Stranger In A Strange Land

Rays of light, symbolically represented as hor...

Rays of light, symbolically represented as horns on the head of Moses (Michelangelo), can be a graphic symbol of Wisdom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “What’s your favorite part about visiting a new place — the food? The architecture? The people watching?”

What is it like for me to be a stranger in a strange land?

The first thing I notice and enjoy in a new place, a totally new place, not just a new town, is the light. Australia has a particular light, bright and full or air. Europe is a softer light and South East Asia has a light filtered by the high humidity except for that glorious hour late in the afternoon after the rain.

Then I notice the different buildings. It’s not just the architecture but the street advertising and furniture. To my eye the buildings in Australia are fairly monotonous. They were built by a first world country in the last hundred years and we have very little that is noticeably Australian. It’s only when you start going north up the coast of Queensland and you run into the classic Queenslander lifted high off the ground, girdled by wide overhanging verandahs and shuttered windows and doors. These aren’t storm shutters, they are built to shut out the world while letting the cool night air into the house.

My first trip to Europe was such a shock. I’d come from Sydney via a day in Bangkok where of course the architecture is anything but Australian – even the shopping centre architecture is totally different in Bangkok let alone all the other buildings, though I have to say our inexpensive hotel close to the airport could have been almost anywhere in the world – standard multi-storey concrete construction.

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A Long Way

Hua Hin beach on a cloudy morning

Hua Hin beach on a cloudy morning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home.”

Far from home. When I think of far from home then physical distance isn;t the first thing that comes to mind. If you want distance then we are talking about London (500 miles further from home than Boston).

London for the first time was a strange mix of the known and the unknown. So much of it was learnt from books and movies over so many years. A London cab, a tube station, a mailbox, a telephone booth and the Beefeaters at the Tower of London were all so familiar that I may as well have been home. At the same time the shops along a street and a hundred other details were different. The two conflicting aspects made for a couple of strange days as I adjusted.

The strange thing is that London feels closer to home than some other places I’ve visited.

Walking through the natural calm of the Daintree rainforest north of Port Douglas seems a million miles from the urban noise of Sydney. Outside the forest is a blistering hot day but inside the light is filtered through the canopy and it’s cooler and tinted green.

Sitting in a cheap restaurant with Laminex tables in Hua Hin, Thailand. They gave me a menu that was obviously “westernised” so I ordered by pointing to dishes being eaten by the locals on the tables near me and ended up eating a mouth watering meal as the owner’s wife giggled when one of the curries burnt through my resolve and had me gulping water.

Camping by the side of the road in Outback NSW with my father. Outside the circle of the gas lamp it is so dark that you can hardly see your hand in front of your face while overhead the night is so clear that the sparkling dust of the Milky Way is thrown across the sky. The camping spot is dusty and red, the same red that is caked onto the car.

Then there’s the time when even the house I live in is not home. The times when the major depression has stripped me of any ability to find pleasure, peace or calm and it seems I will never stop sobbing.

Those places all seem a long, long way from home. Distance is just not a simple measurement of miles or kilometres but how far away you are from your every day, your known, your safe.