America in a Can
I have such fun, each day at lunch, going across the street to the market near my massage school to pick out what I will eat for lunch. At this market they have prepared foods, fresh veggies and fruit, drinks, desserts, you name it. Each day is a discovery. "Hmmm what to eat today?" I ponder as I wander the rows and rows of vendor tables. "Fried insects? Hm no, not today. Fried whole fish? No, too many little bones. How about long curled sausage, chopped into bite sized pieces? Nah, I had a meaty lunch yesterday." And so on. . . Today I settled on banana leaf surprise (little triangle banana leaf packages that often contain rice puddings but who really knows? The vendors rarely speak English), grilled eggplant, glass noodle stir fry with strange but delicious crunchy-yet-slimy fungi, watermelon and a yogurt drink. I also bought a mango for tomorrow's breakfast and sweet rice cakes for a snack. All of this for 100 baht, the equivalent of about $3. Just wonderful. It is no wonder so many ex-pats land in Chang Mai and just never leave. Or leave only to return. It is so easy to live here for so cheap!
Last night I did another trip out to the Night Bazaar to perform for the people. I went shopping at the mall beforehand to find some clothes that are better for hooping and found a perfect outfit of black tights and a long black tanktop/dress with a pretty gold design printed across the front. I also bought some cheap slipper shoes which slide on smooth ground, also preferable for hooping. The outfit worked out great and I was hooping better than ever. I put headphones on and entered a private world filled with Pretty Lights, my current favorite electronic artist. Pretty Lights can inspire my hooping like nothing else and I just rocked out. It didn't matter that people couldn't hear the music. The energy of it came flooding out of me and pushed me to hoop at the limits of my abilities, and to do it well. At one point I was single leg hooping, with my free leg extended behind me, and balanced like that it occurred to me to try to turn in a circle on my planted foot. Bit by bit I turned myself in a complete circle, hoop still going around my planted leg, my free leg extended behind me, and one arm extended out in front of me. I received some serious applause for that one. Kicked myself for not getting it on film but there will be other times. I had never even practiced that move before and I was able to do it right then and there! Thanks to the smooth slipper shoes I had purchased certainly. Of course later, when I did have someone filming me, I couldn't even get close to doing it again. Such is life. Look below for the video from last night and another from last week.
This afternoon I went on another exhausting tour of the city in search of a post office. I left with my hoops and flow wand on me thinking I would have time to go to a park to practice. One post office near me was closed but I spoke to one of the workers who pointed me to another one across town that stayed open later. As I was about to go the man inquired about my hoops. "Show me?" he said smiling a smile full of yellow and brown, crooked teeth. Oh shucks, such a sweet man to take time to point out on my map where to go, so I said "Alright, I show you." I gave this man the shortest show of my life but he loved it! He practically squealed like a little Thai school girl with delight. Afterwards he clasped his hands to his chest and smiled the biggest crooked yellow toothed smile, his eyes disappearing in the folds of creases and wrinkles in his weathered face. He was so thankful for his little personal show and closed his large hands around mine in a hearty hand shake. I love moments like these. Hoops are so simple and yet they impart such joy so easily. This is indeed my job on this earth. Send out joy into the hearts of as many people as possible. So I'll start with nice post men who show me the way to where I need to go.
So to close this blog, I'll get around to why I titled it "America in a Can". On my way to the internet cafe from the post office, it being far too late to head to the park to practice, I stopped off at a 7-11 to top up the credit on my Thai SIM card. Suddenly, as I crossed the threshold of the automatic sliding doors, was struck with a powerful craving for coke. This is what 7-11 does to me. The place reeks of American fast food and consumerism and so why should I be surprised that the moment I enter its doors and am pelted in the eyeballs by its blinding fluorescent lighting that I should desire, more than anything else in the world, Coca-cola? They take their drinks with a straw here so as I left the store and mounted my bike, I was already pounding the straw into my leg to open it, feeling a bit like a junkie getting prepped for a long hungerd high. Biking in traffic, I hungriliy slurped away at America, stopping only to burp colossal burps now and then. By the time I got to the internet cafe, just around the corner, I had already finished nearly half. Now the empty can, straw still poking out, sits in front of me at the computer and so became the title of this post. Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this installment of Erin's adventures in Thailand!
