Tuesday, 23 April 2019

the tourist

when you are not travelling-in-a-relationship, you will be the designated photographer for a lot of random couples. sometimes i offer if i am in the middle of some deep ass swiss valley with no one in sight and they are struggling to rest their newly purchased* dslr on a boulder of sorts. most of the times, if you are somewhere popular—paris, prague, (gah i'm out of p cities), rome, london—people just naturally form a line in front of a monuement and hand me their cameras as if i won't do that joke where i take a rapid step as if to run just to see their panic.

then, the polite couples will usually turn and ask me if i'd like a photo. i only said 'yes' once, in 2011. i was in london and there was some parade going on, a couple asked me to take their photo, and i did. 'wow that's a really good photo! thank you!' no worries, i said. then the couple asked if i'd like a photo, i figured if they looked at the photo i took and really liked it, surely they will take one where i can say 'wow! that's a really good photo! thank you!'. i passed them my camera and forgot about it.

months later i was looking through all the developed photos and there was just a random one of a blurred buckingham palace with a parade in front. it was kind of on an unintentional dutch angle, as if the shutter had pushed one side of the camera down. what is this photo? i don't remember taking this? then i searched the photo like a page of where's wally (waldo for ya americans) (holger for ya danes) (charlie for ya frenchies) for a clue of why i might have taken it. then in the lower left hand corner, i see my face. but just my face, i can't describe it, it was like this except 100% blurry:

though i feel like with instagram culture, most people are pretty good photographers these days? so i should try and say yes again in the future to finally update that profile picture from 2016.

*i'm not being condescending, one of my favourite things about taking other people's new facebook profile pics is seeing their equipment. they all have newly released cameras! sometimes i think about how after this trip, they will probably never use the camera again.

Saturday, 23 February 2019


the other day i caught a train to see the dune du pilat which is a pile of sand an hour from bordeaux. when i arrived i was reminded again of my love for oceans and forests and the mist that settles around where they meet. the place can be described as an underwhelming and rationed version of dunes in australia. i'm not saying this dune wasn't good enough, because it was beautiful, but let's just say there's more sand to be found at a chinese construction site.

towards the end of my trip i encountered a taiwanese mother and son duo on holiday in the region for the week. the son told me i could hang out with them if i wanted to—as i was alone. i almost teared up because it was the nicest thing a stranger had said to me in nine months (wow is that how long i have been in france?).

yesterday i was talking to my love about how i met these two people from taiwan and he said 'oh, i met a taiwanese person at work recently,' (he works on weekends in a tea shop that sells overpriced tea) 'he bought some tea.' i looked at him and knew, 'it's the same person.' 

me: he's tall-ish and has a bowl-like cut if the bowl was dish that is very shallow and could double as a plate... 
him: yeah...
me: he speaks english with an american accent and is super polite!
him: yeah
me: *pulls out a photo* IS THIS HIM??
him: *bursts into laughter* yeah!

damn, in taiwan they call that 缘分.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

when i saw stars in the sea

les calanques near marseille—there are numerous—i went to the calanque de sugiton because it was the easiest to reach. i had woken up at five am that day because i had to catch a flight to marseille airport which was (still is) 100% not in marseille, then a bus to town, then a subway to an outer suburb, then a bus to an even outer suburb, and then hike an hour. so you can bet your bottom dollar i stayed in the sun (which i hadn't see for a long time) until i was out of snacks to eat and pages to read but mainly snacks to eat.

walking back up the stone steps by the sea made me feel like i was in some cinematic version of a greek summer. the grand rock formations by the crystal clear water easily drew out human emotions, like you felt... if a town was at its sea-step it would bear only love stories.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

collecting stories at airports

there was a security scare at frankfurt airport and i was stuck for a while, majority of my time was spent eating soft pretzels (at one point i bought five thinking i will ration them but i ate them one after another and have no regrets, tbh my only regret is not eating more). between eating, i spoke to others i encountered, here are a few of many people:

48 hours earlier, julien had been drinking a beer while steering a boat on a lake in kraków. he was then arrested by the 'boat police' and thrown in jail where he stayed for 24 hours, before being released and given a fine he doesn't intend on paying. he didn't speak any polish, and he didn't call the french ambassador when he was arrested because he didn't want to worry his parents. he says he was stripped fully, and then searched beyond that. he shared a cell with a chainsmoker and didn't eat the one meal he was served. he tells the story with humour and adds 'you know this story is way better in french, it's a shame you are hearing it in english because my english is... comment on dit, merde!'

