Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Comfort

One of my favorite blog finds, the tea drinking english rose, requested blog posts about comfort from those who read her (as you should too! she is deliciously girly, like a strawberry cookie). And this suggestion seemed particularly relevant to my life now, since I miss the comforts of home so often.


What comforts me: early mornings, peanut butter on toast, tea or coffee with milk.


I like to be alone or just quiet for a little while in the morning. Reading, thinking, daydreaming. Munching on a breakfast treat.


It's best if I can look out the window on our snow-covered yard in Ashfield.


Those of you who have been there know it is a place of comfort like no other. Made more valuable by the people who inhabit it.

My mom writes, "My favorite time of the day is the walk across the field to the round house, lighting the incense and sometimes a fire, chanting the heart sutra... Then I love the walk back across the field. Often dinner is in the oven or on the stove as a chili or stew or soup."


And from my dad, "I am sitting in the living room by the fire. The snow outside has just turned to rain. Vivian just brought me a tray with tea. Caleb just called. You just emailed. Tomorrow is my last day of teaching before a long holiday weekend."



In the meantime, while I have no snow-covered field to traipse across, no fire to sit by, I will content myself with sitting on this tropical porch:


And making myself at home in this beautiful room:


The kinds of natural peanut butter and hearty toast I love are hard to come by. But there is a stove and a coffeemaker in the kitchen where Justin is working. Every morning, he makes a perfect bowl of oats for us and a strong pot of coffee.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Laos, A Very Long Bus Ride, and A Note About the Photos

First, about the photos.

I've been using Mike's camera since mine was STOLEN (thank you, Mike), and I swear to god I didn't do anything to it, but recently it has been doing strange things (I'm sorry, Mike!). When I take pictures outside, the camera lets too much light in, and the pictures are just white brightness. When I take pictures inside, but still in daylight, they look like this one of Justin peeling a muffin:


When I take pictures at night, with a flash, they look normal, like this picture of our drinks in Vientiane:


So I don't know what to do, except take lots of indoor or nighttime pictures, like this one of all the oranges on the sidewalks of Luang Prabang:


We arrived in Laos a few days ago. They have cheaper wine here. And cheese! Also delicious European-style pastries. This is because Laos was colonized by the French, apparently. And because of something to do with import taxes.

At any rate, it took us a very long time to get from Vientiane, the capitol, to Luang Prabang, which is where we are now.

On the ride, I read some of War and Peace, which we picked up in Chiang Mai, figuring it would take at least two months to read.


But mostly I just looked out the window and at my fellow passengers. It occurred to me how perfectly we are all ourselves. For example, these two faery-like Icelandic girls with their blond blond hair:


(I know, I took their picture while they were sleeping! And now I'm sharing it with the internet!)

If I could've, I would've taken pictures of the landscape; it was breathtaking and terrifying. Through the miles of uninhabited mountains, our crumbling road seemed like the only one in all of Laos, which it almost is. I wish you could've seen it.


I was so excited to arrive in Luang Prabang, a city of winding streets and open cafes.

There is magic in it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Somewhere Else

Sometimes it seems the things I love about travel are the same things I hate.

1. The absurdities of language.


Cross a border, and the words are different. I don't know the numbers anymore. Or how to say thank you.

2. Everywhere is temporary.


Today it's a grimy hostel with cigarette burns in the sheets. Tomorrow we'll pack again. Arrive somewhere new.

3. Disconnection from self and home.

I'm both inescapable and out of context. Me, but not me. It's a peculiar kind of loneliness. A peculiar thrill.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Goodbye, Chiang Mai


Goodbye, workdays and weekdays and hours of reading blogs.


Goodbye, favorite coffee shops and ice cream spots and city smog.


Goodbye, view from my room.


Goodbye, Chiang Mai moon.

