Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tunes I'm Loving

Favorite of the week:

Patrick Watson:

Strains of Andrew Bird creativity, Damien Rice softness, and then some surprising and sounds... just pleasing to the ear and soul. Especially on rainy afternoons.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thailand: Likes and Dislikes

When I travel I make a lot of lists because I can't write down everything! There's always too much to note.


Fruit shakes, cheap and beautiful orchids (wayyyy cheaper than carnations), heat, humidity, spicy food, khao soi (dish in the north), sticky rice, Songkran, water fights, how Thai people say the most cheerful "hello!" ever, listening to people with deeper voices speak thai, tuktuks, night markets, fresh fruit, curry curry curry, thai smiles, when thai people are so kind and welcoming to me, the landscape, the green, wild flowers, bubble tea, cheap thai massages, thai fashion, night trains, people watching, how "sweets" aren't super sugary, lack of processed food, lack of plastic goods, waking up at dawn to the roosters, sleeping in bamboo huts, hiking through hill jungles, elephants, pretty ladies on bikes with umbrellas (an actual event - like a thai beauty show), being in the midst of breaking world news when the rioting started last weekend in Bangkok, beautiful jewelry, traveling like all thais -- dirty night trains, tuktuks, walking barefoot.


Ants, mosquito bites, peeling sunburns, sweating under sunburns so then they bubble, this curry that smells like dead fish, not being able to really converse with Thai people, paying for water, the meanest smallest woman ever who took our bus money when we boarded in Bangkok, pending riots that make me stay out of Bangkok, open air meat markets in heat, being dehydrated, rice rice rice rice noodles rice rice, british accents (sorry, friends), feeling oober dirty in night trains, my crazy hair in the humidity.

Thailand Week One: Jungle!

April 10: JUNGLE! I awoke and saw that the rainstorms had passed (this is SUPPOSED to be dry season) and headed out to Khao Sok. I was most anticipating this day trip. Khao Sok is a 130 million year old rainforest. It's about 2 hours from Suratthani. I am kind of obsessed with hiking and had never seen a jungle environment. I had to go. After bartering with Thai about how many baht to pay for my minivan to Khao Sok, I arrived around 1:30, grabbed a room for 200 baht (about 5 dollars), ate fried rice, and headed out to hike.

Background: Most of you have seen this in action -- at times I have a strong competitive, stubborn and prideful streak...

The hiking paths for Khao Sok close at 6:00 p.m. I left at 2:30 to begin my hike. Of course, I wanted to tackle the 7 km hike to the waterfall. It was the longest trail, and I was so jazzed to be in a rainforest that I didn't want to miss anything. The woman told me it was too late to start on that trail. I nodded, thanked her, and decided to do it anyway. 7km. That's not that far. About 1.5 km in, I noted approached rain clouds, and about 4km in, decided that I should settle for the pool and cliffs 6km in. I also noted that I passed no hikers going IN, but all were coming OUT. *shrug. I continued. I was a bit nervous at the thought of being on a trail in thick jungle in the dark, but kept on. (I was mentally composing a blog entry about pride on the way, and the blog entry ended with me stating that my pride was teetering with oncoming clouds, but I conquered the jungle trail.) When I finally reached the pool, I realized it wasn't as dark as I had thought, the vegetation just blocked out the sunlight. I felt better.


NOTE: Earlier that afternoon, this had been my conversation with the guy at the bungalows: "Hi, where you from?" "The United States." "Where?" "The U.S.?" "Oh, America." I winced (that's two continents, not a country), "Yeah, America." "You beautiful." I smiled. "Thanks." He noted my attire. "You go Khao Sok?" "Yes." His eyes filled with warning, "Leeches!"

I shuddered. As a child, I read a lot of Little House on the Prairie. Leeches make me think of Laura Ingalls Wilder in creeks and her subsequent struggle with removing leeches from her legs and arms. END NOTE.

About .5 km into the return hike, I got off the trail somehow, and it started to rain. Awesome. I noted that on the map, the trail followed a river. I figured I'd follow the river as well, climb rocks, and arrive safely. Until I slipped on a mossy rock and fell. And stood up to note my legs and hands speckled with... yes, leeches. I freaked out and tried pulling them off me only to learn then they stick to your hands, or your shoes, or fingernails, or coat... Bets on following the river: OFF. Name of the new game: Get out of the jungle without falling again.

After 15 minutes of following wrong paths and cursing the park for poorly marked paths, cursing the rain during "dry season", cursing my pride, and then damning leeches for eternity, I got back on a path that seemed promising. A half km later, I got lost again and started envisioning myself in the jungle overnight. This jungle has tigers, bears, elephants, huge snakes, monkeys, and worst... leeches. I knew I'd get out the next morning -- tourists would hike again -- but spending the night standing up to avoid leeches in the middle of a dark rainforest... didn't sound like fun. I'm not sure anyone has ever seen me in adrenaline, panick mode... I had to resort to deep breaths and talking with myself - outloud, mind you - to try to think logically. (haha. I laugh about it now - a lot - but I was freaked. out.)

