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American Anonymous Ch.1

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American Anonymous Ch.1 Powered By Docstoc
					“There is a vast difference between a 'tourist' and a 'traveler.' The
'tourist' goes to visit a faraway place, stays for a few days or weeks,
and then returns home. But the 'traveler' is at home wherever he may be
visiting."

                                                                 -Paul Bowles, The
               Sheltering Sky




                                            1
                                     On The Road

       The plane landed in Nadi, Fiji on May 15th. I had departed Los Angeles ten hours
earlier on May 13th but, because of the international dateline, I wouldn‘t have a May 14th
this year. Losing that day made me think about what I might have done with the time I
lost. May 14th could have been the day I was going to win the lottery and buy a house in
the Hollywood Hills, or maybe it would have been the day that Joanna became single
again. I guess I‘ll never know what ―could‖ have happened. But what did I care about
those fantasies… I was in Fiji.
       There was nothing I wanted more than to get acclimated to my new environment
as soon as possible. However, that would prove to be an especially hard task. I stumbled
off the plane a complete wreck. It was five-thirty in the morning; I was in a foreign
country; I felt like I needed a shower; and I desired sleep. Over the past twenty-four
hours, I wasn‘t sure how long I had slept or even if I had slept at all. With the backpack
draped over my body like a wet towel, my walk resembled that of the elderly.
       It was five-thirty in the morning.
       Feeling more alone than a kindergartener on his first day of school, I filed into the
long customs line. A few English travelers in front of me called the line, a ―queue,‖ and
it was only then that I realized just how far away from home I was. It took about fifteen
minutes before I finally reached the front. Once there, the customs agent kindly asked a
number of questions: What are you here for? How long are you staying? Where are you
planning to go while in the country? I‘m pretty sure I answered, ―I don‘t know,‖ to all of
them. In America, one probably would‘ve been detained and thrown into airport jail for
that response. In Fiji, the agent gave me an amused laugh and a comforting smile before
she stamped my passport and sent me on my way.
       As I walked down to baggage claim, a five-piece band, comprised mostly of
guitars and ukuleles, played traditional Fijian music to celebrate our arrival in the
country. The songs were upbeat and slowly awakened me with every step. Near the
baggage claim, I saw representatives from various hostels practically begging
backpackers to stay at their establishments. I already had a bed reserved at the Horizon
Beach Resort. Apart from purchasing the plane tickets, booking my first night was the
only thing I ever did in advance for my trip.
       I went up to a scrawny guy holding a ―Horizon Beach‖ sign and told him I had a
reservation. ABDUL, a short Indian kid who wore a light blue collared shirt and a
traditional sari, told me he had a few more passengers to pick up, and to wait outside by
the van. Yet again, I picked up my pack and flung it over my weary shoulders.
       When the automatic doors opened and lead me out of the airport, I was
immediately introduced to the unforgiving heat of the South Pacific. It wasn‘t even six
a.m. and already I was experiencing the most extreme humidity I had ever felt. It was
like being locked in a sauna. I arrived at Abdul‘s van and, to put it nicely, it was a piece
of shit. There were multiple dents, scratches, cracked windows, and torn seats. ―He‘s
undoubtedly been in a few accidents,‖ I thought to myself.
       I waited ten agonizing minutes for Abdul. All the while, mosquitoes buzzed in
my ear and profuse sweat changed my light gray shirt to dark. Just when I thought I was
going to pass out, Abdul came leisurely along and unlocked the van. The other
passengers never showed.
       Abdul made quite a few attempts before the van actually started. As we drove out
of the airport, I peered back at the parking lot to the other hostel vans. They weren‘t so
bad. ―Is there any correlation between the van and the hostel?‖ I guess I‘d find out soon
enough. Abdul, who barely looked old enough to drive, must have seen hints of concern
written all over my face. He told me to relax and enjoy the ride.
       ―Welcome to Fiji!‖ Abdul said with a fortuitous smile.
