A Most Unusual Journey: Records of My Sojourns

A Most Unusual Journey: Records of My Sojourns

Status: In Progress

Genre: Travel

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Status: In Progress

Genre: Travel

Houses:

Summary

Herein lie the amusing, oftentimes odd, accounts of my travels. I hope you find these stories to be both amusing and insightful.
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Summary

Herein lie the amusing, oftentimes odd, accounts of my travels. I hope you find these stories to be both amusing and insightful.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Somewhere in the Pacific

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 30, 2017

Reads: 37

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 30, 2017

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Boracay-- an island with sand white as porcelain with water clear as day kissing its shores. Devoid of any real potential for agriculture or other means of subsistence, it was no doubt once an almost deserted island, but with its pristine beaches and palm trees, tourists were bound to discover it. Boracay, as I came to know it, is overflowing with hotels and resorts which become more numerous by the day. Motorized petty-cabs and motorcycles produce a low, incessant roar as they rush from end to end of the island in search of passengers. An imposing wall of unceasing cafes, bars, shops, and restaurants now sits just off the main beach. Locals line the shopfronts, desperately hoping to interest tourists in their goods and services. Dozens of boats, extracting ever greater sums from the tourists, load and unload on the shoreline, yet for being an unparalleled tourist trap, Boracay is a truly beautiful island. Here, I share with you the fun and excitement that punctuated my last stay on this magnificent island.
 
After a several hours riding in a van, it felt great to finally stretch my stiff legs as we strolled along the shops lining the main beach. The hot rays of tropical sun were licking like flames at any skin left exposed, so all the while, we kept our eyes peeled for some shady palms to sit under. Two other exchange students were with me. One was a Dane with dirty blond hair and a build like my own, though a bit lankier, by the name of Phil, and the other was a German girl named Hannah. As usual, they fought over some nonsense. It was a fight which must have been quite an effort for Phil, hobbling along on sun burnt legs. Their fighting finally came to a resolution when we spotted a shady refuge under a palm grove. A throng of Koreans almost bumped into us as we cut across the walkway and onto the sand beneath the palms. Resting on a palm trunk, I sat down and pulled out my book, Cutting for Stone, to read while watching the sea tango and waltz in the sunlight. About twenty or thirty minutes passed this way as my eyes flitted back and forth across the crisp, tan pages and lobster-red tourists lounged under beach umbrellas. Eventually, I got tired of reading, stood up, and starting tossing my new frisbee back and forth on the beach with some idle employee. I got thoroughly sandy. Phil lounged on his towel, and Hannah talked the supervisor for a paddle-board rental group. As soon as I began to head in, a Filipino, his skin darkened to a deep brown by the sun, came and motioned to the paddle-boards saying,”Ser, does you want to play this? Free.” 
 
Thinking he was looking for a way to get money out of me, I tersely spat back,”No.”
 
Apparently, Hannah had made fast friends with his supervisor, and he persisted saying,”No, no, free. My boss say for friend.”
 
Not one to turn down some paddling, I agreed without a breath of hesitation and followed him, calling Phil to join, as he led me to the paddle boards. Eager to start, I went to the closest board. Then, I picked up the paddle and shoved the board off into the surf before hopping on. I gently tread my paddle through the water alternating sides until I stood well away from shore. Looking down on either side, I could see straight through the crystal clear water to the sandy bottom. Not far off, big wooden boats full of tourists drove by, their outriggers bouncing back forth, as their under-sized, two-stroke engines fought to keep them moving. With the sun pouring its rays down on me, there was no trouble on my mind as I stood gazing off listlessly at the point in the horizon where the sky meets the sea. A moment later, Phil paddled over to join. I heard his go-pro beep and looked over to see him start v-logging. Trying to give him some good footage, I took my paddle in both hands, held it over my head, and tried to balance on leg. I did my best to keep steady while I brought a foot off the board. I held it there for a few seconds before both feet came off with a splash. “Use that shot, man. It’s gold,” I said with a laugh before hoisting myself back up.

 

We paddled around for about an hour more before bringing the boards back and heading for our hotel. After a short walk to the road followed by a ride in a motorized petty cab, we pulled up at a our hotel. A big courtyard, flanked on three stories of hotel rooms, held the check-in desk and the dining area. We paid the driver and grabbed our bags before stepping onto the white, stone tiles leading to the desk. Fumbling through my bag, I produced our reservation papers and offered them to the petite Filipina sitting behind the desk. She looked at them, pounded a few keys, and disappeared in search of her boss. As is usually the case in the Philippines, there was some sort of issue. About twenty minutes later, she informed us that our room was double-booked and that we had been upgraded to a deluxe suite. We picked our bags up, took the key, and went up to our room. We all set down our bags and got ready to relax for a bit. Hannah had other plans though, so she left us to watch TV and read while she met some friends. 

