My curiosity was piqued by a line in a previous post about never having felt “at home” anywhere in the world. And I began to wonder again about all those notions of home that haunt us, how much home is a part of our collective mythology, marketing’s imagery, societal constructs and each person’s own concept of a mini-nirvana – the hope for a place where we can be fully ourselves…

And I wonder what it is that makes someone feel like a pariah in their homeland? Whence that dissatisfaction, that itch to see how those elsewhere go about this business of existence? Is it mere curiosity or a deeper need of displacement?

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Having lived significant amounts of time in the States, England and now New Zealand, I have inherited a weird mix of colloquialisms and phrases. I am often unsure of where I even originally picked up certain words.

If I said to you: “Can you suss it out for me?” or “I need to get it sussed,” would the Americans among you understand this? You could probably figure it out from the context, but is “suss” a word you would use? I think I probably picked that one up in the UK, but I can’t really remember now.

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Riding on the Metrooooo.

Tuesday, I got brave. I faced my fears of getting lost and pickpockets (actually, I wasn’t afraid of the latter until my other half continuously warned me of them, that nerd), and headed into the big city. I took the train, which wasn’t intimidating (although the huge sound that bounces back at you when you pass a train going in the opposite direction made me jump every time), but upon my arrival in Paris came the make it or break it moment…

The Metro.

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Mongolia is a strange place to be coming home to. Even when you think you’re prepared for the craziness (and in fact when that’s precisely what you’ve been missing), you’re not really prepared for the craziness. It constantly takes you off guard. Can a place like that ever really be home to an outsider?
Ulaanbaatar is in a state of panic – but panic pure Mongol-style, ie. totally inappropriate, illogical and likely to blow over in a week. Despite being still fragile after the two-day overland obstacle course through the seventh circle of hell, or Inner Mongolia (see my site for gruesome details), I am falling over laughing at the stringent anti-SARS measures, which include dodgy handmade surgical masks, gum boots, swimming goggles and the closure of all hospitals.
All open air markets have been closed but all indoor food markets are doing a roaring trade – indoors the food is kinda protected and there’s less, like, air, right?
The people who stand on the street with satellite phones wrapped in felt have now branched into selling surgical masks as a sideline. They’ve found their niche market, as all the chemists have sold out of face masks. I love the incompetence.
But this is the country where roosters lay eggs and people eat them, so nothing less should be expected. And for the moment, it’s home. Which means a bed in a room, music, work and some good people. A knowledge of the best back streets in town, the hidden temples. Shopkeepers who know me, people who worry about me.
I don’t quite know what people look for or need in a home. I do know that some people have a hard time accepting that the place I was born is not the place I want to call home forever and ever.
As much as I don’t want to live there anymore, I still pine for it, regularly. I yearn for a quiet empty beach, a storm in the afternoon, to walk in the bush with my dog, to sit in the same room as any member of my family. To be understood, easily and effortlessly – someone understanding immediately where I’m from, the things I grew up with, how to make me laugh.
Maybe everyone has a grass-is-greener syndrome. Maybe it’s just something that mellows with time. But maybe it never totally goes away.

Fun with accents

I’m losing my Dutch accent, but I still have quite a bit of it. I especially have trouble with the ‘th’ sound, as in ‘thirty’. But to be honest, I’m not trying too hard either. Sometimes, this leads to funny situations.
Last year, my wife and I went to see a movie with a friend of ours. While one was buying tickets and the other went to the bathroom, I was at the concession stand buying drinks and popcorn.
“I’ll have a Pepsi, a Diet Pepsi, a Mountain Dew and three popcorns, I said. The girl behind the stand was looking at me kind of funny, like I insulted her and she didn’t know how to respond. She proceeded filling the cups and then asked “and what else did you want again?”
“Ehm…three popcorn”, I said. After another weird look and 2 seconds of silence she answered “I’m sorry sir, but you’ll have to pay for the popcorn”.

Ever since that day I started holding up three fingers in situations where I had to specify “3” “)

Trip To Melaka, Part I

I went to Melaka yesterday.

It was a business trip, to visiting some potential customers. I went with two guys from my office.

One of the guys, I’ll call him Charlie, did the driving. Charlie drives an Alfa Romeo. I don’t know the model or the engine size, but it’s a sporty looking silver car.

I should have realised something was amiss as soon as I saw the car. Red leather interior. Big stereo with lots of flashy buttons and bright coloured lights, like a little space ship. Sports package gear box.

Boy racer car.

My other colleage immediately took the back seat and fastened his seatbelt. I clambered into the front passenger seat.

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