will have to be grown up about it. I will have to say goodbye to some very special people in my life. And I don’t want to. I don’t know how. I wish I could throw a little-kid-tantrum and have things go back to the way they were simply because of how much I don’t want things to change.
At least, for a little while longer, things will be the same. In some hours I will be back home, curled up on my little mattress, with my country’s heat coating my skin once again.
And when I wake up, I will be 25.