San Pedro Prison on St. George’s Day

First published on Spike Magazine (May 31st 2011) //

Declan Tan’s second ‘Letter from La Paz’ is a fictional account of a visit to Bolivia’s San Pedro prison

“A pint a-Carling yeah and whatever you’re havin’,” a white-spit mouth, mine, chums out familiar to the bar girl. I’m pointing at the tap and reaching my hand out as it pours, my fingers snatching at the half-filled glass. I can’t wait around. We’re in La Paz for 3 days. I’m counting pints in my head. We have to fit it all in somehow. I just been ridin’ down the World’s Most Dangerous Road on a borrowed mountain bike and I need a pint of England’s finest to savour the moment. Yeah I know. Top Gear did it in jeeps, the legends. Continue reading San Pedro Prison on St. George’s Day

On Teaching Classes of an Evening

First published on The Open End (May 13th 2011) //

Now. I teach English as a foreign language. I teach it mostly to people who have jobs, or are looking for jobs. Most of them have jobs. I ask them Why they want to learn English and they don’t much pause to consider it. They give me the same answer: to improve themselves, or to communicate with clients and customers. That seems fine. Continue reading On Teaching Classes of an Evening

Waiting, Security and Deposits // non-fiction

First published on The Open End (May 3rd 2011) //

The toilet is filled up a dark mess with dried paper stuck to the rim, climbing up and all around the once-white porcelain. The shit is piled high, lifted substantially by hardened masses of soggy arsewipe and other somehow unidentifiable matter; all of it reeking yellow of piss, shit and decay. We know that flushing only fills it further and faster toward emergency. We have a bucket waiting, but we don’t want to use it. For these reasons the toilet lid stays shut. Continue reading Waiting, Security and Deposits // non-fiction

Route 36: The World’s First Cocaine Bar

First published in DotDotDash (Issue 4, Winter 2010; Australia) //

“Take it out of the bag”, one of them whispers, as a small mountain of Bolivian marching powder unfolds from the wrap. Forming peaks where it piles on the surface, the small patch of black bin liner is emptied into the soft light of the room. They lean in; throats dry with a fiendish desire, pushing pure uncut white to and fro with an out-of-date health insurance card from some place far, far behind them now. Racked up with two fat lines sat side-by-side along the blackened edges of a bootlegged copy of Appetite For Destruction, some stranger nearby leans in and assuredly urges: “Don’t use the straw, use this”, as he carefully hands over a softened and tightly rolled 10 Boliviano note. The newcomers eye their bounty, savour a last intake breath as they lurch down, and begin judiciously disappearing it up their snouts, chattering and grunting between disjointed monologues that they might later call conversation. Continue reading Route 36: The World’s First Cocaine Bar