(If all goes according to plan, and it rarely does, I'll be in Bangkok tomorrow morning and Laos on Sunday. I'll update whenever I can...)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Night of Loi Krathong


It's the full moon; the streets around the river overflow. Giddy Thai teenagers scream into cell phones. Tourists push past, clutching cameras and wallets. And cars and motorbikes circle endlessly, looking for parking.


Vendors hawk Thai sausages, balloon animals, and Krathong, boats made from banana leaves and flowers.


They are intricately made and lovely, but they are meant to be lit and let float down the river.


Like the lanterns, they symbolize the release of the past year and the welcoming of the new one.


Or that's how my Western mind interprets it.


The magic is somewhat offset by the hundreds of fireworks going off directly above our heads. Explosions rock the ground. Sparks shower the crowd. We feel like we're in a war zone. Albeit a very beautiful one.

I will be gone soon. But tonight, there's time for drinks and pictures. Time to marvel at our luck in being here.


In this place, on this day.



Time even to feel cranky and tired, and to leave long before the candles on the river burn out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Loi Krathong


Loi Krathong is a Buddhist festival of lights.


It began on Saturday night, and Justin and I rode out to Mae Jo to be a part of it.


Though whether we can really be a part of a Thai Buddhist festival, I'm not sure.


Still, it was impressively beautiful. We couldn't put away the camera.


Thousands and thousands of people lit Khom Fai, huge paper lanterns, which the heat lifted into the sky.


At first there were only a few. Then the night filled with them.


Until the whole sky was alight.



There seemed no end to it.


We could have stayed for hours, watching. But we didn't.


Instead we pushed, like aggressive Americans, through the crush of people, out to the motorbike, back down the highway, to arrive at the Chiang Mai apartment we will soon leave behind.

Have I told you yet it is fall here? After dark and in the early mornings, the air is light and touched with clear cold.

An Explanation

Over the last four months I've spent a lot of time sitting at a computer. Because of this I've discovered MILLIONS OF BLOGS! Blogs are so cool! Seriously. And I have one! Yay!

But because of these discoveries I've seen many of the neat and creative and lovely and quirky things people are doing with their blogs. And I want to do more with mine. Also, I'm kindof sick of telling mini photo-stories about Thailand. Also, I'm not a particularly talented photographer. Also, I won't be in Thailand forever (thank god), and I want to keep posting here.

So I'm changing this into I don't know exactly what yet. I started by labeling all my posts. You can now search them by category (because I knew you were dying to do that): just words, links, lists, self help, self portraits, stories, street fashion, and thoughts and images.

Maybe you, my wonderful friends and family (and strangers! are there strangers who look at my blog?), could tell me what you'd like more of.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What I Miss Most, a List

1. sidewalks
2. dinner parties
3. wine
4. good beer
5. whole wheat bread (100% whole wheat!)
6. cheese
7. my dad's lattes
8. English
9. TiVo!
10. eating with a knife

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Pink Mini Pork Ball Lady

I'm not sure what pork balls are, other than pork rolled in balls, kindof like hot dogs are pork rolled in tubes. Mini pork balls are just like pork balls, but smaller.

The Pink Mini Pork Ball Lady wears all pink and pigtails, though she must be past thirty. She drives around the city to grill mini pork balls in the back of her pink van. When I see her I feel both sorry for and jealous of her, stuck in her haven of meat and cuteness.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Election from Here


Tuesday night it was still morning in the US. Across Thailand, I imagine, small gatherings of Americans and on-lookers milled about with the TV on.


Our gathering drank boxed wine and ate pizza, two precious commodities.

Wednesday morning I had the same feeling I have on holidays, that I wanted to be with people I love. The UN Irish Pub would have to do.


There a mix of tourists and ex-pats waited, drinking Guinness (even rarer than boxed wine)


and sending our cheers across the world.


When they called Virginia and declared Obama president, we all started crying. Along with the people in Chicago and Los Angeles and Kenya. Along with my parents in Massachusetts and my brother in DC and my friends in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Northampton.

And I was homesick for a country I am finally proud of.