Sunday, November 05, 2006

Friday 3 November: Flightpath

I don’t think that I’ve flown over this part of Australia before. Towards the Kimberly in WA. The landscape looks etched-out, like rivers of acid have flown along it on one direction. Like a pool of red snakes traveling west. I guess it must have been underwater at some point, like everything, but maybe it’s thousands of years of easterly blowing wind that has fashioned its appearance. I can imagine it better as an underwater landscape - it is all folds and softness from this perspective. But imagine being lost there. Never-ending waves of dry ochre and clay.

Landing in KL:
I could hardly hear anything at all on descent, cocooned in my own head. Hands cupped around my eyes in order to look out of the window. I kind of liked this deafness because the descent soundtrack to me sounded like a twinkling music box while KL sparkled beneath. I always want to record these moments on my camera, but there’s no point really in trying to articulate the feeling by appropriating the sum of its parts. It’s so personal to be so within your own head and transfixed by the scenes and sounds playing in front of you. These moments are better than any cinema because they feel like they’ve been designed for you, and they’re for you alone.

KL Airport:
I think that the KL airport must have been designed by Santiago Calatrava (sp). I’ll have to look this up. Repetitive tree-like columns and arches creating a scalloped roof. KL airport itself is too quiet, like a too-bright mausoleum. It was about midnight when I arrived so I shouldn’t have been surprised by this. I wanted desperately to buy stuff – sunglasses and lipstick. I really have to stop wanting these things at some point. I feel like a small part of my brain becomes lost forever for another pair of shoes etc.

Flying into Dhaka:
Everyone seemed to be surprised that I was traveling to Bangladesh by myself. The guard at the gate wanted to redirect me. He he. I realised half way through the flight that I could have just stretched-out and fallen asleep for the entire journey as there was no one sitting next to me. I think I was just a bit too tired and anxious at the time. Everyone else seemed to be with their families, acting like they were at home in their lounge rooms, which was nice.

Touchdown in Dhaka:
On the descent into Dhaka I was looking out of my window not really sure what I was seeing. It was dark of course and the street lighting wasn’t like KL, it looked like pinpoints of weak sulfurous yellow casting a faint glow, not really penetrating. There was a lot of low-hanging mist and we appeared to be passing over a river with paddy fields or something. Maybe they were flood walls. I had no idea (I still don’t. I really need a map).

Dhaka airport is pretty basic. No one much talked to me, and it seemed like people were actively trying not to engage. Customs was a breeze. My bag was scanned more as an afterthought. I think Dale (my number 2 boss) was right to have flown me in at this time. It was so quiet. I got some money changed by an enthusiastic pair of gentleman and I have no idea if I was being ripped-off or not. I was met by a friendly man from the guest house who escorted me past some kids and a whole bunch of people hanging-out by the taxis, and into a pretty beaten-up machine.

Ride into the city:
My first impression is that there is so much carbon monoxide in the air here. So much. I don’t think I’ve ever breathed air like this before. The place is thick with it. I remember arriving at Perth airport as a teenager from England, and my first impression was that the place smelled like slightly minty, freshly-cut hay. This was the scent of the Eucalyptus trees. Dhaka has a lot of trees lining the streets, particularly where I am staying, but they have their work cut-out for them.

So we drove with the windows down because it was hot, and I had the warm, suffocating envelope of carbon monoxide wrap around me on the journey through the city. It’s quite a spectral introduction to the place, coming here at night because you get a sense of the chaos that might pervade during the day through these pictures that form in the headlights out of the smog: big colourful trucks with overflowing cargo of massive logs that could totally crush you if they were upturned; dudes with massive cargo pedaling rickshaw; herds of cows in the middle of the city street; someone riding what looked like a penny-farthing while holding a 5m length of plywood (I could have hallucinated that one). Traffic lights and roundabouts seem to be something that you just honk your horn louder at, on approach. It’s just a suggestion really, that you might want to stop, but you could just barrel-on through.

We drove past the national parliament designed by Louis Kahn in the 60s. That man has done great things with bricks. He’s one of my favourite architects. I think the national parliament is a concrete job though. Looks icy and imposing when lit-up at night.

I have this lovely room at the Ambrosia Guest House on Road 3 in the Dhanmmondi (residential area). I think it’s one of the nicest places I’ve stayed in anywhere, ever. Beautifully clean, white walls and terrazzo. It’s like a nun’s quarters. The house is surrounded by an enchanting garden filled with pots and flowers and butterflies cavorting etc. I am alone in the house at the moment, as the other artists are yet to arrive. So I have about 4 blokes attending to me.

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