 

At about a quarter ‘til six, the phone rang. I picked up the receiver and brought it to my ear. It was Hunger calling. Spurred on by Hunger, Phil and I strapped up our sandals in preparation for the long and grueling quest for some good chow that lay ahead of us. We battled our way past tourist traps and swam through torrents of tourists until we, at long last, came to a nice pizzeria. I ordered some a plate of margerites, and we ate as the sun dropped in the sun. Once finished, we dawdle about before splitting the bill and cutting through crowds of Korean and Chinese tourists, on their way to sunset pictures, back to the room. 

 

Hannah stood outside our room waiting for us to open the door when we arrived. Long red streaks, the product of some wild jet-skiing, ran down both sides of her inner thighs. Not at all surprised that she found a way to hurt herself, since I last saw her, I told her to put some lotion on her rashes. Then, I swiped the key card through the reader and opened the door. A blast of A/C hit me as I crossed the threshold into the room. Itching for some Man vs. Wild, I cut on the TV and switched it to Nat. Geo. Then, I squirted a few gobs of after sun into my hand and rubbed it on generously in an attempt to assuage my fears of becoming a freshly-caught Maine lobster. Meanwhile, Bear Grylls ate some sort of tropical insect and Hannah had a fit about her legs. Phil harmonized that with a chorus of groans about his well-cooked Scandinavian skin. Humans are truly fragile beings. 

 

After things had calmed down and everyone had settled in, Hannah got up and went out to go get something. Twenty or thirty minutes ticked away, and she still hadn’t come back. I decided to be a good guy and go out looking for her. I strapped up my sandals, tugged on a tee, and opened the door to the tepid night air. The light of a million hotels and shops expelled any darkness that dared to show itself. The sound of Boracay’s night life, motors and the din of a dozen different tongues, permeated the air. I turned right and walked down the corridor to the stairs. My feet clip-clopped off the steps as made my descent. The tiles rose up to meet my sandal’s black soles as I hit the ground floor and began to make my way across the courtyard to the street, but I spotted Hannah before I could even leave to look for her. A troupe of Frenchmen and Hannah sat arrayed around a table topped with snack peanuts, two bottles of rum, two liters of coke, and glasses. Hannah spotted me, tossed back a drink, and called me over to sit down. I froze in thought. I didn’t really want to drink, but it would be rude to just turn and leave. One of the Frenchmen, a tall man with dark skin and an aggressive jaw, called me to join. My hesitation broke, and I decided to sit just for one drink rather than refuse them their hospitality. I grabbed a chair from another table and pulled it over to sit in. The minute I sat down, the man who’d called me over took a bottle of rum in one hand and a glass in the other. Then, he began to pour prodigiously. 

 

“Tell me when I stop,” said the man in an English so wrought with overtures of French that it was nearly unintelligible. Rum gushed from the bottle into the glass filling it roughly half way.

 

“Whoa, that’s good. Stop!” I said seeing how much he’d already poured into it. I took the glass and topped it off with coke. I brought it to my lips. My nostrils filled with the nauseating smell of rum. Barely able to swallow, I gulped down a swig and asked as slowly as possible,”I’m Henry. What’s your name?”
 
“Ah, Henri, I am Sami,” he said holding out his hand for me to shake. 
 
I stood up and reached across the table taking his hand. His hands, no doubt a result of manual labor, were coarser than Filipino English. The handshake was the way it should be--short and painless. After shaking my hand, he sat back down and gave me a quick rundown of his friends’ names, all of which I quickly forgot. They were all young men with sun-tinged skin and wore that certain nonchalant demeanor, which softly says “Fuck you, world.”, except one. This outlier was an old Frenchman that looked as if he could be their grandfather. He had a strong nose that rested easily on his wrinkled old face. His face wore an easy smile that professed good will to the world. In reality, the look probably wasn’t the product of some profound metaphysical satisfaction; instead, it was most likely inspired by some such divine ambrosia as wine or rum. He, the picture of an idyllic old man, looked out of place among the rough and ready crowd that made up the rest of the table, but as I would later find out, he wasn’t the sort of innocent old-timer that he appeared to be at first glance.

 

As so often happens when a table is laden with not-so-fine spirits, those gathered around it lose their train of thought and wallow about until they find nonsense to get into. Such was the case that night. Before I knew it, Hannah had disappeared somewhere leaving both her phone and wallet. I, naturally a bit nervous about a tipsy girl wandering around alone at night, stayed to wait for her. Meanwhile, McDonald’s showed up with a delivery for the Frenchmen that, by many experts’ estimates, constituted roughly a metric shit tonne. Now, the issue with deliveries of this size is you generally have to pay for them, and when the Frenchmen got a large bill with stuff they hadn’t ordered on it, chaos, coupled with incomprehensible French, ensued. First, Sami, who was at least six feet tall, got up and went over to the girl the at the desk, who would surprise me if she were over five feet tall. I saw a look of confusion emerge on the poor girl’s face as she struggled to understand the pissed-off Frenchman towering over her. After getting nowhere, Sami came back over to have a heated discussion in French with his fellas. Their deliberations carried on loudly and at great length. I have no doubt that they employed many of the finer points of French rhetoric that night before deciding that they would go to McDonald’s, take it by storm, put it to the sword, and sit down for a nice talk with the manager about the screwed-up order. With Hannah still not back, that left me to guard the table. We said our farewells, and I pulled out my copy of the Basic Writings of Nietzsche. I was ready for anything or anyone, be they nihilists or rapists, that may come at me out of the darkness of the night.
 