        I felt the gamut of emotions as we made our way through the winding roads
toward the hostel. Nervous. Excited. Tired. Anxious. As a result of all those feelings, I
decided to close my eyes for a bit. My screen saver, or whatever you call that black hole
you see when you shut your eyes, was full of static. I could feel my heartbeat intensify.
Unsettled, I opened my eyes only to find a speeding truck, on the wrong side of the road,
coming straight at us. A new emotion then came to the surface.
        Fear.
        I shouted, ―Abdul,‖ from the back row of the van, but he gave no response. I then
leapt like a frog out of my seat and tried to warn him. ―He‘s not paying attention!‖ I
thought in a blind panic. When I tapped Abdul on the shoulder, he reacted and took his
attention completely off the road. In a final attempt to save our lives I screamed, ―CAR!‖
and just as I did, the seemingly out-of-control truck zoomed gracefully past us with a
ferocious swoooosh. Abdul shot me a look that mixed anger with bewilderment. Over
palpitated breath, I sat in utter confusion.
        After a few moments of restored calm, I noticed that Abdul‘s steering wheel was
on the right side of the car, and all along we had been driving on the left side of the road.
―My god. Fijian‘s drive on the wrong side,‖ I thought exasperatedly. Maybe if I had one
of those travel guides I would have known that. Nevertheless, five minutes into my
journey and I already thought I was a goner.



        I arrived at the Horizon Beach Resort still a bit dazed and confused. My first
impressions of the hostel were not so memorable. First of all, it was no resort. Resorts
have pools, tennis courts, and fine dining. The Horizon had no tennis courts, a pool the
size of a hot tub, and a small cafe. Granted, I would only be paying ten dollars a night to
stay there, but it looked nothing like it did online.
        Nothing.
        The hostel was run down and small––no more than twenty rooms in the place.
Scattered trash, dilapidated couches, and an overused pool table made up the lobby,
where I stood helplessly looking for someone to show me to my room. The hostel
appeared to be closed, there wasn‘t a soul in sight. When I turned around to ask Abdul
where everybody was, he was already gone. Frustrated, tired, and in need of relief from
my aching shoulders, I took off my pack and rested it at my feet.
         Another thirty minutes passed before a skinny, dark-skinned Fijian woman, came
out to greet me. She was all smiles and noticeably missing a front tooth.
         ―Bula,‖ said the friendly woman from behind the reception desk.
         ―Excuse me,‖ I countered with a sheepish grin.
         “Bula is a traditional greeting that means welcome. My name is ASE, and you
must be Eric,‖ said the woman.
         ―I am,‖ I answered, surprised that I had been expected.
         Ase, the ―desk clerk‖, among other working titles, informed me in the kindest,
gentlest way that I wouldn‘t be able to get a bed until ten a.m. She was sweet, but that
was the last thing I wanted to hear. As a consolation, Ase offered me the complementary
breakfast, which consisted of tea or coffee, and toast. It was too sticky and humid outside
to have anything remotely hot, so I declined the free breakfast and took my pack to the
tables overlooking the beach–– which, filled with litter, also didn‘t look like it had online.
After I teased myself with thoughts of being back home, sleeping comfortably in my own
bed, I turned around to ask Ase if they had Internet, but she had disappeared. The hostel
was back to being eerily silent.
         I was tired, but couldn‘t get a bed; I was sweaty, but could not take a shower, or
even change my clothes. Wrapped in frustration, I took out my iPod to listen to some
music. The right song could always change my mood. However, the damn battery had
run out. I needed to charge it, but the only plugs were in the rooms. A pessimistic side,
which wasn‘t part of my nature, started to build. Sarcastically, I glanced at my watch to
confirm that it took less than an hour for me to think, “What the fuck did I get myself
into?”


         When eight a.m. rolled around, I started to see the first signs of life at the hostel.
Ase had returned to her front desk position, the Horizon café opened, and people––
backpackers and travelers alike–– began to wake up and start their day. One by one some
weary soul would come out, have the complementary breakfast, and sit down. The
guests, who were varied in nationality and age, each had a sore expression on their face,
which I took as a testament to how much fun they had the night before. So far, this was
the only positive sign.