I met some circus folk yesterday while exploring the afternoon market at the east gate of the Old City! Two lovely characters named Matt and Amy. Matt is from Australia and has his double staffs with him and Amy, who is from Canada, brought along her poi but is a hooper at heart. I can't say how nice it was to meet other young similar minded people! We spun and played on the side of the busy roadway that runs the perimeter of the Old City, distracting the cars and entertaining some of the nearby shopkeepers. We grabbed lunch at a veggie restaurant that has quite good food and split up with plans to meet up at the same gate for the Sunday walking street market that was to begin in a couple of hours. The Sunday walking street turned out to be a massively packed market that evening and getting to the gate on time was a huge challenge but they were there waiting for me! Sweet people. We then staked out a good spot to spin and play, and though our audience was scant due to our off-the-beaten-path location, we had tons of room to spin and a devout audience of about 8-10 adorable children. Shoppers would gather as they perused the stalls in the lot where we played and then would move on to the more main stream sections of the market but those children didn't budge. Oh I nearly died when they would imitate Matt and when he would get down low and make silly faces at them causing them all to explode in giggles. Matt was nice enough to get some video of me hooping which I want to put up here but I'm about to get kicked out because they are closing the internet cafe. I will do my very best to get my videos up tomorrow. It felt so nice to hoop in the cool evening, though I would still get hot quite quickly and have to stop to cool down.
Later on we all three set out into the market when the crowds had died down a bit and I did some serious damage buying presents for family and friends and a paper lantern for myself. At one stall where I bought a very special present, I started talking to the vendor, a very nice young man who spoke English rather well. I really enjoyed being able to communicate and get to know a Thai person my age and took him up on his offer to meet him and his two friends at a Reggae Bar later in the evening. I had massage class this morning so I really shouldn't have gone out but I couldn't resist the opportunity to get to know him and his friends better. When we got to the room at the Reggae Bar where they were staying, we discussed yoga a little, his life as a traveling craftsman, and other such simple but interesting topics that his limited vocabulary could access. He lit palo santo my favorite incense wood and I nearly keeled over in happiness when he offered me a spliff. Nice guy. I gave him space while he called his girlfriend who lives in Bangkok and went out into the bar to sit with his friends, who spoke very little English. I sat at their table and opened my ears to the other nearby tables. The people at two separate tables were speaking French and one table was English. Mine was speaking Thai. I couldn't help feeling entirely silly sitting there in silence, trying to follow the French conversation happening next to me. I wanted to get up, politely excuse myself and then as nicely as possible invite myself into any of the other conversations happening around me in which I could actually take part. I felt entirely out of place so I ran and grabbed my hoop and I slipped into my hooping comfort space.
In the middle of the street, under the dirty orange glow of the street lamps I spun about in my hoop. No one in the bar seemed to notice. I wasn't trying to draw attention. I entered into my own world of practicing this move or that and then letting myself just flow, slipping in and out of moments of grace, in and out of the street light's glare. It was a quiet street and cars or motorbikes didn't pass too often. When they did I would scoot my hooping over to the side and they would drive by, a little perplexed.
In a little while I left my new Thai friend and his cronies to go to sleep. As I made my way back to my bike to bike home, I saw a young man saying goodbye, in rather broken English to two young women with packs. After they parted ways I asked him what his native language was. "French!" "Oh lovely," I thought, "a chance to practice my French and lure along a body guard as I find my bike." We chatted in French and he politely asked me to speak slower and clearer. My French pronunciation has obviously gone quite rusty but he had a point too. I always talk way too fast! As we walked he asked about my hoops and so, of course, I had to show him what I do. I put my things down and picked up my hoop. I then began, slowly and deliberately, to spin that elusive graceful magic that just comes sometimes. I had him floored. Literally. He sat down right there in the street with his mouth open. After I finished he was so moved he asked for a hug! Sweet man. I gave him my card and soon we parted ways after I spotted my bike.
All in all a really wonderful night. I look forward to meeting up with my new circus friends soon to go play at the park here. And hopefully when I go up to Pai I will run into my Thai friend again and perhaps buy more of his crafts because he is quite good at what he does and could use the money. Such adventures all by my lonesome! So perhaps traveling alone isn't all bad after all.
