T is for Traveler

 

Preface.

OK, so this post is about something completely different, but while I was thinking about what to write,  I overheard this, in an airport.

There was a super old lady dressed in professional black and white attire asking an Asian businessman about his consumer behavior and inputting the data on her tablet. She was so old, bless her, the first thing I thought about when I saw her using the tablet was that she was probably alive when Moses wrote the 10 commandments on the stone tablets back in the 1920’s. But there she was typing away asking question after question

Old Lady – How did you travel to the airport today?

Man – Train.

Old Lady -Train. Excellent, thank you very much. How likely are you to recommend this airport to someone?

Man – Three

Old Lady – 3. OK So in the middle. Average. OK. Excellent. Thank you very much.

 

Who on earth recommends an airport. That’s like recommending a metro station or a bus stop. You don’t recommend them you just go to them. Stupid question.

Old Lady -How likely are you to recommend Britain as a holiday destination?

Man – I don’t know. Actually I have never been here on holidays

Old Lady -But how likely are you to recommend it to people?

Man – I’m not sure. I only come here for business.

Old Lady -Would you like to come here on a holiday? Oh I bet you would, wouldn’t you.

Man – Yes, I suppose.

Old Lady -Ok. Lets put 5 for that one. Very likely to recommend Britain for a holiday.Excellent.

 

Interesting technique for gathering information. Ask questions and input your own answers.

 

Old Lady -How friendly are the British people to foreigners?

Man – One. Definitely

Old Lady -Excellent. Perfect. That’s great. Enjoy your flight sir.

 

 

The actual blog 

It is without doubt the most significant travel story I’ve ever had. Before I tell this momentous tale I want to let you in on something. I never liked blogging. I never wanted to have a blog. For me it was a cop-out for having a narcissistic agenda and self promoting.

“Look at me, look how interesting and talented I am”.

It bored me. After many posts and a lot of followers I got sucked into it. But I decided to write this post. Originally I had decided that T would be, T is for Translation and I was going to write lots of funny literal translations of things I had experienced. However after spending some time in London and watching the Rio 2016 Olympics, I figured this had to be shared.

When I was 20 years old in 2008, I journeyed to China. Its one of those surreal isolated events, that I look back on and think, WOW, did that actually happen. It kinda feels like I was just watching a very visual documentary as opposed to being there. I don’t remember the airport or flight at all. I went, enjoyed and quickly returned to the normality of being an early 20’s London student.  The journey would have a profound impact on how I see things.

 

2 Weeks Ago in London

Tom – The Olympics are over, fuck

Me – The Paralympics are just getting started.

Tom – Oh my god you’re right. Have you ever seen them, they are amazing.

Me – I was there in China

Tom – Shane, really….. you weren’t.

Me – I was. Yeah

Tom – Is this another one of your made up stories? Like when you smoked crack.

Me – I DID SMOKE CRACK and I did… I did go. I was there. My sister was competing.

Tom – What………..FUCK OFF.

Me – She did. And in Athens and in Sydney. My other sister and I went to support. I took a month of Chinese lessons.

Tom – You speak Chinese???

Me – A bit. Enough to freak them out.

Tom – Really…..!

 

He was right to doubt. But it’s true. As one of my more recent blog posts was dedicated to the source of my frustration this one is dedicated to the source of my inspiration. Its not a blog about self love but it is a blog about sisterly love. She was once told she’d never walk and then went on to break a world record, carry our nations flag in the Paralympics, and get a Degree.

 

In 2009 / My University / London

Me – I can’t write about this

Tutor – I think it’s interesting

Me – It is interesting. For me. Not for anyone else. I don’t know why people would read this.

Tutor – I think it’s very good and travel writing is becoming increasingly popular particularly on the internet.

Me – Yeah. I don’t know. I guess I just think I don’t have anything unique to say, and it’s not like I’m an expert in anything. I could make it funny, I suppose.

Tutor – No. Don’t make it funny. You make everything funny and while comedy is a great gift, you can’t hide behind it. It cheapens your work. You should write about it. People would be very interested in Beijing and especially that your sister went there.

Me – You think it’s good enough to submit as a final project?

Tutor – Oh yes, definitely.

