Sunday, 31 October 2010

'the times, they are a changing' (Bob Dylan)

'..You will not meet,
the Cyclops or fierce Poseidon
Unless you carry them in your soul,
Unless your soul sets them in your path.'(C.P.Cavafy)

Hurling pieces of old furniture,pots and pans and other assorted rubbish into an ever filling skip while clearing out my father's garden shed and garage recently, gave me a huge sense of satisfaction. This de-cluttering of our lives is something we have all done from time to time, especially when we move house or flat. And aren't we amazed at what has been stored up over the years!

But this de-cluttering can also apply to ourselves as people. The reasons I chose to do this trip were many:for adventure, a challenge,the joy of travel and seeing exciting new places, meeting different people and understanding different cultures;all those things, but also to change as a person. There is simply no point in doing this trip if I am not prepared to allow it to change me in some way. A trip like this should do just that. But you have to allow it to and sometimes it means breaking down some of the old barriers, built up from years of working, living and other influences, as we go about our daily lives. And already, even in preparing for this trip, I am aware of subtle changes in myself.

Being somewhat entrenched in my ways, I was going to do this journey without taking mobile phones or computers. I was intending to rely on using snail mail and internet cafes or WI FI outlets (if I could find them)in towns or cities. The rather romantic notion, where I thought the trip would perhaps be more 'real' if I didn't take any new fangled technology with me, was reinforced by telling myself that I could manage and who needs it anyway, as a convincing excuse. My love of reading also meant that I had to decide how much limited space I could give to taking any books. And if I didn't take any then how would I manage, without spending a fortune on buying books for long plane or train journeys.

Determined I was not going to give in to technology, I have just downloaded tens of free books on my recently acquired IPhone! Deciding that my Luddite ways had to go, I persuaded myself to get one. And I'm glad I did. I can now download various applications, that include, languages, directions, bookings, any internet query, email friends, send an instant photo (if I havn't got my real camera to hand)and ..Oh! the possibilities are endless!.Expensive, yes, but worth it just for my piece of mind. To be able to get all this information without the trauma of traipsing around a city or town after 50 or so miles of exhausting cycling,just to find an internet cafe or outlet, is worth every penny.

But thinking about how I may have betrayed my original ideas about how I felt with taking technology with me, I was reminded of what a good friend had said to me recently. 'It doesn't matter how you do this trip, there are no rules, it's your trip.'And she was right. I can put this journey together in any way I want to:in a way that I feel comfortable.

So already my mind is opening up to new ideas and possibilities, perhaps something that wasn't my strongest habit in the past. I have alsways been very single minded and while good in some ways, it can also make you blinkered.

What I want most out of this trip is to come home with a more open mind and different attitudes. Do we have to go around the world to do this? Probably not, but it's a great way to find out!

Bye for now


Friday, 1 October 2010

Just a Phrase I'm Going Through

Looking out the window at this claggy, October weather, where I have been stuck indoors for a few days, got me thinking about that wonderful comedy sketch of Rowan Atkinson's, where he had returned from travelling abroad to meet up with some foreign noble and his side kick, Baldrick, asks him,
'So, my Lord, were you fluent?'
To which Rowan's character replies in that familiar superior tone,
'Yes thank you Baldrick, were were both very fluent; him in his language and I in mine.'

I told myself that if I did a trip like this, I would set myself the challenge of learning some basic words and sentences of the language of each country I am travelling through, to communicate and engage with local communities. So I bought some language CD's - you know the sort - they guarentee you will be able to have a full blown, philosphical and intellectual conversation with the locals within one hour of listening to them. The sort that is built around a cheesy scenario and cringingly marketed as, 'unique, entertaining with a fun storyline.'

In this case, the storyline is about a man and a woman who meet on a plane and they get chatting. The man leans over to say hello in English and the woman suddenly decides that he needs to learn a language! And being the geeky, smarty pants that he is, he manages to chat up the air hostess in fluent Greek, or which ever country the plane happens to be going to (all the CD's follow exactly the same senario! - you just get it in a different langauge each time)as well as order three different types of wine by the glass, bottle, half bottle; ask what time it is; say he doesn't want to buy a Ferrari but does want to buy a Lamborghini (although how that would interest the air hostess, beats me) and who just happens to have sat in the seat next to a seven language, linguist who was willing to teach him all this; and all in the time it takes between fastening their seatbelts, to the plane touching down. Phew! Fast work!

Well, I'm not quite that quick, but ignoring the syrupy, holiday style backdrop, these CD's are very good. At the moment, I'm learning French, Italian, Greek and Turkish. I already know a few words of Farsi and I will spend the rest of the winter months learning one or two more holiday phrases in other languages. Phrases such as, Where are the toilets?; Where is the bus stop? Where can I park my bike? How to order a meal and most importantly for me - Where is the ATM?. I've just spent a lot of money on these CD's only to find out that the word for ATM in Greek is - ATM! Of course, it takes me far longer than the hour stated to learn all these words but I am getting there and enjoying it, and with lots of practise, my accent is improving all the time. 'A.T.M. A.T.M. A.T.M.

I have been visiting hole in the wall's a lot lately, mainly for shopping sprees for all the bits and pieces I will need. Especially for my bike. On a long ride such as this one, it's important to keep my bike up to scratch and tweaked to its optimum performance level. So I am taking 'Hughie' (the nickname for my Paul Hewitt Cheviot SE tourer) in for a complete overhaul this month to get him in shape. A visit to Paul Hewitt's shop in Preston, where I originally had the bike made for me, is a long way and quite expensive, but worth it as I know Paul's mechanics will do a good job.

Not far away from Preston, is Wigan. I have a talk to give at Wigan Photographic Society the same day, so I can take the bike in and deliver the talk all in one journey. The talks and courses are keeping me very busy and I'm travelling from one side of the country to the other but, as always, I'm enjoying every minute. So the work is going very well but my thoughts are dominated by the trip.

As Hughie is going to have an overhaul, I thought I'd better get myself sorted with a vaccination programme. I paid a visit to the doctors to get some information about the, what, when, where and how my vaccination schedule would take shape and was seen by the nurse who sat me down to discuss the details. After listing all the countries I would be going through, she then told me in that reassuring voice that only nurses have, that, yes, I would in fact need one or two.

Fourteen actually! The list reads like an inventory of ancient Greek philosophers!
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B (x3) Rabies (x3) Tetanus, Malaria, Diphtheria, Typhoid,
Poliosomethingorother and Japanese Encephalitis.
And worse still - not a sugar lump in site! All needles. So after picking me up off the floor, she assured me that I shouldn't worry as the side effects were only, 'an aching arm, dizziness and a high temperature!'
My first vaccination starts in a weeks time, after which I will then have to go to the doctor complaining of an aching arm, dizziness and a high temperature and can I have something for it please.

Well, this October, it will be more shopping for the trip, sorting out the bike bits, more reading and research and more planning. For now though, it's back to the Greek.