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.

Chicago, IL 2/3/16 O’Hare Airport

Written Journal Entry:

The airport is a lawless place of the highest respectability.  Children and the elderly are most noble – juggling and even dropping entertains all for a few seconds as they pass.

International travel is not a small accomplishment.  Each person on this side of the gate has either earned or been given this experience.

Thoughts and ears wander through foreign sounds of conversation – communication.  How do we all communicate?  What things tie us together? Our most simple desires: work that is fulfilling, a creative outlet, a sense of self-confidence, to be loved, to express oneself, to dream and spirituality.

How do we universally convey these messages and meanings?  Through art, dance, gesture, money, numbers.  Some things are the same – the way we count, the ways we can move and the ways we can create visual and audio art.

No need for fancy education to understand one another.  Though common courtesy may not always be common it’s always appreciated.

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Additional Notes

Some things are naturally “known” through communication by all.  Numbers are the same everywhere, even if we don’t say them the same.  Everyone appreciates a decent tip – as I have come to understand tipping in Thailand is not the same as back home.  In the US a standard %20 is customary for all services, from waiters and massage therapists to hair dressers and cab drivers.  In Thailand if they were decent its normal to tip pocket change. Pocket change is in the amounts of 1, 2, 5 or 10 Bhat.  35 Bhat (B35) is equivalent to $1 US.  Doing the math, a regular tip is less than a dollar.  If you really enjoyed the service 10% seemed to bring a smile. 20% made me a new friend who would then open up speaking english and asking all kinds of questions.

Cost for a 60 Minute Thai Massage B200 = $5.71 us with a B20 tip = $.57

A cup of coffee in Thailand from a hostel was about B50 – $1.42 which is about the same for gas station coffee in the US.

Breakfast ranged from B45 – eggs, toast (spread with mustard/mayo), ham slice, coffee and water

to B100 for a cashew/strawberry/raisin/honey crepe

They do “dutch” or “english” style breakfast very well even though the bread is super fluffy and tastes like a sugary cake.

Gratitude is also understood by all, even though we don’t say it the same, it is quite easy to learn.  On the trip I learned how to say Thank you in Thai, Lao, German, Japanese and Philippines. Cop Coon Ca, Cop Jai La Lai, Danke, Arigato and Salamon.

Also “Meow” is understood by people of different nations and languages.  Most usually bringing a questioning look and a smile after.

The asian languages have a sing-song quality and I’m missing hearing it already.  They emphasize inflection and raising or lowering of pitch.  It took some time but a wonderful thai lady was teaching me the difference between beautiful and bad – “Soi” or “Soy”  they sound almost identical but she kept explaining.  I strained my ears to hear the very subtle difference and it was in the facial expression and very slight inflection.  The little bit of Thai I picked up only made me want to learn more.

The most important phrase you can learn in any language is “Thank You”. There’s no power greater than gratitude to bring miracles into your path 🙂