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Ria, are you ok?: Adventures in Pakistan
Ria, are you ok?: Adventures in Pakistan
Ria, are you ok?: Adventures in Pakistan
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Ria, are you ok?: Adventures in Pakistan

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Ria is a treasure hunter trying to find her way in the world while looking after her alcoholic friend.
Bruno is a teacher who decided to take his dog on a trip.
Peter is a freelance writer whose trip in India takes an unexpected turn. 
Bong Gu is a Chinese dog, sharing his perspective on the events he encounters on an open-ended journey alongside his master.
Gwen is an alcoholic artist whose personality disorder is unwittingly unleashed on those around her.
This is their story.

Release dateMar 1, 2018
Ria, are you ok?: Adventures in Pakistan
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    Ria, are you ok? - Bruno Maiorana

    © 2018 by Bruno Maiorana. All rights reserved.

    No part of this book may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying without written permission of the publisher or author. The exception would be in the case of brief quotations embodied in the critical articles or reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by the publisher or author.

    Books may be purchased in quantity and/or special sales by contacting the publisher, Bruno Maiorana, by email at brunomaiorana@mylastvacation.com

    Visit the author’s website at www.brunomaiorana.com or www.mylastvacation.com

    ISBN: 978-987-42-7178-5

    First Edition


    This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

    Book 1 - Ria, are you OK?

    1 - Ria

    There are some things in this world that no one has ever seen. Some hidden in the darkest corners of long, forgotten caves, others remain dormant in the bottom of the ocean, and many things are buried under the asphalt that paves our highways and cities.

    The world hid them to make them difficult to obtain, and the elements play their part to make sure they remain hidden. But the day will come when they are discovered - by me. My name is Ria, and I'm a treasure hunter.

    Ever since I was a kid, I’d been fascinated by mysterious things. Not the supernatural ones, but the kind of things you see every day, the ocean, the sky, the stars, the universe. Things that envelop you in their immensity and take your breath away with their magnitude. They make you question existence itself, making you feel minuscule and powerless in their presence.

    As a child, I also liked looking for things that were hidden or lost. I would ask my mother to hide something for me to find again. She would record the time it took and tell me whenever I broke my record.

    Flashbacks of me waiting impatiently outside my bedroom door frequently spring to my mind, with me trying to catch whatever rustle my mom made inside the room while she was finding a place to hide the object from me. (It just happened to be that later, I found out that she actually knew I was listening, so she used to make some random noises just to put me off.)

    Then she would open the door and smile.

    OK Ria, are you ready?

    I would nod excitedly.

    Find the pen I've hidden, and if you find it in under two minutes, there's ice cream for you.

    Then she'd say, GO! and I would go crazy trying to find the pen.

    May 7th, Two thousand five. She said she had a special surprise for me. I waited outside the door patiently as I had done countless times before, only this time I couldn't hear any sound coming from the inside. Oh yes, it was also my thirteenth birthday.

    She instructed: The object I need you to find for me is a small piece of paper. Now, I am aware that a small paper could be easily slipped in or rolled into anything, anywhere, which is why I'm giving you a whole twenty-five minutes to find it.

    Piece of cake, I thought. I had never had more than fifteen minutes to find something before. I knew this room like the back of my hand, plus I had a whole twenty-five minutes. There was no way I could fail.

    And what's my prize? I asked her as she was leaving the room.

    This time it's a surprise. She set the timer and said, Go! closing the door behind her.

    After she left the room, I felt the air getting heavier and heavier, weighing my whole body down, as if she was controlling the atmosphere in the room.

    Ignoring my gut feeling, I systematically started searching every corner of the room, unfolding all the clothes, shaking out the pages of every book and inspecting every crack and crevice where there would be enough space for a small paper to slot into.

    I painstakingly inspected behind the light switch. I unplugged everything to check if it was rolled into the sockets in the walls. I unscrewed the electrical plugs in case it was stuck onto the back of it, and took apart all the electrical appliances in the room with the tiny Swiss Army knife I had always carried around in my pocket.

