The last time I saw you, I was looking down from a balcony, Juliet to your Romeo.
“Good night,” you called out.
“Good night!” I called back, even though I knew it was really goodbye. You walked away through the palm trees, headed to the beach on which we’d met.
That day had been my first day underwater as a scuba diver, and so, by the time the sun was getting low and heavy on the horizon, I was already buzzing with energy and laughter. Our dive group celebrated at the local bar, migrating to the sand as bonfires were lit, drinking cold beers and watching paper lanterns fill the sky. It was around one of those fires that I first saw you, the light flickering shades of red across your face.
“Valentin,” you offered, extending your hand. It took me aback. Today, after all was the 14th of February. “My name,” you confirmed, “is Valentin.”
Tomorrow is Chinese New Year. The New Year is more than just a celebration; it is the start of a new agricultural year, and a time for loved ones to meet. It is also a time to prepare for good luck, and to encourage luck to enter your home so that the next 12 months to come are healthy, happy, and prosperous.
But how to prepare for luck?
On our third day in Yangon, my friend Kerri and I decided to join our new friends Uros and Jerome for a ride on the Circle Train. We had all heard that it was a great way to spend a few hours, a great way to see some of the sights of the city for ourselves. I couldn’t wait – to see a country through the window of a train is one of my favourite ways to sightsee. The train is so named because it literally circles the city of Yangon; the whole journey takes approximately three hours, and a train comes every hour.
It was March in Varanasi, and I had arrived as part of a three-week tour around India. I hesitated signing up for it all those months ago, when I was still mapping the route I’d take through Southeast and South Asia, an eight-month adventure that I’d thought of for years. I had never taken a tour of any kind, and I envisioned a bus full of khaki-wearing, sunburnt tourists, the kind who refused to eat street food or use a public toilet. As a solo traveller, I finally decided it would be easier and safer to travel with a group, even if it meant our days were sometimes planned down to the hour.
This place was sacred. Bodies burned day and night on the ghats, the steps leading to the Ganges; it was not uncommon to find bits of ash in your hair or on your skin. I balked at the chance to drink tea with the holy men after I learned that the Ganges was the source of the water, even though, as my guide told me, “It will make you closer to India.” I watched each morning as men and women bathed in the river, washed their faces in the river, drank from the river. Hindus and Jains came here to die, the Ganges serving as the divine cosmic road to salvation. Tourist boats rode up and down the water, the people on them snapping photos of cremations.
One of the things I really love about these semi-regular Around the World posts is that, while I’m travelling, I’m not consciously thinking, “I must take photos of Volkswagens.” I just end up taking pictures of things that I like, and lo and behold, I end up with a lot of the same shots, like puppies or seafood or random drunk backpackers (yes, those are three of my favourite things). These posts have helped me discover themes in my photography, and it has been very fun to search for the accompanying photos.
In this case, it’s Volkswagen vehicles. I’ve never owned a Volkswagen, but I love that I’ve seen them all over the world, in all different colours.