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Out there in the world, Canada is like the forgotten kid on the playground, but it doesn’t care. It’s the underdog to the United States, what a friend of mine calls “America’s attic” (and can you guess where he is from?) When I lived in Indonesia, nobody ever guessed that I’m from Canada. They would hit on nearly every developed country until I finally tire of the game and just tell them.

I’m leaving Surabaya at long last. Of course I’ve left a dozen times over the course of two years to go on holiday but I always came back to my job and my apartment. Real Life was always there waiting for me to resume it. There were a handful of get-out-of-jail-free passes but I resigned myself to the shackles of responsibility and moral obligation to return to work after my blissful holidays.

I wasn’t quite done when I wrote about where to go to get a white vagina. That’s the thing about living abroad for two years, weird stuff becomes normal so over time you don’t even notice those little things anymore.

The first time I drove a motorbike in South East Asia I was robbed. I had just learned to drive a scooter during a holiday on the island of Lombok, next to Bali and one day I was scooting along one of the main roads, in the middle of a beautiful day, and boom–two local guys drove me off the road and threatened to stab me.

Two years is a good amount of time to become acquainted with a place. I won’t claim to “know” Indonesia any more than I know about the lunar cycle. My observation is that a full moon happens one day a month and every other day it appears quite randomly in the sky.

I read a book to my very young students regularly because it’s a favourite of theirs. It’s called “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. It’s about a family that, together, faces several challenges on their walk to find a bear, such as very tall grass, a river, thick gooey mud, a blizzard, and eventually, a bear.

I used to think that life was like skydiving without a parachute, you can only do it once. But as time tears on and I grow older and know less about everything I realise that a thousand lives can exist in the space of a lifetime. When my grandmother died a couple of years ago at the tender age of 96, I sat down to write her eulogy and counted up the number of days she’d been alive: 35,210.

The worst bout of humiliation I’ve ever suffered took place publicly in a parking lot, and it was all my own doing, and a little bit the other guy. I got angry and it completely overtook my ability to reason, communicate, and ride my motorbike. It was a shameful few moments in time.

I have a friend in Surabaya who lies awake at night, trapped beside high tension electrical wires that buzz and hum and encroach on an otherwise peaceful night’s sleep. I also live next to these wires, within this field of disquieted energy. The other night, near midnight, I sat pulled over on the side of the road on my motorbike, trying to come to a decision about something.

As I slog up the stairs Monday morning, having just arrived at work, I feel my body in a way I never used to. My muscles ache slightly because I ran the previous day.


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