    Twenty minutes later and nothing. I was starting to get nervous, as I had literally gone through every nook and cranny in the room without success. There was all this tension in the air. Something was definitely wrong, and I could feel it burn from the inside. She hadn't made a sound when hiding the surprise, she hadn't told me what the prize was and had given me twenty-five minutes to find a piece of paper - it all added up.

    When twenty-three minutes had passed, Mom came into the room to see how I was doing.

    It's not here, I said. I huffed and plopped down on the floor.

    It is here and I know you will find it because you have a gift. I believe in you, so concentrate and think outside the box. You can do it, Ria, She smiled and left the room, leaving me even more puzzled as the timer ticked down to ninety seconds.

    A shiver ran down my spine. I sat on the floor, powerless. Why did she have to give me so much pressure on my birthday? Why couldn't I hear anything when she was hiding the paper? Why did she give me twenty-five minutes? Was there a connection?

    Only one minute left. Why did she say she believed in me and I have a gift? Was it some sort of clue? Concentrate, think outside the box. Concentrate, Ria. Concentrate.

    You have a gift. Outside the box. Concentrate!

    The box...

    A gift...


    Those words were connected!

    Only thirty seconds left. I could do this, I know I could. A gift outside the box, twenty-five gifts. No, a gift of twenty-five. No, not twenty-five, twenty-fifth, the twenty-fifth, a gift in a box on Christmas. A gift on Christmas, that was the clue. I had received a gift from her last Christmas, it was a pair of running shoes, the same ones I am wearing now, yes! Shoes! It had to be hidden inside my shoes. With only fifteen seconds left, I took off my shoes and removed the soles to find the paper hidden underneath. In the last five seconds remaining I opened the door and showed her the paper.

    A tear ran down her cheek as she took me into her arms and proudly cried: I just knew you could do it!

    And she did know. Parents are fantastic at recognizing their kids’ talents, and she had spotted mine. The gift of pattern recognition and problem-solving. A gift I didn’t even know I had, up until this very moment of my life. She knew I could pick out the different patterns of that day and put them together to find the treasure.

    2 - Peter

    There were some places in the city worth spending time at. Having experiences, unique experiences, like having lunch alone in town on a sunny afternoon.

    The waitress brought me a dish called Nasi Lemak, a traditional Malay dish made of rice, anchovies, egg, and cucumber. Just what I wanted. That's why I loved the Karma Café. There were no menus, but instead, they served you whatever they wanted you to have and then you would pay what you thought it was worth. The idea was that you got what you deserved, hence the name.  

    Besides having no menus, the place had no decorations or ornaments of any sort, and the people who worked there wore plain, white T-shirts. There was nothing to entertain or distract the customers with. No signs, no wifi, no music, no posters. Just tables, chairs and a cardboard money box. You didn't even need to chat with the staff, they just brought you your food and left.

    It was dining made simple. There were already enough things to worry about in life so it was nice to go there and have someone else decide what I was going to I eat that day. The waitresses were cute as well so that was always a plus. Was that sexist? Even if it was, so be it.  It was honesty over diplomacy.

    In an alternate timeline, I would probably be the head chef of this restaurant. Coming up with the right dish for every person was not an easy job but it sure was fun. Imagine this, if a party of four walked in, I would cook ravioli for one person, masala dosa for the next, with the third getting fried crickets with honey and sesame oil, and the last would get a traditional African dish called 'I just throw anything into a pot, boil it, serve it and make up a cute-sounding African name for it', like ‘pula pula’ or ‘tuku tuku’.

    My second favorite cafe was definitely the Neko Café. Not that I was a big fan of cats, but it was just fun to see what they did with the knowledge that they weren’t of my responsibility. They might as well start a fight or break a vase and I wouldn't be the one cleaning up after them. On the contrary, it would be really amusing to see something like that. Was that selfish? Even it was, so be it. Honesty first, right?

    After finishing the meal, I slipped a ten-dollar bill in the box at the entrance and went my way. Not that I had somewhere special to go to, it was just that food was digested better when I walked.

