Gone Places, Going Home

Marco Polo got sick in Afghanistan and required a year to be well enough again to continue on to China. If he had the option of a 20 hour journey back to Venice,  I bet he would have taken it in a heartbeat.

I haven’t been feeling well the past few weeks and in a steady decline this week. I’ve been seeing a local doctor who after the second round of lab reports came back worse and still inconclusive, recommended that I return to the United States as soon as possible. So I am. About to board a flight to Mumbai and then a second flight to Newark.

I don’t want anyone to worry about my health. Except the doctors,  they can worry. But no one else. The important thing is I’m going home and I’m taking care of myself. 

I don’t want to leave. My time in Thailand and Camillian Home has been truncated.I will miss that usually quiet, sometimes crazy oasis of peace and love. I will miss the staff who quickly became my friends and the children, who changed my life.

I will not miss the giant spiders. Or my “pet” geckos who wriggled up the walls and on the ceiling hunting mosquitos. Also, I will not miss the mosquitos.

  I’m not ready to leave. But I want to be home now. Right now. I tried clicking my heels together three times and saying “there’s no place like home”. Didn’t work. So an airplane it is.

As I start to recover and return to myself over the next few weeks, I will post more on the adventures I’ve had over the past two months.

 They’re starting to call for passengers now. Off I go again.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Blog Catch Up Time, New Job

I’m sorry I’ve been away from my writing desk for so long. My new job is a true labor of love and has been taking all my extra mental energy. Now that I’m finding my roles and settling in quite nicely (I think) I’ll have extra energy to devote to the blog.

If those of you not in the know, I’m volunteering at a home for children with disabilities in the outskirts of the outskirts of Bangkok. The next province is literally at the end of the road.

My first three weeks on the job, I helped out in the OT room but most of my time was spent helping the home prepare for a large fundraising event and art gallery opening. I functioned as the PR director’s assistant editing and writing emails and thank you notes,  revving up the Facebook engine raising awareness for our event and organization, convincing google to correct the location and contact information of the home on Google Maps (it was all mostly wrong), and any English language thing they needed me for. It was a great crash course in Nonprofit management and fundraising.

Now that the art exhibition was a huge success and all the post event PR things are taken care of, I can help out more in the other departments. I’ve been drafted by the physical therapy department for three days of the week. I will stay with the OT department the other two days and I assured my “boss” that I will always be on call for PR/Fundraising assignments. I also plan on getting more involved in the art therapy room.

One of my favorite parts of the job is the community. It feels like a family here which is exactly what the goal is. Everyone helps care for the children. Even the handyman.

I’m staying at the staff building in a small, bare bones, but nice apartment about 3/4 of a mile from the home down an alley and across the street. The children’s home is next to a sometimes busy road and shops so it still feels urban. The staff house is surrounded by rice farms, a small canalside village, and wild ducks, roosters, pigeons, and giant geckos. Less than a mile, completely different world. When I stroll back from the home, I’m always invited to sometimes impromptu staff parties in the small garden next to the building. I think you learn a new language best with new friends, spicy unfamiliar food, and too much whiskey as study aides.

There are culture clashes, though Thai culture is largely  very chill. So the “clash” is really too strong of a word. Culture clashes are to be expected and unavoidable.  I’m here to immerse myself in another culture and language, after all.

Every day, I think to myself, this is what I want to do. Exactly what, I’m not sure. I felt like I was on the path for a while now, though it wasn’t until I started working here that I felt the path was going somewhere.

 

Keep a look out for more posts on previous adventures and associated photos. There is a growing backlog that I’ll get to eventually…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My feet hurt… Chapter Five Begins

About a year ago I felt I needed a change- something completely different. I needed dynamism. I needed to get myself out of my comfort zone. I needed a challenge. East Asia called to me again. I knew I did it once (and another time with less “success”) so I knew I could do it again. But I wanted to do it differently this time. I didn’t want  “job” again. I wasn’t ready for a career because I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know the questions to ask.

With the help, guidance, and love from my family, friends, healers, and teachers, I was able to sum up the confidence and get myself organized enough to make it out here again.

