24 November 2006
6 words: Amy Smith. Appropriate Technology. Dream Project. (YAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!)
Then came a couple of weeks of feeling like sludge on the floor. Buried beneath the floor. It's okay to be completely transparent about feeling happy, but when I'm down, I feel like I have a responsibility to put a lid on it, cheer myself up. The only thing worse than being down is pulling everyone else down with me.
I have mixed feelings about pretending to be happy. It feels so wrong. And makes me feel worse. But if I honestly display my ugly mood, it feels shameful. No friend in their right mind would let me go on my way if I told them I was sludge under the floor. They would feel obliged to try to make me feel better. Or feel guilty if they didn't try. What an awful thing to give a friend. But I only sink deeper if I isolate myself or pretend that everything's fine. Solution: I parcel out my unhappiness and spread it out amongst everyone, one little piece at a time. One word, a smile, a hug, a laugh from different people and it all adds up.
It's also becoming blatantly obvious that I am most satisfied when I'm being extremely physical. Backpacking by moonlight. The ache in my thighs from hiking 17 miles. Fumbling through martial arts (f*$#ing back kick...) Dancing until my mind floats away and my feet hurt so bad I'm crying. Biking in the pouring razor rain to catch the MIT bus. Walking for miles through cold crisp Vancouver streets. I need a boot camp. I want to spend the next several years aching and getting stronger. Best of all worlds: I find an organic farm run by martial arts masters. I alternate days between planting/harvesting/digging ditches and learning Tai Chi, Taekwondo, Capoeira, Karate, Aikido, Wing Chung, Judo, Savate, Hapkido, Jujitsu, Muay Thai, Kung Fu. And yoga. And every week I have to hike 10 miles into town to...umm...get the mail...
In other news, I finally found a thesis: Development is making people happy. Imagine measuring development in Gross National Happiness instead of GNP. Crazy? Bhutan's taking a shot at it and Britain's thinking about it.
I'm amused by all the things I think but would never dare say out loud or write down.
12 October 2006
06 October 2006
Father of fractals.
I have his signature.
Right in front of me.
On my Ig Nobel program.
He signed it.
Excuse me while I go scream joyous screams of joyness until I explode from pure happiness...
24 September 2006
I know what I want to do for the next 10 or so years: sustainable development projects in third world countries. It's an idea I've been toying with for some time, and now all the pieces are beginning to click together...
Olin seems very simplistic now. All I have to do is check off the boxes, go through the motions. I might leave tomorrow, but I would miss too many people. It's hard to start in new places with new friendships...I might as well enjoy the ones here while I have the chance.
In other news, the Thai coup d'etat finally smacked down...kind of makes me sad that I missed it.
23 August 2006
Last year, when I went in for a consultation, I passed out after they had discussed side effects and when they started pointing to the nerves in my jaw x-ray. So...it's taken me a while to go back and now I'm having all these mini panic attacks that involve visions of bloody gums and nasty toothcracking. So far, the only thing I found that helps is to think of the stoic badassness of people being tortured in action flicks: Kill Bill, V for Vendetta, Boondock Saints...
And actually, I'm quite surprised at how effective it is.
See, violent movies don't really encourage violence, they just help wimps get through dental surgery.
19 August 2006
Well, to be fair, I hated being trapped on the Strip…and even writing that out loud still makes me feel like a pansy, because if it really bothered me that much, I should have been more proactive—try harder to contact friends and friends of friends in the area, figure out the bus system, figure out someplace else to go in the city. Or even better, I should have had the chops to talk Ari out of it in the first place.
Ari wanted to get married in
I never thought I would voluntarily go to Vegas. I dreaded this trip all summer. I winced anytime someone asked me what my end of the summer plans were. However, I love the girls more than I can express. We’ve known each other since the first day of freshman orientation in high school. I would go to the ends of the earth for them…even [sigh] Vegas. Okay, I know I’m waxing melodramatic, and I know that a Vegas trip for most people sounds like a good time, but please understand that glitz really gets to me. Like fiberglass cuts.
Playing poker between friends is cool. Giving your money to some mega corporation is not. Taking money from some huge corporation could be cool, except it won’t happen because they’ve been playing this game for, like, Chinese years (ask Ari), and they make the rules. Even if you’re lucky enough to win a few thousand dollars, the house doesn’t care because they’ve taken more thousands from all the other chumps who tried.
Yes, I know other people can and do making a living off of gambling. Good for them. But meanwhile, it’s effing aggravating to walk through a sea of slot machine zombies. [though clenched teeth] All those people pumping money into effing computers that are effing programmed to be psychological money sinks. [primal scream] Wake the bloody F up! THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS!!
