Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Puss In Boots

It never fails to amaze me how people are so different in various parts of the world. I especially love traveling to countries I've never been to previously... and a habit of mine is wondering how it would be to be a native of a particular country.

A few years ago I went to Amsterdam. It's absolutely beautiful, that country. At the same time, it was perfectly foreign to me. I adored how their language just rolls off the people's mouths and how the culture just oozes out of everything -- from the liberal brothels (situated right next to churches, mind) to the shameless ads of "we serve E" or "we sell marijuana" to funky (and I mean, FUNKY) clothing. I remember eating a meal consisting of bread, cheese and wine whilst watching people walking around. I wondered how it would be to be one of them. Everyone seemed to know where they're going and what they wanted. No one gave the train maps tacked on the walls a second look and simply proceeded to the right tracks. Even the quaint little stores seemed to be standing there for specific purposes... and they attracted certain markets too. And no one spoke a word of English except to those fortunate ones, like me, for instance, who aren't originally from there. Being naturally non-European, I had the words "TOURIST" etched on my forehead in big bold letters.

Going to France made me feel resentful... it made me feel resentful of the fact that I couldn't speak French and therefore is deprived of the seeming presence of a password in order to thoroughly enjoy the country. I was envious of the people who knew Paris like the back of their hands and those who would expertly turn round the confusing corners of the "rues" plopping down the seats of their favorite French cafes. And ordering complex coffees without batting an eyelash. Achingly fashionable women would be walking around wearing dark sunglasses and impractical gloves (not to mention shoes) holding either their equally beautiful dogs or numerous shopping bags.

In Germany, I rode the train from Heidelberg to Frankfurt. I was 16 years old back then... and I couldn't help but notice a group of youngsters board the train. They were animatedly and colorfully having this conversation. Naturally, I didn't understand them but I could just imagine them talking about their other friends, what they were to do for the day (perhaps for the evening), what happened yesterday, etc. I thought about how it would be to go back to their Heidelberg homes. Would they tell their parents what they did for the day during dinner? Would they have a dinner consisting of beans, potatoes and some meat? And would they drink bubbled water? How would it be for them when school starts? How far are their schools from their houses? Do they ride a bus or the train? How would it be to live there? Would I be able to easily acquire the language as my Dad's German business associates often tell me?

I think that going to a country that utilizes a totally different language adds to my enthrallment of the place. London is exquisite, yes, but once the novelty of their accents and local slang had worn off, it was just like any other place. I feel the same towards the US. Even Singapore.

Thailand is one of the few Asian countries I've been to that doesn't widely use English. And I felt the same fascination towards them. As I would ride the cab around the city, I would glue my eyes onto the signs written in Thai and just observe. I didn't even feel the desire to know what they mean... but I had liked looking at them. They were prettily written with their perfect curves and details. I used to feel that way towards the Chinese characters too whenever I'm in Hong Kong. But ever since I've studied the language, and eventually learned the secrets (and because they're virtually everywhere), I have lost interest. It's no longer a mystery. Perhaps one day, when I go to Mongolia, the spark would come back *wink* as their magnificent culture will be thrown into the mix...

I pray that I can add more experiences into my young travelling collection. I wish to go to more exotic places where my imagination can run and play... and save the more commercial places for when I've already settled down in my life. I want to go back to Italy (for more than two days this time hmph!) and really get to know the place... and then travel south to Spain. Scandinavia, Egypt, Russia and Israel remain to be favorite future destinations *eyes twinkling*

If only... if only...


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