The Slum Girl

 

I was on my way back to my hotel, when she ran up behind me, yelling.

It was a high pitched sound, bird like.

Before I knew it, she was standing in front of me and pointing at my camera.

It was a young girl wrapped in a blanket and all too obviously from a poor, lower caste family. She was sleeping on the streets, along with so many others……..

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Woolly Mammoth

Arriving in Prague that morning, we had time on our hands.

Our flight to Amsterdam was in the evening.

It was the summer of 2018, at the height of the tourist season in Europe and wherever you looked, there were people and more people. 

Seems like another world now and well, it was.

We had been walking in the south of the Czech Republic for the previous month and now, after weeks of solitude, there was no avoiding it: a long day in super overcrowded airports and public transport.

We weren´t interested in sight-seeing. We had visited Prague several times in the past and didn’t want to devalue our memories. Like most other European cities including Amsterdam, Prague was over commercialised, over-priced and over-crowded.   

For want of any other ideas, we went to the Prague City Museum.

It was housed in a beautiful old, classical style building, but besides it’s architecture, the exhibits didn’t make a lasting impression on me. 

Except for one: a replica of a woolly mammoth……

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The Community Hall Part 2

 

On first appearances, the community hall, an abandoned galvanised iron shed, seemed like the last place where anything significant might be found. But our guide, a 93 year old man, knew its story and he was keen to tell it to strangers, conscious of the fact that he and the hall were living on borrowed time.

As he talked, I sometimes felt that he was talking to himself, to the darkness….

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The Community Hall

 

It was late afternoon and we had been riding our bikes over unsealed roads into a powerful headwind for most of the day. The wind was far stronger than the weather report had indicated. Along with the wind, we also had to battle the dust. We knew we weren’t going to reach our destination, a town where we had planned to stay the night at a caravan park.

We desperately needed to stop. But we were surrounded by undulating crop land as far as the eye could see. It was autumn and everything was barren and dry. There was nowhere we could pitch our tent and our water was low.  

I was in a bad mood. The grievances piled up.

When we  had arrived in Australia that January, our plan was to leave in March/April, fly to Beijing, and then take the train to North Korea. Now thanks to Covid-19, international travel was impossible and who knew when – and if – the world would ever return to what it once was. I had this uncomfortable feeling that a viral Frankenstein was on the rampage.  Former irritations – e.g., crowded airports, endless cues and long flights – were now reasons for nostalgia.

So here we were, plan B, making the best of our situation by …riding our bikes into a vortex of dust and wind with no water, no prospect of stopping for the night, surrounded on all sides by a great nothingness.   

 Then it appeared in the distance, like a mirage…..

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Size 43

 

I took one of my trekking boots (the right one) to a Dutch shoe repairer before Anya and I left for Austria. The sole looked like it was coming loose at the back.

Unbeknownst to me then, this was the start of a long saga ………..

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