Sunday, November 27, 2005

Back from travel

I have just had a very busy four days in Kuala Lumpur. Before that I had a friend staying with me - which always means that I am very busy. We managed to fit in a lot of sightseeing. It is really a viscious circle. So much to write about, and no time to write it.

However, I am home. For three days. My son, Sam (of Sam's Grand Tour on my links - which you could read to see the same day from another viewpoint)is here now until sometime in either January or February. This means that in a way I am going to be very busy again - and that I won't have a lot of time. I am however, going to try to keep up the blog.

In Malaysia I was employed by Bernina to teach four days of workshops. It was all run in the JW Marriot Hotel which was also where I stayed - and I hardly left it in four days.

The biggest decisions I had to make were along the lines of whether to have Roti Canai or Nasi Lemak for breakfast, and whether to have my red papaya with lime before or after the savoury dish. There was one morning in particular. I sat with a group of good friends - Thais and Singaporeans there for the conference. I listened to the musical chatter as I dipped my perfectly cooked, flaky but stretchy, roti canai into the curry of the day - a sublime blend of red spices, lemon grass, coconut milk with just the perfect amount of chili. As the delectable flavours rolled across my palate they started playing "Near, far, wherever you are" over the sound system. Now I am no fan of this song. But, just at that moment with rain slanting into the swimming pool, and a perfect twenty-six degrees, with tropical trees over the pool and my body warming from the throat down as I ate my breakfast, I had one of those moments of near perfect happiness.

Looking back, I think that it was a yearning quality of that song which I usually see as utter kitsch, that was suddenly so appropriate. I was surrounded by the scents of Asia - all the best with none of the monsoon drains and rotting food cooking oil and durian that are so often mixed into the blend. Life without the other side of it would be pretty thin for a longer period - but just for a few seconds it was just great.

Again this evening the same thing happened. We have just had a magical day looking at pyramids. First Giza, with the great pyramids and the Sphinx, then the Stepped pyramid at Sakkara with my favourite tomb of Mereruka. Then Dashour, where we drove the desert track around the back of the Red Pyramid, and across the sand to the Bent Pyramid. It was a wonderful day, and Sam loved it. I really enjoy the Pyramids - but Giza is often shark territory - full of tricksters and people selling postcards who use every shade of emotional blackmail to force you to give them money. Today it was actually not too bad.

We were a bit late arriving at Dashour. The site closed at four and we had only half an hour. By the time we had circled out to show Sam the bent Pyramid there was not much time left. Sam and Bob did a quick walk to look at some major features, while I chatted to our driver and some of the desert police. Last time one proposed to me - I think - but then it might have been to Kate. Perhaps he was willing to take both of us.

My fiance didn't seem to be there - but two wonderful white camels were. Both are called Antonio - as are most of the camels around tourist sites.

As the men returned to the car one of the desert police encouraged Sam and I to stroke his camel. I stepped under its arched neck at one point and it leant slobbery lips and far-from-delicate breath towards me.

"One kiss is OK," said the driver. "Two and you have to get married."

It was a great line and we all left laughing.

We stopped at the Red Pyramid again and Sam and Bob rocketted up the steps to the entrance, determined to try to get in. Just as the reached the top the door was closed. A few pounds can fix most things in Egypt - but it was just four o'clock, and it was closing time. We watched as Bob and Sam seemed to settle to wait. Since it was a long time till the next opening time I was a bit surprised. I was not intending to sit in the car until 9.00 am next morning. Other tourists had joined them by this time.

One of the tourist police wandered over to talk to our driver and explained that the big boss had ordered the guard to close the entrance. "He is the boss, and he has a gun!" However - telephone calls were being made.

Sure enough, about ten minutes later, slowly and with a sense of drama, the door swung open. The small group disappeared inside and I settled back to watch the sunset over the edge of the Red Pyramid. About ten minutes passed and the group of police at the bottom were getting restless. They were, by this time, very late leaving, and one called up something I couldn't follow to the guard at the entrance.

There was a gale of laughter, and my driver explained that one of them had asked the guard to "Lock the door and leave them and come down. They will not go away any where and can come back out in the morning."

It was, of course, a joke, and I laughed as much as the others but explained that my husband would not want to stay that long.

Five minutes later they were back.

On the drive home, birds were silhouetted against the scarlet and gold sunset as flock after flock - cattle egrets and ibis and small cranes headed for their roosts. Long treks of people were on foot along the canal, and donkey after donkey dragged carts or carried people home. The small patchworked fields were brilliantly emerald, and sodden with canal water. The whole world seemed gently misted and in the lovely light you could forget that the mist was smog and about the equivalent of a pack-a-day habit! We passed oxen and carts, and where the carrots had been weeks ago were now towers of cauliflowers - firm and white and very enticing to a group who had somehow forgotten lunch. We stopped and bought a huge one, complete with a long stem, for about thirty cents.

Once again, life seemed very very good!


Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,

Antonio!! What a wonderful name for a camel. Your description of your day with Bob and Sam at the pyramids sounds fantastic and very colourful. Wish I was there.

Love Helen

8:59 am  
Blogger Marion said...

Hi Jenny,
Glad to see you have surfaced again. I began to think you may have been ill.

1:11 pm  
Blogger Min said...

Hi Jenny, good to hear you've had fun in KL.

Min from KL

1:35 am  
Blogger The Other Andrew said...

Jenny, I just discovered your blog (and subsequently Sam's) from a link on Kate's "The Department" blog. I've really enjoyed reading your posts and had a look at your quilts, they're really beautiful! Enjoy your time with Sam, I've been reading his blog too and it sounds like he's on the adventure of a lifetime. I'm envious!

4:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah Jenny, I'm glad you're back.

9:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny:

Wonderful to hear that you've been reunited with Sam. Have had such fun reading his blog: another great writer in the family.

Am hoping Tabbi picks this up too, as though I don't know the uni results they're obviously excellent: so congratulations to Tabbi!

I'm looking forward to continuing to read both your blogs, although I've a feeling Sam's may be more up to date than yours!

Much love to y'all


3:58 am  
Blogger Di said...

Hi Jenny,
Like everyone else, I too have been watching your blog for the next entry. Hope your time with Kate was fun. Glad KL was such a delicious experience. I love reading about the pyramids. Your description brings back memories - but unfortunately I still can't forget how ill I felt at the time :-(
Love, Di J.

9:52 am  

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