I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t have any long term plans. Wandering made me feel uncomfortable yet it was the only thing that felt right. I felt lost, floating. I also felt I was on the path.

Chapter One -From mid January to Mid March, I volunteered at a English school/Day Care in Zhongli, Taiwan. It was fun until it wasn’t. I went glamping in the mountains, participated in Chinese New Year celebrations, hung out on the beach in Kending in the far south,  and had urban adventures in Taipei and small towns all over the north of Taiwan.

Chapter Two– From the northeast, I travelled to Hualien, Taiwan, an oceanside outdoor adventure town, where I worked in a hostel geared towards cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts. I hiked, biked, had weird urban adventures, and ate delicious and weird street food, and met travellers from all over the world. It was a lovely reprieve from my busy first two months. Although I learned that I can’t get a good night’s sleep in a hostel.

I stayed until my visa ran out and I flew to Thailand. Chapter Three- As soon as Adam picked me up in Suvarnabhoomi (Suwarnipoom) Airport, it was non stop adventure. First to the northeast for Songkran and countryside explorations, then to the east coast for an island hopping adventure. I had my own mini adventures in Bangkok and Lat Krabang. Chapter Four was a short one in Hong Kong (more on this later). Now I’m back in the Land of Smiles and my feet hurt.

I learned that although I do love travelling, I’ve reached my level of going it solo. It’s time to slow things down and switch to a more yin state of being. The lack of stability isn’t ideal anymore. Speaking honestly, the lack of stability was a growing concern before I consciously acknowledged it. Chapter Five begins.

For the next three months (or so) I will be volunteering in home for children living with mental and physical disabilities and conditions associated with HIV in the eastern exurbs of Bangkok. The organization provides three meals and lodging for volunteers. I’ll be working 9-5 with a two hour “siesta” at midday. I am so relieved and excited to have a safe, stable, guaranteed place to be for the next three months. I’m expecting the job to be physically easy and emotionally challenging. It will be a test to see if I can work in an environment like this one. I’m ready for the next step. I’m on the path. I don’t where it’s going. But I’m on my way. And I feel I can finally exhale.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pad see eiw pla’muek pat pak ruam

image

Wide stir fries noodles with squid and mixed vegetables in a thick white peppery yet smooth and mellow sauce. Thai food is growing on me…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Night Markets, Urban Temples, and River Villages- Adventures in Lat Krabang in the outskirts of eastern Bangkok.

The day after my Chao Phraya mini adventure, I decided to explore Lat Krabang on the outskirts of Eastern Bangkok, where I’m staying in Adam’s spare room. My wanderings took me to temples, down the canals, and then on a whim, across town to the night market for dinner (Teriyaki in Thailand?! Night Market Dinner). I’m getting competent in travelling via song tao (open air taxi truck) the best way to travel in cities like this one.

Wat Latkrabang is a big but not sprawling temple complex like Wat Pho is.  The temple was empty save for a cat nursing her kittens, a flock of pigeons, and some temple maintenance people maintaining the temple. The temple seems to be expanding and much of it is under construction or renovation. Perhaps someday it will rival Wat Pho in terms of grandeur and almost obnoxious size. I hope it doesn’t. The peace the temple brought was welcome.

On my way from Wat Latkrabang to Wat Sangkharatcha, I decided to take what I thought was a shortcut along one of the many  canals that run through Lat Krabang. By the time the path devolved into a four foot wide concrete slab elevated above the water and I realized that it would not connect to the  bridge I needed to cross to get back to the main road, I was in river village. Four women sitting outside their homes looked up suddenly, surprised to see a farang, a (western) foreigner, in a place farangs were not expected to be. A line of smallish, jerry rigged homes sat on the canal bank appearing as if they were repaired and added to over the many years they existed. Each one was unique.  The concrete slab I was walking on was their communal  front porch. Beyond the slab, twenty  or thirty feet below, lay the canal lazily carrying pads of jungle vegetation downstream.

