meet me here

hostel

When she walked in, all heads turned. She wore a black spaghetti dress, matched with her cherry red stilettos and hair yellow as soft gold.

‘Welcome’, Jerry said, reaching out his hand to her.

‘Hi, is this The Hole in the Wall?’ , the lady spoke, not shaking his hand.

Jerry left his hand for a couple of seconds more, before quickly withdrawing it to his right pocket.

‘Yes it is… well we’re not too sure’ he replied to her.

‘Yes, not quite. Where are you from ma’m’ the second guy spoke. His name was Dhruv.

‘I’m from Sydney’, she said. ‘And you?’

‘I’m from India. More importantly though, where were you before you entered that door?’  he asked back.

‘I am in Bangkok…aren’t I?’ she hesitantly answered.

‘Not quite, not really quite. I’m American, naturally’ Jerry began , both hands in his pocket now as he stood up with his chest puffed, ‘but as far as I remember I walked in here from the Czech Republic, and Drew here walked in from Taipei’.

‘It’s Dhruv, Jerry. I’d appreciate you keep it the way it is’ the tall built man said as he stood up to join Jerry.

‘We’re honestly not sure of what’s going on. There’s no staff, but there are rooms and washrooms, and this meeting place. Everything’s in place. But there’s something weirder than all that’ Dhruv went on, ‘As far as I know, I only speak Hindi and Chinese, but I can perfectly understand Jerry, whose lips can only utter English.’

‘That is peculiar.’ the lady said as she walked over to the couches and sat across from them, ‘My name is Talia, in case you were wondering’

‘I’m glad you all made it.’ a voice bellowed through the hall.

A stocky chocolate skinned man walked in, wearing nothing but a t-shirt , cargo shorts and flip flops. ‘My name is Tresor, and this is my establishment’

‘It’s probably only right that all of you aren’t responding badly to this. You guys are travelers after all, some of the most interested people in what this globe has to offer’ Tresor continued to talk.

‘And pray tell, Tresor, where are we?’ Jerry said , interest peaked in his eyes.

‘You’d either hate it or love it, but you’re everywhere and nowhere. all at once’ the hostelier responded.

‘Are we meant to figure these riddles out?’ Talia said, trying to figure this new character out.

‘Oh no no, I would never riddle you with trivial matters like these. We have so much more to talk about.’ Tresor said, taking his seat on the couch with the remaining travelers. ‘You see, I’m The Nomad, the writer behind The Binding Scrolls’

‘No fucking way, that’s the world’s most visited travel blog. They say that you’ve gained access to some of the world’s most prohibited and dangerously inaccessible places’ Dhruv retorted. ‘And you’re here?’

‘Yes, I am. On one of my adventures, I discovered a hole in the wall of an abandoned hut in Armenia. I couldn’t see what was beyond the hole, but the moment I stepped in, I realised it went on for a lot longer, which didn’t make any sense because the hut didn’t seem that big. When I got to the end, I found a door, which I immediately opened , and I came to this desolate place. This building didn’t use to exist.’ the Nomad said, observing his new visitors.

‘So you’re saying you built this?’ Jerry asked, his hands crossed across his chest now.

‘I had no choice. I didn’t know where I was to go. The door behind me had closed and disappeared. I had to find a way to make this work. I found a stream from which I got water, bushes from which I found berries, but I honestly didn’t know what else I could do without tools or electricity.’

‘Then I decided that perhaps the way in could be the way out. So I carved a hole in the rock that you see forms the wall behind you from which all of you came in through, and pushed it.’

‘That couldn’t have worked. It doesn’t make sense.’ Dhruv lamented.

‘Did anything before this make sense, Dhruv? I pushed it, and the rock moved, and this time I was in Phnom Penh.’

‘I remember your Phnom Penh post. That was when your blog started getting eyeballs. You had chanced upon the underwater tunnels built by the Khmer Rouge. How on earth did you find those?’.Talia said, as she displayed new found excitement.

‘I didn’t. I walked through the hole in the wall, and ended up there’. At this point, Tresor walked over to the hole in the wall that was the attraction of this newly formed group. He placed his palm over it, and took in a deep breath.

‘It was then that I discovered something about myself. I’m sure as travelers, all of you know each experience brings new discoveries and lessons to our lives. But that day, as I stood in the dark, damp tunnels of Phnom Penh, I learnt that I could hear the universe. I took a rock, and carved another hole at these tunnels so that I could remember, before finding my way out and writing about these marvels.

I didn’t tell anyone about the hole in the wall, but I continued to find new ways to come back to the desolate place that I had found myself so lost in. Being lost was always a familiar feeling, but in that place, I found a new feeling – hopelessness… and it was scary. So I built hope.’

‘You built this place’ Dhruv commented, admiring the work gone into the building now.

‘Yes. I brought materials from all over the world, as I carved holes in places yet unseen, and I built this place. I knew I wanted to tell someone about this place, but I wanted it to be ready for them.’

‘So why us then? Why the three unlucky people?’ Jerry retorted, standing up now and ready to walk over to Tresor.

‘I’m sorry you’re unhappy. I didn’t mean for you to be, in fact I hoped you’d be excited.’

‘You’re sharing this place with us now?’ Talia asked, her hands clenched together.

‘I think the word ‘leaving’ is more appropriate. I’m leaving the place to the three of you’

‘What do you mean? You’re not dying, are you? You can’t be, you don’t look sick at all’ Dhruv said, concerned now.

