Time is money so the saying goes. Sadly I had plenty of the former but was running low on the latter. I was sad alright, not only to be leaving Hanoi (and my beautiful apartment) but also of saying goodbye to Laos before I had a chance to say hello. To make matters worse the Lao Air plane comes in while I wait for the wide bodied beast which would in due course, escort me across the sky back to Euroland.
Hanoi was another victim of the TESOL game where visas, notaries and now police checks are (quite rightly) common in Asia. Thing is, the British embassy has just ceased this operation meaning a trip to Bangkok or Laos just to do formalities. It is both bureaucracy and geographic hopscotch I don’t have time or patience for.
If I must dance to the tune of geographic hopscotch then I’ll call the shots. This means that Spanish CV that has been living on my MacBook for sometime will finally get its curtain call. I’ve tried to avert this but like an evil cackle from the heavens which controls your every move it is happening, the icy claws of winter are pulling me toward Madrid – a first at least and if I don’t find paying work my last!
It’s an unnerving time. The digital online teaching which seemed an assured future path, was thwarted by companies who only want to hire Americans (surely illegal) and those who only know PayPal as a viable means of payment. No good if your address, phone number and bank are all in different countries and no I wasn’t avoiding tax, just trying to live the way I wanted; simply and frequently hopping like the other nomads from place to place. Besides I hadn’t had a permanent base since China (where I paid taxes and lost money). If only the money lost on dodgy contracts and fake universities was in hand.
The Asian dream could have continued; it should have been Bali but somehow I didn’t feel convinced by my meeting with the friendly guy at the Indonesian embassy who seemed to bat off my questions of which visa was required to officially work, albeit as a digital nomad in what would have been my 50th country (after Laos). I’d read of another game which meant more geo-political hopscotch this time between Indonesia and Singapore, no thanks. The Asians really do know they have us westerners over a barrel when it comes to visas. So to the airport, check-in and whatever lay ahead of it.
First, a short hop to Bangkok, the city which welcomed me to amazing Asia back in 2011. This felt like some sort of strange reprise, not quite deja-vu but the way in being the way out. I don’t bother to disembark having flown across the bejewelled cityscape then the smooth black sheen of the Thai gulf beneath me. I do chat with the cabin crew though and for the first time in years witness the inner workings of the ground crew who service the plane like a well oiled if not a little chaotic machine (well it was still Asia after all).
New crew on board, I decide on a movie as we’re whisked into the darkness for the all nighter to Doha and another pointless security check – never understood this process for transitory passengers, what contraband or dangerous items is it they think we’ve acquired en-route!? Too early for boarding, the ‘Quiet’ Room is as good as DOH gets in the early hours. Unfortunately this did not mean an excursion to a John Foxx Cathedral Ocean style room of metadelic delights, more so a de-facto backpackers dorm only with chairs instead of bunk beds, cue plenty of snoring.
Out of semi-sleep to see the Doha dawn rise in no time and with it some considerable heat, though it’s the shudders and shivers of Euro chill that’ll be next to embrace me. An aisle seat ensures I miss the clutch of downtown buildings which the city is famous for including the one that looks like an architectural dildo! Shortly after take off and before breakfast I switch to the rear for the last remaining window seat to view the Kuwaiti coast and mountains of Iraq. It’s every bit as fascinating as my youth and a little like being a boy again. Even if my fate the other side of this plane journey was jarring at the back of my mind I could for now enjoy every vista unfolding before me.
So what was for breakfast? Well I go for the sweet Bread and Butter pudding with Strawberry compote, there’s yogurt, croissant and orange juice too, can’t complain. The plane by the way has cost little more than the flight to Bali so more value for money where I’m concerned.
After another cat nap or movie I regain consciousness somewhere over Serbia and soon the Croatian coast and its crazy isles – as if Henri Matisse had been especially commissioned to design them – glide below framed by a still Adriatic blue. The air has been mainly fine too, just the odd ripple of turbulence. In no time it’s Italy and Corsican clouds and just like flying into Heathrow or Guangzhou the murky clouds gather for the final stretch across Barcelona and the Iberian heartland.
This was it, descent into the one and only Barajas, Madrid’s acclaimed airport. In my dreams a bright blue sky ushers in the new chapter but the reality was, more white sky, moist taxiways, a few drops of rain on the window, the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain or in this case plane was suitably apt. Likewise we park next to a jet with an exclamation mark on its tail, like it was all predetermined, choreographed by that laughing demon in the sky again. It would have made more sense had it been a question mark. As Peter K(ingsbery) would say, ‘whatever fate you bring I’ll welcome it’ and yes after the long wait for baggage, the air was freezing!