Luang Prabang, Lao 2/7/16

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Journal:

The first thing that stands out in Luang Prabang, after its epic beauty, is the motorbikes.  Seems everyone has one.  There is a minimal amount of street signs – I have yet to see one that indicates a road name.  The vehicles pass each other and ride close without signaling.  There are no cross-walks.  I love it because it is so different.  I’ve always felt that people back home don’t pay attention anymore because we are so coddled by all the street signs.

The place is dirty – garbage and dirt, construction and general disorder – not at all like home.

The thing I love the most about this city is the people are TOGETHER.  They’re out in the street walking, talking, working TOGETHER.

There are no skyscrapers and the gigantic river roars past just off the city center.  This feels so much more real than being at home ever has.  The only thing that comes close is living at the trailer park when I was young.

This morning I’m awoken by sounds of people showering and venture down to write and have tea.  Breakfast is included as well as coffee and tea all day long.  I have most certainly thrown caution to the wind and dover right in.  Last night I took a shower in what felt like unclean water, ate food from the open market and paid less mind to sanitation.  It feels so liberating to be out of the sterile environment in the US.  I’m just grateful that my home near Brady Street is basically the American version of this (if you add police and a lot more people).

Roosters are crowing all night.

This place makes me wonder what we gained in civilizing ourselves.  I am also very curious about the Vietnam side of the Vietnam war – the people here are so kind and generous.

A dog from the street has come up into our hostel’s outside dining area and begun to quietly beg for food.  A very cute dog, if a little banged up.

Luang Prabang smells like a firecracker.  A mix of motorbike exhaust, campfire and strange food smells invade the sense.

I had completely forgotten about the biopsy until the shower – it brought a wave of sadness and remembrance of the last day in the States.  I feel somber about it – stuck somewhere between a statistic and my own head.  (Had a biopsy done the day before leaving and it was a bit rushed but came back benign).

I am in love with this place but, being here and living here would be two very different things.  Sitting and enjoying the sun play on my face has me thinking again about the life I really want to live.

In this moment everything seems so perfectly set in place.

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Additional Notes:

There were two journal entries with the same date but a different location-Not sure what happened there but they’re both being posted regardless.

The trailer park where I grew up was in Lake Geneva and it had rolling hills infant of a pine forest and a secret hidden gravel pit complete with old broken tractors.  It was what I’d call an Idyllic outdoorsy childhood.  All the neighbors knew each other and we would have our own community holiday parties in the summer.

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Thai Massage Circus, Lao 2/7/16

Journal:

Still not entirely sure what to expect on this adventure.  The morning enjoyed a homemade omelette at the hostel – its included in the stay.  Then ventured out to find the Mekong river and book on Lao.  Did not find either, got lost and then went into a volunteer organization that directed me to a school “Big Brother Mouse” where they have free english classes.  Spoke with a gentleman “Lam” for a while about the classes.

Then ventured to find food – a delicious chicken sandwich.  Also bought a beautiful Lao handcrafted blanket to help stay warm at night.  Juggled for a bit in the market and drew a crowd.  A lady and gentleman said I could easily teach classes to the local people and make a living that way in Luang Prabang.

Found the bus to camp easily – many people were going.  The ride was about an hour.  At camp I napped – nothing really happened the first night.  Missed a delicious dinner but still ate.  Joined the fire circle and the dog came over and laid in my lap “Khau” like sticky rice but not like “cow” but they sound the same.  I’m now writing by candle-light.  My little bungalow has no running water or electricity.  I absolutely love this! Can’t wait to see what its like when it warms up.

You can hear the rivers from  everywhere on the land.

Additional Notes:

The dogs name is pronounced Cow – oo .  One the last day of the retreat someone pointed out that the dog’s name was actually “White” not sticky rice but the words sound similar.  Sticky rice sounds like cow and white sounds like cow oo.  But when you say sticky rice/cow it’s not flat, you raise up and down during the vowel and cut it short. For white you raise up and extend the oo at the end for a bit longer.

The bus ride was in the back of a pick up with a top on it…they’re called Tuk Tuk’s.  There are different sizes with different names and they go for various rates. The circus had pre arranged Tuk Tuk rides for the days off.

The land is on the way to the Kuang Xi  Waterfall so it is very easy to get a ride to/from the circus and Luang Prabang.  You just go to the main road and wait for a Tuk Tuk and flag them down.  Some of our group took free rides with other tourists.  Some of the circus goers were even brave enough to thumb motor bike rides.  The motor bikes are not taxis in Laos like they are in Thailand.  In Thailand they have special certifications to taxi on the motor bike.

Luang Prabang, Laos 2/6/16

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Journal:

The flight was only an hour.  The airline did NOT feed us scorpions – fish in a hot sauce with coconut like yogurt.  The staff was friendly.  As we came in to land the view was breath-taking.  Jungle on the mountains with the Mekong River cutting through them.  I’ve seen these mountains before in my childhood home – the pillow cases my parents had.  And they hung paintings of Laos on the walls of our trailer.

I hadn’t hit the ground yet but I was already in love with the place.  Grabbed a cab with several other foreigners – we all agreed we had been totally ripped off on the fare price.  The cab was a beat up minivan.

The driver took us to Backpackers hostel and I offered the other half of my reservation to a french girl who is also doing the Thai Circus and lost all her money in Chiang Mai (Thailand).  The hostel was full so we were escorted by the owner’s daughter to another one and shown our room.

I locked up my bag and went for a run while there was still daylight.  I jogged the craggy streets along the Mekong river and magically found the hostel again after 30 minutes.

I introduced myself to a couple playing cards and asked to borrow their phone to text home.  It was really funny because the phone was in Swedish and kept autocorrecting the english to indecipherable hilarity.  We laughed hard and I said goodbye as they headed out.  Then a shower. (Little did I know it would be my LAST hot shower for a month).

