How Long Will That Take?
"How long will that take? The time on the meter is about to run out – can't you do mine faster, surely it doesn't take that long!" She means can I jump her to the front of the queue, above all the other people waiting for their 'happy
snaps' of over exposed photos to be printed out on our shit 0.5c per paper sheets.
Her complaining dissolves in with the background noise of whirring machines and the ever present traffic outside the photo processing shop I call home from 8 till 5 Monday till Friday.
During most of these times especially when I'm at the peak of my boredom I think back to days gone by, to holidays past. I lived last year in Bangkok, Thailand for 6 months and 2 years before that in Japan on Kyuu Shuu Island for 1 and a half years.
I dream about which country I'd like to return to, places I've been things I've done. I had trod the well worn path of teaching English, making 30,000 baht per month in Thailand and $2100 US per month in Japan. They both were not a lot of money and I spent nearly triple that each of the months that I had lived in Thailand, mostly on travel and food.
I think back to the absolute unpreparedness with which I travelled to Hua Hin with my new-found friend, Wan from Korea. Easy as you come, 'you wanna go' 'ok, I'm ready now' attitude. And, after a long day at Cha Am beach, and my skin feeling slightly dry from the omnipresent sun, we took the van back to Hua Hin. There sat a 21-year old Thai girl. I know now why guys can be attracted to younger girls. That playfulness and enthusiasm she had when she talked to me. She just wanted to have fun and enjoy life.
Us travelling back in the van, and she turns around and starts telling me her stories, as like little kids do. Telling you all their stories and thoughts about life. I look at her and appreciate her beauty as the wind blows her hair about wildly, and her unhindered enthusiasm to tell me so many of her thoughts – most of which I only can half guess the entire meaning.
I remember just sitting there, catching phrases and sentences here and there, resting my chin in the cup of my hand, my elbow on the window watching the city streets rush by, the cluttered buildings, the tourists and the locals all hot, sticky, happy. The voices of Wan and the other Thai boy we just met, in the background making jokes, the girl's stories in Thai drifting happily like music thru the clouds of my mind and I'm happily in another place right now, a place of pure relaxation. – "I've been waiting here 10 minutes!! Aren't they ready yet?! If you don't have them ready soon, I'm going to have to ask for my money back and my stick! I want my stick – you haven't lost my stick have you!?"
Back to reality. No Ma'am, I haven't lost your 'stick', and we are going as fast as we can, it's just that 'this is a really cheap place you've come to, to process some really poorly taken photos on some really shit photographic paper' – I wish; it's just that there are a few people who were ahead of you and we have to complete theirs first. They have been waiting longer. I'm really sorry'
Japan… I remember the grey ominous clouds gathering signalling the downpour that can be timed to 4pm perfection every afternoon in the rainy season. I race out the shopping centre after a few easy classes of 2 people and jump on my Honda super 4 series and nimbly nip through the afternoon traffic. The wind happily making a mess of Japans perfect streets…
The countryside flying by at 220 km/hr on the shinkansen, the smooth rock of the train lulling me to sleep… playing soccer each evening on the roof top in the tropical summer heat, hanging out with friends afterwards in one of the massive entertainment centres with rock climbing, video games, fishing, baseball, karaoke anything you can imagine that would be helpful in reducing the stress of the overworked salary man in Japan, it is but a massive playground for me.
"Thanks a lot" she says sarcastically, unceremoniously dumping her coins from a height onto the counter, expecting me to sort it from there. Watching her walk out the door in pants that were never have meant to have been tights, I see the manager walking over to me, ready to quiz me on why I upset her… and I think it will be Japan. That's where I'll go back to. Thailand was so much fun, but Japan just had something special about it. Something in the friendships I made that were a little bit more real. Maybe more deep or maybe the word I'm looking for is permanent. Friendships in Thailand are too fleeting and I'm into my mid-30s now and no longer need new friends each day to keep me happy. As I watch the sweat trickle down Sam's forehead, his words not even making an impression on my thoughts I'm already looking forward to next year, I'll have enough money saved. I'll buy another motorbike. I'll have great friendships, lots of guys to play sport with and girls to chat and hang out with. I can't wait, I mean it, I really can't wait…
The best times in my life have all been outside my homeland. I don't see that changing and as such, when I have thoughts of returning "home", I have to remind myself that once there, I'll be thinking about when I'll be leaving!