10 years in Asia

It’s my anniversary today! I packed up my backpack and moved to Asia for the first time 12 years ago today. Later, I went back for approximately 2 years. So it’s not exact to the day, but it is my day nevertheless. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a digital camera until the end of 2003, so from the beginning all I have is a hundred or so scans from prints, originally done with some fancy camera I borrowed and did not manage to focus, and many many hours of video footage.

My favourite students in Taiwan in 2003. The little one, Richie, taught himself to read English before he was 3. I always like the smart and naughty ones with a strong character 🙂 Sometimes I wonder where they could be now. I still have some contacts from there but never been back.

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Padangbai, Bali, 2003. Scan of a traditional printed photo, the last time I ever did prints. Padangbai still has some of these old boats but time hasn’t exactly been kind to the place. This is when I fell in love with Bali but I was quite sick much of the time so I always knew I had to go back.

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Ko Chang, Thailand, 2005. The iconic Treehouse. I was relaxing here before I went “home” to Chiang Mai to look for a job.

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A couple of weeks later, my first job. He was my favourite kid. I know I’m not supposed to have favourites but of course I always do. Here he is sleeping with a colleague but he preferred me. He also got me my first nickname. We were Small Elephant and Big Elephant.

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2006, Vientiane, Laos (visa trip) – I haven’t been back there since. I really wonder what it could be like now.

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2006, Chiang Mai, colleagues and students on the first teachers’ day at the school where I stayed for 6 years.

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2007 trip to Angkor.

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2008 my first kids graduated. And it’s never been so close, so personal, so emotional since. They finished grade 6 a couple of months ago and none of them are at the same school any longer.

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2008 first trip to Malaysia (Cameron highlands). I got addicted to the language, the relatively European feel, the bookshops, and enjoyed shivering.

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2009 Borneo, my most difficult trip in terms of organising things and going places on a very tight schedule.

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2009 first time in Ko Surin national park and falling in love with snorkelling over and over again.

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2010 first zipline adventure

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2010 trip to Burma with my parents, and first time with my best camera, which only survived a year.

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2011 getting shipwrecked (right there)

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2011 trip to Malaysia, trying to bounce back, deal with depression, and my most memorable holiday romance.

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2012 last graduation in Thailand. I had been hanging by a very thin thread for a long time and it was a relief to leave.

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Longest trip ever, 2012 Singapore…

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…Java….

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returning to Bali, and then the first trip to Flores, and a love affair that’s eating me up ever since….

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2012 Yangon, new school, new home, never really a home, but a great job, and so many nice people

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Another longest trip, all my long-time dreams, lots of ups and downs, but the best ever, 2013 Sulawesi….

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…Banda…

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…Papua. I still don’t scuba dive, really wish I could. Snorkelling said to be the best in the world.

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And then, 2014  today, a view of the Himalayas from the road to Sarangkot, like photoshopped mountains in the sky.

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Where do I go from here? No idea. It’s never been a walk in the park. It’s never been my first choice for a life. But I’m trying to make some sense of it. Working hard, trying to make a difference, then going places, surviving, observing, listening, taking pictures, trying to learn something, trying to forget, and once in a while, I enjoy it too. It’s liberating that now I can do what I want and I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, but it’s so lonely too. I should be used to the loneliness by now, but I’m not. But what’s there to be done? Just go on and make something of it.

 

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