“i saw a sight that would never leave my heart”, or tales of an island

If I were a place, I would be the ocean in the end of the afternoon, the sky turning pink and orange, the smell of charcoal cooking the evening meal, the waves talking and talking and turning, workers returning home at the end of their tired day, a tropical lassitude, and also the day being curious about what the night will bring, the ocean filling the entire page of the sky with its great brilliance, the squid boats heading out on the ocean, remote and melancholy, like little lanters bobbing with their lights high and far away out on the water, the entire world ocean, the entire world ocean, the entire world sky.

The boats are crewed by slaves, and the bungalows are built by slaves who work without cease, and smoke cigarettes while watching the sun set at the end of the day. But still the world feels so big. At night the moon rises pale and holy above the jungle tangled with secrets, and my flashlight uncovers armies of termites marching in the millions over the sides of rocks and up tree trunks, their path like moving ribbons in the darkness. I am scared, and I hear what I think are gunshots at night, but it is only the squid boats, snapping up their nets.

There are crabs that live on the land, in the hills.

The ants devour anything. They are so much more ambitious than city ants. If you have something buried in a wrapper in a daybag, they will find it, and the table with writhe as though its surface alive with tiny red ants.

I light yellow candles at night. They are meant for prayer, but they are the only kind I can find at 7-11, and when I am scared to fall asleep alone in the jungle, I light one in my room like a nightlight, tucking myself under the mosquito net. There is almost too much silence.

I march in the jungle for hours, on my way to the town, and on my first day I get lost. I find old bungalows, abandoned resorts, taken over by Burmese migrants. Some are not so lucky as these, by a big rock, I find a camp, checkered sarongs, the camp of people sleeping outside. When the police come to take away these illegal workers, they hide in the jungle, far away.

I find an albino buffalo in the jungle one day. He is in a bad mood.

I would say so much more. The boy who brought me a cold beer on my hamack and kissed me on the cheek and then I ran away. He had bad teeth and was too forward. My muscles pulling the oar of my sea-kayak as I glided across the water. Swimming in water so purely turquoise it cleaned out my heart of anything bad and dark inside, the sun radiant all the way down to my soul.

Islands have a kind of beauty that is smoky and slow and melancholy.

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A blog about culture and technology in South-East Asia.

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