Sunday, 20 May 2012

Malaysia Part 2 - withdrawal, gainful employment and Oz-bound

After a few more days swanning about Magick River and its cool gorgeousnessnessness, it's time to head back to Batuarang to help out at Reboot The Roots. Unfortunately, things are winding down a bit there for a while, so I concentrate on going through alcohol withdrawal.

Staying in a building who's purpose is to help ex-heroin addicts, drinking is obviously not encouraged. It's not especially encouraged in Malaysia full stop, being a Muslim country and everything. So, running low on funds and it being a hassle to get booze, I just stop drinking.  Since I was about 18, like a lot of people, I've probably consumed far, far, far more alcohol than any medical advice deems healthy. And over the past two months, Mr. Furious and myself went a bit overboard, deeming sitting anywhere for any length of time deserving a tasty, crisp, cold beer-shaped beverage. I would not describe myself as an alcoholic, and wouldn't even say I had a drink problem necessarily, but in a few years it might well develop into one. 

So for the first time I can remember, my body enters the world of withdrawal. Without a drowse-inducing drink, my body and brain are suddenly flooded with energy, and doesn't know what the hell to do with it. Staying up until 4 or 5am every morning on Facebook, attempting to write poetry and chainsmoking is the way I deal with it (because three cigarettes an hour is definitely healthier than a couple of beers). It's a strange sensation, made stranger by the fact that I didn't particularly crave alcohol, which is a blessing. However, the sleepness nights are getting aggravating, but Soon, who facilitates Reboot The Roots, having been through similar situations himself, is great to discuss these feelings with. I'm in the weird position of being both a volunteer and a resident going through withdrawal. I chat to Mr. Furious online, and he says that six months ago, he was doing exactly the same thing, in the same chair, at the same computer. Great, booze-addled minds think alike.

I need some work (well, I need money... them's different things), and Soon helpfully hooks me up with PODs Backpacker Hostel in KL. It's a quiet, calm place - exactly what I need. I get to stay there for free, as well as have all the peanut butter sandwiches I can cram into my mouth. I'm put on a lot of nightshifts, spending my nights in darkness with the hum of the computer screen, or being paid to curl up on a beanbag and sleep. My bosses are cool, understanding, lovely people, as are my co-workers. It's the perfect environment to collect my thoughts. I don't go out much, popping out now and then for some amazingly cheap and perfect cooked curry, before scurrying back. It's a good three weeks.

Before I left for South East Asia, my Dad called me, generously offering me a flight to Australia from where I happen to be in Asia. My old punk buddies Jay and Anj live in Sydney, as does my ex-squatmate Taz and his girlfriend Kael. All brilliant, lovely people and great friends. I decide to take my Dad up on the offer. This is too good an opportunity to miss. 

And so, restless to continue my adventure, I bid goodbye to the much-needed quiet of Malaysia, and board my flight to Sydney... 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Malaysia Part 1 - Kuala Lumpur, Batuarang, Magick River and some sad goodbyes

This is mine and Mr. Furious' last big hurrah as crusty duo Pidge and The Wizard: a gruelling thirty-six hour trip to the village of Batuarang, Malaysia. Mr. Furious has a plane to catch from Kuala Lumpur in a few days, and, having spent the last four years working and living in and out of Malaysia, has a few goodbye hugs to hand out before he leaves for Londontown.

The train ride to southern Thailand is brutal. We're crammed into third class, stacked human Jenga peices - if anyone moves, then the whole carriage threatens to fall apart. Passengers sit on hard chairs, the floor or by the side doors, smoking out into the speeding night. A brief reprieve is found in the restaurant carriage. We drink until it closes, and stagger back to the claustrophobic reality of the train carriage. Settling into discomfort, I find it impossible to concentrate. Music and books offer no consolation. My mind ebbs and flows, waves of boredom morph into stress, anger and sadness... there's a few moments blissed out contentment, before slipping back into boredom to kick off the mundane cycle once more. Shards of sleep become indistinguishable from shards of wakefulness. Is this what it feels like to go insane? After thirteen hours of this, we hit a town in southern Thailand and book a bus to Kuala Lumpur. 