Weekend at last!
Oh lovely Saturdays. It was nice to sleep in a bit today. No Sun Tao Taxi honking to take me to massage class. The Sun Tao's are slightly larger than the Tuk Tuks and are normally red trucks with bench seats in the covered bed. The Tuk Tuks are largely for tourists and are thus more expensive. They are three wheeled little mini vehicles, black and sometimes adorned with the silliest assortment of neon blinking lights, rope lights and blaring music speakers to attract the next set of tourists. Reminiscent of Burning Man vehicles actually and I always get a pang of homesickness when I see one of the lit up Tuk Tuks go by. Speaking of home, I had a Burning Man dream last night. I was walking onto the playa on Sunday afternoon, just before the whole week was about to begin, with an unknown older man. Mid sentence I just had to stop to give out a hollering woop of excitement, as I jumped around and pounded my feet on the dusty ground. I was so incredibly happy to be there. Funny because this just might be the first year in the last 4 that I won't be able to make it home. A huge part of my heart wants to buy a return ticket just to go to Burning Man but my higher mind knows that this is just silliness. I should go home when I feel I am done learning what I came abroad to learn, or when I am really sick of traveling. Either way, Burning Man happens every year and should be taken out of the equation. Says my higher mind. My heart ache hasn't subsided.
After rolling out of bed today at a leisurely 10:00 I arranged to meet up with a friend to see the Doi Suthep temple that sits above Chang Mai. It is a breathtaking temple. The whole thing glows in gold and the adornments are endlessly intricate. I've posted a few photos but they hardly do it justice. All around the inside of the temple were places to make offerings and pray. People would buy these hand woven flowers from vendors around the temple and perhaps also pay to light candles and incense and then would bow in prayer to the numerous gold Buddha statues in the temple. The funny thing was, little children would gather up offered flowers and bring them back to the vendors to be sold yet again! Quite a good profit margin there I expect. I wanted to take part in the prayers and the offerings but I felt like it would be wrong. I don't really know what I am praying to, even though I greatly respect Buddhism and identify with Buddhist beliefs. So I just watched as people made a sort of pilgrimage around the inner most ring of the temple, hands clasped at their chests in prayer, flowers, candles and incense sticks held between their palms. I watched as others entered smaller chambers of the temple to receive yellow bracelets and bow in prayer to more glittering statues of the Buddha. I watched as still others lit yellow candles and placed them in long metal candle holders in front of a reclining Buddha. Outside the temple, young dancers in traditional Thai dance costume, performed dance routines to raise money for their dance school. I could tell they were very tired of doing this dance, as some wore scowls and their movements were not well coordinated or articulate. As we completed our walk around the outside of the temple we saw long rows of huge heavy bell-shaped gongs that people would ring as they went past, as well as ever more intricate and beautiful shrines to the Buddha.
On our way back to town we stopped at a waterfall where families and couples gathered to picnic in the temperate afternoon. The waterfall was just beautiful so I've included a few photos of it as well. I climbed up to the top to rinse my hair and face, which felt wonderful at the time but soon the water in my hair and clothes felt heavy and hot in the humidity. Still it was an unusually cool day today, and a gorgeous day to lounge beside a waterfall and watch adorable young children splash around in the underlying stream. Certainly, quite a nice day.
So I just had that terrible experience of writing out my life story and then getting booted off my internet session, thus losing it all. I had just written quite a good blog entry too. Bollocks. Ok. Well here we go. Again.
