Another Day in Wonderland
During our travels, I find myself constantly making references to Alice in Wonderland. I think one of the hardest things to convey to family, friends and readers is the disorienting cumulative effect of living in a surrealistic landscape of shifting cultural and environmental norms. Every day is another page in a nonsensical narrative with characters speaking backwards, bombarding us with riddles and inverted logic. Even a simple trip to Seven Eleven can be an excursion into the bizarre. And for some reason, I suddenly seemed to notice it.
I was on a mission to buy potato chips. I always have the same options, but at that particular moment in time they seemed odd: seaweed, grilled lobster, hot and spicy crab, hot chili squid…
Can’t I just have BBQ or nacho cheese?!
A single bag of “Salt and Sour” chips drew my attention; unfortunately, “salt and sour” were the only English words on the bag. As always, I analysed the bag’s pictures for clues. A bottle of vinegar, a lemon, what looked like a glass of orange juice, and a pile of rice. Hmmm. Well, at least it didn’t appear to contain any sea life.
Stepping out of the Seven Eleven, the everyday atmosphere seemed noticeably strange. A group of Nigerian gigalos eyed me from across the street. The little Thai dwarf who plays the leprechaun at the local Irish pub was noticeably absent. An army of Thai women sang a nasal chorus, “Massage, massage, massage.” Wawa birds and a boopboop insects backed the chorus.
In one of those slow-motion moments of total clarity, I strolled back towards the apartment taking in everything around me. Women haggled over feather dusters. Taxis honked in rage and desperation. A transsexual prostitute batted her eyes; her comic book lashes looked like spiders attacking her face. A pack of flying foxes flew above. I took a second to watch one land upside-down in a tree – suddenly, I was under attack.
An absurdly minuscule chihuahua wearing a rainbow sweater shot out from underneath a roadside table and made a beeline directly towards my feet. Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, the mini-beast squeak-barked; it appeared determined to eat my toes. I danced all over the alley trying to avoid the needle teeth of the demonic toy dog. I swatted at the creature with my bag of salt and sour chips. Two Thai women standing across the street laughed hysterically at my dance. I escaped from the beast and ventured back through the No-Poop Zone – the chihuahua would never dare enter – to the security of our apartment.
Every day is totally different, and yet somehow the same. I guess I just noticed it for once.