       Things continued to look brighter when I noticed an advertisement for the
Internet. Curious, I walked over to the small room adjacent to the lobby and opened the
sliding glass door. It was partly a travel center and the other half was the hostel‘s Internet
station; two of the oldest computers known to man, with floppy disk drives and large
boxy monitors. I was eager to make contact with anybody from back home, so I went to
the front desk and purchased a fifteen-minute Internet card from Ase. I exchanged a US
ten dollar bill and got the change in Fijian money. Too distracted to look at my new
currency, I darted back to the computers.
       I punched in the numeric pass code and heard the obnoxious racket of a dial-up
network. The crescendo of ear piercing white noise brought me back to the ninth grade.
Yahoo‘s front page took eons to load and by the time I got to my email login, the fifteen
minutes were all but spent. Back home, fifteen minutes would buy more than enough
time to read my email, check some baseball scores, and write a message to everyone,
telling them that I had arrived safely. Clearly, this wasn‘t home.
       I didn‘t want to spend my entire first day on the computer, so my next option was
a phone call. I went back to the desk only for Ase to inform me that calling cards cost
twenty-five U.S. dollars for two minutes. It was a no-brainer to decide against that.
Reluctantly, I paid for another fifteen minutes, and after ten of those, I was finally able to
get onto AOL Instant Messenger. As time ran down, I luckily got a hold of Joanna.
Typing as fast as I could I barely got the message off, asking her to please call my mom
and let her know I was okay. Sure enough, time expired while I waited for Joanna‘s
response.
       ―Your bed is ready,‖ said Ase, breaking my focus on the computer.
        ―Thank god,‖ I whispered under my breath. I picked up my pack, which now felt
heavier than ever, and with anxious feet I headed towards my first encounter with a hostel
dorm-room. Ase directed me to room 105, located near the lobby.
       I opened the door to see a white linoleum floor sprinkled with sand and laden with
bathing suits, shirts, towels, underwear, bras, books and magazines. Backpacks were
everywhere, too. Many of which I noticed were much bigger than mine. There were ten
beds in the dorm, mostly ―bunk beds,‖ but mine was not. My bed was a small single,
conveniently located right next to the air conditioning unit, which did little to drown out
the snoring of those who were still asleep.
          As not to step on anything, I carefully tiptoed across the room, being especially
mindful not to wake anyone. Eager to get some rest of my own, I ripped the pack off my
shoulders, sprawled across the bed, and soaked up the cool air for a bit.
          I tried to keep my eyes shut but knowing I‘d be sharing a room with so many
people started my mind reeling again. With wandering thoughts, I surveyed the room. A
few backpackers, who spoke a language foreign to me, got their stuff in to start their day,
which was exactly what I decided to do. I was overtired and felt sleep wouldn‘t be
coming anytime soon, so I changed my sweat-drenched clothes to dry ones and headed
right back outside.


          More and more travelers had made their way out of their rooms. One group
positioned themselves around the small swimming pool; they were reading books and
taking in the sun. Others congregated around the pool table, watching the action, or
waiting for their turn to break. Me? I was in the lobby, planted on the couch like an
impossible weed in the ground, too tentative to mingle or introduce myself to anyone.
          While I pretended to feel comfortable in my new environment, a local Fijian man
with skin darker than midnight sat down beside me. The islander, possibly in his forties,
carried a beat up guitar, which was missing a string. He sat down beside me and,
surprisingly, began to play beautiful music. He played so sweetly until he saw a smile on
my face. It took a while, but finally I caved. The man then handed me the guitar and
introduced himself as, JOE.
          Joe had a band that played at the Horizon three times a week. While the two of us
talked about our favorite musicians, I realized I missed my guitar from home already.
When I was eighteen years old I taught myself to play, and since then, I can‘t remember a
single day that I haven‘t picked up the instrument, at least once.
          ―Why don‘t you join us tonight,‖ Joe suggested after he saw that I could play.
