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I have lived today 
An extract from a journal...
It might look like you have two issue 396’s in your inbox but this is the true . The last one I sent was an imposter and was really .
Right. Glad that’s sorted. You probably didn’t even notice.
I have just finished typing up one of my later travel journals. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma). All in all a few sentences off 40,000 words.
In it I certainly had a sense that I might not get back to South East Asia for a very long time.
As with many journeys interesting things happened throughout. And it didn’t let up on the way home.
Thursday 18th March 1999 Day 141
I was gifted with some extra legroom on the plane to Kuwait, but I had to sit in a rowdy group of around a hundred Chinese expatriates who’d converted to Islam. Obviously not drinking but they still managed childlike, foolish behaviour while chain-smoking like it was an olympic sport.
I tried to sleep and did for a few seconds at one point. Till someone needed a wee. I met a really interesting guy who is originally from Burma. Pascal Khoo Thwe. He escaped Burma 11 years ago and managed to get to Cambridge with the help of a guy called John Casey. A Cambridge Lecturer.
Pascal has an incredible story. I’m too tired to remember it all but I’ll certainly read the book he says he’s going to write. He also said he hopes Jeremy Irons will be in a film about him. He wants him to play the doctor who helped him escape.
Pascal’s intelligence makes me feel dumb. I keep nodding, pretending to follow some of his more complicated references. Lack of sleep can’t be helping. That and my inferior education. I love the way he talks. Full of imagery and symbols. I wish I’d met him in October last year. When I was on the way out. He makes me want to write. About everything.
I had a great second flight. From Kuwait. I got a little bonus sleep but still not enough and I look like shit. Hope they let me in.
After landing in Heathrow I was hit by both excitement and apprehension. I finally got to check my bank. I have the grand total of £20 in there. I thought I had at least £100. I wonder where it's gone. Either way, both amounts would have been a princely sum in Thailand and easily seen me up to an English teaching job or such like. I hope I can get home on £17 as I have just spent £3 on a bus ticket to Euston.
I'm glad I bought these big silly boots in Bangkok. Sandals in the city in March would have singled me out for a hippy even more. Although it’s chilly, it’s not as cold as I thought it would be.
Strange to think my next sleep will be in England. Knackered. No doubt about that. A little voice inside me didn't really want to leave Thailand. But there are undoubtably some interesting opportunities back here. Many of them music related. Another adventure perhaps.
Friday 19th March 1999 Day 142
After almost five months of wandering Southeast Asia, London feels like another world. Somewhere strange, unfamiliar. Gone are the bright colours and exotic smells. Just dull grey buildings and black glass. Here the pollution smells like pollution. At least in Bangkok it’s mixed with incense and spices.
There are fewer smiles than I remember. The people hurrying to get from one place to another don’t seem to have the time to smile.
After seeing the price of a sandwich I’m already missing the street food vendors. I’d kill for a fresh papaya salad or a guess-what-it-is curry.
I'm not sure I have enough money to get home. It’s a far cry from only a couple of days ago when the money in my pocket would last a week.
On the up side there is a certain sense of comfort in the familiarity. Communication should be a little easier here. And if there is an emergency I should be able to navigate it better. Especially after managing and learning what I have in South East Asia these last few years.
It's cloudy, cold and I’ve still not found a smile on the streets. Apart from some tourists. They seem happy. The frowning woman on the train station desk told me I didn’t have enough money for a ticket. Here we go I thought.
Then I remembered. I reached into my passport pouch and pulled out a piece of plastic with my photo on.
“Might I have enough money to get home if I use this fake student card?”
The lady smiled. The best smile of the day. And a student discount was applied. Such a weird but familiar feeling. Strangers being nice to each other. I might still have a little charm in my tired eyes after all.
If I can bring anything back with me from Southeast Asia it will be a resilience. An ability to navigate the chaos and still appreciate the little things.
I found this poem scrawled on the last page…
Happy the man.
And happy he alone.
He who can call today his own
He who has the will within to say
Tomorrow do the worst for I have lived today.
No idea where I copied it from and why I thought to edit it. But it was obviously taken from this…
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
~ John Dryden
That guy I met on the plane, Pascal. He did go on to write a book. It did rather well.
The Guardian has it listed directly behind Orwell’s Burmese Days.
No idea if there has been a film made of his story, but I’ve ordered a hardback copy of his book. I’ll see if I can catch up on some of the details my tired mind missed during that conversation we had almost exactly 23 years ago.
Thanks for reading.
I’d headed back to England for a few reasons. A ticket I could not change, a gig with a band I really liked fronting, and possibly to sign-on.
It didn’t last long though. A little while later I was back on the road.
You can hear from Pascal Khoo Thwe yourself here on a BBC Radio programme from 2007.
See you out there.