Tag: asia

Kuala Lumpur – a city that should be on your bucket list

 

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Malaysia Truly Asia is home to Kuala Lumpur or as the locals call it ‘KL’.

KL is not really a destination that pops up on many peoples bucket list, right?

But damn this city is impressive.

 

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Think Singapore except

 

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bigger and brasher, without the foreign lawyers and bankers and definitely more Asian.

 

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If you’re looking for Asia’s most ethnically and culturally diverse city then this is it.

 

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At KLIA you’ll be greeted by cheery ‘Selamat Datangs’ and waved through immigration.

 

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Hop on the KLIA express.

 

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You’ll pay approximately $7 and will arrive in downtown KL in under 30 minutes.

 

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In KL, walk through the city streets

 

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And you’ll find

 

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Hawkers thriving

 

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Colonial buildings reigning dormant against towering skyscrapers

 

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Roll through glitzy,  space-age shopping malls which shelter designer threads and boutique beds

 

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then eat nasi lemak in Little India against a backdrop of bangra beats.

 

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When the heat gets too much, hop on the skytrain and fly through the heat and congestion above wide highways.

 

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KL’s a city of contrasts

 

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chaotic but organised

 

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modern yet traditional.

 

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Where you’ll find grand Malaysian architectural achievements sitting next to traditional Chinese shop-houses.

 

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and money dripping testament to Malaysia’s economic power.

 

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A place where the big and the bold unfolds

 

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Against the gritty, raw feel of local life.

 

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Markets brimming with fruits and fresh fish will sate your hunger.

 

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Malaysia has a tropical climate. When it rains it pours. Remember this or, like me, you’ll learn the hard way not to wear white…

 

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KL is a place where life moves fast and kindness flows.

 

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A heady mix of cultural and religious traditions.

 

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A city which celebrates diversity.

 

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Where an outsider can do her best to try and understand.

 

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In KL, I tossed my plans into the wind and lived off the city’s pulse.

 

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Ya, this place basically rocks.

 

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Connected in Translation at Hong Kong Airport

IMG_3736 I remember back to nearly ten years ago when I was sat, stranded, waiting for a connecting flight in Hong Kong. Glancing out of the window, rows of planes were lined up in front of the barely visible runway, thanks to a mini-typhoon that had all but shut the airport down.

 I stretched back in my seat trying to shake off pins and needles that, after a few hours of sitting motionless in a waiting area, were cramping my legs. The air-conditioning was spluttering out warm and humid air. A woman sitting opposite me was fanning her face with a newspaper. Announcements echoed apologies for delayed flights down the endlessly long corridors.

 I watched as the rain cascaded in heavy drops, bouncing down. I could see pools of water forming on the runway. The wind was howling and the sea surrounding the airport was spilling white, diamond-tipped waves violently in all directions. I watched the few flights that were taking off ascending shakily as I exchanged promises with god over the safety of my own flight.

 I shuffled in my seat as a girl sat down next to me. “Hi, my name is Kim.  I am from Manila. Where are you going?” she asked.

 I looked up. Smiling back at me was a petite woman in her mid 20’s dressed in a bright pink jogging suit, with equally pink matching painted lips and waves of black curls bouncing down to her shoulders. Big golden hoops hung from her ears.

 Kim explained that she was going to London to visit her brother who was studying there. “This is the second time I have been to London’ she announced proudly.  “I will go to the place, at Bucking’.

I laughed. “Do you mean Buckingham Palace?” I asked.

“Yes, this is the one” she exclaimed.

 Kim whipped out her phone, which was also pink and covered in glitter that sprinkled off onto her fingers. She tapped into it and beamed as she showed me pictures of her and her brother stood next to a variety of famous London landmarks.

She told me that she liked tea and Britney Spears. I told her that I liked coffee and Billie Holliday.

 We both agreed that we liked the ocean and sunsets.

 After disappearing for ten minutes, Kim returned with 2 boxes of food (filled with fish, steamed rice, and green vegetables). We were famished and dug in.

 Kim described pieces of paradise of remote islands sitting in the southern Philippine archipelago. I exchanged stories of the tourist resorts and the not-quite-so beautiful beaches that dotted the Yorkshire coast. Kim told me that she wanted to go to Bridlington and eat fish and chips. I told her that I wanted to swim in the ocean off the tropical coast of Mindano.

