Saturday, July 2, 2016

Lands End, San Francisco

I'm sitting at the base of a Cyprus tree - low, with sprawling trunks or limbs coming out of the sandy dirt. I got here by walking down dirt-covered steps then stooping underneath the tree branches. Its pine needles frame the most spectacular view - blue water, the curves of the headlands, Golden Gate bridge, green and tan cliffs to each side. And the light.

The light. Right now it's beaming down from the sun, reflecting on the water and warming my face. But earlier it was a soft glow, teasing at the end of the dark path, illuminating the forest in magical yellow. Then there was the Cyrpus path, perfectly aligned with the sun so it came down in fierce streaks through the branches overhead. Big, dramatic sprays of sunlight that I usually don't believe are real. They were waiting to be discovered around every bend, alternating my steps with shade and light. They fed my soul. When I thought I couldn't take in any more beauty, there were the flowers, spring up on the sides of the forest trail. Pink, lilac, white, small, hanging, climbing - just a small dusting of one type after another. I'm lucky to be here with so little fog.

I first panicked when my camera died, then pressed on with the promise that I would return, then soon retracted my promise and told myself to experience it today, now, and that is enough. But I'm still writing.

Sounds - the ocean breathing below me, birds chattering all around, and the steady call of a foghorn. I read about the multitude of ships that have gone down at the entrance of the bay. What tragic sights these trees have witnessed.

And the water - like a field, stretching dense and massive to the left (ocean), in front of me (to the headlands), and to the right (under the bridge). A consistent navy, barely marked with ripples and, barely, a boat. But the water below me turns, churns, and rolls with white froth, colliding with dozens of craggy black rocks that dot the small stretch of shore, then finally nestles on the smooth wet sand. I remember that I forgot to bring a container to collect sand. Birds fly in groups. The sunlight catches spiderwebs in the foliage to my right. Another hiker comes wandering up my path - time to leave and see the rest.

***

Later - chai and toast in the garden of Marla Bakery. Later - reading Julia Child on an enormous fallen tree trunk at the top of Strawberry Hill, then watching two hummingbirds dance on the branch above me, send out flashes of their long, silvery tongues. A hawk glides above and I catch its twin, the shadow gliding below.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Draft: Final Reflections from Cambodia

Well I'm writing this from a clinic hospital bed in Cambodia with an IV stuck in my hand. Not exactly how we planned to spend our last 2 days here. However, I'm overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude, admiration, and humility. You would expect that after an experience of getting sick and an unexpected overnight hospital stay (full of needle pricks, unfamiliar medicines, and toilet breaks) that I would be turned off to the country. I feel the exact opposite. When thinking about it, I hope to come back one day, mostly for these 3 reasons:

- to show the Ta Prohm Temple to people that I love. Yes Angkor Wat is the main attraction, and I'm glad to have seen it, but Ta Prohm will be deeper in my memory. It's an incredible showcase of the power of nature and time, and shows how insignificant human activity can be. It's possible one day our entire earth will look like these buildings, covered over in plants and trees.

- to learn more about the Khmer Rogue genocide in the 1970s. Before coming here I was only vaguely aware of it, and it seems that even my awareness was higher then most Americans. Between 1975 and 1979 they killed 20-25% of the population. That's statistically at least 1 person from every single family. The details include forced labor, starvation, forced relocation, prisons, rape, terrible torture methods that made me sick reading about it, kneeling people over mass graves then cutting their heads off, and removing everyone's gall bladder (through their back) to sell, sometimes before and sometimes after they killed them. I can't even begin to fathom it. Anyone currently aged 40 or older was at least 10 years old when it began, so must still have a complete memory or it. I almost...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Homestay List

Moments:

Bung Dee laughing at durian tasting
Nutch securing my headscarf
Riding in the back of the truck to the marsh & market
Listening to Brooke and Tui play cards
Waking up to the call to prayer, rooster, and monsoon on the tin roof
Ducks, chickens, rooster, goats, cats, cows, and water buffalo hang out, near the house & on the street
Meals serenaded by the song birds
Clam hunting together, in the mud with crabs and mud skippers
Playing in the waves with kids at sunset
Watching Bung Dee take down and crack open coconuts
English/Thai lessons - what is your name? Do you like this house?
Squat toilet, bucket bath
Meeting neighbors during batik, palm roof, and soap lessons (old woman's hands!)
Watching Lindsey walk a wandering goat
Getting caught in the monsoon rains during a run to the beach
Mangrove tour in a homemade boat with our local guide (we saw a monkey!)
Going to the local market, we were the only people eating during Ramadan
Playing clapping game with school children (cheek kiss!)
Stopping to see the rubber trees
Watching Jah Rei smile and wave as we left

Tokyo

"What were some of the best parts of your day?"

