Firstly, apologies for the lack of fresh thinking, writing, or even a moderately intellectual spit onto this blog in a while. It’s funny (strange, not hilarious) how the work of, well, work, can get in the way of more creative and emotionally worthwhile activities. Like Poi, for example. I blame Sam for this affliction (mostly), since it was her who explained to me what the coloured balls on string in the Khaosan Road market were, and how one was meant to swing them around to great theatrical effect. What happened after that has been largely a product of my own obsession and stubborn desire to master the activity, despite the necessary damage to light fittings, myself and my pride required when attempting the more exotic maneuvers.

Katherine recently let me try the version of the device (is poi the name of the activity, the actual swingy ball things, or both?) which incorporates real, actual fire, in her garden the other day. In truth, it is both terribly exciting, and more than a little scary to have what are essentially burning balls of paraffin-soaked kevlar chained to your wrists for five to ten minutes until they go out. You see, you are forced to do something with them, since leaving them to hang causes the balls of fire to grow large and threaten my hands – to which I have grown rather attached. And so you swing them. In simple weaves at first, but then into funny spirals and other shapes when you get the hang of it. At this point, the rush of having burning balls of flame whipping around you largely takes over and the whole thing becomes an intensely entertaining experience. Until you tangle the chains, or hit yourself. Such an event is usually succeeded by an amazing jolt of ohmygodimgoingtoburnmyself fear, and then a two minute rush of adrenaline once you have disentangled the flames from each other/yourself and are forced to resume swinging them (or suffer the aforementioned hand burning).

For now though, I will most likely try to get more of a handle on the non-burning LED oggpoi, and the pretty patterns they make, before I commit to further fire swinging. There is a world of tricks to be learned it seems, with some of the more bizarre stuff looking like it should be disallowed under any rational rules of physics and momentum. Fun times ahead.

Restlessness

The restlessness point out of which the title of this particular entry was born, came about from a road trip I undertook these last two days, to go and visit a client in Nelspruit. To be fair, there was no reason that I had to go – much of the discussion could have taken place over the phone, via email, or during the client’s next trip to Pretoria (which is by any measure a far saner distance from my normal route). However, since returning from the Asian adventure, I have come to take a largely favourable stance towards doing strange things, and this seemed strange enough to receive a nod, a travel allowance and a full day of driving.

To be fair, plans of going to play poi in the sodwala caves or other mischief never materialised due to a general sick and tiredness of driving, and rain which seemed to follow my car solidly from Nelspruit to Johannesburg with a vengeance. Just the activity of being out of the loop for a day though, watching the scenery go by and being alone with my thoughts, was enough to produce a desire for travel adventures which remains surprisingly strong even a month after returning from the backpacking trip. The particular feeling I mean, is one that anyone who has lived outside their normal life for a time will be familiar with – it is a sort of restlessness of spirit that makes you have trouble focusing on normal day to day events and wanting instead to run headlong into the next odd, different experience. It’s this intense desire to want to connect with people who are interesting and go and create some special experience or journey that will belong to you and nobody else, whether it is sleeping on a duckling-filled bus in Laos, going to a hospital in Saigon or even playing poi in the basement of the Voortrekker Monument on a whim.

Once you have slipped whatever neuron in your mind it is that makes you realise how truly immense, varied and exciting the world is, the daily routine starts to seem so very, very tiny and insignificant. To be sure, there is fun to be had in day to day experiences, and the value of having food and shelter can never be underestimated – but it feels like even the most interesting normal adventure in the day to day is nothing more than the route traced by one ant in an anthill in the southernmost tip of Africa. There are people out there whose worlds are so unlike mine that we barely share any common traits that would make a meaningful comparison possible – people whose lives I want, so desperately, to see, to interact with and to learn from. At risk of abusing the use of metaphor, it is like you have realised that there is a bigger, more colourful version of yourself that you had grown to fill, and now you are a smaller, better managed, normal version of yourself that is sitting and pining inside the shell of what you know you can now be.

There is a poem by D.H. Lawrence (thanks Google) which pretty accurately sums it up for me – that idea that its something you need, like you need to breathe, you need to fall in love, you need to feel you belong somewhere. It’s unacceptable not to listen to that feeling – it’s unbearable – but i’ll be damned if I know how to keep it happy for longer than intermittent road trips and backpacking expeditions.

Categories: Asia, Reflections, Travel
  • oyena

    Hey Rich, I did not know that beyond the most times drunk, childlike- remind me of the young brother I never had you, there is actually a deep guy who can right really well. Better than most people I have read. Your writing inspired me,not inspired me to do something, not even inspired not to do something, just inspired. I have thoroughly enjoyed this blog. Here’s some advice from the capitalist, business minded black E.E me. Keep the stuff you put on this blog. You might not have realized it yet, but it’s very publishable (however little I know about publishing, I feel qualified to say this).

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