Again, I did a few circles on paths, cursed rainforests, cursed my self confidence, cursed my love of adventure, cursed my competitive streak (versus my own expectations), cursed the leech I found in my sock sucking at my ankle, and tried to slow my heartrate.

At this point, I would like to pause and give props to three individuals whose valuable gifts helped me out of the jungle: To my dad who gave me a decent sense of direction, to my friend Kaitlin for waking up in a random Patagonia rain shell at a college party years ago and lending it to me for the trip, and to my friend Jason who fleers my prideful streak more than anyone -- after considering the intense ridicule I would face, I bent my mind on getting out successfully. Thank you to these individuals. Your directions, jacket and pending raillery saved my life.

I finally found a trail, calmed down, began recognizing marks from my trip in, and then trekked as quickly as possible to flee the dense green and enduring rain. I ceased cursing things and just thanked God, luck, anything, when I hit the 2 km mark and the wider tourist trail. I dreamed of water and fruit shakes.

Quite the adventure, being lost 6 km deep in a leech-ridden rainforest, at dusk, during a rainstorm... I'm not sure I'll ever hike alone in a jungle again. But it was beautiful scenery! I retired to my bungalow, found one more leech on my ankle, cursed it, threw it outside and trid to sleep under my mosquito net. I couldn't fall asleep for over 7 hours I was so worked up. Yikes...

I laugh a lot about it now. My tour guide on my trek this week said, "You went to Khao Sok? King cobra there. You see?"

Hell no. I had no idea they were there. Thank goodness.

Thailand: Week One: City life and secluded beaches

I am "on holiday" in Thailand presently. I left the U.S. on April 4, arriving to my friend Claire, in Surat Thani on April 7 mid-day. It's been an incredibly eventful and true look at Thai life/land.

In this entry:
- Arriving to Claire, bits of Thai culture
- Day at Khanom Beach

Tuesday, April 7: ARRIVED in Suratthani, Thailand. See map above and little red dot. Not a very touristy city, it's mainly a hub to visit the surrounding islands and renowned beaches. My high school friend Claire and her boyfriend, Brandon, are teaching English in Suratthani and will be here through February 2010. Claire's been here for 8 months, speaks functional Thai, and knows all the ins and outs. I have definitely had more of the insider's view because of her, and it's been grand. Tuesday I wandered around the city, noted the smells (not good), the open air meat markets (not appetizing), the ridiculously cheap orchids (amazing), the pace of Thai life in Suratthani, the weird items in corner stores, that everyone owns a motorbike, the lack of any chains (except 711), my love for fresh fruit shakes. Claire and Brandon took me to a woman's food stall/restaurant on the street and ordered a random dish of fish and chicken with sticky rice. So spicy. So good. I learned that if a plate of green vegetables accompany the dish, it signifies an incredible spicy dish. Yum.

Thai's go to bed early and rise early. I'm a fan.

April 8: I set out to KHANOM, a secluded beach about one hour from Suratthani. It's Claire's favorite place, and I wanted to avoid the touristy beaches of Phuket. I'm not a huge beach person, so I didn't mind skipping the tourist spots. I went to the bus station, used the only Thai I knew (Hi, "Go to Khanom", Thank you) to find a minibus (van) to take me. I got kinda lost, the Thai were so kind, and once in Khanom, a guy on a motorbike took me to the bungalows on the beach. It was breath-taking. I was the only tourist -- it was two Thai families and me. Loved it. I hung out on the beach, in the ocean, took long walks in the waves, took a long walk on the beach/climbed rocks to arrive at a restaurant about a mile down the beach. During one of my walks, I joined some Thai kids' soccer game on the beach, got stuck in a huge rainstorm, took cover in a random bar, and the English speaking owner had his driver take me back to my bungalow via motorbike. It was picturesque.

Thai's swim fully clothed and think sunning is silly - that pale white is beautiful - the kids thought I was the weirdest being they had ever seen.

The next morning I walked down the road to a restaurant on the beach for breakfast. The Thai owner who grew up in Khanom and has learned English from tourists, sat and chatted with me over my tea. I was in heaven.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Restaurant Shout-out: Spa Cafe

If you're in the Loop, you MUST stop by Spa Cafe. A creative, tasty, environmentally friendly restaurant. A wrap is $6 and an amazing hamburger (free range, antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat) is $10. No vegetable oils, refined sugars or preservatives used. Even the utensils are compostable! And, it's just a cool place.

Check it out:

It's my new favorite. I make up events so I can go over for lunch. Try it out.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Poetry: Rumi's Guest House

I've been sifting through Rumi recently and happened upon this poem. It's now in my office, and I've pondered it throughout this week. I thought I'd share it!

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.

— Rumi

My reflections: At times I become annoyed that a difficult person/situation interrupts my "normal day." However, Rumi reminds me that such instances are not interruptions but are instead an equally legitimate part of life as the moments that I control and choose. Hence I must calmly embrace those that "violently sweep my house" instead of compartmentalizing and labeling as "part of life" v. a random inconvenient occurrence.