The room is full of flies. One zips across me, then another, and I can hear the drone of many more inside of the bathroom. I don’t know where they are coming from, they’re all over the room. I kill a thousand a day. I walk toward the bathroom and throw open the door and there is this great black mass, forty thousand of them, and I spray fly-killer into it until the death fumes burn my eyes and nose.
We would start at dawn and finish in the middle afternoon. We would pick the apples and the pears and you would yank at the apples and the pears trying for the ripe ones only. It was cold in the mornings. We were tired and we were thousands of miles from home in a foreign country and we only worked for lodging and a very small salary.
I remember it very well. I was four years old. I had gotten bored of waiting for my parents as they leafed through second-hand books in one of the marquee tents and had wandered off. This was when the book festival was still very much in its infancy, housed in just a couple of marquees by the river, before the throngs of people and the shuttle buses and national sponsors and fields full of cars.
“AARRRGGGHHHHH!” The ceiling fan had batted another big black bug onto my face. I brushed it off. “GODDAMN BUGS! I’m not dead yet!”
The bugs were everywhere, in the kitchen, in the shitter, in bed, like a biblical plague. And it was hot, so hot. I had been stretched out on my bed staring up at the ceiling for a while. Nothing but ceiling up there.
“Holy mother,” I said, “I’ve woken up in some flops but this is probably the worst of the lot”
Ratface made some unintelligible noise in response. “ZXVHGBSFUHOUUAJGABEYB”
“I hear ya Ratface, what the hell are we doing here?”
I started reading my book today, Mediodía de Frontera by Claudia Hernández, a collection of magic realist short stories set in the aftermath of the Salvadoran civil war. I first heard of the book in Chicago, while searching information online about the little country in which I’d been waiting not many hours before; waiting in San Salvador airport, looking into the dark glass of my departure gate because there was nothing else to do, just my own reflection to look at, this thinker’s face, the same face a Czech stripper had once described as a nice face, looking and waiting and not really believing that it was all over.
This is my travel blog, but since I’m home now, I’m thinking of expanding it to include short fiction too. Although I have hundreds of unpublished travel stories, I don’t like writing stuff up in retrospective much (however, if you’d like to pay me Mr Publisher, then sure I’ll do it). Besides, to think of these stories depresses me, sat here in Wales where my tan is rapidly fading and everybody with a chip on their shoulder flexing up against you because they’re hard, it’s weary. I haven’t quite gotten over being home yet. So that’s what I’ll do. It’s not a kick ass travel blog anymore, just a kick ass blog.
Following on from the last post
which touched very loosely on manners and etiquette, I remember this time in Laos.
We were doing the homestay thing for a night in a rural village. To get there we had to do an arse-destroying 50km on a bicycle, through landscapes of rice paddies and shacks, visiting local villages on the way, learning how they make paper from bamboo, whisky from rice, obtain silk from worms. The villages like time somehow got stuck a long time ago. The houses with thatch roofs and bamboo walls, dim inside smelling of woodsmoke and on the naked packed mud floor piles of firewood. Charred pots and pans hung from the ceiling or walls, wood or woven furnishings, occasionally a tv.