Some of you are brand new to This Battered Suitcase, and some of you have followed it for years, maybe even since Livejournal (hi, Naomi). This is just a thank you for being such a supportive, creative, incredible group of people. As a small thank you, I have a copy of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air to give away; fitting, perhaps, because of my last post. I haven’t read it yet, only Into the Wild, but I’ve heard it is absolutely amazing. I will also throw in some treats from London (I hope you like tea and chocolate). I have some other exciting giveaways coming up in the future, but, on this slightly cloudy day in London, I felt I wanted to do something right now.
Some of you are brand new to This Battered Suitcase, and some of you have ...
“There she is.” The pilot’s finger, held up against the window of the cockpit, nearly ...
When I walked out of my hostel in Rangoon all those years ago, I couldn't ...
The sun was shy during my stay in Paraty. One moment it would come out, ...
One hand is over my face, sprawled across my mouth and nose to hold my ...
“There she is.” The pilot’s finger, held up against the window of the cockpit, nearly obliterated the very thing I had come all this way and paid all this money to see.
“That one?” I put my own finger to the cold glass, aware that the propellers on the small airplane were swallowing my voice. Each mountain seemed roughly the same, barely varying in shape or height. I looked to the pilot for confirmation. He smiled with big, white, snowcapped teeth.
“Yes,” he mouthed over the whir of the propeller’s blades. “That’s Everest.”
When I walked out of my hostel in Rangoon all those years ago, I couldn’t stop whirling around, taking in all of my surroundings. I felt overcome by my senses: the jangling of the sugar cane man’s bells, the smell of frying vegetables, the air so thick and humid I could open my mouth and drink it in. And the colours, too, drip-drying at the laundry and splashed across markets and swirled on the faces of those around me.
But what about in London?
The sun was shy during my stay in Paraty. One moment it would come out, round and inviting, turning the waves blue and the sand yellow. Just as your skin would warm, it would retreat, the ocean turning a black snarling thing again, the sand gritty and brown. Still I liked this place a lot, liked its charm and its maze of cobbled roads. I found a group of backpackers I had met in Rio and we sat on the beach come rain or shine. We drank sweating cans of beer and threw our barbecue scraps to the stray dogs who’d scratch and whine, driven crazy by the wafts of meat.
One hand is over my face, sprawled across my mouth and nose to hold my mask and regulator in their places. The other hand is at my waist, gripping my weight belt. I feel that familiar sensation in my stomach, the ambiguous churning that could be excitement or fear. My breathing is already rhythmic, meditative, the heavy rasps of the regulator audible over the waves lapping against the boat.
“Go when I say go, and have a wonderful dive,” the divemaster singsongs. “One, two, three, go!”
“What’s a Beaver Tail?”
All eyes looked to me for the answer. We stood beside a huge ice sculpture; it was one of many at the Festival du Voyageur, a ten-day celebration of Canada’s fur-trading past and of Winnipeg’s French community. I had gone almost every year as a child, but this was the first time I’d been in Winnipeg in February for a long time. The temperature registered a frigid -31 degrees Celsius, and that was without windchill. My hometown is infamous for being one of the coldest cities in the world, often challenging its residents with a solid few weeks of -40 and below every January and February. We are hearty folk, us Winnipeggers, and we’re damn proud of it. There’s something about the cold that invigorates us, that makes us push out our chests and breathe in deep, as if to prove that we can take it.
You were relaxed in a way the others weren’t, your limbs long and loose. As I dug my toes in the sand I tried to catch snippets of your conversation; I soon figured out you were speaking German, and I couldn’t have understood even if I wanted to. And yet, I kept looking your way, and you mine.
Bodies shifted, and soon we were beside each other.
“Valentin,” you offered, extending your hand. It took me aback. Today, after all was the 14th of February. “My name,” you confirmed, “is Valentin.”
There’s a time in most adolescent lives when everything starts to change, when the things you did last week now seemed juvenile. We all become misfits for some brief, difficult years, lured by the different and the dangerous. We become obsessed with something with the zeal that only teenagers possess, purposefully ostracize ourselves from the adults in our lives. Some kids turn to music. Some kids turn to drugs and alcohol. My obsession became the world itself.
When I was a little girl, I used to love watching the Olympics. My favourite sports to watch in the winter games were figure skating, speed skating, ski jumping, hockey, and luge. It was a pretty big event in my household; for both the summer and winter games, my whole family would crowd around and watch the events on TV. One of my biggest regrets in life is not being in Canada when we won the gold medal for hockey in the Vancouver 2010 games.
I rarely get political on this blog; I’ve always maintained it’s not a place for that. I felt a need to write about what’s going on in Russia, though, because it absolutely breaks my heart.