I couldn’t really adequately express to Ari, Lyss, or Maya why Vegas bothered me so deeply. Several hours of airplane thought later…
It’s the same reason why I don’t eat at McDonald’s or Denny’s. The food isn’t particularly bad, but the focus is all wrong. They don’t care where the ingredients come from or where they go. As long as customers buy it, it’s okay. They don’t care about their employees or the health of the customers. They don’t even really care about the food they’re making. The focus is on profits, which cheapens the whole experience. They don’t love you, just your money. This doesn’t bother some people. Fine. They have every right to eat where they want. But I don’t want to support anything so cheap.
Despite all my bloated righteous ranting, I did have a smashing good time being with the girls, spending hours at the pool, eating our weight in sushi, drinking tequila shots with Maya, walking through all the lavish casinos (Where else would you find New York and Paris a few blocks from one another?), dancing on the bar at the simulacrum Coyote Ugly, dressing up to the nines to go bowling until 4 in the morning, and then walking all the way home because the shuttles had stopped.
But if I can bloody help it, I’m never stepping foot on the Strip again.
18 August 2006
What a bizarre little rebirth ritual -- leave one world, one face behind, jump into a tin can and soar through the [cough] heavens to fall into a new life. Or an old life.
There's not much else to do in airports or sandwiched semi-reclining seats other than contemplate where I've been and think about where I'm going. A waiting room. Everything is removed and objective. My life on a microscope slide.
07 August 2006
13 July 2006
The platform was crowded with people, and they were all...reading. Books, magazines, newspapers, they struck various silent, pensive poses. The only sound was the echoes of classical guitar chords that someone was playing around the corner, and the whole scene was...eerily beautiful. [Insert meaningful conclusion about life here.]
It rained today. I pine for New Mexico skies. Another tribute:
05 July 2006
This past weekend, I biked from
Before, the farthest I’d ever ridden on a bike was about 12 miles. It was on a mountain bike on the ridiculously sharp hilly roads near my house in
Then my roommate Liz in
Then, last week Chris called to say that we weren’t going to a Jazz festival is
“How long will it take?”
“I was planning on two, maybe three days.”
“Ummm…how far is it?”
“I don’t know. I figured we’d bike about 80 miles a day.”
My jaw shattered on the floor. [Stunned silence] “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Well that’s about how far I bike when I’m being lazy. That’s not very much by biking standards.”
Right. 80 miles. A day. That’s farther than the distance between
Chris told me that on the first day, biking hurts. The second day, it hurts more. The third day, even more. After that, it mellows out. Too bad we were only going for two or three days. Then he started laying it on really thick, describing the pure misery to be found in long distance biking. I think he just wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into. The odd thing is, the worse he tried to make it sound, the more I wanted to go. Fighting exhaustion and pain, covered in mud, biking through a downpour? Yeah. Sign me up. I slowly realized that not only was I doing for the absurd quantities of food I would be eating, but I also really felt like I needed to prove something to myself. Prove that I could take it. Prove that I was tough. Prove that I wouldn’t fall apart at the seams. Prove my utter stupidity.
No matter how bad it got, I told myself, I could do it.
The first day was a blast. I felt so powerful. Like I could cycle forever. Then night started to come and my right knee started cramping up. We slept in a “refugee camp” as Chris called it, amongst endless rows of RVs and car campers, especially packed for the 4th of July weekend. My knees hurt bad that night. I was limping, and my left hand felt all tingly and numb.
The next morning it hurt so bad to jump back on my bike. My knees screamed, and I wondered if my crotch was ever going to forgive me. “This can’t be healthy,” I thought as I winced and peddled gingerly. However, it was muscle pain and not bone pain, so it was okay to grit my teeth and just get through it, right? But it was *weird* muscle pain. Those funny little muscles around my knees. The ones that seemed to be there only for the purpose of giving me pain on this bike trip. It was so bloody frustrating. I had expected to combat muscle fatigue in my thighs or calves, or to pant and gasp for air, but nooooo…it was my friggin’ knees complaining, holding everything else back and making me feel less like a hardcore uberathlete and more like a wimpy chump.
Chris was incredibly patient with me. I asked him for advice on how to deal with my especially achy right knee and he said to take it slow, take lots of breaks, use lower gears…oh, and there was a trick I should know about. He recommended grabbing my knee with my hand and using my arm to push it up and down. I tried it…and, gosh golly, it worked. It took a little practice to pull it off and stay balanced at the same time…and it made me feel like a royal gimp. A super hard core royal gimp.