Kim took her flight to London and I took mine. I sometimes wonder what she’s doing all these years later.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always found something curiously exciting about airports. They get under my skin. There’s something about the hustle and bustle of people connecting to the world’s vast and remote corners.

I’ve crossed paths with all kinds of people in airports over the years – Buddhist monks journeying to central China, a man returning to his family in Iraq, an Indonesian lady travelling as a domestic worker to the Middle-East, an elderly couple returning home to Bangladesh, who shared their boiled sweets with me, as they told me about their grand-daughter’s wedding, students travelling to Europe. Everyone’s moving for a myriad of reasons. Each travelling with a unique life story printed upon their soul –  holiday makers seeking sun chill outs, people moving to reunite with their family or loved-ones, to see friends, for work, to start a new life, to seek new opportunities, adventure seekers or others who are running away from something. All displaced – some from what’s comfortable and others from what’s routine. Our paths crossing.

There’s also something strange about airports. These are places, where, despite all the movement, you’re essentially stuck in the middle of nowhere. A pseudo reality. Impersonal. Marbled floors, perfume filled duty free counters and endless halls, filled with rows of chairs, where the venue never really discloses much about its destination of origin. Sitting at LAX (where Donna Karen’s trying to sell you her duty free American Dream) probably doesn’t feel that dissimilar to sitting at CDG airport, despite being thousands of miles apart.

Years later, when I think back to the girl dressed in pink and gold earrings, I realise that we were both, for that moment, caught in nowhere. We were connected, for a brief moment, in a world which tries its best not to disconnect us from the bubble of all but that which is familiar. But what’s wrong with the unfamiliar? Nothing at all. I think we should all, occasionally, seek to disconnect from what’s familiar and make a connection with the unfamiliar.

Beyond Angkor Wat

Travel beyond the town

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which serves Cambodia’s gilded temples

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and you’ll find

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dusty terracotta paths

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which will cake your lips in their crumbs

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spanning endless horizons

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across lands parched

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where the landscape is frank.

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Painted wooden houses

 

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perch perilously on sticks

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and women crouch

in the midday sun

sifting shrimp

for a few dollars

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whilst their bare footed children

wave when I tread through their village

or who I find working (in muddy pits).

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I searched for the signs of  development

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in the dusty paths

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and in the swampy fields

 

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and I wondered

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why it is

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that the wealth in all the tourist dollars

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that sieve through

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Angkor Wat’s templed paths

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and Siem Reap’s backpacker filled streets

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but a short journey away

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don’t drip their fruits

this way

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Pick Your Pleasure in Asia

I got on a plane

to a faraway place

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exchanging promises with God through each bout of turbulence

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to a place which sits in a remote corner of the world

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where I walked down jungled-covered paths

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and I found beauty hiding.

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In this place, I tried to understand the life I was leading and the world I was living in.

I wondered how it was that I’d ever become accustomed to thinking that the designer watch strapped to my wrist, the designer handbag hanging from my arm and the designer dresses that I draped myself in mattered or that they could offer me anything other than sterility and silence.

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I wondered why it was that I plunged vast amounts of time and energy into thinking about things that I could not and would not ever be able to control.

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I wondered why it was that I was so focussed on ticking off all the things I felt I needed to achieve but had little time to actually stop and breathe.

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I looked at the ocean snaking in waves in front of me and I thought about the space where real life and where real living existed.

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And I discovered the lightening bolt that I’d been searching for.

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In the ocean, I discarded the value in the meaningless and I pledged allegiance to all the love and beauty in the world.

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I knew that the shiny things I’d always painted and covered myself in didn’t balance me. And I knew that the magazines I read and the pictures they teased me with could never offer me a glimpse of any reality that I wanted.

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I didn’t want escapism in my life. Nor did I  want to dull my senses with shiny adornments.

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I wanted a simple reality.

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A reality that made my heart beat faster.

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A reality which made all the joy, heartache, love, pain, beauty, living, dying, that had passed billions of times before me under these pink skies, in the wilderness of this world, worth it.

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And in the paths I walked,

in the simple food I ate,

snorkeling to worlds remote,

and the people I met,

chatting under fiery skies,

I felt weightless.

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I found the rhythm of life’s dance

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where I was free to add my own love to the history of people who walked before me.

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In the rainbow of life, I found beauty coming into being.

