Life In Asia

Perhaps I should have started this years ago, having made the decision to return to my roots, having changed my country of residence several years back. My continent of residence, I should say.

Yes, I’m currently residing in Asia.

However, that wasn’t always the case.

I had a somewhat variegated upbringing, being schooled in both Asia and Australia. This is clearly something quite commonplace in this day and age, but mine wasn’t just foreign exchange – I went back and forth, spending a chunk here and a chunk there.

Was it confusing? Disruptive? Detrimental to my development?

I don’t think so – if anything I got the best of both worlds, in a sense.

Perhaps I’d like to think my experience is unique, having been exposed more thoroughly to both sides of the coin: eastern and western, tropical and temperate, English and Chinese, noodles and spaghetti.

Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time abroad and had the pleasure of experiencing different cultures and indoctrin-I mean, education systems, can attest to this. By considerable I mean anywhere from six months to a year and beyond.

Different language, different styles of education, different attitudes and mannerisms. The culture shock does make some yearn and fall back on the comforts of home, usually in the form of congregating with those of the same background. Foreign student clubs and unions, study groups, living quarters.

I had that to some extent – I mingled largely with the familiar crowd, the minority, those with the same roots and ethnicity, even if they may not think or speak the same way as my original Asian brethren. It was close enough and as good as it got.

So background aside, I eventually made my way back to where I am now – in Asia. South-East Asia, to be precise (clearly still super vague – I’m being facetious).

What is it like being back here, seeing what you’ve seen? Knowing what you know? For those of you who have lived abroad and come back to your home country or to the same vicinity, how did you feel when you first returned?

Clearly everyone’s experience is non-identical and distinct. Many report feeling disenfranchised, like an outsider, hints of racism, but also feeling warmth and kindness and something they would never have found at home.

Yes, I admit on some level, I always felt like I never truly belonged. Being a minority in a country has its effects, not just in the pervasive racial undertones from external parties, but even internally within our own communities, our Asian gangs and gatherings (I use the term “gang” in a jocular sense – we didn’t actually go around extorting protection money).

I spoke and wrote the language, just as well as any of the born-and-bred locals (I’d like to think). Perhaps not all the way to the local lingo, but if I didn’t provide any indication, just from reading this, you might not immediately guess which country I hail from.

I paid my dues and did my job and didn’t take advantage of the system, a system that hands out freebies to the impoverished and needy, an imperfect system but one that tries to provide a standard level of care for all. It wasn’t a bad or poor system by any means, although rigid and unyielding in some ways. There was support and benefits, and for the most part people tried to be civil and kind toward me and each other.

Being back in Asia I see the disparities, how different things are, a comparison across the board. Some things are better, some are worse, pros and cons.

Recently I visited the equivalent of the slums here in Asia.

Think high density and small living spaces. Like Hong Kong, but not nearly as bad.

The first thing that hits you is the smell.

There was more than rain pouring down from the skies.

Slums exist almost everywhere in the world, I imagine. But seeing it in your own hometown still comes as a shock. Seeing the living conditions and meeting the people there is a sobering wake-up call.

And unlike Australia, the local government here doesn’t give so many handouts to these folk. Not to say they are entirely disregarded – there are institutes that care for the families and senior citizens that reside in these government built apartments.

What struck me (apart from the rubbish raining down) was the way of life of the people staying there, their outlook and attitudes. Almost like a caste system, mentally resigned to their fate, prisoners in their own minds.

For a lot of these people, there is no way out, no escape from their situation, no saviour or redemption or change. You can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices. The only way out is wrapped in a blanket or tarp.

And they will continue to subsist like this, day in day out.

And now in lockdown, they see no way of earning an income. Again, there is no way out. And so they wait – either for handouts, or for the sweet release of death.

Of course there are such places in Australia and other countries in the world, and the way they are treated and regarded is probably not so different.

At the very least, they tend to be more concerned about smells. Or it could just be the climate that enhances it.

Did you know that you smell better in a moister environment?

