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5 October 2011 / leggypeggy

Getting along—for a long time

Poor John looking ever so innocent and in disguise in Azerbaijan.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well our group of travellers gets along. When you put 25 people in close quarters for about six months, there’s bound to be friction and annoyances, but the hostilities have been pretty low-key on this trip.

Sure, there have been some personality clashes, huffing and puffing, sharp exchanges and sword rattling. Couples have even been irked with one another from time to time, but overall it’s been quite tame. Others may disagree, but I am speaking from my own observations and point of view.

Of course, every overland trip and every group will be different.

Our group in Africa in 2009 was so dysfunctional that I thought it would be the perfect prototype for a new TV reality series—a sort of mobile Big Brother. I think lots of us wished we’d had the power to vote people off the truck. In the end, one couple was (in a very polite and round-about way) invited/urged/asked to leave the trip before the halfway point. They were bullies and it was amazing how much more settled the entire truck was after their departure.

One other passenger was asked to leave at the halfway point—the request coming from her own travelling companion. See, I told you it was dysfunctional.

That trip had more blow-ups, skirmishes and tribulations, but I guess the best policy is to say ‘what happens on the truck, stays on the truck’. And it also makes me extremely thankful that our current entourage is so congenial for the most part.

Poor John and his offences

I don’t think anyone ever gets annoyed with Poor John—except maybe me and the kids. He’s right up there for sainthood. It must be his diplomatic background.

But he commits two big offences, and I think I have to make these public.

1) His approach to walking drives me and the kids crazy. He’s like a Lebanese driver—he thinks if you never look back, you don’t have to worry about what’s happening behind you. He clasps his hands behind his back and strolls ever onwards (whether it’s a flat plain or a high hill) as if he’s exerting no energy at all. He makes diversions left and right without saying a word or signalling any intention. I’m constantly wondering where and how he has managed to dematerialise. Even shopkeepers find it hard to keep tabs on him. Meanwhile as I plod after him, I could be kidnapped and sold into slavery a couple of hours before he’d finally turn around and wonder where I’d got to?

It was the same when he took the kids shopping when they were little. He’d march on, weaving in and out of aisles and stores. Suddenly they’d realise their father had vanished into the shopping mall. They’d spend a frantic 20 minutes searching for him and be on the verge of calling home for help when he’d appear from nowhere.

I don’t suppose he’ll be a candidate for minding any grandchild who may appear in the future.

2) Now this second offence is even more annoying, especially for me. The reality is that about 98 per cent of the time Poor John is right. On any subject, any issue, any time—he’s right. It frustrates me, but has also made me slow to make definite pronouncements on many subjects. The only exception is when a matter involves food. In quite a few languages, I know my way around a marketplace, a wood stove, a menu and a supermarket—and the difference between a bitter melon and a sin qua.

P.S. I wrote a caption for the photo, but it got lost in cyberspace. That’s Poor John looking rather innocent in Azerbaijan.


Leave a Comment
  1. Louise M Oliver / Oct 5 2011 8:36 am

    Hi Peggy,
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard you on the dysfunctionality of some of the people on your African trip. I’m pleased that you’re all getting on so relatively well this time. That would make things much easier.

    I too would find those particular habits of Poor John’s exasperating. It must be very disconcerting to be suddenly alone when, a couple of minutes ago, you were happily walking along with someone. And that being right all the time is a major flaw in someone who seems to be otherwise close to perfect. He needs to work on that; perhaps by pretending to be wrong or to not know occasionally. He could do that once or twice a year and that would probably do.

    And I’m with you on the kitchen stuff. I would defer to you any day, any time, on any culinary question.

    Still really enjoying all your posts. Be good and take care.



  2. David Tough / Oct 5 2011 9:59 am

    Poor John!! It seems we are afflicted with the same walking condition as my eldest drew this account to my attention. Know what you mean about travelling companions, based on my experience on the HCM trail with a couple of whingers whose company I was happy to leave after 20 days.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 5 2011 6:49 pm

      Good one David and Joanna. I should have known you and Poor John would walk to the same drummer. Guess we’d better try to catch up in December.


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