wander process


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Tiny Paris: A View from the Top

To be honest with you, I didn’t know how many touristy things I would end up doing while I was in Paris. There was a balance to strike between spending quality time with friends in 3 days, and getting a good look at this beaut of a city in 3 days.

I am fortunate that the two are not mutually exclusive.

There was for both cafe lounging and museum hopping.

I was not expecting to climb to the 1st level of the Eiffel Tower, but we did. And for a relatively-skyscraper-less city, the views were wonderful. Precious.

And you know what makes things even more precious? Tilt-shift.

and what’s a good view without friends to share it? me, soph, and case

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working in multiples.

I am tired from a multi-hour baking session with Summer (Baby Girl is graduating from high school tomorrow! Where did the time go? How is she not 3 anymore?). Right now, I’m as happy as a clam in my family’s Spam apron, making cupcakes and singing along to my favorite records with Summer.

quality sister time. also, I finally got a decent haircut. thank goodness! i was getting pretty mangy.

I am also dealing with spending quality time in 4 radically different time zones in the past week. And shoveling 4 radically different cuisines in my system (Thai, Indian, French, Midwestern). More or less, my body hates me right now.

I am trying to get the energy to edit pictures from Paris and write a few posts, but I lost a little heart after Facebook wouldn’t let me publish a great album full of film pictures I took last December. Hopefully they’ll let me put up my Paris pics.

In the meantime, here are a few pics of Bangkok. There will be more to come. As expensive as it is to have film developed these days, I love the excitement of forgetting about the pictures I’ve taken and falling in love with and/or being disappointed with how they turn out. And I love the grain. I think of my film photos as things that I love more than anyone else, but nevertheless, I shall post them.


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When Life Gives You India, Eat Indian Food

There is one thing to be sure about myself: I am excellent at attracting exactly two things: mosquitoes and misadventure.

Before flying, I expressed concern to a few family and friends about the current Air India pilots’ strike and how that would affect my flight. Flights are being cancelled and rescheduled left and right, people have been stranded in airports for days. There comes a point however, when I have to acknowledge that there’s nothing I can do to change a situation. I just have to accept things as they come. The only thing I can control is my attitude in how I deal with the situation.

It is with this attitude that I left Lamplaimat for Bangkok. Even though I was already all packed up, I stayed up most of the night anyway, as is my tradition with international flights.

I made it to Suvarnabhumi International Airport bright and early at 7:00AM, managed to work my way onto the plane with two rather large carry-ons, and enjoyed the company of a group of students who were currently doing a program where they traveled all around the world learning photography and doing service projects. I kind of envied them.

One of my general rules for international flights is that I always take an aisle seat. I like to be able to get up and move around if need be.

Air India is not so organized (as I will elaborate soon) and ignored my preference for aisle seating. I sat next to the window and got to witness some really amazing things from up in the air.

I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did see my old apartment complex where I lived, Baan Suan Thon. I made a little squeak of joy.

I saw the majestic bridges of Bangkok.

The Varanasi River!

And look at the amount of pollution as we were about to touch down in Delhi.

Straight off the airplane in Delhi, people in transit from Bangkok to Paris via Delhi were corralled off to the side and told that our flight wouldn’t leave until early morning the next day.

Obviously, I was a little crestfallen. However, I’m a broke, in-debt recent college graduate whose salary is paid in Thai baht. All of the money for this trip I’m currently on has been saved. And after this trip is over, I’ll have next to nothing. While it’s of upmost importance for me to see my friends and family, I don’t have the financial means to buy another ticket and board the next plane bound for Europe.

So I wait.

My passport has been taken, I have been escorted from the airport and put up in a hotel.

This is what the India I have seen so far looks like.

I could be really panicky and frustrated that all of this is happening to me. But I’m choosing to accept it as gracefully as I can (although I think my mom has told me that there’s a good reason my middle name is ‘Hope’ and not ‘Grace’) and with no frustrations directed toward the staff of Air India. They’re not responsible for the strike, they’re doing their best to accommodate us as best they can. I have good faith that everything will work out. Maybe just not in the timing I was hoping for.

INDIA 2013 has been my little personal mantra for months now. I tell it to all of my friends. But it seems as though India was impatient to see me.