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As I lie here now,

I paint these pictures in my mind’s eye,

as a trail,

and I remember it all,

with the certainty of tides,

forever.

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The Spell of the Charming Darling Georgetown, Malaysia

For those who come knocking at the gates of Penang, the Pearl of the Orient, the charming and darling Georgetown awaits.

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I retraced the steps I’d taken 10 years earlier, curious as to what Georgetown would teach me now.

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In a place this magical I found more than I could ask for.

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I stepped out into the perfumed cobbled alleyways with nothing in my mind but to wander.

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In Georgetown you’ll feel the love.

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Pastel painted houses washed in colour.

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Crumbling facades standing proud.

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Colourful mosaic tiles line your pathways.

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A beautiful canvas where cool hipsters paint on the powdery walls.

 

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Colonial townhouses exhale in the late afternoon heat.

 

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I watched the sun shine down, its image reflecting in the glassy green ocean.

 

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Bangra beats echoed out of Little India’s streets.

 

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Alleyways awakened.

 

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Hawker stalls started sizzling.

 

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Candy for the eyes, everywhere.

 

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I discovered young buskers singing rhythms which drifted into the humid air.

 

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I found beauty and wonder in the streets of Georgetown and I felt high on the good vibes that came from this town.

 

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Georgetown is a place where all the pleasures are dished out freely,

 

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where just being yourself is enough,

 

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where your practice is just living.

 

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Georgetown reminds you

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that you’ve already got everything to love

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and that life is more simple than we can even understand

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made up of a collection of moments

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to absorb ourselves in

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and no matter what life path we choose

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the only place we can go is everywhere

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because it’s the journeys we take

and the paths we walk

that always give us what we need.

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Please don’t go to Langkawi & find my secret beach

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In Langkawi

I fell in love

with a secret beach that

became my own.

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My days fell into nets

cast against hedonistic tides and white powdered sands.

 

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In the kisses of the crystalline warm turquoise waters I swam

snorkeling to worlds remote

returning to the cove of the secret white sands

 

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to gaze at fishing boats which gently rocked in the sleepy waters.

I was lulled into paradise’s rhythm.

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I wandered bare foot

in the heat of lazy afternoons

drinking the juice from fresh coconuts

and eating sizzling spiced meats wrapped in banana leaves.

 

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Searching for shade’s gentle breeze

I walked through the green palms

which kissed the crescent shaped bay

and through the glassy green cushioned fields

 

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but I’d always return

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to see the sky light up in flames.

And as darkness descended

hovering fireflies lit up the night

to guide me home

to my beach hut

where I’d sleep deeply

away from the world’s hub-bub.

 

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I tried to leave this secret beach

I really did

but I couldn’t

and I fell into this regular rhythm.

And as the sun rose and fell

through each passing day

this beach stayed

mine.

Forever.

Genghis Khan and the Ice Temples of Central Asia

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I awoke to the sensation of dawn rising.

 

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Somewhere between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

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41,000 feet above.

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Bound for central China.

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The cabin was silent but for me,

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as the black night yielded to the dawn.

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The closed, mysterious, secretive and distant lands of the republics of the former Soviet Empire lay shut beneath me.

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Sapphire glows pleated the ledge between Heaven and the Earth.

 

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Dawn’s cautious sunlight sprinkled the horizon with its amber glow.

 

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Lonely, apricot coloured, clouds drifted past me through the vast, empty sky.

 

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Crossing the lands which mark the border between Islam and Buddhism.

 

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Ancient seats of nomadic empires laid in horizonless steppes.

 

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Silk roads holding secrets deep.

 

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Passing over lands where Ghenghis Khan had once weaved his armies,

 

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bringing Empires remote violently down onto their knees.

 

 

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Frozen lakes.

 

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Crystal clear torrents.

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Glaciers running slowly through icy veins.

 

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Rippling gales chasing bareness, everywhere.

 

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Endless white planes.

 

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Centuries old. Wild and untouched.

 

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Sparse villages.

 

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Stony mountains climbing so high I could almost reach out and touch them.

 

 

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Inhospitable lands,

 

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cut by time and dreaded weather,

 

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lay frozen,

promising to hold off summer and spring.

I felt like I was at the earth’s edge.

 

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And, as I drifted further East,

I thought of you,

as winter stretched out everlasting,

and my warm tears threatened to melt the snow beneath me.

 

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