Not quite hungry yet I ventured out to find a towel and dinner.  Came across a massage parlor and was totally drawn in.  I received a massage similar to what i give and tipped the lady 25% which was around $1-$2 Us.

After the massage my bones were a bit chilled so a fire drew me in and I joined a small group.  We chatted for some time and the older gentleman offered me a beer and I sampled it.  They suggested I call my clubs a religious thing to avoid having them confiscated by customs.

The market was going to close so dinner was a chicken on a stick and a strange but delicious pancake.  I will elaborate more on Lao in the morning… for now the boys wish to sleep.

The two french gentlemen are appalled by the temperature 70 degrees!

Additional Notes:

The cab ride was supposed to be 50,000Kip per 3 people but we each paid 50,000.  (That’s about the equivalent of $5 – much cheaper than a taxi would’ve cost back home.)

That first night I got lost trying to find the hostel again.  Somehow I got turned around after the massage. Thankfully I had a map, however I failed to get the name of the hostel before leaving it so I ended up combing the streets until I figured out where I was (lack of road signs) and from there headed to where the majority of the hostels were located.

When I initially arrived at the Bangkok airport they searched my bags and confiscated the small scissors from my sewing kit and inquired about the juggling clubs.  I have learned since that it’s kind of amazing to have travelled with so much Kevlar.  Most airport customs won’t allow it into the country (or so I heard) but, I had hand stitched wick covers for the clubs before leaving.

Total number of wicks travelled with: 7   – Contact Staff (2) – Poi (2) – Clubs (3)

All of them were covered.

The return trip seemed even more risky though because they’d been soaked in some pretty intense Lao Lamp Oil and smelled like a gas station.  Thankfully there were no “Lamp Oil” sniffing dogs at any of the airports and all the tools have made it back safely to the States.

Bangkok, Thailand 2/5/16

Journal:

4am I woke to a group of japanese children fluttering in and shopping at Suvarnabhumi International airport. I went in search of a city map and a deck of cards.  The cards have beautiful pictures on them-places I might one day like to see. At first I was collecting for my mother but now perhaps I will keep them for myself and get her another set.

The air here smells muggy and dirty – similar to florida but trade the lizard egg smell for burnt rubber. 32 degrees C – I’m told that translates to 80F.

After getting a boarding pass and learning some more Thai phrases from the linguist at the check in desk I ventured to the Bangkok airways long.  I say hello in Thai, they don’t seem to notice – perhaps we are all very tired.  They hand me a wifi passcode and wave me through.

The waiting long is stocked with what looks like an impression of American snack foods – I sample one of everything – twice at least.

Throughout my 12 hour stay I sample each drink and alternate between sleep and reading.

An old couple from Britain tells me of their adventures in Bangkok which inspires a lengthy internet search and map plotting adventure.  That comes to a close with obsessively watching juggling videos and scribing notes on which tricks to drill while in Laos.

Exhaustion supersedes most of the previous spiritual rumination – but there is still a background noise of wonder towards all the people who don’t speak english.  It seems that all our lives are very similar still.  Everyone has a cellphone, there are wifi phone zombies everywhere.  People sleep wherever they cane and smiles are still universal (as well as gestures).

I attempt to feel and intuit those whom I don’t understand but it seems they’re mostly passing the time talking about nothing.  The same that I am doing, texting updates to Sarah via Voxer.  Curious what kind of snacks we will receive on the flight – hopefully not fried scorpions!

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Additional Notes:

I made the mistake of filling my water bottle from the fountain at the airport.  It made me ill for a half a day and the flight was a bit woozy but it wasn’t too bad.  Later I learned that the airport has really really bad water.  That was the only time where I accidentally drank anything other than bottled water.

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Doha, Qatar 2/4/16

Journal Entry:

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Everyone is so peaceful.  Though the airport is bustling like an ant hill in late fall every person is peacefully making their way to their destination.

So many different cultures and races crossing paths – it’s beauty orchestrated – like the inherent interconnectedness of humanity.

Finding refuge in one of the most elegant spa/gym/pools ever seen – in the middle of the airport, three floors up from the sacred geometric shuffle.

This is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  its elegance is reflected in the marble flooring and vaulted ceilings.  The spa is overwhelmed by a eucalyptus mist.  Cleverly placed LED lights provide the illusion of being at a seaside resort.

You may even surf the internet from the treadmill.  Unfortunately its the only screen on the premise entirely in Arabic.

The one gesture universal and true is the smile.  Even those visibly bored will echo a ruffled smile back.

It’s quite delightful to walk the length of the airport with luggage locked away.

Two pages into a New York Times Bestseller novel and I’m interrupted by a native Pakistan man who is traveling from his life-long home in Denmark to see is family of origin for the first time.  Age 35.  his plea is for company after not having spoken to a soul for over 8 hours.  He offers a drink and I counter suggest dinner.  We head to the food court and order from the most Arabic looking menu.

His english is a little broken but very easy to understand.  We laugh and share stories.  I’m touched to hear again that we all desire the same things – to be happy, to have a good relationship and to have a job that is descent.

I am fascinated by the artwork on the different nation’s dollar bills.  It seems so far all other countries have more colorful money and the images tell a story – one I’m not familiar with.  Not all nations have a face on the bills.  Some are buildings or flowers.  All of them have words and all of them have numbers.  It is easy to translate knowing math but the value is taking longer to decipher.

The elevator music in Doha sounds like soft Beats Antique which in itself is funny to say because this part of the world birthed the rhythms that inspired Beats Antique.

Juggling is still revered by all as a mysterious and complicated art.