Category Archives: travel

Filtered

My Aspergers is with me always. Everywhere I go, it goes. My life is filtered through a disordered prism.

When the awkwardness hits, or relationships feel dry and unoiled, I know my Aspergers has raised its head again. I analyse what went wrong and pore over the details. I feel like a crazy, eccentric scientist because I know what I seek is simple, and yet it eludes me. My Aspergers is a source of frustration. When you know you have a flat tyre, the road still feels just as bumpy. Knowledge is good but knowledge is not the same as a solution.

But there are days when my Aspergers is almost invisible. These are the good days when I feel that I am just like everyone else. Life ticks over and Aspergers gets no credit.

Yet surely my Aspergers contributes as much to my success as my failure. My brain is still wired differently when I am being brilliant at work, funny at dinner, or helpful to a friend. It solves problems, creates solutions and makes my life, quite frankly, awesome.

I live with my Aspergers every day. All that is good about me is filtered through the same disordered prism. I am the rainbow and my life is lived on the spectrum. It’s beautiful and colourful here. Like everyone, I have good days and bad days, but every day I travel with my Aspergers.

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Tale of the City

I have talked so much about changing, I don’t think I actually noticed it happening. Yet, last night, I left a bar early, and sober, and with the same man that I had arrived with. There was a time when that didn’t happen.

For some years now, I have argued that there has been precious little temptation in my path, and that has been what’s kept me on the ‘straight’ and narrow. I can’t claim that here, for I now reside in dirty Phnom Penh with its edgy nightlife and minimal regulation. In the big bright lights and small dark bars, alcoholic ex pats mingle with drug dealing locals to produce a nightlife where everything is available, and everyone has a price.

I don’t know if I am growing up or growing old. In fictional 70s San Francisco, Armistead Maupin’s character, Mona had a law that stated “you can have a hot job, a hot apartment and a hot lover but you can’t have all three at the same time.” I don’t know if mine would qualify as “hot” but I like what I have. I hope Mona’s more content these days too.

At fifty, I am coming into my own. Because I am happy in my skin, my glass is far more than half full. So, if you think you need to change, change. Life should be an amazing place in which to live. If yours isn’t currently, then find the source of your discontentment and resolve it. We live long lives even if we only live then once. Don’t live it in misery, for happiness can be found everywhere, even in dirty Phnom Penh.

Routine Disturbance

I shared a non existent sunset with my lover. The sun was behind the clouds and not seeing this an omen I enjoyed the skyline of the city from the river.

My lover was sent home early. This was not a night for sleep disturbance, even of the best kind. The usual good wishes and kisses exchanged at parting and, once alone, I embarked on my evening routine.

Everything was in readiness. Everything done with an obsessive attention that so often indicates a fear of lack of control to come. My bag, packed and repacked, by the door waiting to be taken. Inside there is a place for everything and everything was neatly in its place. New and unhandled items, bought just for this moment, placed cheek by jowl with old trusty tools. I showered and checked and rechecked, teeth were clean, nose hair was trimmed and eyebrows were neat and orderly.

Chocolate drink by the bed, the alarm set and then reset for five minutes before and it was time to stop. No more one last looks, and the “I wonder if I have…” questions were placed to one side.

Breathing. Slow. Steady. Sleep.

I wake 5 mins before the 5 mins before alarm goes off. With a precision that would please a marine commander, I am caffeinated, showered, groomed, dressed and out. I am 15 minutes ahead. I arrive at breakfast place #1. It’s closed. No problem, #2 is en route to my destination. Food is eaten and more caffeine consumed, this time iced to avoid sweat, and I’m still ahead. My bicycle is remounted and as I arrive 22 minutes earlier than planned, I feel a serene calm. The doors are not even open yet.

Not open. Not open! Closed?

The first niggle of doubt bites hard in my stomach as I cycle up to security. The guard is smiling and saying no in English. In Khmer he says much more that I cannot grasp. He points to a calendar where today’s date is in red. Yesterday’s public holiday has rolled over, not everywhere, but here, and no one thought to tell me.

