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I am in the process of triangulating the meanings of the daily specials, reading the menu glyphically to match combinations of letters to the list of partially-translated dishes. A man sitting at the table too-close next to me offers, in English, to help me order my lunch. He is probably in his late 40s, a bit ruddy in the face, with close-cropped, thinning blond hair. He is sitting with a couple, only slightly older in appearance, but apparently, as I would come to assume, his parents.

He is a car dealer, born here in Budapest and raised in Australia. He has been back for ten years, although business today under the ultra-corrupt oligarchy of contemporary Hungary is not what it used to be. He advises me to order what his father is eating, which appears to be a shredded potato covered in a mountain of fried meat. I decide to go for something that I think will be roast pork.

Coffee Time

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In Washington there are new, shiny apartment buildings going up in neighborhoods that haven’t enjoyed growth for decades. That isn’t to say that they enjoy this particular brand of development; the influx of wealthy young professionals into black, working class communities is always a bumpy transition. In every glass-walled, terraced condo building that opens, a row of restaurant and shopping chains sprouts up in the street-level storefronts, like invasive mushrooms popping up between the roots of a non-native tree transplanted into a forest.

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I wrote this over a year ago. It had been 14 days since I was in Asia, and it sums up many of my thoughts about this whole over-arching experience.

Asia is gone to me, snuffed out in a way I anticipated but didn’t fully acknowledge. And I feel a sense of loss. I miss having no preconceived notion of what I will find around the next corner. I miss the signs of life that are unavoidable on the street, in every window. I miss the interactivity that comes from being a curiosity.

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A rare occurrence in India: across the street from our hotel is a clean and well-groomed public park. We sit around a perfect little stone table, shuffle our deck and naively expect to play a few rounds of 3-card. We just about manage to sort our hand when a yellow shirted man, armed with a wooden stick, starts to disperse the crowd that is growing around us at an alarming rate. What seemed like an oasis of quiet and calm turns out to harbor innumerable, curious and animated young boys and men.

group of boys in India

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What moves Simon (or not)?

After a twenty-four hour journey, our friend Simon arrives in New Delhi. He spends the next day acquainting himself with India and picking up a few bits and bobs for his three week holiday. At 1 a.m, Simon boards a train to Patna,  delayed by two hours and scheduled to arrive at 3p.m.

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Mind over Elvis

My leg is furiously shaking in an Elvis like manner and my left finger tips dig into the rock while my right hand frantically grabs for anything that can work as my next hold. Panic is written all over this desperate scene. I am half way up a 30m sea-cliff climb and about 1.5 meters above my last safety. If I can’t figure out my next move I will fall at least three meters, with rope drag probably five.

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Malaysia Truly Asia

I am about to place my order for two Samosas, my mouth watering and stomach growling, as a man shoots into my field of vision. “Come join us for the open house – free food!” He points to a row of large tents, where a colorful mix of people weave their way past food stands.

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