Recollections (The beginning of the journey)

Derry, Ireland (15th September 2011)

DerryI was feeling vulnerable due to tiredness, grey skies and to an almost complete lack of social interaction for over two weeks. The town was, as usual, charming. One morning I decided to visit “The Troubles” area and get imbued with a history I knew well. A whole semester of post graduate studies about the “Anglo-Irish conflict in the literature”, dozens of books about the “Home Rule” and “The Troubles”, and several movies (The Wind that Shakes the Barley, still makes me shiver) made me unbeatable at the topic!
So there I go, under a threatening gloomy grey sky and a paper map in my hand, to walk around those historical streets. Known is my lack of orientation. So, somehow I started in the right point but I took the wrong turn at some street and I found myself walking into a suburb. I kept walking and walking despite the fact that my gut was telling me I was not in the right place. After a while it started to rain, heavily, as it happens there. No “public houses” around, only private ones. To add more discomfort, after a while I also needed to pee. So, visualize a damped, lost, tired person needing to pee. Now make that person a very shy girl and imagine now how hard it could have been when a good 20 minutes later I saw a shabby pub in a corner. There was a man smoking outside. I passed the pub. Couldn’t go in. That was exactly one of the places where going in is a big challenge, one of those places where one won’t go unnoticed, I though. I felt really small. Yet, after a few meters away from the pub, I realized the main reason of traveling solo was to put myself outside my comfort zone. Become stronger.
And that was one opportunity to do so. The first one.

I turned around and into the pub I went. As I expected it was small and filthy, the bar was sticky and a coffee machine was nowhere to be seen. Only beer taps and bottles. I was cold, wet and tired, the last thing I wanted was a cold alcoholic drink. I could have killed for a warm cup of coffee or tea. I greeted quietly the crowd: a toothless woman, the man smoking outside who went straight in after me, and a young lad behind the bar. Asked for a toilet and followed where the boy pointed, feeling three pair of eyes on my back. Went out. Asked for a cup of tea feeling so ridiculous that I begged they say no so that I could leave the place. The toothless woman then told the boy to put the kettle on and serve me a cup of tea while laughing. I wanted to disappear. She pointed me a seat next to her. The boy presented a grubby cup (which was presumably his) in front of me. The woman started to make conversation with me. Stupid men and horse bets. Definitely not a topic I enjoy. Despite all predictions, I bursted off laughing a couple of times. I had fun with the conversation, and that “muddy” tea which I wasn’t allowed to pay afterwards, warmed my heart.

That tea was all I needed to continue my journey.

Felt home, welcomed and encouraged. It felt like a pat on my back telling me to regain energies to go out into the world again.

New Delhi, India (1st March 2012)

Delhi

I woke up pretty early. Jet lag is not something that affects me much. Haven’t really experienced it or if I have, I haven’t felt it as jet lag but only as bad sleeps…

Woke up early. It was warm and I felt weird.

Excited but with the feeling of rightness.

Silence. Unexpected silence as the welcoming on the house was very noisy because of two big dogs the night before. Nobody was home. I left my room and moved around. Orientating, since the previous night I went straight to my bedroom because it was late and the dogs were about to eat me.

So I explored the small apartment, charmingly decorated. Ample. Bright. Few colorful furniture pieces, a beige couch and the glass doors to the terrace. I opened the doors and went out. The hustle and bustle of the back streets welcomed me. Barks, bike bell sounds, chatter and cars in the distance.  Scorching sun. There was the misty silhouette of a temple in the horizon. I went back to the kitchen. There was fresh coffee and I served myself a cup. That smell. Went back to the terrace and sat in the cushioned straw chairs with my legs up.

All my senses where alert, alive with all the novelty but I felt an immense peaceful happiness inside. That felt right. It was the first time I traveled that far on my own. Me, the shy coward awkward girl was in India on her own. I proved wrong all the people who I allowed to belittle me for too long in the past. I felt proud and worth it.

And felt I could do whatever I wanted in my peaceful, relaxed and quiet way.

 

Istanbul, Turkey (12th June 2012)

Istambul

All about Istanbul screamed sensuality. A pleasure for the senses. Voluptuous city. Sensuous, from the apple teas to the deep dark gazes. Those men stared at you without fear. Appreciative. Still sexist but never felt threatened, only… sexy.

The weather was very warm and I was wearing a very short orange dress. After my time in India were I had to cover my legs and arms, being able to feel the sun and wind directly on my skin was an absolute pleasure.

I got into the habit of going for a walk right after my breakfast. I wandered around for a while and I allowed myself to be chatted up. All empty flirtatious comments that meant nothing to me, but they were part of the learning. I had to learn to be comfortable amongst the “alpha males” and stand my grounds. After a good while walking around I headed to my hostel. Next to it there was a fancy bar – restaurant with long couches and soft music. A dark haired man was standing on the door welcoming the clients. Wide smile and a bit shy because he wasn’t looking straight into my eyes. I went in and he came after me. Went out again. Went in, came closer and asked me if I liked my drink. He left again. Came back and asked my name and reasons of my stay. One could tell he was slightly nervous. I wasn’t. I experienced a mischievous delight in that discomfort because it was normally the other way round. I was feeling confident, relaxed and would have accepted a drink if he had asked.