It is my fourth day in Chang Mai and I think I am starting to get the lay of the land. I biked all over the city today in large wandering circles, on ridiculous adventures that took me nowhere but ended up showing me new parts of the city I hadn't yet seen. My first misguided adventure was out to the Chang Mai University to go swimming at the universtiy pool with a classmate of mine from the massage school. I headed out straight into the height of rush hour traffic and after an eternity of darting around the pressing traffic, choking on the heavy smog and suffocating in the oppressive heat I finally arrived at the university only to receive a text from my classmate saying that we couldn't go into the pool. They had turned her away saying the pool was for members only and non members couldn't pay a fee to use it. Bollocks. The university itself was quite nice though, with small quiet streets lined with delicate white and purple flowering trees and with some buildings sporting colorful and whacky murals. I didn't stick around long to appreciate the place though and soon was flung back out again into the open road madness. Now, for those reading who might not know this, the roads in Thailand are set up like the roads in England with the traffic driving on the left hand side rather than the right. This takes some getting used to but you savy up quite quick when you have to vie for space with the motorbikes, the tuk tuk taxis, the buses, trucks vans and cars all crowding on the road way hardly paying much attention the the fading lane lines. I soon found my way back to the moat surrounding the old city and by happenstance was flung onto my street. It felt like getting spat out of a turbulent mouth, and just like that I was on the peaceful lane where my guest house sits. (A small note of apology here for the parents: I'm sure you are just about fainting out of your seats while reading this but don't worry. I am safe now and I won't be biking on these more busy roadways again any time soon.)
I arrived back in my room doused in sweat and feeling like I'd rolled around the inside of an exhaust pipe so I booked it straight for a cold cold shower where I stayed for some time. After my shower I took my time getting dressed, preferring instead to lounge naked in front of a fan for another 45 minutes. When I finally did gather myself together to go out again I decided I would try to find a laundry mat and a supermarket where I could buy pizza makings for my classmates' birthday. She is Italian and just aching to eat a pizza so what could be a better birthday present than a personal pizza spelling "Happy Birthday" in red peppers and olives? I did not find a laundromat or a supermarket however and found myself slipping into wandering mode as I drew large loping circles along the boarder of the old city. I did find the heart of the tourist district, a street lined with bars, fancy restaurants and tour agencies, biked through the night bazaar and lo and behold ran straight into an Italian Restaurant! Now, whether I can get them to spell out "Happy Birthday" in peppers and olives is questionable but at least this made finding a supermarket less of a priority. I don't know if they even have super markets here. Instead I darted into a small convenience store, one of the hundreds that line the smaller city streets, and bought two packets of noodles and some sweet hot sauce for the stir fry I am going to make tonight. I then set course for one of the internet cafes on my street, aching for some air conditioning and stationary seat in which I could collapse. So here I am, pining about these ridiculous wandering journeys I seem to be undertaking today.
In other news, massage class is slow, rather maddening and I could just about throttle my instructor. My three classmates are just lovely though and they help to make up for the drawbacks. Simply put, Thai Massage is very different than any other type of massage I have studied so far. The flow is very different and hard for me to access and the energy lines it works on seem choppy and broken to me. It is like shiatsu in that it is very precise and you must press at just the right place and at just the right angle to achieve the desired effect. The result of this is that every 3 nanoseconds, my instructor comes around to interrupt my concentration and flow to tell me to sit up just a little higher to press more directly down, or to move my finger 2 millimeters to the left, or to press with my thumbs on top of one another rather than side by side etc etc until I could just about scream. I get immense satisfaction out of the times when she comes around and finds nothing to critique but this is rare. I am trying my hardest to remain open minded and remember that all the details are indeed important and crucial to delivering the proper pressure points but it is still maddening to be constantly micromanaged. The school itself is peaceful and quiet and sits above a murky but still rather picturesque river. Our lunch patio is lined with hanging orchids and potted plants giving it a nice atmosphere. I've included a few photos below to give some sense of what the place looks like.
More uplifting news, I've been doing some street performance which has been wonderful. Last night I went to the night bazaar and performed atop some steps above the bazaar and gathered quite a crowd. And the Thai people are so nice, they actually applaud at the close of each dance!! Quite an ego boost. These two sweet young girls dressed all in pink, sat transfixed at two nearby benches and whether they meant to or not they sat right over my bag, guarding it for me. I met a couple other traveling folks and even managed to get up the courage to ask one woman to film me hooping (vid coming soon). I could really use a travel partner who wouldn't mind playing videographer every so often.
Well I am about to run up on my internet credit again and my stomach is grumbling for stir fry so I am going to go home to cook. I bid you, oh internet world, goodnight!