 
A few pages deep into the necessity of Dionysian passion in the Apollonian, my French companions made their triumphant return. They carried with them the spoils of their victory. My guess is that one most fluent in English was able to sustain a heated debate with the manager because they had managed to keep the extra food and get the bill back to what they had actually intended to order. Hastily rearranging liquor bottles and glasses, they lay out their bounty of burger and fries. They thanked me with an order of fries for keeping watch. I took a bite and asked in vain if any of them had seen Hannah. She was still not to be seen, and I was still not to cease waiting. 

 

Sami ate his burger slowly, as Europeans are apt to do, and began to praise Obama for wanting to tighten gun laws. Naturally, I was jubilant to hear about something besides Trump from a foreigner, so I echoed his thoughts and played the age-old game of bullshit played by men who’ve been drinking. The bullshitting went on for a while as we talked about our countries and homes until, finally, Hannah waltzed up out of the blue. I was used to her nonchalance by then and took no affront when she brushed off my admonitions about her wandering around alone. With her return, everyone’s spirits kicked up. I no longer cared to simply go to sleep, so anxious to do something, I took up the call to go clubbing. Our ragtag party downed their drinks, and a boisterous chorus of French singing started up as we walked to the road and down to the beachfront. At the beachfront, we hit night life with full force. There were sloshed Swedes, crunk Koreans, rowdy Russians, fucked-up French, frisky Filipinos, lit Lithuanians, boozed-up Brits, turnt Turks, pissed Persians, and a multitude of other nations hopping from bar to bar and club to club, all united in their various states of intoxication. Just as people of all countries are fundamentally human, all cultures share in the same fundamental stupidity and ignorance. 

 

On the main beach, heading to a club that our French friends had heard so much about, another chorus of French song took root. This time clapping accompanied it to produce the sort of lively, rhythmic singing one would imagine in a vibrant Irish pub. Some looked on in wonder at the strange foreign tongue coming their mouths, and others just smiled and clapped along. Walking past some shop fronts, locked-up for the night, we came across a group of Filipinos sitting in a circle with a guitar. They called us over and asked someone to play. Sami volunteered himself right off the bat. The Filipino handed him the guitar and the towering Frenchman sat down on a block of wood to play. Sami gave the guitar a few strums and, face full of emotion, began to play. The notes and vocals started low and slow. As the song progressed though, it began to speed up and became more staccato as he moved into a forte so powerful that his voice, rife with emotion, could be heard echoing through the night. The performance became more and more forceful before, at last, he ended with a fortissimo and stood up to rejoin us after handing back the guitar. 
 
All the while, I had been talking to the Filipinos next to us. I easily caught them off guard when I switched to the local language and began to address them with the equivalent of man: dong. They laughed apparently finding a foreigner speaking so colloquially amused them to no end. I explained where everyone was from in their language and saluted them as we left. It was certainly an encounter that they wouldn’t soon forget.
 
It didn’t take long before we reached the long anticipated club of which the Frenchmen had heard so much about. A crowd of foreigners with drinks in their hands and more than a little wobble in their step stood by the club’s entrance. The “club” had no door to speak of; instead, it stood open to the air emanating clubbers and other creatures of the night. Inside was a long bar that stretched back along the wall until it hit a small clearing, adjacent to a handful of speakers resting on a stage set aside for the DJ, that functioned as the dance floor. Bursts of multi-colored, oscillating light and clouds of smoke light emerged from the club making it look as if a few aliens had decided to park their flying saucer in between two buildings.
 
Without a moment’s notice, Hannah disappeared into the club, and the Frenchmen were absorbed into the cloud of foreigners coalescing outside the club. It was well past 12 o’ clock at that point. I was thoroughly tired, so I slipped off, leaving the others behind to watch Hannah, while I went to get some rest before the sun crested the horizon. Walking back alone, I must admit I was a bit sketched-out. I hurried along past spots of momentary darkness and kept my distance from the prostitutes that propositioned me as I walked by them. Soon enough, I was back on the road and past the chilling entreaties of grotesque shadows and other horrors, concocted by the imagination, that crawled up from the alleyways. I strode briskly down the sidewalk and avoided eye contact at all costs until I made it back. Finally, I was back at the hotel and knocking on the door to our room. Phil, justifiably irritated, answered the door and let me in out of the early morning hours. I was exhausted and my head was spinning. I couldn’t help flopping down onto my bed and tucking a pillow under my head once inside. I closed my eyes and let sleep take me away.


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