 

Like all good advice from people much wiser than me, I completely ignored it. In the end, I didn’t write it. My writing had a lot of maturing to do. It was a valid criticism that I hide behind humor. In our poetry class, I couldn’t write about anything serious, deep or emotional so instead I submitted a poem about Jesus fighting Darth Vadar with a bar of soap (or was it fighting over a bar of soap… I don’t remember). I thought it was great but I barely passed the class. As a final project, I never wrote about the Beijing experience …… until now and this is the abridged version. I’m working on a longer version but I know you don’t have a lot of time to read. You’re busy and you gotta get to work. I get it. I’ll run through this quickly, then you can close this page and we can both get on with our lives.

 

August 2008.

We arrived in the airport, got a taxi and gave him the address which we had printed off.

Me – Zǎoshang hǎo

Taxi – Oh Zǎoshang hǎo

 

He smiled.

 

Anna – What the hell was that?

Me – I said good morning. I’ve been studying

Anna-No one likes a show off, Shane.

 

We went to our hostel/ guesthouse. It was strange but so beautiful. There was a pond in the middle of it and each room was off the courtyard. It was super Japanese in its feel, which was weird because it was Beijing.

 

John – I am John.

Anna – Hello. Nice to meet you. I’m Anna.

Me – I’m Shane.

John – England??

Me -Irish.

John – Oh. ….

Me – Eh, near England.

John – London? From London….

Me -Hum………….Yes.

 

This would be first of millions of people literally asking us where we from and then finally agreeing to be from a completely different place. The best was Go ( doubt it was her real name) from Starbucks.

 

Go –  Where?

Me -Ireland.

Go -No. No know. Big or small?

Me -Small. In Europe.

Go -Europe. Ah yes.

Me -England, UK? Beside the UK.

Go -Uk… no. Europe?

Me -Yes.

Go -Paris.

Me -Eh, not really.

Go -Near Paris.

Me -London?

Go -No.

Me -Yeah, near Paris. Just different country and different language.

Anna – Yeah, different everything but you’re right.

 

The trip was such a cultural eye-opener for me and my two sisters and we were honestly privileged to experience such wonders as the Great Wall of China, the Beijing Modern Art Gallery and of course the Olympic Stadium and Paralympics. But as I said before, I hate blogs that brag.  A few notable events really left an impression on me. Like this story of food poisoning.

I get food poisoning EVERYWHERE. India, Turkey, China, Spain. I’m actually writing this in cafe in Vienna and I can feel a bit of the shits coming on. I ate a chocolate dumpling yesterday (oh my god, best things ever), I bet that’s whats done it. Anyway of all the places I’ve had food poisoning, China was by far the worse.

 

Me – You guys, I don’t feel good.

Lisa – I feel great. The weather is lovely.

Me – I think I’m gonna be sick.

Anna – Do you want me to drive the boat?

Me – No. It’s helping me focus

Lisa – Are you sea sick. It’s a tiny lake, how can you be sea sick. There are no waves.

Me – I’m not sea sick. Oh guys….. my stomach, I feel awful. I’m sweating.

Anna – Take some water.

Lisa – Yeah, I’ve got some water.

Me – Ok.

 

I remember so clearly drinking that water. I instantly needed the toilet. The day after my sister competed we were allowed to take her on a excursion away from the Olympic village. Of course, being Irish, we took her to a pub directly after she competed and refused to wait until the following day. To nurse our hangover the following day we went to Bai Park and rented a small battery operated boat.

Me – Oh god. Lets go back, I have did …. I think, I’m gonna…. oh God. 

Lisa – Oh god. We are supposed to have the boat for another 50 minutes.

 

I totally ignore them and start to drive the shitty battery operated boat back to the ticket office. The nearer I get, the more I’m convinced that I’m going to shit myself.

 

Anna – Almost there Shane. Just sit on your bum and put pressure on it.

 

The two of them are leaning over the boat, laughing hysterically.

 

Me – What else I am supposed to sit on. What a stupid thing to say. Sit on your bum. Nonsense.

Lisa – Just go over the side. Go on seriously. No one will see.

Me – Are you sure?

Lisa – Yeah. Just do it.

 

She was totally joking but I’d be lying if I said, I wasn’t considering it. I look out of the lake. It’s a reasonably sized lake inside an enormous park filled with ancient beautiful temples. Am I gonna do a shit over the side of the boat? Will I be that person? 

 

Me – People will see me.