          ―In front of an audience?‖ I asked, ―I rarely ever do that.‖
          ―Think about it,‖ He said playfully, before walking away and leaving me with his
guitar.
        As Joe made his rounds about the hostel, I continued to strum the guitar and felt
myself relax more with every chord change. Thanks to the guitar, it was the first time all
day I hadn‘t felt alone. While I was lost in the sounds of the music, unbeknownst to me,
two girls sat down. I glanced up and noticed these attractive ladies whose eyes were
glued to me. Even with the attention, I was still a little apprehensive to introduce myself.
Luckily, the girls did the honor.
        KRISTEN introduced herself first. She was a Norwegian girl in her early
twenties, with long platinum blonde hair that cascaded down her tall, curvy frame. Her
boisterous personality drew attention to her revealing clothing and I got the feeling that
she was there to have some fun. Kristen then introduced her friend, BRYANE. Bryane
was from England and looked to be around Kristen‘s age. She was shorter in stature and
had shoulder length auburn hair. She was a bit more reserved and reminded me of the
pretty intellectual girl you might find in a library or coffee house. She was incredibly
cute.
        Kristen and Bryane started to talk about taking a ride into Nadi Town. To that, I
chimed in, ―I‘d like to go to see the city.‖ The girls extended a warm invitation for me to
join them and, just as they did, another English kid who sat by the couches asked if he
could come too. PATRICK, a pencil thin twenty-one year-old with dirty-blonde hair
and crooked teeth, was welcomed into the group. The next thing I knew, the hostel
hailed us a taxi, and the four of us were off to explore.


        Oddly, being crammed in a taxi with three strangers and no air-conditioning, was
the most comfortable I felt all day. Kristen, Bryane, and Patrick were cool people–– we
got along from the get go–– and by the time the taxi dropped us off in the city center, we
already had a good rapport.
        Patrick and I hadn‘t been to Nadi Town, so Kristen and Bryane graciously took
on the role of tour guide. My first impressions of the city weren‘t notable. There didn‘t
seem to be any style of architecture, just a bunch of low-rise buildings–– decrepit and
old; it looked as if nothing new had been built since the early seventies. There was a
weird vibe from the locals, too. An odd mix of Indians and Fijians made up the
population, and surprisingly, it was the Indians, not the Fijians, which seemed to own
every establishment. I couldn‘t put my finger on it, but within minutes of our arrival, I
felt there was no reason for us to be there.
         ―Nadi Town is really just a place with a few busy streets and a bus station to its
name,‖ informed Kristen.
         ―Yeah,‖ Bryane added, ―most come here to go to the bank, check out Jack‘s
Souvenir Shop, and take advantage of the cheap Internet.‖
         And that is exactly what we did.
         At the bank, with the exception of Kristen, we all had to exchange money. I
traded in ninety crisp US dollars and got back one hundred sixty eight Fijian dollars, most
of which were worn thin and slightly torn. Trying not to rip any of my new currency, I
carefully placed the cash into my wallet. At that point, the only American money I had
left was a single dollar bill; a bill that I decided to keep with me. I didn‘t know why; I
guess it made me feel better to have a piece of home.
         Next, we took the short walk over to Jack‘s. It was a popular shop where you
could buy everything you would never want, and true to tourist form, Kristen, Bryane,
and Patrick bought a bunch of stuff they didn‘t need. Cheesy t-shirts, bottle-cap openers,
post cards, magnets–– these guys purchased it all. Initially, I hesitated to spend any
money. It‘s not that I was being cheap, I just felt anxious–– every dollar I spent, every
swipe of my debit card–– meant the dwindling of my bank account. Thankfully though,
Fiji seemed to be inexpensive.
         Our final stop was the Internet ―café.‖ It wasn‘t the kind of place that sold food
and drink. The Internet café in Nadi Town was a sweltering room, with twenty or so old
computers set up on folding tables. While I debated whether or not to go online, Kristen,
Bryane, and Patrick jumped on the computers as soon as they became available.