My ‘first day of school’ routine has been played too soon. I cycle home with my premature adrenaline staining my new white shirt in shameful anticlimax. Tomorrow may well be my first real day but the shirt won’t be new and the worrying will not be as thorough. I won’t need share a sunset because I won’t care if my sleep is disturbed.

Winning Ticket

Her blue jacket is beautifully graphic and I lose myself for a moment. The lines of white and grey intersect, forming squares within endless squares to consider and reconsider. Her face, though equally lined, is softer, less mathematical. It’s human. Life has been witnessed, lived and ultimately survived with a quiet dignity.

Having dismounted from an ancient bike, which is possibly older her, she passes through the early morning coffee drinkers. Each is addressed with a low, gentle voice and an open smile. Few refuse this woman, for her poise and grace starkly highlight that life can be far from fair.

Finally, she comes to me. Her smile becomes a soft chuckle and there is an impish, mischievous glint in her eyes. Unlike her back, her spirit is unbowed. She offers me her lottery tickets, fanned out for my perusal. We both know I don’t really understand what she is selling and that I don’t speak the language. However, she chooses to include me in her day and as she looks directly into my eyes I see the kindness of one who has known what it means to be left out.

She remounts her bicycle and cycles away but she has left me behind, knowing that happiness isn’t found in a winning ticket.

Mekong Moment

The Mekong River threads through Asia linking countries, cultures and people. It has flowed through through time and history and threads moments together like pearls on string. This mighty river is taking me on a new adventure.

However, as I look out mournfully from my window, I can’t help but think that being on the Mekong when the rain sets in is not dissimilar to being on the train from Crewe to Manchester. The sky is a relentless, indistinct grey and the rain on the windows drives away all thoughts of a landscape.

I had never imagined that my first crossing into Vietnam would evoke Cheshire, but journeys should be full of surprises, and minds long broadened by travel can still bring home sharply into focus.

There is no tragic tea trolley or inversely cheery attendant on this boat and my one banana and drinking water were consumed well before the border was crossed. The sky and the river merge long before the unseen horizon. There is a nameless hue brewing outside that is somewhere between grey and brown. Wet and warm, it resembles that cup of Travellers Fayre tea which, more often than not, was bought to simply to alleviate the tedium.

I arrive in Vietnam in the unwelcoming dark of the wet season. An ill equipped traveller, I scurry, umbrellaless, to the safety of the nearest hotel. Travel isn’t always glamorous and exciting, but my journey so far has been a good one. Even on rainy days, there are blessings for the counting. Tomorrow I will wake up and explore a new city in a land I have yet to see in daylight.

Many years have passed since my forays to and from Crewe, which are now like water under the suspension bridge on the road from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. Then a student, now a teacher, life is so different. Then I thought of my future while being haunted by my past. Now, there is just now. I’m living in the moment, but ever mindful that moments are connected in time, like a river.

Fallin’ free

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. Something or someone happens and you, for some reason, decide it’s an avenue you want to pursue.

Life is quite a journey. Birth is followed by education, work, love, rest and death. This mortal coil spins faster as we age, and most of us are far too merry to get off. The Asperger Path has been a happy, but somewhat more disorderly, route through life’s conventions.

Actually, I took a detour long ago, and discovered life could be neither straight or narrow. I broadened my mind, loosened my inhibitions, and allowed myself to be open to opportunity’s knock. I have lived in kinky meanders and loved with spacious permissiveness.

It’s time to leap and faith is my parachute and . If I land safely, I will let you know.

Ooooh. Fallin’ free, fallin’ free, fallin’ free, fallin’ free

Donna Summer is on repeat in the juke box of my mind. It’s time for some free falling because I feel love, conventional, old fashioned, ‘you and me’ love.

Application

I need some new friends. However this is not an online advertisement, because I am going out and looking in person. No application is necessary.