    My reflection stood lankily in front of me as I checked myself out in a store window. I looked the same as I did at the age of fifteen, I was slim, tall, and even wore my hair in the same way.

    I felt the urge to check my right pocket. There was a set of keys in them. They were my keys, the ones I needed to use to enter my apartment, and there was also a long list.

    Every day I would wake up and meditate, and after fifteen minutes of that, I would habitually make a list of seven things I wanted to get done that day. Sometimes they were as simple as sweeping the floor or buying groceries. Other times they were more complex, like texting a girl or preparing for a breakdance battle. Most of this particular day’s duties were checked off before lunch, and now the list was reduced to just two items. One of them was writing a short review of my washing machine for an old friend who wanted me to. Not that there was anything special about my washing machine, or maybe there was, I didn't really know. My friend had a website about random stuff, so the washing machine review would probably go in between a post about some Renaissance artist and a Russian recipe for beef stew.  

    The second thing I needed to get done was to pick up a few books from my parents' place in Milwaukee. Even though I moved away from home a few years ago, there was still plenty of things left there. It was also a good chance to see them one last time before I left for India two weeks later.

    I was already twenty-five so I decided it was about time I went out to see the world, otherwise I would regret not traveling when I was older. True, I should have probably started ticking things off my bucket list a little earlier, but twenty-five wasn’t such a terrible age. Let's say I got to live until I was seventy-five, that would be twenty-five years of living according to other people’s expectations, and fifty years living my way, following my own rules, or at least trying to.

    3 - Ria

    Mom died three months after my thirteenth birthday. It turned out that she had been battling cancer for about a year but chose not to tell me so that our last months together would be as cheerful as possible. The day I turned thirteen, she already knew she didn't have much time left, which was why she was crying.

    As for the prize for finding the paper in my shoe, I got a brand new Fisher S4 Metal Detector. It was just what I had always wanted but every time I asked for it, Mom objected, saying I was too young to be out there searching for treasures all by myself, and she was probably right.

    Later that day we bought a small gardening shovel and a pair of black stereo headphones from a nearby shop and drove down to the beach to try them out together. We were both extremely excited: I was excited because we were going on our first real treasure hunt, and Mom was excited because I was.

    The place was deserted. The sky was clearer than ever. The soft sand, the gentle waves, and the salty ocean breeze reminded us of how lucky we were to be there, to be together, to be alive. We scavenged the shore for about two hours. I pinpointed the location of an object with my metal detector and mom helped me dig it out. By the end of the day, we had found two dollars, thirty-six cents, twelve bottle caps and an old rusty hair clip. Not too bad for our first time.

    On the way back home we stopped by a Thai restaurant to get a takeaway. Back at home, while we were eating, we made a list of all the spots in the city that would be a good place to go treasure hunting, including all the parks, playgrounds, beaches and open fields nearby. Then we debated about what we would do in case we found something really valuable, and wrote down a set of rules:

    ‘ - If the treasure is really pretty and valuable, we keep it for ourselves

    - If it's ugly but valuable, we sell it

    - If it's pretty but worthless, we give it to someone else as a gift.’

    It was the perfect birthday. Even to this day, every time I thought of Mom, I would drive to the beach to look for treasures, grab some Thai food afterward, and spend a peaceful day at home reading or planning my next adventure.

    4 – Peter

    '...and the stainless-steel interior is designed to cleanse each fibrous strand of the fabric, protecting and leaving the cloth as soft as a monkey's bum after a fresh summer rain in the Vietnamese jungle. The smooth cleaning cycles, ranging from heavy duty to delicate, feature a socks-preserving function, guaranteeing that the number of socks which came out equaled the number of socks that came in at the start of the washing cycle.' Perfect.

    When the review was finished, I called Mom to let her know I would be visiting her and Dad in the evening. It was a two-hour drive from Chicago to Milwaukee and there was still plenty of time, so I decided to take the scenic route.

