Years ago, when I was living in Hong Kong, I was taken to a bar that was populated by aging Asian prostitutes. These women were traditionally old with their cotton pyjamas, knitting, and grandma appearances.
Making their fortunes in the sex trade in Hong Kong during the Vietnam and Korean Wars, they had invested well, and created comfortable lives for themselves and their children.
The bar was called ‘Hot Lips’ and catered to aging Westerners and ex-servicemen, who were revisiting places that must have been incredibly influential on their later lives.
I saw a similar stream of returnees in Vietnam; older men wandering around Cu Chi or the outskirts of a War Memorial museum looking very Western middle aged with large bellies, base ball caps and sunburn.
I wondered in a general way, why go back, especially to places that probably carried more pain than happiness, and may well have changed the course of their lives in a not particularly positive way.
Twenty years on I can appreciate this backward gazing,the searching for something lost whilst perhaps reminding oneself that it IS possible to experience intensity and capacity to fully experience life, even if that experience is registered as trauma and pain.
I know that over the last 10 years I have found it necessary on occasion to rummage in the past. In the blinkered progression and recovery of my later years, I occasionally felt that I left something of value behind me, and a gnawing emptiness and intuitive awareness indicated that it was time to turn around and start poking at old memories and experiences.
So, leading on from this rambling written meander, I returned to the country I was born and brought up in, for the first time in 28 years.
As I am wont to do, I cunningly disguised my intent (partially perhaps because I’m not quite sure what my intent was and is) in the clothing of ‘art projects and potential book research’.
I travelled for thirty hours, arrived five days ago and I am sitting with my computer and a view of a deserted building across the road, where I once worked as a prostitute.
I expected trauma, there is none.
I’m walking a lot, and talking to some people that I once knew, and others that are complete strangers.
I am hearing stories, and some of these stories concern my own history. I see trees and buildings and space and light that must have influenced my own present perceptions.
There is an awareness of darker aspects of the country as well, and though I am doing a bit of social and political exploration of the changes since I left, I’m not trying to analyse my own unhappy teenage madness in context of this place; perhaps that will come later.