Chang Mai - Day 1
Finally in Chang Mai! So my over night bus did drive though the night and it did arrive in Chang Mai in the morning, as I was told it would. However, no one told me it would arrive at 4 in the morning and then kick me off! I had just looked up to see why we had stopped and why they had turned the music and the lights on, decided it was just another stop along the way, and returned the sleeping mask over my eyes to curl up for a bit more sleep when the attendant came to wake me up. "Chang Mai!" he said while nodding. Blearily I gathered my things and wandered into the station to gather myself and decide what to do next. I contacted the guest house where I wanted to stay and thankfully someone was awake to answer my call (I honestly wonder how innkeepers get any sleep). I manaaged to get there by handing the phone to a tuk tuk driver because I couldn't understand the street name and address to save my life. Thank goodness I had purchased a Thai SIM card earlier on in Bangkok otherwise I would have been completely out of luck. After arriving at the guest house, a lovely quiet place with lots of plants, winding walkways, a reading room and a communal kitchen, I threw off my travel clothes, unpacked and then completely crashed out until 1pm today. I woke up to wander around and grab some food but soon was back due to the heat and a travel weary head. I slept again for another 3 hours, which wasn't the best move because now my sleep rhythm is really off and I am competely confused as to what time it is supposed to be. Yay jet lag!
I awoke to head out again, this time to find the open air market just down the street from the guest house. The open air market was wonderful! So many people, crafts, art and food vendors. Also some street musicians and one young girl dancing in the traditional thai dance style and costume.
I want to write more but I have splitting head ache from caffeine withdrawl and I can barely think straight. Hopefully this headache will make it easier to go to sleep for a few hours before class tomorrow. The school is sending a taxi to come pick me up at 8 AM so I should get to bed soon. Excited to start learning Thai massage and to meet more people! Traveling alone can be ronery.
Thailand at last!
Whoa so here I am, finally, in Bangkok Thailand about to make one final leap up to Chang Mai to start my massage studies. Getting off the plane and walking through the terminal a huge cheesy grin began to spread across my face as the realization hit: I'm in Thailand. . . . Hell. Yes. Getting to the city center was easy enough on the train and I even had a short lived travel buddy in a young German woman named Sama. Sama had also been on my flight but I did not get a chance to talk to her until we were both on the escalator walkway in the Bangkok terminal. We shared the excitement of being in Asia for the first time, and alone at that! Though she was off to meet up with her sister after we went our separate ways. It felt so nice to finally have someone to talk to! I wish I had sat next to her on the plane! I was aching to talk to someone on that horrendous 11 hour flight.
Sama and I shared our first ride on the Tuk tuk taxis which was thrilling even though it lasted only a short block or so. Soon after she finally got in contact with her sister and we parted ways. After buying my bus ticket to Chang Mai I wandered around a nearby shopping district and did some small damage. I also got a delicious lunch of shrimp pad thai with whole fried shrimp, eyeballs and feelers and all. MMmmmmm crunchy tasty. The shopping distict seemed to stretch on forever and at each turn the alleyways would get narrower and narrower. Amongst the throngs, vendors sell cheap toys, fruits and juices, and even the occasional motorbike presses its way through the mass of people. Just insane. Below, in an attempt to capture the energy and swell of the people, is a picture of a vendor selling pineapple amongst the craze. Another picture shows the tangle of wires that hang above everyone's heads. It's hard to tell if you are inside or outside here, a bit of both I guess.
The last picture was taken from a pedestrian overpass over a Bankok motorway. I didn't capture much but I tried to show just how crazy the traffic is here and how many different sized vehicles there are, all in bright primary colors! The very small and insanely fast motorbikes, the Tuk tuks, the taxis, the buses, the cars! Sheesh its enough to make you dizzy. I'm not sorry I'm leaving Bangkok just now though I do want to explore it a bit after I have acclimated and returned from Chang Mai. I'm really excited to see Chang Mai as it is supposed to be an artsy and craftspersons sort of place. mmmm Can't wait!!
My bus is leaving soon to Chang Mai and I've been at this cafe now for some time so I think I will dart for now. So begins my voyage through Asia!! I'm here at last!
A vendor selling pinapple to the masses of shoppers crammed in a small alley way of the shopping district.
A tangle of electrical and phone wires above the shoppers heads.
A fiery fairy who has set off to explore Asia and discover new things about the world and herself. The journey is one to fully realize her strength and an unwaivering faith in her personal power.