So what do I do? I delight in India’s impatience. I’m supposed to be eating croissants right now, but I have been missing Indian food for awhile.

Thank goodness there’s hotel buffet here. It’s made a frustrating (and frankly, a little scary) situation truly delicious. The naan, the makhani, even the basmati rice, so different from Thai rice, takes the edge off of the uneasiness of not having my passport with me.

When life gives me India, I eat Indian food.


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Paris Is Always A Good Idea

This may be hard for you to believe, but when I was a child, I would not stop dreaming about traveling to Europe. I spent my time reading about wars in Europe and the bubonic plague and Queen Elizabeth. When I was very young, these dreams were mostly concentrated on going to London, but as I matured, I envisioned a college-aged Jordan, strolling the streets of Prague, apple strudel in hand.

Obviously I went horribly, horribly astray from those original dreams. I’m 22, I have a degree in Development Studies, and I’ve lived and traveled on 4 different continents, none of which are Europe. I can tell you how to safely remove a tapeworm that’s emerged from the surface of your skin, but not how much a Euro is worth.

As much traveling to oft-forgotten countries fills my heart with joy, I thought it was time to go somewhere new. Somewhere that was solidly on the beaten path (for good reasons, I hope).

Paris.

One of my best friends, Sophie, is interning at the WHO in Geneva and I thought it would be the best time ever if I could meet up and explore with her. (At first I joked/not-really-joked that we should meet up in the middle, which I think was in Uzbekistan. That never happened). I haven’t seen this girl in 2 whole years, so it was about darn time we spent some quality time together. We’ve kept in touch through lots of phone calls and skype and gchat, the we way young people keep in touch these days. Nothing can compare to friend bonding time though.

In planning for our trip, we told another bff Casey that this meetup was happening. No one can quite remember if we invited Casey or Casey invited herself (I believe the former, Casey asserts the latter), but Casey is coming too. And we are so, so happy she is.

Me, Sophie, and Casey in Hanoi, Vietnam

We all met while studying abroad in Washington, D.C., South Africa, Vietnam, and Brazil. Sophie and I bunked together at a cramped Quaker hostel, Casey and I lived with an awesome feminist-blogger-baking family in Brazil. Between the three of us, we’ve held long, drawn out conversations on every space of transit imaginable – van, bus, subway, plane, airport, Chinese junk, etc. We’ve woken at the crack of dawn for some crazy dips in the Indian Ocean. We have lived, laughed, loved with the best of them.

Their friendship is a great treasure to me, and now it’ll be a friendship that spans 5 continents.

So armed with only carry-on luggage, several different cameras, and an amazing .pdf map of Paris created by my friend Robin, we will traipse around Paris.

And I will probably pass out from sheer delight at the ability to find more-than-decent pastries and cheese.


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How to Kill 8 Hours in an Outside Bus Terminal

(Or, more accurately, “The Story of My Life”)

I thought it would be something different to share with you. A snapshot of my life doing what I do best – waiting. In a space of transit. I copied this out from my journal that I kept that night. Almost everything is word-for-word.

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Oh man, oh man. I have 5 ½ hours to go in an outside bus terminal and it’s already my workday bedtime. I need to pass the time carefully so as not to fall asleep. Maybe I can go to 7-Eleven and find a pack of cards and some water to keep my mind occupied. That might be a good plan for now. I can’t say enough how I’m so looking forward to my Parisian adventure!

Look at all the available, cushy seats.

HOW TO KILL 7 ½  8 HOURS IN A THAI BUS STATION (CHIANG MAI, TERMINAL 3)

7:45PM – See friends off to their bus.

7:47PM – Double check which gate and terminal my bus leaves from. Realize I’m in the wrong terminal and cross the street to get to the right one. Find it bustling and clean and full.

7:54PM – Find an internet café! Check Gmail, Facebook, & Google Reader (in that order) for the next hour. Mostly just read Mormon blogs. Make a note of articles to reader later.

8:56PM – Head out to the waiting area. Brace myself for a long, strange night.

The gate where my bus would eventually arrive.

9:07PM – Decide that now is as good of a time as any to write in my journal. Do so for the next hour.

