…but then I’d have to spam you

They’ve already tried to kill me once.

I never thought it would happen. In my unending quest for the truth I have dug too deep, and someone has noticed. Someone sinister. Someone with their paws on the puppet-strings of power. The unblinking eye of authority has focused its gaze upon my humble corner of the web.

At first I couldn’t think why Existential Vacation, The World’s Deepest Blog (TM), might be blocked in China. It seemed senseless, inexplicable, as if suddenly the universe had lost its coherence. What could the Chinese internet censors have against enlightenment, after all? I racked my brains for many days trying to work it out, but for once in my existence, insight was lacking. I tried drinking black coffee in a bookshop/cafe not listed in the Lonely Planet (LP is so last century). I fasted for an entire hour, with only beer to sustain me. I sat through fifteen straight hours of art movies. Even the normally guaranteed yogic fallback the Lotus position failed to bring the required answers, although I may have aggravated my groin strain. I railed against the absurdity of life, the fatal meaninglessness of it all, the deep, so deep, cosmic blackness that pervades our puny lives like ink from the Squid of Despair.

And then I went to the mountains.

In the Himalayan villages of Western Sichuan I found my answer. Of course it helped that no other foreigners were there, clutching their impure Lonely Planet guides – I only used mine to find a hotel then threw it in the rucsac to be consulted only in the event of an emergency (for example if I couldn’t find Wifi). I wandered the mountains, communing with nature, basking in the crisp air, the bright sunshine, the Autumn colours. I chatted in broken Chinese to the local Qiang villagers, who fed me their Water of Life. I winced . They laughed. My soul was refreshed.

And then, as I sat down that evening in a cafe in Danba and looked into my soup, there it was, literally staring me in the face. The answer.

The clue is in this picture of the soup they served. Study it carefully. The name of the soup, helpfully translated in hand-written English, was Three Kinds of Seafood Soup.
Look at the picture. When I studied what had been served to me, it turned out, to my astonishment, that the so-called “three kinds of seafood” floating in bowl were: cabbage, tomato, fungus and …. yes, there was a fourth kind of “seafood”. There was no mistaking the distinctive aroma of pink potted meat. It was Spam.

Suddenly it all made sense. I checked the menu. It listed “fish-resembling aubergine” and “fish-resembling meat”. But no actual fish. Cogs whirred. My mind was like a labyrinthine machine, its myriad components finally clicking into place, cracking the code. Of course: the Chinese have so polluted their environment by spitting on the floor etc. that there is no seafood left in China. Which means they have to pass off other foods as coming from the sea. Foods like aubergine, fungus and tomato. But especially, foods like Spam.

I realised there must be a very high-level conspiracy to deny the existence of Spam. The realisation was like a bolt of lightning shooting down my spine. The Chinese government must be behind it. The Vatican are also probably involved, via their secret-agent branch the Priory of Psion (or something) as dramatised in The Da Vinci Code. The CIA it goes without saying must have their sticky fingers in this Spam pie.
The reason my blog is blocked in China is surely that in an admittedly fanciful blog posting, I claimed to be the incarnation of Spam. This must to the ears of the sinister Spam-denyers sound like the most dangerous subversion. Even blasphemous, in some obscure, sick-minded way. It’s as if I were living in a Milan Kundera novel. (Specifically The Joke. Look it up on Amazon.)

I rushed back to Chengdu to try and discreetly raise the alarm among my friends, but it was too late. They had already been infiltrated. My unsuspecting friend Lauren, with the best of intentions, had fixed me up on a date with the receptionist from her hairdressing salon, a girl who speaks no English – obviously the ideal match for me. But she turned out to be an agent, despatched to assassinate me by forcing me to eat Hotpot so spicy that no mere human could consume it and reasonably expect to live. She must have had some kind of secret-agent style artificial stomach lining in place, as she seemed unperturbed while tucking into the lethal broth. Fortunately I am the James Bond of Existentialists, and I managed to struggle afterwards to the Shamrock Irish pub and self-administer the antidote, which is beer. It took a huge dose and I managed barely to survive. Of course the poison made me feel ill for days afterwards, and further doses of the antidote did nothing to help.

So I call on all fans of Existential Vacation. Rise up! Declare the existence of Spam to the world! Don’t let the evil Powers That Be Denying Spam get away with it! We shall overcome! Spam-eaters of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Existential Vacation is not available in China.

The benefits of drinking a lot of tea

I took this photograph in India in August, in a small tea hut on a high ridge outside Dalhousie. I’m blogging it now because it just won the monthly workshop competition in the Chengdu Bookworm Cafe. As you may imagine, I am ridiculously pleased with myself. They’re going to frame a print and put it on the wall here. And I got a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, which I am drinking as I type this (well, sort of in between sentences). Thinking back to one of my August entries, I do seem to remember “If in doubt, have a cup of tea” was top tip number 10 for Indian travel. I reckon this proves it.

If you’d like to see more photos from the Existential Vacationer, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/13969983@N08/