Eventually, I broke down and spent my first Fijian dollars. I thought it was a little ironic
that my first few purchases on the road were to connect me back home. Nevertheless, I
was glad that I had checked my e-mail. The first message I received was an informative
one:


Eric –
        So glad to hear that you made it there safe and sound. It was a long quiet ride
back from the airport that night. Saying good-bye was very difficult. Certainly more so
than I expected. So many things ran through my head that I may have forgotten to tell you
before you left. But I think I covered almost everything. Some things I will repeat over
and over again because they are so important. Whatever new that has come to mind I will
state here.
        First, take care of yourself. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. This is what the
journey is all about. Keep yourself open to whatever is happening around you. Try to
understand the circumstances brought to you. Their meaning may not be clear right away
but that's OK.
        Second, take care of your belongings. Do not get lazy, keep everything where it
belongs. It will save you lots of aggravation in the long run. Take inventory as frequently
as needed.
        Finally, journal, journal, journal. Do not let a day go by without writing. Set
aside a specific time of the day to do this. For me it was usually after I had reached the
next refugio so I would cover the remaining days events from the previous day and the
walk that had just been completed. You will have to find a time that suits you since it is a
different setup. Make sure you include whatever emotions you might be going through no
matter how insignificant. As far as pictures, take lots. The hostels, inside and out. Your
surroundings. This should be treated like a video documentary. Significant others. Those
that you have bonded with, no matter how short a period of time. These are things I
should have done but failed to do to some extent. Collect e-mail addresses and mail them
to yourself. Leave nothing to memory no matter how good you think it is. That's enough
for now.
        Love you very much, miss you even more.

       Dad

        My father‘s e-mail was true to his form: honest, and straight from the heart. His
words would set the tone for my entire trip.
        With the others still pounding away at the keys, I replied to my father, e-mailed
Joanna, then prepared a mass message to friends and family, letting them all know that I
had arrived safely. After I hit the ―send‖ button, I waited endlessly for the delivery
confirmation. All the while, my thoughts went back to Los Angeles. I missed home, but
thanks to my new friends it was getting easier to be away from there.
       My afternoon with Kristen, Bryane, and Patrick was great, but it came to an
abrupt end. We had to leave Nadi Town because in a short while, Kristen was leaving
Fiji to catch a plane to the Cooke Islands.
       Once back at the hostel, Kristen gathered her things and then we all met in the
lobby to say our farewells. The girls had only known each other for a few days, so I was
surprised to see how emotional Bryane became when she said goodbye to Kristen. I was
sad to see Kristen go, but I didn‘t understand getting worked up over someone I‘d only
known for a short time and would likely never see again. The tears weren‘t even dry
before the taxi drove up and Kristen headed to the airport. Just like that, she was gone.
        Bryane, Patrick, and myself ended the day with a short walk to the beach. On our
way there, Patrick announced he was departing as well. Come morning, he would be off
to the Yasawa Islands. I couldn‘t believe my luck. Just when I thought I was meeting
people, they were leaving. Bryane then turned to me and asked,
        ―When are you leaving?‖
        ―I just got here,‖ I answered, ―I have no plans to go just yet.‖
        ―Perfect,‖ Bryane countered, ―Why don‘t you come with me tomorrow to
Robinson Caruso Island. It‘s supposed to be one of the hot spots in Fiji,‖ she offered
with a smile. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Bryane was a pretty girl, and I
thought she liked me. Plus, it sounded like a very backpacker thing to do. When I told
Bryane I would go she was thrilled, and the sadness that was previously in her eyes went
away.
        I booked the daytrip through the travel center and met back up with Bryane and
Patrick for an early dinner. The café wasn‘t busy, but that didn‘t mean our food arrived
any earlier. For my first Fijian meal, I went with pizza. My belief had always been that
there is no such thing as a bad pizza, but the pizza at the Horizon tasted like. If even the
pizza was bad, food was going to be yet another obstacle for me on the road.
        Contrary to the disappointing meal, conversation with Bryane and Patrick was
good. Hearing the Brits talk about life in England was really a learning experience.
