People

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I’m writing from rainy Hanoi, hunkered down in a wonderful cafe/ leatherworks down a sarcophagus side street in the heady town centre. I keep trying to write this but the owner keeps tempting me to play darts with her.

It is old wisdom that too much of anything good isn’t. And true with travelling, there is an inevitable fatigue that settles in that wreaks a bad perspective and negative energy on the way ahead. After four months with no fixed abode I was recently asked what I’ve learned so far; too much perhaps that I had no answer. Well, there are certain unarguable truths: that travelling over five neighbouring countries with an overlapping culture is repetitive. That companionship is crucial but solitude is elusive. And that being Western puts you indissolubly in the foreground for some things, the background for others and within a financial transaction nearly always.

I’m in Vietnam, my second last stop in South East Asia. My sixth language, currency and culture so far. But if I said I was jaded, I would be telling a big lie. The camera that has been buried deep in my bag is starting to show me the value of the borders I have crossed since November, and is helping me now pick out the idiosyncrasies of the new places I visit. There can be dark days out on the road, when the exhaustion of faces and places and the drive to keep going cancel each other out. In these rare days I find my way through the people of the country, doing their ordinary thing with a patience, an insufferability, but always with grace.

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