‘ No, far from it. I’ve never felt more alive.’ The Nomad walked over to the edge of the wall, where a shadow lay. ‘See this shadow?’

The three new travelers looked over, and nodded.

‘I’ve built a unique relationship with the Universe. It has spoken to me, and I’ve learnt to understand it more and more. And it has told me , I’ve seen all I need to see of this planet.’

‘This planet?’ Jerry asked , his arms by his side now.

‘Yes, this shadow is a hole waiting to form. Notice it’s in the shape of a fern.’ Tresor walked across from the wall, and pointed to a budding fern, growing out slowly. ‘This is you. You’re the fern waiting to grow. And once the fern matches the shadow it was meant to cast, the hole unveils itself’

‘Where does this new hole go? We haven’t even explored what the current hole has to offer!’ Jerry exclaimed.

‘Don’t worry, this new hole is just for me. It opens up the door, to the rest of the universe.’

The room stayed silent for a while as Tresor walked back to the couches. Everyone carefully gazed at the Nomad, trying to understand his recent words.

‘Are you saying you’re leaving Earth, the planet? I’ve suspended disbelief for a long time already, but every man has his limits sir’ Dhruv said, his fingers twitching.

‘I’m with the kid on this one. How do we believe you?’ Talia asked.

‘You can’t, not till the fern grows. My job is to teach you the ways of Earth and our history, that you guard this place and the holes around the world. And when that’s ready, I will go forth and prepare the rest of the universe for humankind. It has become my job as the Nomad.’

‘And how do we do that then? How do we become nomads in our own right?’  Jerry asked, taking his seat again.

Tresor smiled. ‘We start by talking. These will be the Lost Space conversations, after which I will teach you the ways of the Wall. Are you all ready to begin?’

The three travelers looked at each other. And then in almost perfect unison, they leaned back on their seats and nodded their heads.

‘Alright Nomad, let’s begin.’

___

I wrote this post in my own hostel  in Taipei, after being inspired by the people I’m meeting and the stories they’re sharing. Hopefully I make this a longer series. I want to write about the philosophies of traveling, and the characters that I frequently meet. I want to write about worlds and places, and then boil them down to stories of humanity and history.

Let me know your thoughts.

geronimo

 

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there’s something special here – Singapore turns 50

This country is and will continue to be the most successful city in the world. It’s almost weird to think that , assuming that I’ll live a healthy life, I’ll be 72 at SG100. I’ll be the next ‘Pioneer Generation’ . I hope to God I look good when I’m old, because I want to continue kicking and building society. During the National Day Show today, someone said a line that really hit home for me. She said ‘We grow with this country’ , and it’s probably the truest thing I’ve heard in a while.

We’ve been on a journey. Most countries have epic stories embellishing their history, but very few cities in modern history can claim to build a democracy while holding a siege mentality, and still supersede most large economies around them. Very few can claim to continue to produce people of superior caliber and an attachment to the country that is recognizable worldwide. Yet , you see, that’s our claim. We were presented with a nearly insurmountable problem, and we overcame it. The more I watch various presentations of history, from the veiled propaganda (which isn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ word) of the media, and the alternative interpretations of the deferred, there’s still one uniting tone – our pioneers were committed to bringing Singapore out of the Third World.

This National Day, this SG50 , we’re called to do two things – to remember this journey made, almost symbolically pronounced by the passing of founding father Lee Kuan Yew, and to envision our collective future, probably marked by the General Elections rumored to be in September.

You don’t have to look to the media for the truth , people are genuinely proud of the journey made.Naysayers will always exist, but they cannot reduce the pure joy experienced by people for making it to this point in the history of the world. We’ve made it. We’re here, a sovereign country defined by our own rules and aspirations – not anyone else’s.

But it’s perhaps the second call to action that’s more nerve-wrecking. What does the future mean for us? We’re facing our own set of problems. Starting The Hidden Good has given me the platform to interact with people from all sectors of society – youth, elderly, rainmakers and kingmakers; ministers and businessmen; the marginalized and the privileged. I challenged my generation to be an active force in shaping our own future, and not to let it be privy to the whims of the noisy and caustic minority online  (http://thehiddengood.com/2015/08/07/we-are-our-future/). Yet beyond that, I’m still conflicted on how our future should shape out. Solutions aren’t as straightforward as they used to be, and the uniting direction seems to point towards building a more inclusive and affirming society. We’ve built a society that is starting to , very slowly, fracture at the weight of the diversity it’s so proud of.

Creating a plan to solve that requires a lot more involvement from society than ever before, but there’s one thing I know almost definitely. We have to carry these problems with us and grow with them. Just like overcoming the pioneers gained resilience because of the problems they overcame, we can gain a deeper understanding into the human condition by trying to solve these problems. We became a successful city by the definitions of this day and age, but in the same line, no one’s a successful city yet by the definitions of the next age. We have that opportunity , but we have to commit. We have to commit to home, to Singapore. We have to commit to finding novel ways to contribute to the solution in our own capacities as businessmen, civil servants, students, families etc. , instead of contributing only to the noise around the problem. Let me be very clear – gone are the days when governments are the sole providers of solutions. Yes they hold the main onus, but it’s backward to expect capable people to be only present there. We , the people, hold the ability to shape our society.

I honestly wonder how I’ll be in 50 years time, but I hope to say lines similar to those shared by our forefathers. We did all we could, so that the generations after us could have a good life. We grew with Singapore.

After all, we are Singapore.

geronimo.