For many years I have sought solitude whilst avoiding loneliness. Gaps have been filled with social media and dating apps. I have chased the not yet known, but I ended up in cycle of meaningless encounters and superficial conversations. People who couldn’t care if I lived or died became my reason for being.

Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and time spent with them is fruitful. However, I have just moved to a new city and have decided to take no short cuts.

So, here I am, lunching alone, having met no one for a coffee earlier. I haven’t met anyone online or had a virtual chat with real stranger.

It feels rather odd, but in the long term this will be good. It’s time find common ground with people I can rely on. It’s time to then put those people centre stage and work at building a life that is more meaningful. It will take a while, but how much time have I already wasted on those fruitless applications that got me nowhere.

Saying Arkhun

The foreigner sits in that street café every morning. As he sits, the owner looks up and soon the food arrives. First, pickles in their oval dish and the hot chilli sauce. Then the steaming broth from the pot that sits on the fire. Last to arrive, the main attraction, smoky marinated pork atop sticky rice with tomatoes and boiled egg, both sliced, both green.

He doesn’t speak much. Every dish brought forward brings a mumbled “Arkhun” but this is a breakfast of few words. Around him, morning life come and goes and ponders the characters who share his table and cook his food.

She, the breakfast lady takes the star role. Always chopping and washing she is stationed behind her table, while her sons orbit around her acting as waiters, delivery boys and general help. The diners come and go but few are as regular as the foreigner, who arrives just before seven.

He sits with his phone for company and after half an hour or so plunges into his disorganised bag. Usually he finds a crumpled dollar or more rarely 4000 riels and then stands and, with a smile, pays the breakfast lady. He knows how to order. He knows how to say that was tasty but all he ever says is “Arkhun”.

He wants to say next week I won’t be here. He wants to say how much his quiet times have meant as he sat by the river. He will leave with a smile and a final “Arkhun” and life will carry on.

Alt Chic

The road less travelled is quite busy these days. The alternative has become a norm and there is now an accessible shuttle bus that will pick you up from the fork in the road.

The road has become a system and might even be a network. Even the Asperger Path has more footfall. What was once unknown, is gaining visibility and it’s not all geek chic and misapplied logic.

Of course my path is actually the cis gendered, white privileged, physically disabled, gay fabulous, Asperger Path. Whilst that path might be well dressed and well heeled, it’s a bit of a mouthful, so I celebrate only my most recent label. It’s my most recent fork on my journey through this yellow wood life. However, there are many paths and I’m not the only unicorn dancing in the trees.

My point is that bucking trends has become one. So if we are all getting a bit freaky let’s try and make sure we respect each other’s freakiness. It’s a wonderful diverse world out there so let’s celebrate our hyper diversity every time our own particular fork crosses another pass.

Crossroads could easily be roundabouts, so swing out sisters, brothers and gender others because I am spinning some unconditional love and acceptance. After all we are all unicorns and we are all special. Le freak, c’est chic.

Share

On my travels, I turn to no one. When I see wonders, I see them alone. My experiences are shared at arms length for there is, by my side, nothing but empty space.

This is how I have shaped my life. I enjoy the sparsity of my emotional landscape. Friends and lovers, colleagues and thinkers, writers and artists all bring much to my life but none are my partner, my confidante or my other half. Some are more transient than others, but none are as impermanent in themselves as myself.

I am whole in my self constructed solitude and, when I steer clear of holes, this square peg travels quite comfortably. Life is lived, large and sprawling, for I am a nomad passing by and experiencing all that my senses can withstand. My social circle, by comparison, is kept small and tidy. The Asperger Path is my route and I navigate a way through this world with heart and mind as my map and compass.

So, when I see the world and I want to share it with someone, I choose the most intimate strangers I know. I choose you, dear readers. For you are sparse and far flung. If I want you, I can send fire off my missive into the void. Even if my message is never read, it is sent.

For me, that act of sharing is enough.