 

I take my foot off the boat. The boat stops. I look around with my puffy eyes, glued into my super sweaty face.

 

Me – Oh. I don’t know. Can I?

Lisa – Oh god. Just do something.

 

They are literally struggling to breathe at this point and laughing so loud. The sweat is dripping off my face and I start to cry. 

There are people. Look. There are Chinese couples everywhere. Peddling boats and dangling umbrellas and looking into each others eyes. Oh god. Just imagine and they see a white arsehole doing a dump of the side of the boat.

I decided against it.

I can’t be that person. I can’t be that tourist. I can’t be that traveler.  Hilarious story but no dignity. No. Not I.

I got back in the drivers seat, squeezed my legs to together and drove on. Slowly… slowly the little wooden entrance started to get bigger and get bigger. At this point, I was crying but I was also sweating so much, that I didn’t know what was beads of sweat or what was tears.

 

Me – Guys, will you shut the fuck up laughing at me and look for a toilet.

 

As we got nearer, the boatman looked concerned because I wasn’t slowing down and I looked like I wanted to kill someone.

 

Boat man  Jiǎnsù….. Jiǎnsù.. Jiǎnsù

Me – You bloody, Jiǎnsù. MOVE MOVE.

 

As the boat got slightly nearer, I did a James Bond move and jumped from the boat to the little wooden bridge with effortless style. I looked super cool and as I continued to run, I realize that something had already….. erm… whats the best way to put this…….lets say, I was already a bit late. 

There was a long time of people queuing up to get on the boats. In a millisecond they all cleared….. and …. long story short, I did a big crap on the side of the tree while crying. In my defense it was mostly water and no one saw. Until I pulled up my pants, cleared the tears from my eyes and realized I was about 2 meters away from a local family having a picnic (it was a very oddly shaped tree). They parents were starring me, while covering their children’s eyes.

One thing I love about China, so much judgement but no one says anything. They keep it all in. Thank you years of socialist repression. Several minutes later, I could still hear my sisters laughing.

But this was not supposed to be a blog about poo. It’s about sister love. While there was significantly more to the entire experience, than diarrhea, this is, as I said, the abridged version. The novel edition will be out in a couple of years.

———

My sister came 8th in the Beijing games. I dressed up as a Leprechaun and half of the global Chinese population asked to take my picture.

We were sitting 4 rows ahead of a group of Danish people. Their viking hats got literally no attention and I managed to block some their view. Take that Denmark. While you may have a perfect country, we are more popular in China. Wahahahaha.

Random 1 – I am picture with you.

Me – Excuse me…… Oh a picture. Sure.

 

Random 2 -You and me, together

Me – Ok. No problem.

 

 

Random 3 -Camera in you with me.

 

Sounds weirdly sexual.

Me – Ok.

 

Random 4 – I am photo

Me – No. I’m photo.

Random 4 -Photo?

Me – OK photo.

 

Random 5 -You are really magic man?

Me – Yes

Random 5 -Yes yes?

Me – No.

 

Random 6 – Picture please

Me – Ok

Random 6 – I love Harry Potter

Me – Eh, this isn’t anything to do………… oh OK photo.

 

We couldn’t understand anything about the games. Unlike the Olympics, the Paralympics lacks a lot of global appeal and thus its more difficult to sell tickets. Due to the various different disabilities of the athletes, it’s also quite costly. In China, money was no issue at all and thus the problem of selling tickets was avoided by simply filling the stadium with school children. They had a chance to see the stadium, world events and learn quite a bit.

I have zero interest in sport and I almost have zero interest for people that have an interest in sport. I think people that sit at home at watch golf on the television are actually mentally retarded and other sports like horse racing are just completely bizarre – lets stick short men on top of this animal and see which animal can run faster – eh, no. No, lets not do that. Let’s have a sandwich, or watch a play, or read a book. Let’s do anything but lets not do that. Don’t even get me started on darts. But why the Paralympics are less popular, I’ll never know. Would you rather watch wheelchair basketball or basketball? For me, its hands down wheelchair basketball. It’s incredible. Its seems to me the Paralympics has a hell of lot more to teach us about what human beings can actually do, than other kind of main stream sport.

The Paralympic Games opened in Rio last night and while it was enjoyable to watch “President” Temer getting booed by thousands of people, the lighting of the Paralympic torch was one of the best things, I’ve ever seen on T.V.