The bus is a palace in comparison. The seats have cushioning on them and everything. We arrive in KL late. Mr. Furious, on home turf, is more confident now - he knows the routine here. I, on the other hand, am a crumpled mess of a man. Nausea is gurgling in the depths of my stomach from from excessive travelling, tiredness and bad food. My energy is spent on babbled half-sentences, drinking coffee and sitting. Mr. Furious organises us a ride to Batuarang, where the charity he helped set up (Reboot The Roots - check them out here) is based. Augustine and Hazar, two giving gentlemen, pick us up and we begin the final half hour stretch. Half way there, the stomach grumblings surge towards my throat. I pathetically beg Augustine to pull over. I fall out of the minivan, sway toward the roadside and assume the classic vomiting position: bent over, hands on thighs, breathing heavily. There's a moment's silent tension... then my stomach and brain explode out of my mouth in a geyser of vomit, my body rejecting all the stress, all the intoxicants, all the hitchhiking, all the nightmarish joy of the last two months. Wiping the chunks of vegetable fried rice from my mouth, I climb back into the van full of cheer. I haven't thrown up like that since I was a child. Awesome. "The bizarre euphoria after an hour's puking", as Chris Morris once put it. The chaps in the van are polite in their acceptance of my ill-timed bodily functions. Thanks guys.

We pull up to Reboot The Roots HQ, where I babble thanks to Hazar and Augustine, murmur hellos to resident workers Soon and Myriam, before stumbling into bed for a hard-earned, dreamless sleep.

I wake fully rested. Soon, Myriam and Mr. Furious have been up for ages. Apparently there was an attempt to rescue me from my temporary coma, but it was in vain. It's soon evident that my stomach hasn't stopped rebelling against the sudden calm just yet, as my arse explodes several times in the toilet (my introductions to Malaysians really need work). Soon gives me some Chinese herbal remedies and some classic, liver-destroying Western remedies. In tandem, they work wonders. This is the first of many acts of kindness from Soon, a guy whose patience and diligence in working with reformed addicts using radical forum theatre is simply awe-inspiring.

Now to Magick River so Mr. Furious can spend his last few days in Malaysia with his "Malaysian Dad" Antares - the shaman who runs the informal community guesthouse, who I've heard much about and am interested in meeting. Mr. Furious says his final goodbyes to Soon and Batuarang. I know Reboot The Roots is very, very close to his heart, and his hard work has been a real driving force. Even from my outsider perspective, it's a brief but sad moment.

We take a train to Kuala Kubu Baru, and Antares and his wife are waiting at the station, delivering us to Magick River. Magick River is invigorating, peaceful and the perfect way to trickle away our last few days together. For five days, we live simply and quietly. We swim in the namesake's river, basking in the sun. We hang out with Antares - a unique, witty and consistently interesting man. We live simply and quietly in the Bamboo Palace. Our friends Laura from Bangkok and Caroline from Pai comes down. Its all being rounded off with novel-shaped clarity.

As inevitable as the dawn, the one and only Mr. Furious must depart for The Big Smoke, returning to see his Mum, and then our squatting family in London. Laura's leaving with him for India via KL. I haven't gone into much detail about all the amazing individuals we've met, mainly because it'd take bloody ages. But Laura has been vital chemical to ignite our adventure, a bottomless well of infectious energy. She will be missed greatly.

We all hug what will never be enough time. To share this mind-bending beauty with Mr. Furious has been an utter privilege. He's got the impassioned eloquence, the magical spontaneity and manic flashes behind his eyes to make it not merely a trip, not merely a journey, but a real adventureIn the warm early sun, I'm shamefully eluded for words. Tears block my throat. 

"Thank you."

"No, mate, thank you."

And that's it. Hugs reluctantly part, and Mr. Furious and Laura disappear into the distance. The Crusty Tour has ended, and I'm solo here on in. It was... 

... what?





It was everything.