The Study of A Lifetime

One cannot deny the power of education, but it is unfortunate that many spend a better part of their youth and prime in training, endlessly learning and honing themselves so they can spend what’s left of it catching up with the system and picking up the essential skills of life. And by that time, they wake up and their strength is fading and their hair is graying and they can’t help but feel like life has just been one big blur, one long difficult ride, one slow step at a time.

Many try for the big win, the one great gain that will set them up for life, and many fall short, disappointed and disheartened. Some keep trying, some give up, and some eventually get to a place where they are comfortable and happy, ready to repeat the cycle anew.

And so we continue to study for our lifetime, a life of learning and of longing for something more, never fully satisfied, always something new. Why do we spend most of our life learning how to live?

How are your life studies coming along?


Life & Death & Cycling

Upon the dawn did I venture out into the balmy outdoors following a long and dreadful deluge the night before. This journey into the wilderness provided me room and time for much ponderous contemplation on matters such as life and death and some cycling in between.

Sam's Bike Blog
No trucks, only bikes

Why so morbid, you might ask? I admit it is not my natural predisposition to be preoccupied with such lofty and philosophical musings such as life and lack thereof and our human perspective of it all. However, my roaming this morning brought me into multiple close encounters with things that most people would rather not speak of.

There were three to be precise. Three of each.

Fortunately, it was not my own peril I speak of.

As I set out down a broad street I came across a shocking sight of a large, immobile monitor lizard sprawled in the middle of the street. It was almost as long as my bike, and clearly a hazard to motorists using said street. And mind you this was no back-alley, but a major motorway!

The thought of removing such an obstacle was immediate in my mind, but alas my hesitation led to inaction. Also, the thought of dragging something as heavy as I was did not bring me comfort.

The second encounter was somewhat more benign, but still rather saddening to me.

Sam's Bike Blog
Something shiny caught my eye – yet another casualty of the deluge from last night

As I passed a large drain, a bright shiny object caught my eye. Gazing down I caught sight of this majestic fish that was lying stationary in a shallow gushing rivulet of rainwater. It looked a little too pretty and well-fed not to be someone’s pet, so perhaps it got washed away with the heavy downpour not long ago.

Sam's Bike Blog
Lush life along the climb

The forest was alive after the rain – birds were chirping, bugs were buzzing, ants were streaming every which way. And then I came upon my third and most unpleasant experience.

Sam's Bike Blog
The tranquility that comes with the void; the eternal peaceful slumber

As if asleep, this poor little newborn lay upon the cold, hard bitumen. This time I stopped to inspect and found it to be deceased, so I carried it out of sight and returned it to nature.

Sam's MTB Bike Blog
Forest trekking by bike

All that cycling did work up an appetite, so I visited the welcoming little Gusto Cafe in the area. Got the special for the day!

Sam's Bike Breakfast
Heartwarming breakfast at Gusto Cafe!

Seeing all those casualties, most likely from the storm the night before, I thought about how seeing and coming so close to a thing that once lived could scar someone and serve as a reminder of our fleeting mortality. One can only hope that it is short and sweet. And yet we do not let it cripple us. We soldier on, we live knowing that the next may be our last.

And for what? So that we can have our very own plot of land for our remains to enter? So that we manage to churn out some progeny to continue their indifferent plight upon the earth? So that we can perpetuate the cycle of life and keep the wheel of fate spinning and spinning and spinning?

When I arrived back home, I was greeted by two very vocal and noisy individuals that demanded my attention. Here is one of them:

Sam Bikelah Cat
Lazy bugger. Noisy too.

After giving them their due, I proceeded to clean up. That’s when I noticed the hitchhiker that had caught a ride with me: a little lively caterpillar that was ohm-ing its way across my back! By ohm-ing, I mean making little ohm shapes with its mode of locomotion.

It only had a set of little feet at the front and rear of its stringy body, so the rest just went up and down as it cantilevered most of its body forward every step of the way.

I delivered it to the nearest tree bark and watched it prod its way into the nearest nook in the wood. I wondered if it would grow into a butterfly. That gave me hope. Of course, most likely the cats would get to it, but c’est la vie, non?

That’s enough depressing stuff from me! Go out and live life, people!