10:04PM – Written the thoughts that I want to write now. It helps to keep things on paper.

I have a soft spot in my heart for National Bank of Petersburg pens. I carry them with me everywhere I go. I’m gonna have to load up when I’m back home.

10:07PM – Think that this is one of the more annoying times I’ve had to kill and decide to document it (with pictures) for blogging purposes.

10:25PM – Strike out for 7-Eleven

10:27PM – Due to the preponderance of 7-Elevens in Thailand, I come across one quickly (there are two next to the bus station). I find a new wonder every time I go to 7 (as it’s shortened when talking about in Thai). Tonight, I buy a new tube of travel-sized toothpaste, a type of ice cream cone I’ve never seen before, and some fruit juice.

10:35PM – I head back to my table I previously occupied and took stock of my bounty. My ice cream cone was going to start melting soon, so I unwrapped it and went to town on it. Because I don’t want to run out of things to do, I didn’t multi-task at all while licking the ice cream. I finish it within 10 minutes.

10:45PM – At this point, I have to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the lobby to the inside part of this bus terminal is locked up for the night. So is the bathroom in the outside part of the terminal. Not having access to a bathroom is every sane person’s nightmare. (After writing this, I’m thinking that it’s every privileged person’s nightmare.) I walk over to the bus terminal next to mine. On the way, my bag full of Chiang Mai souvenirs and a box of Pop Tarts breaks. Great. I get there and I find that terminal 2 is boarded up as well. Things aren’t looking pretty.

All the while, I’m propositioned by the tuk tuk drivers, eager to chauffeur me back into the heart of the Chiang Mai. In my not-so-politest Thai, I decline their offers.

10:58PM – With a stroke of luck, I find another bus terminal (the main Nakhon Chai one) that has a few workers milling around, setting up shop for the night. I’m in luck! They have a bathroom, and an almost immaculate one at that! I do my business, wash my face and brush my teeth, finishing off the herbal salt toothpaste I’ve been carting around in my toiletry bag every since my trip to Cambodia in January.

11:05 PM – I depart the bathroom and stop in another, different 7-Eleven to ask for a new, big plastic bag in the politest Thai I can muster (mii sai toum yai mai kaa?). The gracious, giggling girls of 7-Eleven are able to save my day. I walk back to the terminal, fending off more tuk tuk drivers on the way.

11:09PM – I settle myself for the long haul on a stretch of 4 seats. There are at least 9 other people in the terminal, but that’s it. I’m still grateful it’s well-lit and clean. I’m outside, so in addition to ‘glistening,’ I’m also being feasted on my mosquitoes (I have a biological predisposition toward super delicious blood). I pull out my citronella balm and apply vigorously on my arms, hands, and feet. This is the smell of my late night, outside, cricket-chirping skype chats and I’m thankful I brought it with me. At this point, I’ve taken a good half-hour to detail the minutia (I keep on thinking of it as micro-blogging – is that weird?) or the last half hour or so.

 

Exactly like these seats but not these exact seats.

11:40 PM – A bus is here! Is it my bus? If it was, it would be about 4 hours early.  However, I would not [I just leave it cut off there for some reason]

11:43PM – Bus pulls away. I’m heartened by the fact that although I know precious few Thai characters, I can discern the timetable for the bus line between Chiang Mai and Nakhon Ratchasima.[1]

เชียงใหม่ – Chiang Mai

นครราชสีมา – Nakhon Ratchasima

Most of the Thai letters I’m familiar with/know the sounds of, I know from karaoke videos on inter-province buses.

11:50PM – The old man nodding off next to me has just let out the loudest fart. I flip through my Lonely Planet Thai phrasebook until 12. I can feel my Thai improving more, my understanding improving, possibilities for me finally learning how to read seeming more and more possible.

12:00 AM – I stretch myself out on a row of seats. I listen to dogs barking in the night. I start Sh*t My Dad Says (the book, from Abby). [Since it was late at night, I couldn’t read anything too heavy]

2:10AM – I finish Sh*t My Dad Says and try to delve into The Corrections again. Another bus arrives, this time a Chiang Mai – Nakhon Ratchasima one, the one I’m supposed to take an hour and 20 minutes from now. It’s just unloading, however. My biggest concern is where to pee before the journey. This darn bus leaves at 3:30 in the morning AND it doesn’t have a bathroom on it! I have half a mind to squat in a quiet, secluded corner. I’m so thirsty but I can’t be filling my bladder with anything else at the moment.