    After driving for an hour, I stopped at a café overlooking the harbor. There were no cats and no plain white T-shirt staff, just me, a tired-looking waitress and a teenage girl reading a hardcover at another table, a high school student probably. I wondered why wasn't she at school. She didn't look like the kind of girl to skip classes. Neither did she appear to be waiting for anything or anyone, she was just there, just part of the landscape, no different from the waitress, coffee machine or myself.

    She must have been sixteen or seventeen. She looked average and wore a blue tracksuit and a pair of snickers. Her short blonde hair was shiny and well brushed. It seemed that she cared more about her hair than she did about the rest of her outfit. She was more on the small side, and her body, even though still underdeveloped, exposed nothing but delicacy and elegance. A small blue backpack rested on the side of her chair. I hoped that, if I ever had a daughter, she would wear her hair like that every day.

    I paid for my coffee, got into my car and opened the windows while thinking about the girl's hair. Maybe if I were a few years younger. Maybe if I weren't such a coward. Ok, that was it, no more maybes, I had just two more weeks until my journey started and my new life began. The new me, the me who would be brave enough to approach cute girls in coffee shops, would be born in two weeks’ time, and until then I had to behave well and keep my appearance so that no one would notice what was growing inside me.

    Hi, excuse me. I need a ride to the city. The girl from the shop was standing outside the car door when I started the car. I had been so lost in my own thoughts that hadn't even seen her coming. She was looking into the car from outside, clutching her backpack and book with both hands, noticeably nervous. Her voice was vibrant and colorful, nothing like I'd imagined when I saw her earlier being engulfed by her book.

    I'm not going to the city. I'm heading to Milwaukee to see my folks, I explained while admiring her hair, trying not to make it too obvious.

    Can I get a ride to Milwaukee then? she asked as if she had anticipated my answer.

    Could she? She appeared to be underage, but there was nothing about her that spelled trouble. She didn't look like a prostitute, I mean, she was even carrying a book. Every time I met a hitchhiker on the road I would give them a lift, it just felt like the right thing to do. If I was carrying a hundred sandwiches and there was a hungry person on my way I would just give them a few, there wasn’t much to think about. I had four empty seats and I was going to Milwaukee anyway. There was no way I could live with myself if I ignored a person in need, especially when it wouldn't cost me anything to help them out. This girl was not your typical hitchhiker, she was something else. She was an opportunity, a chance for me to get out of my comfort zone in preparation for my trip.

    Some people say they are afraid of getting murdered by the hitchhikers but I don't think they are. I think what they're actually afraid of is leaving their comfort zone, in the one they aren’t supposed to pick up hitchhikers. And in a country where the media tells you everyone's out to get you, it wasn’t hard to see why people are so afraid of strangers.

    Alright. I unlocked the door for her and watched her gracefully slip into the car and fasten her seat belt, all in one swift uninterrupted move. Are you in high school? I asked her, just to get that off the way.

    No, she said, relaxing her arm on the rolled-down window frame. But thanks for that I guess. I'm actually twenty-three.

    But your clothes... You're dressed as a high school student. And your hair... Your hair looks nice by the way, I said, embarrassed, as a way to move the subject away from her age.

    Do you believe in magic? she asked abruptly, ignoring my compliment.

    I'm not sure, I said, as I drove past a gigantic lorry, its rumble drowning my words, making them inaudible. I waited for it to go away and continued when I was sure she could hear me. Do you mean magic tricks?

    No, I don't mean magic tricks, she held her book with both hands and looked in the rear-view mirror. I followed her gaze and felt a needle-like pain in my heart when I noticed there was a third passenger sitting in the back seat of the car.

    5 - Ria

    After finishing high school, I could have easily gotten into any college I wanted to, but as much as I tried to imagine myself being social, going to parties, and following the protocol of a structured education, I couldn't bring myself to do it.

    I wasn’t all against the rat race though, I thought it was cool for some people, just not for me. I couldn't see myself following orders or working for someone. I needed to do things my way even if that meant becoming a social outcast and breaking a few rules. Doing things my way became the natural way of living my life, and I was satisfied by it. I'd never really enjoyed socializing anyway.

    Finally, I decided against going to

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