En route to Taipei
Friday 13th January 2012
This is my first letter to you and you are almost 11 months old. I thought I would start writing to you whenever I go overseas. I’m not sure you’ll ever read these, or if I’ll ever let you know that I’ve written them, and I’m not sure right now why I have the compulsion to do so. Maybe it is therapy for the guilt I feel for being away, which I’ve always had since before you were born with your mother and others, but which is magnified now you are here. I think I want a record for myself and for you of anything that could be of interest; either sooner or later, for when I want to look back or for when only you can do that. I can’t promise that much of it will be interesting, funny or inspiring, but it will be honest. It will be me, talking to you.
Guess where I am. No go on, guess. Nope, none of those. I’m on a Boeing 747-400 in seat 31K about 34,000 feet above Afghanistan on my way to Taiwan. KLM flight 877 to be exact. When you’ve taken as many flights as I have you become interested in things you never thought would interest you, aeroplane models and configurations being just one of them. I notice the change in colours of the cabin crew neckerchiefs, I know that if I was upstairs for this flight (business class) I would have requested the window seats at the front of the cabin because I would have access to a locker to the side of me and that because I was at the front, other people’s shoes couldn’t slide back into my stuff. People’s footwear smells on planes. I have picked up a lot of knowledge about the jet setting, jet lagging lifestyle that my work has given me and it’s all next to useless elsewhere. If you ever get chance, see a film called “Up in the Air” starring George Clooney and you’ll understand what I mean. I am the person that assesses which security check queue to join, which shoes to wear, and has a set place for every item in my luggage. I could dress from my suitcase in the dark.
The count so far is 17 countries for work (all outside the EU) and 37 countries in total. I’ve been to 5 continents, although strangely never to the USA. I’ve seen the source of the Nile, the great wall of China, the Christ in Rio and the terracotta army in Xi’an, and a whole bunch of other places, but for this trip, I’m going to Taiwan. I first visited in 2006 and I’ve been several times since and even though it is largely industrial, lacking in obvious heritage and history I really like it. The people are warm, generous and value what is important. They stand up to adversity with the same island culture we have and strive to better themselves. And they love a good meal. “Jia ba bai?” is the second most popular greeting in Taiwan, and it means, “Have you eaten?” So I know that I can take comfort in a good meal or two over the next 5 days in Taipei. I’ll update you as I go along, because hopefully by the time you read this you will love food as much as your parents. Judging by the way you devour everything that is put in front of you at the moment, it’s looking likely.
Right, I have two sleeping pills staring at me and 7 hours until a stop in Bangkok, so I’m hitting the hay. The blue, plastic, KLM hay in the sky.
PS. Just realised I am flying in a plane of Friday 13th! I fear nothing!