Also, the mosquitoes are driving me nuts. And 2-3 more buses have arrived. Nakhon Chai Air bus, get here soon!

2:22AM – Hark! A light in the darkness. The Nakhon Chai ticket counter seems to have opened up, bless them. It will be their job to find me a bathroom before the bus moves. I think it might be futile, trying to restart The Corrections tonight. It’ll be my project for tomorrow, in Chakkarat.

Okay. Going to scope out the possibility of an available bathroom now.

No bathroom.

2:24AM – I write postcards to fill the time. I send postcards frequently and at a rather high volume. I love sending them, I love being able to brighten people’s days. I picked up some really beautiful ones at the Saturday walking street. I addressed them to [a friend, an elementary school teacher, my family]. Maybe I can try and send them in Khorat.

2:45AM – The bus arrives and it’s looking real janky. No bathroom. The lobby is unlocked and lit again but when I went inside, some security guard guy was like, ‘We open at 6.’ And the lady in the Nakhon Chai booth could offer no further help.

Fiddlesticks.

I see the bus attendant bring a round of amphetamine drinks for herself and the driver.

I still feel angry about not having a bathroom, but I board anyway.

And my National Bank of Petersburg pen ran out. [They are my favorite pens to write in my journal with.]

3:30AM – I’m off. See you in 12 hours, Khorat.

[14 hours later, 4 poptarts, 1 orange juice, and 1 or 2 bathroom breaks later, I made it back to the familiarity of the Khorat bus station.]


[1] The city and province of Nakhon Ratchasima is popularly referred to as “Khorat,” so that’s what I call it as well.


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What Songkran Is All About

While I did get drenched on April 12, the day of my trip to Phuping Palace and Wat Doi Duthep, there was no comparison to what was about to go down in Chiang Mai.

I’ve never seen anything like this in my life, and I never will again. It makes me want to go to every great cultural festival in the place where it’s most famous.

I think a video can show you more than more words would ever be able to, so I made one of the Songkran experience in Chiang Mai (available in HD for your viewing pleasure). Enjoy & comment if you like it!

Here are some highlights (and lows) of Songkran in Chiang Mai, not shown in the video:

– Continuing to get splashed after showering, resting, and heading out for what was supposed to be a dry supper.

– Realizing why the water from Chiang Mai’s moat never seemed depleted, despite everyone and their mom taking water from it for splashing: the water from the street goes back into the moat. Ick. (Adam, to me: “Jordan, don’t you just want to go swimming in there?” Me: “Uh, no. Not really.” And then I turned my head and the next thing I knew, Adam had gone into the moat.)

– Having a lot of that moat water end up in my mouth.

-Making friends with strangers. I thought I might have a hard time throwing buckets of water on complete strangers, but it’s far easier and as much fun as you could ever possibly think it would be.

– Adam falling into a hole and banging his knee up after trying to throw water on children.

– Eating so much khao soi (post to come soon).

– Getting smeared with white paste. It’s almost like a Songkran badge of pride:

– Enjoying quiet night walks without too much interruption from the nighttime splashers.

– Speaking of night walks, check out this insanely beautiful Lanna-style temple architecture. It haunted my dreams that night:

– Of course, because it’s Chiang Mai (and Chiang Mai is, in my opinion, the best city for shopping in Thailand), we hit hit up the night bazaars and walking streets.

little bits of graffiti, little windows into commensality

The city of Chiang Mai is so, so great and offers something completely different from Bangkok and Isaan, where I have spent my time living in Thailand. I had a wonderful time celebrating Songkran there. We spent a lot of time talking about how such a festival would be impossible back home. People are too afraid of interacting with strangers and American people are far too litigious to be able to fully enjoy something that includes drinking polluted moat water and assaulting strangers. And that’s why I’m glad I decided to spend time learning lessons from another culture.