Before that night, all I knew of the U.K. came from television, movies, or books. As they
spoke, I imagined what it would be like to grow up in their culture. I pictured what it
would be like to have Mick Jagger and Winston Churchill as fellow countrymen. Bryane
woke me up out of that fantasy when she turned and asked,
        ―What‘s life like in Canada?‖
        It was then I realized that I never told them I was American. It just never came
up.
        ―Actually I‘m from––‖
       I was about to say ―California,‖ when suddenly I remembered a mistake I had
made––a four hundred dollar mistake to be exact. Without a moment to spare, I quickly
excused myself from the table and in a sprint, ran back to the dorm-room. My first
assumption: it was stolen. The run was short but seemed to take forever. I couldn‘t bear
the thought of being without my iPod, but in my head it was already gone and somebody
else was listening to my music.
       When I got back to my room, the iPod was there. Thank god! The wires of my
charger, however, were awkwardly draped over a fellow backpacker. I felt terrible and
apologized. ―No worries,‖ he said, in what sounded like a thick Scottish accent. The
backpacker dropped the Lonely Planet book that covered his face, and continued, ―I just
didn‘t want to unplug something that wasn‘t myne.‖ The guy then got up, extended his
hand, and introduced himself as MARV.
        Marv was in his late twenties and well built. The ladies back home would‘ve
called him good looking. He stood a tad over six-feet, sported a five o‘clock shadow,
dressed very European (Capri pants with a tight white t-shirt), and the way his stuff was
neatly organized, looked like quite an experienced traveler.
       When I inquired about Scotland, Marv was quick to inform that he was actually
from Newcastle, England.
       ―Oh, like the beer,‖ I said in recognition.
       ―Yeah, exactly mate,‖ he countered.
       After a quick conversation about our backgrounds, we got into a long-winded
discussion about the iPod. It turns out the mp3 player was a gadget brand new to the road
and its travelers. Our conversation naturally transitioned to music, and it was there we
discovered we like the same kinds of bands. We must have talked for an hour about The
Stones alone. At the end of our rant, Marv asked, ―What do you have planned for
tomorrow?‖
       ―My plan on this trip is to not make plans,‖ I said, ―however, I met this pretty girl
from London and we are going to Robinson Caruso Island.‖
       Marv glanced through his Lonely Planet and told me that Robinson was definitely
a place to check out. I asked him to join us, but he had already booked a scuba diving
trip. ―What hostel are you staying after the Horizon?‖ he asked.
       ―I might go to the Beachouse,‖ I answered.
        The Beachouse was where Kris King told me to go. He said it was heaven. Marv
then asked if he could tag along. ―Sure,‖ I said, ―let‘s leave the day after tomorrow.‖
And just like that, I had my next few days mapped out. It was a feeling of relief to know
that, at least for the next few days, I would not be alone. With that in mind, another layer
of anxiety peeled away.
        ―Oh shit––―
        ―Something wrong?‖ inquired Marv.
        ―I forgot–– I left my friends back at the café.‖
        ―Well then, lets go find them.‖
        When Marv and I emerged from the dorm, we were introduced to a whole new
vibe at the hostel. The café was now serving drinks and there was a festive, party-like
atmosphere around the place. Backpackers from all over the world were engaged in
conversation; complete strangers nonchalantly introduced themselves to one another. For
someone like myself, who is initially quiet when meeting new people, this was a scene
that would take a little getting used to.
        Outside the café, I found Bryane and Patrick, and introduced them to Marv.
Marv, being English, which by default made him a drinker, insisted on buying us all a
round of beer. Bryane thanked him for the kind gesture but declined the drink.
        ―I am going to call it an early night on an account of a early morning tomorrow,‖
Bryane explained sadly. Before she left she said,
        ―I will wake you up at nine.‖
        ―Cool,‖ I responded, ―but I‘m sure I‘ll wake up on my own.‖ Bryane just gave a
small laugh as she walked away. ―What do you think that laugh was all about?‖ I
quizzed Marv.
        ―I think she likes you, mate,‖ he said, with a grin.