ismael came to frankfurt 30 years ago, he is half turkish and half kurdish. he has two daughters with his first wife, who unfortunately passed away. he has another baby daughter now with his current wife. he spends all his spare time with his daughters and grandkids. 'they are schön,' he says, and shows me photos on his phone. 'sehr schön,' i respond. he tells me his mama passed away when she was 60 but his father is 104 and still kicking. i don't believe him and he shows me a photo, and yes, his father is literally kicking the air in one image dated last month. he kisses my hand goodbye and wishes me the best for this life.

she reminded me of a teacher i had when i was 11. she is visiting one of her daughters in frankfurt, her other children are based in england, canada, and the usa. she is en route to visit her sister in sweden. her husband and her mother both passed away in the last couple of years, and she says it's been difficult to move on. she has never migrated like the rest of her family because her husband and her always loved life in tehran. he was a professor in mathematics. her eyes light up when she mentions his past students still visit her, and view her as a second mother. she tells me things that i have been thinking about with my own family in the last couple of days, and when we part i feel the daylight dim a little.

Friday, 29 June 2018

unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups


when we were in beijing it rained. i found it a bit suss the raindrops were achingly heavy, kind of like getting hit by hundreds of baby water bombs as opposed to 'rain'. by the time we found cover (thank you taxi driver), our white t-shirts were covered in blotches of brown—it had rained dirt. the last time this happened i got pneumonia and was given ten days to live, so a brown t-shirt was aight.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

divide and conquer

pineapple* bun

*no pineapple zone

Monday, 11 June 2018


this is something that happened almost six years ago. i was en route to shanghai after a few days by the li river in yangshuo. i left early in the morning, headed to the bus stop, and caught the next one available to guilin (from where i could take the train to shanghai).

upon arrival in guilin, everybody shuffled out of the bus. as i was the last one to alight, the bus driver looked at me and asked 'where are you off to?' i responded the train station, which i knew was a few hundred metres walk away. he leaned closer and warned 'hold on to your belongings. whatever you do, hold on to everything. thieves are everywhere.' i laughed and thanked him for the tip. 'no, this is no time to laugh. you have to hold onto everything, it's dangerous between here and the train station.' i nodded but felt blissfully ignorant and confident.

my phone was in my pocket (deep by pocket depth standards, there was no way someone was going to be able to reach into it without me noticing), and my belongings were all locked in my backpack.

when i was almost at the train station, i stopped by a small grocer for ice cream. as i was buying the ice cream, the man behind the counter asked me 'where are you going?' and i tell him i'm just going to the train station, which was now less than a 100 metres away. he looked at me, and said 'between here and the train station are plenty of thieves, makes sure you hold onto your belongings.' i looked down and could still feel the weight of my phone, so i didn't reach for it incase he was a thief.

this story could have ended here and the scars of that day would have never existed, but as i closed in on the train station, i decided to stop by the post office near the entrance to send some postcards. it was exceptionally dark for a public institution that was not a jail. suddenly i felt a hit to my body, i can't describe the sensation, i looked down and saw blood my pocket (deep as it was compared to standard pocket depths!) was turned inside out.

my phone was gone. 

sure, i noticed.

but my phone was gone.


those moments immediately after felt strange. my head started spinning and my stomach wanted out. i threw the postcards i had intended to send in the bin because the weight of five cards suddenly multiplied. i looked around to see the man who bumped into me walking out the door. i ran after him, out onto the street.

'you stole my phone,' i said to him. 

he turned to look at me, there were some people who stopped to see his response and he laughed. 'i didn't,' he said with a smile, 'but there are a lot of thieves around, you have to be very careful, and hold onto everything!' he got on his motorbike, and before i could gather my next thought, he drove off.

later when i finally got to file a police report they kept asking me if the thief was uyghur (he wasn't), berated me, blamed me, and said i deserved what happened because i was 'travelling instead studying'. 


Monday, 16 April 2018

spill the lemon tea please

every day i walk past so many stories i will never know