Thursday, November 23, 2006

On the road again

So, I guess my trip has started: I left home this morning and caught the afternoon bus to Christchurch. The air conditioning was habving trouble keeping up with the unprecedented warm weather, so the bus driver made a joke about providing us with a taste of the tropics. Yikes! That is precisely where I will be as of tomorrow. It is still a bit hard to take this trip seriously as, despite all the planning I have done, it seems unreal. I also have this nagging feeling that I have forgotten something vital to the progress of my trip. Sure, I did leave my toothbrush, towel etc behind and have worked out that I didn't bring any of the foreign currency I have accumulated, but they're hardly irreplaceable. In fact I went into the Warehouse when we stopped for "refreshments" in Oamaru and really, what with electronic funds transfers and ticketless travel, very few things absolutely must be carried these days. Sure, you still need your passport, but I have mine: it is as keen as I am to put a few more exotic stamps in its pages.

Slightly perturbing is the fact that one of the places I will be going through, Sungai Kolok in Southern Thailand, had a bomb attack earlier this week in which three people were killed. Apparently, it is done by attaching a cellphone to the bomb and the dialling the number to trigger an explosion. It would be a bit of a bummer for the bomber if there was a wrong number at a strategic time! A "friend" has also been consoling me with the cheerful thought that if I am blown up, it will ensure my survival as a legendary member of Faculty for ever. I don't think anyone has been killed in a terrorist attack. Still, I don't think it is the sort of thing I need to share with my family (not that many of them seem to have noticed that I am going away).

At work, it has been a bit of a funny time, thanks to a couple of factors. First has been the need to mark several hundred scripts in a short period of time, along with a handful of research papers and the completion of my own modest effort. I don't really do the concentrated work thing very well, preferring to spread things out over seven days of the week. Then, suddenly, the work stopped. Results were in, my publication was in, no time really to start something fresh. The other factor is the presence, in vast numbers, of students and then their abrupt departure as exams finished. Some of these students I have been chattering to for years and will never see again, at least not drunk in a kareoke bar singing Bon Jovi. I always find the transition a bit hard, but this year, two people in particular stand out.

One has been working in my regular coffee shop ever since I arrived here, but she's finished her degree and will be gone when I get back. At least I managed to sit down with her yesterday and say goodbye. The other hasn't been around so long, but over the past few months, we've spent a lot of time together as we have discovered a lot of literary common ground as well as encouraging each other into our respective tastes. So, it is thanks to her that I have started a project of reading all of Terry Pratchet's works - I have now read the first two (the second was quite lame, but I read somewhere that in the third one, things improve dramatically). Thanks to me, she has come under the spell of Flann O'Brien and, when I saw her last, had quite a few of my book suggestions tucked away. The odd thing is that the last person with whom I would talk books in such a way is her sister, but she left last year and there are no more!

Hmmm - maybe it is a good thing I am taking off for a two month break. I have no idea how easy it will be to keep up my reading: I have an odd selection of serious books I have been wanting to read for a while and lighter things that, once read, I can cheerfully replace with whatever I might encounter on the road as well as an interesting selection of e-books on my newly acquired PDA. I think I will be OK.



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