        Joe‘s band was in the middle of a set, and fifty or so backpackers were gathered
around to listen to them play. Marv, Patrick, and myself got two more beers each before
we joined the group. Joe recognized my face in the crowd and excitedly motioned me
over to sit near him, so I did. After the song ended, everybody clapped, and that was
when I thought Joe was going to have me play a song.
         ―Have you ever had kava before?‖ He whispered through the applause.
         ―Why is he whispering?‖ I thought to myself. ―No,‖ I responded, keeping my
answer quiet. Joe then got on the microphone and, in a booming voice, announced to the
crowd,
         ―This man has NOT had kava before! Quiet down ladies and gentleman, we have
a KAVA VIRGIN in the HOOOUSE.‖
         Martin, Patrick, and the rest of my fellow backpackers cheered with
encouragement for me to lose my kava virginity. I wasn‘t quite sure what I was getting
myself into. Before then, I hadn‘t even heard of kava, but I figured I was in Fiji and
“When in Fiji, do as the Fijians do… Right?”
         On the stage floor, in a giant ceramic bowl, sat a murky green liquid that
resembled sewage water.
         ―Low or high tide?‖ asked Joe, showing me a small and large coconut shell.
         ―High,‖ I answered, trying to psych myself up for the moment. Joe then scooped
a generous serving of kava into the hollowed shell.
         ―Alright. Clap once,‖ instructed Joe, before handing me the drink. I did as I was
told and let out a hollow smack over the silent audience.
         ―Now, say ‗Bula‘ with intensity,‖ ordered Joe.
         ―BUUULLLAAAA,‖ I said in a deep resounding tone, while clenching my fist.
         ―Now drink the kava. Don‘t sip, all in one.‖ ordered Joe.
         I took a small pause then sent the kava down the hatch. The drink filled my
mouth and parted my tonsils like a slow river meeting a piece of driftwood. I winced at
the kava‘s obscure taste as it made its way through my esophagus and down to my
stomach, which was already hosting a party of beer.
         With the cheering of the crowd, I drank another high tide then another, then
another. Before I knew it, my head was numb from the kava. I was hammered on a
foreign substance, in a foreign country, without the accompaniment of my traditional
friends, and I couldn‘t get over how much fun I was having. I was meeting people—
people from England, Austria, from Norway, people from Australia. Everyone was cool,
too. We all had this common ground––we were backpackers, travelers, vagrants––many
of us miles from home.
       ―What a feeling,‖ I thought in my drunken haze, ―to be miles away from home.‖
       I could only equate the experience to when my father dropped me off for college
in New York City. When I first arrived at NYU, I was alone, far away from home and
distanced from my usual crowd. I was apprehensive at first, but it didn‘t take long before
I started to like the change––the independence, a new city, a new group of friends.
       Joe‘s band played well into the early morning, and somewhere in that time I was
given the stage. I decided to play Bob Dylan‘s Knockin’ on Heavens Door. I wasn‘t sure
why I chose that song––maybe because it was simple, maybe because it was the first song
that popped in my head–– regardless of my reasons, playing music for a crowd,
especially that crowd, was an awesome feeling. Music, I learned right away, was
universal on the road; it was a language in itself, which could be understood and enjoyed
by everyone.
       The song was a success and everyone seemed to know the words. I wanted to
play another tune, but just after I finished, I felt the need to get up. By that time, there
were seven beers, several shots, and approximately thirty-two bowls of kava floating
around in my system. I knew what was about to take place. My body wanted this
mixture out. No, not that way, the way it came in…
       I quietly excused myself, ran to the closest bathroom, and locked the door. In
front of me stood a single toilet, geckos scurrying up the walls, and an unpleasant, yet
definable smell lingering in the air. The dirty, dimly lit space did little to comfort me. I
tried with all my might not to get sick but, unfortunately, I spent the next hour keeled
over, driving the porcelain bus. All the while, outside, my fellow backpackers would
jiggle the locked door and wonder when I would be out.
       Needless to say, it was quite the way to end the day.

				
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