Memorable moments while traveling

1. One sometimes carries a lot of useless baggage when traveling. I have been fortunate to use everything I carry. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in the most inexpensive guest house I have ever stayed at in Asia, I met a woman from Ghana who was visiting for one or two weeks and she brought two ceramic dinner plates in her suitcase. I wondered when she might use them and how often. Why didn’t she bring plastic plates?

2. The worst overnight bus I traveled on was in Vietnam from Hanoi to Hue. The constant bumps and turns on the road made it feel like a terrible roller coaster for 12+ hours, multiplied with the odd lying down arrangement and the toilet with the broken light made it the worst public transit experience.

3. I have slept and showered in many undesirable places with large bugs, very cold water, water held in buckets and rubber trash bins, or no running water, but the worst, most vile experience was seeing an open condom wrapper on the floor in the common shower. The hostel, “friendly’s” in Manilla, just might have been too friendly.

4. My favorite sunset and sunrise were standing on top of a temple in Bagan, Myanmar. Exquisite to see the early dawn light with hot air balloons and 3000+ temples.

5. Riding an elephant in Thailand has been one of the coolest experiences in life.

6. The Himalayan mountains are true majestic mountains, not accessible by cars. To reach Mt. everest base camp, you walk yourself in and out for 14 days. I am so happy to have the opportunity to have witnessed it.

7. A cash only economy in Burma/Myanmar is still indescribable to me.

8. I never thought a massage class and a meditation course would be so challenging.

9. My favorite meal was eggplant salad in Inle Lake, Myanmar or shan sticky noodles in Yangon, Myanmar.

10. Being in the right time and the right place, random occurrence, seeing all employees in choreographed routines dancing in the supermarket in Puerta Princessa, Philippines was awesome.

All the 12 countries I have traveled to in the last 6 months have been amazing. I loved experiencing each culture and learning their history. One might argue HK and Macau are Chinese but I count it because it requires a stamp in your passport and waiting on a line through customs. (Nepal, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia). If I had more time, I would like to revisit Cambodia and spend another week traveling the countryside. I only will have enough time to see one-two islands in Indonesia and there are so many left to explore. I left a piece of my heart in Thailand and will return one day.

Lessons learned by the washing machine

One would think I would have learned from the last time I turned my clothes purple in the wash, not to mix whites and colors… Last minute, I decided to throw my white converse shoes into the colored wash. Enclosed is a picture of my now pinkish-purple shoes. My classmate later said, not only was that a bad idea to mix the colors but I probably should not have put the shoes in the wash in the first place. In hindsight, it was a bad idea. Noted.

Other news – we all passed our exams, both the massage exam with clients and the written exam. Hooray.

I don’t know yet what I will do with these new skills of Thai massage. I will need to practice much more to be proficient. Friends – if you would like to be a model for me to practice, let me know. Initially, I hope to barter – I would like to learn to play the guitar- in exchange for massages. I like the idea of a guitar because you can take it with you everywhere.

Tomorrow, I have a very late evening, flight to the Philippines. I would have liked to spend a few days in southern Thailand on the beach, but my visa has already expired. Upon arrival, I received 30 days… To extend the visa, I would have needed to miss class, and paid $64 USD for only a 7 day extension beginning on the day at the immigration center (not a future date). Otherwise, upon exit you pay $17 USD for each day over. You may get a 30 day visa extension if you arrived by plane with a proper Thai stamped visa from your home country. The other option is to cross a border and you get a 15 day visa.

I am not yet looking forward to the next, probably life changing experience. I am a little fearful of the meditation retreat. Fearful of the time spent in silence and what may come of it.

In the upcoming meditation retreat, I hope to challenge my assumptions, goals and perceived future plans. Hopefully it may result in the courage to act on the outcome, which may lead to a reinvention of life’s goals and a new method by which they can be achieved. But, all these goals may be a stretch – I would settle for making it through the first few days. I go dark in t-minus, 5 days. The retreat is February 5-15.

20130131-001307.jpg

20130131-001345.jpg

20130131-001352.jpg

Modern day gypsy

My Bulgarian classmates said we are living the life of a modern day gypsy. I googled the term and urban dictionaries describe it as one inclined to a nomadic, unconventional way of life or a race of wandering people. I like the term.

Tomorrow is our last day, our big exam with real clients. If you are able to, please send me positive good wishes, thoughts and prayers between the hours of 8:30-4:00 Bangkok time. That’s about 13 hours ahead of New York. After our exam, the following day is our written exam, then farewells. I am sad to be moving on. It will be an odd existence leaving this space, not seeing my classmates and teaches every day, and not giving or receiving a massage once a day. I hope I am able to continue this practice and incorporate it into a new holistic way of living. I depart Bangkok on Thursday for the Philippines.

Democracy in action

This evening, my classmates and I worked together on a group project. A project that should have taken an hour to complete by oneself, took several hours because we debated and compromised on every step. I was very surprised at my own actions, always believing they are correct and the best method. It’s been a very long time since I have needed to work in a group. I found compromising challenging. In the end the finished product is fantastic because of everyone’s input. It is better than I, alone, could have imagined. Everyone brought their own vision and their own skills to the table. I must remember that other people’s words and actions, although not my own, must be valued and respected, until a majority rule. I cannot lead in every setting. Most of the time, it is better to work in a group to achieve the best result.

Could you live on $500?

I had dinner with a local today and he told me a college graduate, straight out of 4 year university, entry level salary is 15,000 baht, $500 USD or $377 euros per month, multiplied by 12 for one year = 180,000 baht, $6,000 USD or $4,500 euros. Is that possible? In the US, $500 month would be poverty level and eligible for social services. How can an average monthly salary in Thailand be equal to poverty in the U.S? It is easy now to understand why anyone would want to immigrate to a first world country for a better standard of living. I don’t know if I could be so brave as to leave a family behind or everything familiar in order to learn a new language, customs and culture. Anyone who learns English is really taking a step in saying I want a better life. Every day I feel more privileged when faced with these stark realities. How can we address these inequalities? Clean water, fresh vegetables, and equality should be a basic human right.

Elements and energy

How often have you/I said/heard: I need to go for a walk. I could use some fresh air. I wish the sun would shine. Or I could use some relaxing time in the pool/tub. Let’s sit in the park.

The elements of wind, water, fire and earth are all around us and in us, and balancing these movements or elements directly affect our energy.

I am still exhausted every day, mentally, emotionally and physically. I feel this work is so challenging. I want to be a good student but at night after practicing all day, I can hardly bring myself to practice massage further. The month is almost over and I want to savor my time here at this school, with my classmates, learning these skills but it is difficult to be present when I feel overwhelmed by the abundance of material.

Photos: my classmate standing in a whole aisle of instant noodles! Weird pringles flavor.

20130124-072939.jpg

20130124-072927.jpg