I made my best ‘Please help me! I’m lost! I didn’t mean to walk into your neighborhood face’ and I gestured towards the bridge. One of the women, who seemed to be the leader, maybe even the mayor,  explained how to get there and then lead me when I clearly didn’t understand a word she said. She took me  farther down the path and then through her house where her three children looked up surprised to see their mother leading a perplexed farang through their home. She told her three children aged about five to eight years, to lead me out and they ran ahead giggling, gleeful with their mission. I followed them through the warren of twisting paths and rusting homes and concrete walls that is their hutong like river village. We all had a laugh when one of the children stepped on an ice cream wrapper with apparently some ice cream still inside and it made a surprisingly loud “squish-POP!”. The little street dogs looked up at us scolwing from their afternoon naps in the sun.

Eventually, we turned a corner at the end of the village and the bridge lay before us. They pointed to the bridge with a flourish as if to say “Ta-da! Here it is!” I thanked them and waied and they waied back and then they were off, giggling and scampering, back into the labyrinthine village. I crossed the ‘bridge’ which seemed more like like a utility structure than a pedestrian bridge and walked back to Lat Krabang’s main road and continued on my journey. The experience with the river folk seemed to straight out of a South East Asian companion novel to  Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

I didn’t photograph the village specifically, but I did photograph the surrounding canals in Lat Krabang.

 

Wat Sangkha Racha wasn’t as enjoyable to wander around as the empty and quietly beautiful Wat Latkrabang. In part due the more developed urban area surrounding the temple complex and the barking guard dog that decided he didn’t like the way I smelled and chased me out of the main temple. One of the outer walls of Wat Sangkha Racha is open to a canal, with paths leading from the central complex to the water. I wandered down the covered walkway along the canal which was a nice but too brief break from the noisy, dusty urbanness on the Bangkok side of Lat Krabang.

On my way out, snoozing in the shadows was one of the biggest pigs I’ve ever seen (about the size of a Warren Wilson boar). He jerked awake and made curmudgeonly pig noises at me until I walked away. Why was there a giant boar hanging out in the temple? Sometimes it’s better not to dwell on questions like that and just walk away. Quickly. Before you accidentally anger another animal.

On to the next adventure! I woke up the next morning feeling that I needed some nature.

 

If you missed my latest post on the central Chao Phraya and Wat Pho click here!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Ancient Temples & Riverboats- The Chao Phraya River District

Now that I’ve decided to stay in Thailand for at least the next few months (look out for a post on Chapter Five) it was time I set out by myself without Adam as my guide and translator.

My first trip took me to Chao Praya, the mighty river that was the life blood and heart of Old Bangkok and the ancient Kingdom of Siam. Now it seems it’s mostly a sightseeing destination, although the river is still used for everyday transport by locals and historic areas still hug the riverbanks in varying states of decay or renewal.

The river boat and pier staff  were curt, grumpy, and yelled a lot at the tourists and each other, and were generally unfriendly. They weren’t, well, very Thai at all. Is it ok to stereotype a people if the stereotype is that they are warm, friendly, and polite?

The river district is beautiful and I’m sure it will be more so when the numerous construction projects are finished. It seems that at least a third of the river nearest central Bangkok is under construction. There are construction projects all over Bangkok- the city is molting at an astounding pace. I hope that the rush to new and modern doesn’t destroy the old Bangkok in the process. Below is a compilation of a two trips I’ve taken to the central district of the “River of Kings”.

Below are a few snaps from Lewis Hand, whom I met when I was working in Dalian, China, during another adventure. Lewis decided to visit Bangkok without realizing that me or Adam would be here. It was excellent catching up. Adam, Lewis, and I caught a river boat heading north on May 15.

Check out Lewis’ site. He’s got some phenomenal photos and I was promised more, especially of Bangkok, will come soon. Image By Hand

My destination  for my solo river adventure was Wat Pho, a monumental temple complex home to among other glittering, golden things, a reclining Buddha in a grand temple. I didn’t feel it was right taking a photo of the Buddha. The temple complex, besides being a tourist destination, is an active house of worship. As tourists wandered around posing for selfies, Buddhist faithful prayed or attended worship services.

My next adventure led me to Lat Krabang  in the outskirts of eastern Bangkok.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments