I had to be in the office early the next morning but I was still awake. News articles refreshed on my computer screen as the events from Brussels unfolded. The suspected terrorists from the Paris attacks had been found and had a shoot-out with the police. Three officers and a civilian had been injured, two suspects were on the run and the city was in lockdown.
While checking how many hours sleep I would be getting, I got hold of Lauren to discuss our options. We were to travel to Bruges in two days with a short stopover in Brussels. We monitored the situation the following day and decided to proceed with our trip. Terrorists could not prevent us from living our lives.
A young girl, no more than five years old, plopped herself next to her parents at the hotel restaurant. Her plate consisted of two doughnuts, a croissant and a brownie. They do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It was time to tackle Prague.
Going through customs at Heathrow, I waited patiently for Lauren on the other side of security control. She was held up at the metal detector as she had set off the alarms and was ordered to go into the full body scanner. My mind wandered as I stuffed my pockets with my wallet, phone and passport. The dawning realisation became apparent of how unprepared I was for this trip. It was going to be a nice change landing in a foreign city, totally oblivious, and not knowing what to expect.
Leaving the terminal at Prague airport there were no signs that would benefit a unilingual chap such as myself. We walked around the bus stops and found a small indicator for the ‘Airport Express’. This sounds promising, I thought. There was an inconspicuous piece of paper stuck to a post with a section in English saying the bus would go to the city and the fee could be paid to the bus driver. Success.
“We are going to be late.”
Truman grumbled to himself as we walked towards Temple Meads station. His eyes were trying to focus on his phone as they tried to blink away the darkness of sleep. This was the first trip we had ever taken together despite our meeting back in Brisbane all those months ago.
“According to Google,” he started while rubbing his unshaven face. “We are going to miss our flight.”
I looked at him perplexed. If there was one part of trips that I excelled at, it was planning. There was plenty of time allocated to be at the airport before our plane departed. What was this Welsh man talking about? We kept a steady pace walking through the streets of Bristol and I adjusted the straps on my backpack.
meliorism (n.) the belief that the world gets better; the belief that humans can improve the world
Staring out of the passenger window, Durban’s blue lagoon stretched out from under the bridge, flowing into the Indian Ocean. The December sun was shining brightly, increasing the hue of the tropical vegetation by the water edge. An apartment block emerged from the trees and I immediately recognised my old home of over twenty years ago. For the next few minutes my memories took me back to my childhood of endless hours spent playing cricket in the complex grounds.
My old flat in Durban
This was my new life. Protected with gloves, a hat and a ridiculously warm coat, I made my way through the English winter showers. I put down my umbrella and paused for a minute as gale force winds tore through me. It was a struggle to catch my breath as I watched a middle-aged woman get carried away in the style of Mary Poppins. Stopping short of the train station due to impassible pot-holes with collections of water, a familiar figure appeared with his hood up. Truman.
“How’s it going bro?” Truman asked as we embraced in a bromantic hug.
“Lot has happened,” I started, my mind quickly flashing over the previous six months since leaving my backpacker days behind me. “Where do I begin?”
Playing Spiderman at the Nakama Halloween Party
The heavy showers that relentlessly hit the windscreen on the drive from Katowice Airport was a fading memory as the bus soared through the beautiful, golden countryside of southern Poland. Faded billboards and Eastern European architecture were scattered by the roadside. There was a strong Catholic influence with giant crucifixes randomly appearing in the window every few minutes and colourful graveyards decorated by hundreds of flowers. Having just come from the concrete jungle of London, it was surreal driving through infinite countryside and then suddenly appearing in a hidden village. The town would soon disappear from sight and the green countryside would present itself again.
The one thing that all these villages had in common was the giant church right in the heart of town. As the bus pulled into Nowa Cerekwia it was no different as the steeple towered over the other buildings. This is where one of my childhood friends, Chris, would be getting married.