Swinging and playing at the "wipe out" park
Meeting someone who went to UC Davis
Rituals and fortunes at the temple
Harajuku fashion, laymen noodles
Navigating trains like a boss (except when we couldn't exit)
THE AIRPORT SHOWER!!
Arriving at the garden and tea house from the boat
People watching - smart clothes, crowded and tired subways
Intense vending machines and toilets

Ramblings in Thailand

Driving, northern Thailand:

Another countryside speeds past me. Green green grass, broken occasionally by watery rice paddies (we think). Green trees, some tall elegant palms, some unknown, and some squat banana fronds with fanning leaves. The sun has been playing peekaboo with the clouds but now it's shining in full force, glimmering off water and shiny waxy leaves, yellow through my sunglasses and warm on my skin. The sky is a light blue, not bright, but easily holds layers of fluffy clouds in suspension. The clouds play with the tips of the mountains in the distance, rugged and deep blue-green, anchoring the horizon.

As we speed by in the back of a red open-air taxi truck, I keep taking out my phone to capture photos. I don't want to miss anything.
- the sun on the hills - check
- the giant gold Buddha - check
- friends sleeping in the cab - check
- a dozen people working in the rice paddy - miss
- the mysterious smoke hanging in the distance - check
- infinite disorganized rundown shacks, sprinkled with mini gold shrines - check
- a market scene as we pass through a town - check
- a large building flanked by jewel-covered gold snakes - miss
Taking it all in fills me up with it, bringing satisfaction, presence, and gratitude. I am here. I wonder if I'm getting a sunburn.

I become aware of 2 sounds - the groan of the taxi tires on the pavement, and the whizz of cars and motorcycles that pass us. I'm glad our driver isn't speeding.

Changes have happened - more signs and billboards; denser, nicer stores; more electricity cables. We are getting close to Chiang Mai. We stop at the first stoplight since we left the waterfall. A Thai boy jay walks across the street, maybe aiming for one of the open eateries lining the road. They remind me of Chile.

Now a cloud formation has moved in front of the sun and sends a spray of light waves glowing through. I want to capture it but the view is interrupted - car dealerships, shrine dealerships, banks, housing, traffic across the small median. We're sharing the road now with semis, tuk tuks, and my favorite dragon- painted trucks. One pickup truck holds a mass of people standing in the back, smiles on. We turn onto a smaller road, nearing our hostel. We're tired, damp, counting our mosquito bites, and content.

Itinerary

Alright, it's clear that I haven't had/made much time to write, but I do want to be able to remember what we did. The list:

July 21: finish packing, dinner at yard house with Berke, drive to airport
July 22: fly all day, air japan - lose this day
July 23: tokyo 5am, temple with fortunes, slow pace since no plan, dennys, water taxi to garden with tea, closed fish market, subway to harajuku people watching, ramen, forest for no nap, airport for shower and sushi and nap. fly at midnight
July 24: land in bangkok at 7am, waited at pool and hot tub for room to be ready, in love with 3 room suite, napped, asaitique and traditional dance show
July 25: restorative yoga at hotel, terrible decision do floating market, grand palace (almost couldn't get in bc clothes) blew my mind!  thai massages at wat pho school, dinner at pub next to hotel
July 26: slow yoga at hotel, sad for our last buffet breakfast (roasted tomatos!), airport for chiang mai.  impressed with thai airways - pink and purple seats!  we got a meal for 1 hour flight!  not impressed by MD House hotel, delicious burmese dinner + first thai beer, shots with swiss friend then zoe (bracelets!)
Sat July 27: switched to dozy house, lice removal party, explored chiang mai with coconuts in hand (our noodle house!), cafe with mild panic attack with lindsey, italian dinner
Sun July 28: restorative yoga then pad thai breakfast, waterfall, night market (so much fried veggies!) then beers & frogs with brookers (one more song!)
Mon July 29: my day!  slept in, walked to oldest wat and chinatown (learned how to pray with incense!), indian feast, met british girls and went back to frog bar
Tue July 30: qi gong, noodles again, left for meditation retreat.  monk was so genuine and earnest in wanting to share buddhism. I got into the zone a couple times - felt "field" of body and sensed lighter colors. no talking
Wed July 1: woke up at 5am to monk ringing gong, meditation (45 minutes!  I taught yoga!) truck ride back to Chiang Mai, such fun cooking class (with market tour), fish spa
Thur July 2: last Chiang Mai walk (mozzarella sandwich, Thai massage - cracked 10 times!), first tuk tuk ride, found out at airport that we missed our flight. Super zen about it, flew straight to Phuket (Bangkok airways not as nice, ran over something). Shared a cab to kata beach - accepted that it's cancun. Deep conversation over pizza dinner, pool at old Rasta bar
Fri July 3: slept in & looked at birthday plans, Kata beach! So many vendors like mini restaurants. Played in the waves, dinner wearing a scarf skirt, massage w lady boy
Sat July 4: van to Ban Thale Nok village. Met Tui then family. They served us lunch, batik, Palm roof, saw the small mosque, beach at sunset with kids, dinner, impromptu Thai/English lessons. Fell asleep to monsoon
Sun July 5: woke up to monsoon, rooster, and call to prayer. spicy Tom yum noodles for breakfast, clam hunting, mangrove tour, lunch, soap, truck to market, Bung Dee cut us coconuts, sunset beach, dinner, trying on Muslim clothes.
Mon July 6: ran to the beach and got caught in the rain. school visit :-) bought soap, made palm dessert, last lunch and goodbyes, stopped to see rubber trees. Van to cute Phuket town, dinner with Lindsey (almost everything closed!)
Tue July 7: woke up a bit under the weather, booked Bali flights on hostel computer, Dutch pancake breakfast, said bye to Lindsey, rushed to Koh Phi Phi ferry, wandered around hostel-shopping, ran into British friends and has Italian dinner on the party fire-throwing beach
Wed July 8: solo day! Quick pancakes, walked to view point, journey through the jungle (Mosquitos! Unclear signs! Thai family with monkey! Realizing I had to climb down!) and rewarded with Rantee Beach. Curry lunch, swim and read, long tail boat back to ton sai, relax at garden hostel (swede, garlic rice)



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Thai School

In the village during our homestay :-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgI4b_EkNB4

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hello Again

Hello again. I've decided to temporarily reinstate the blog since I'm in a different country. I really enjoyed archiving experiences/photos/reflections before, so it seems I should do the same again. It's for my own sake, basically a journal, but feel free to take a look around!

So, context - I'm in Thailand with 3 girl friends. We'll be gone for a total of 3.5 weeks (a day in Tokyo, 3 areas in Thailand, then probably a visit to Bali though we haven't bought tickets yet). Our reasons are:
- get to know another part of the world (Asia!). I'm one of those suckers for new things (culture, people, food, religion, ya know...)
- intend to increase, or at least maintain, mindfulness (hello Buddhism)
- further bonding with each other (side story: the O'Briens and I joke that we were destined to meet either in California or Thailand, since we were all applying to teach in Thailand a few years ago)
- I guess feed and satisfy my wanderlust (*insert any quote from my sidebar on the left*)

However, I've found that this time around, 2.5 years later than my last trip, those "explore the world" thoughts are often interrupted with guilt and anxiety in the form of "omg I'm spending so much money" "how will I ever afford to buy a house" "are people judging me for this trip" and "is this fun and transformative or is this irresponsible?"

I haven't decided yet how I feel about these thoughts. Do they show healthy growth as a human - a sign of becoming older and wiser? Ready to be a real adult, support a family, and live happily ever after? Or are they a sign of becoming more jaded, hardened, and falling prey to work-obsessed consumerism? Where is the sweet spot between joyful experience and selfish irresponsibility?  Being spontaneous and being practical?  Pausing and productivity?

Should pleasure be deserved?
What truly brings me happiness?
Really, what is the purpose of life?
So many philosophical questions to ponder. I guess I have 20 more days to consider them. TBD

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grandma

This has nothing to do with education or travel, but I want to save it here :-)

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rocketship Love

Well I'm going through my phone and found some photos and videos... I'll miss those kiddos! <3 
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