Sometimes you are reminded of things… Things that have become part of who you are, part of what you are. These are not things that you think about every day or even every month but, sometimes, you are just struck by how much you miss something. I have been too busy commuting between jobs to think about much recently, but tonight while sitting one of my twice-weekly Japanese lessons it struck me how much I miss Asia.
When I’m in Asia I’m more European than I am while in Europe. Perhaps not, perhaps being in such a different society heightens self-awareness. I can, for example, sit on a train in Sweden, Demark, the United Kingdom or Spain reading a book and pass as a reasonably intelligent resident – someone who fits in well enough not to be worth repeated consideration. Whether in Korea, Japan, Taiwan or Hong Kong I stand out. No matter what I do it’s very clear that I don’t “quite” belong.
Yet, in some ways I feel more at home in Asia than I do in Europe. Japan is certainly more homely than Spain for me. Then again, I consider anything less well-organised than Switzerland or Norway to be a truly barbaric place unworthy of respect or serious regard. At times, I admit, even Britain can be a bit loud and rowdy for my tastes.
I thought this evening of glorious sunrises over the eastern Japanese coast – Amaterasu emerging for the day. I thought of sunsets over Japan’s plains, over Japan’s mountains – Amaterasu bids her adieux and gives way to Apollo and his chariot. I suddenly found myself thinking about the humidity, the sweltering heat of the South China Sea. The green mountains, the clang of the Ding Ding on Hong Kong Island, the glorious light of an autumn afternoon in Taiwan.
I miss it and I long for it. I find no charm in Senegalese touts, “nuevos zapatos Nike, nuevos zapatos Adidas, todos baratos”!!! Bloody irksome, they pile their knock-off goods on blankets in the Metro, by every way out – just out of sight of authorities. Naturally, everyone knows what happens – CCTV cameras are everywhere as terrorism is a real threat in Spain. Yet, no one does anything about it. They’re harmless, one supposes, and certainly less irksome than the detritus washed up on Spain’s shores from Romania and Bulgaria. The most deformed Gypsies, unwashed, unkempt highlighting their maladies, crippled limbs and grotesque disfigurements screaming out for alms, saying “gracias, muchisimos gracias” in advance. I am eternally grateful to those Spaniards who call them out on their antics and tell them to “bugger off”.
Of some annoyance are buskers, some Spanish, many Andean. In small carriages they trap us, turn us into their captive audience. Some are marginally tolerable – not enough for me to open my wallet, mind you, but just enough to not wish to toss them in front of the next speeding train. “Bloody well, play your rudding pipes. I don’t want to listen to Veronica Maggio or Sky-Hi, I only had them playing on my MP3 player until you could bless me with your presence. Please, never leave me again. I just can’t bear the thought”. Such things don’t happen in the more civilised parts of Asia. They would be stopped.