You see and hear English words that are (practically?) unused in Australia - anyone know what a "suzerainty" is without looking it up, for instance? "Confluence" (a joining, specifically of rivers) crops up quite frequently - not surprising given the importance of rivers to life here. In particular, it translates "Kuala" in Malaysian placenames, but it's used elsewhere. I've started to think of it as an appropriate term for the intersections of travellers' lives: meeting, following similar paths for some period -- whether short or extended, then diverging at some point; perhaps to meet again, and perhaps not.
Minh has been working over here for a few months, and had some hideous working hours before a return visit to Australia. We met after he finished work at about 12:30 am (see what I mean hideous working hours!), and went and got some dinner beside the Central Market. Twas good to catch up, however (*cough*) minimally.
I vaguely met A. from Bavaria on the bus from Siem Reap to Saigon but we didn't really speak until the next day when we found ourselves on the same Cu Chi tunnel tour. Earlier in her travels she'd gained herself a boyfriend - American but working in Australia. With only a couple of weeks of face to face contact he was now now studying German and planning on moving to Bavaria.
Sydneysider Romi was on the same tour. She'd had her bag snatched in Nha Trang by motorcycle bandits - goodbye passport, cards, money - so was stuck in Saigon until things were sorted. For some reason it's a bit tricky to get a replacement passport once all your photo ID has been taken... As we were both in Saigon for weeks, we ended up hanging out quite a bit - with rambling walks and conversations about books, writing, etc - she wants to be a writer, and I want to be
a reader competent at writing.
There were a few others from the same group on the tour - a Swiss ski instructor and a Scottish couple - but the three of us were the only ones to go to the War Remnants Museum after lunch. That evening we went to dinner - A. was meeting up with Tristan and Nathan from the Central Coast, who I'd also vaguely met on the Phnom Penh bus, and "the Swiss Couple" who she'd met at different cities along the way, and who had been on the same boat to Battambatang as me, though they'd stayed there a day longer than I. There are only a few major routes, and if one is on a similar timetable, these kind of coincidences apparently happen.
While you can pay retail for beer - 2 dollars Australian in GoTo Bar, for a longneck - you can also buy it in refillable containers for about 30 cents Australian per litre - there's a couple of places with kegs that do it here. First drank there with Romi, English photographer Simon, her friend from further north, and his friend American Wayne, who'd been working with the Peace Corps in Africa for a few years was planning on doing some teacher training.
Teaching is a popular way for travellers to lengthen their travel. Americans Devon and Matt, who I'd met on the Mekong River Tour along with Brit Tom, had been teaching in South Korea (and for Devon, Romania before that); and NZer Chris had been teaching in Taiwan and now he and his brother Peter were teaching English here. While there Tom unexpectedly ran into an Israeli friend he met in Australia (for a small country, there's a lot of Israeli backpackers around). These kind of coincidences apparently happen.
There are many Nigerians, too, in Saigon. In the mini-hotel above a silk shop where I stayed for a week, I was the only non-Nigerian. My neighbour Kings was a soccer player, and his roommate was in business exporting clothing, footwear and other goods back to Nigeria, as was Mike, who'd a room downstairs.
There were conversations - many interesting, and some valuable, though as they're pretty much unrepeatable they won't be. But you knew that.
A., Tristan, and Nick were on tight timetables, Simon left for Cambodia via the Mekong Delta a couple of days later, I didn't see Wayne again, Devon flew back to South Korea late on the night we got back from the Mekong Delta, Tom headed north the next morning, Matt flew back to the US the same night, Romi will be here another week or so while Visas continue to get sorted, Chris and Peter will be here for a while, as will the Nigerians.
Distributary: an outflowing branch of a stream or river, typically found in a delta.
End of Travels Phase 1 - 23/4 to 23/8.