I thought about dropping out. I would stay at the camp, Chris could bike up to
No matter how bad it gets, I can do it, remember? So I crept along the road at the fabulous speed of a mile an hour and thought real hard about how pain is only a perception and perceptions come from my brain and therefore I can choose to ignore it…right?
My knee, however, just got worse. I wasn’t [gulp] terribly worried because when I got off the bike and walked around, it was okay. Hey, and you know what? Nothing made me feel more hard core than riding along the beach, on a road as flat as a pancake, grunting and sweating and pumping my stupid knee with my arm...and then getting passed by a couple of joggers. That was fun. I had to stop for a second because I was laughing so hard.
And then somehow, I made it to
Ha. and I thought it was bad in the morning. Turning around and biking back to our campsite was…definitely the most painful thing I’ve ever done in my life. (Wow, I’ve been sheltered, eh?) It fucking sucked…but now I know that I’m a strong person and I don’t break that easily. Corny, I know, but it means a lot.
When I finally allowed myself to collapse at our campsite, Chris grinned at me and said, “Congratulations! You made it to
The next morning, I woke up, and my knees felt…okay. They started screaming again when I jumped back on the bike, but it definitely wasn’t as loud as the day before. Weird. Then Chris noticed that my seat was too low. So we stopped, had breakfast at an awesome little diner and he raised my seat two inches. Suddenly, biking started to feel very good. My knees still hurt, but it felt marvelous to stretch them out with every peddle. and I felt like an idiot. I didn’t know exactly how high my seat should have been because I’m not a expert biker, and it felt about the same height as my clumpy mountain bike at home. But at the beginning I had faint suspicions that it was too low and didn’t say a thing. Stupid.
Long story short, I made it all the way back to my apartment on my own power. And my legs felt fucking fantastic. Seriously. By the end of the day, my knees had almost stopped hurting entirely. A miracle.
150 miles. Wow. I biked 150 miles. And now, 150 miles doesn’t seem like such a long way anymore. And my leftmost fingers still feel kind of funny, but at least my knees are fine, right? I would definitely do it again. Without the knee pain.
18 June 2006
tango is a drug.
The past 60 hours I’ve been living in the world of the Boston Tango Festival, and I’m definitely humming on an altered mind state right now.
I played hooky from work [gulp] since Thursday to take classes during daylight and then dance late into the night. The classes are drills, difficult exercises with awkward strangers…straighter taller faster pivot ground yourself taller, dammit, taller, kick—shit. sorry. Try it again, twist ribcage torso turn looser no not loose there, tighten up…and all I can think about is how broken my feet feel, like someone’s been pounding them with a baseball bat in my sleep, and the weird way my back aches on the right side beneath the shoulder blade, the creepy old men—I wonder if some of them are here just because it’s the only time they get to touch someone else.
Then something weird happens. My aching feet go beyond pain and become stronger… My posture, which I’ve been struggling with all afternoon, snaps into the balancing point between relaxation and tension and I find this perfect Tai Chi moment where everything has been stretched and twisted beyond its limits to find a new…power. Speaking of which, if you dance tango or ever do, try dancing with someone who’s trained in Tai Chi. Holy shit.
When I was a young pollywog, I read an article about Argentine Tango that mentioned it wasn’t much of a hook-up scene. Tango dancers aren’t looking for dates, it said, they’re looking for something much more elusive—the tango partner. That one person who can read your touch and has the touch. Now as an older pollywog, I know that the not-hook-up-scene is a flaming lie….however the point is, the elusive tango partner part is not a lie. Good tango is addicting. Like crack, but oh so much more delicious. Everyone wants to find that perfect connection. Sometimes you get hints of it here and there with different people on the dance floor, but for me at least, it never lasts long.
I fell in tango love tonight.
The tango masters from
Before the show, there was general dancing. I had a good streak of great dances with good leaders. The skin of my soles melded to the leather in my spiked heels (I even made peace with those little torturedevicedemons) and there were many Tai Chi moments where my brain floated away and marveled at the things my body was doing. Two and a half years of stumbling and kicking people in the shins finally pays off…
After the show, I wanted to quit while I was ahead, but before I could escape, one more person asked me to dance…and…wow. We flew across the dance floor, every ocho, every sacada, every gancho, every volcada was the most delicious thing I had ever felt. Wow. I’m still reeling.
Tango love is different than romantic love. I’m not really interested in dating this person…but if only I could dance with him every day for the rest of my life…I think I’m going to start studying Tai Chi.
11 June 2006
other highlights include sleeping in puddles and walking barefoot on gravel
and here's a token tribute to my long-lost brother who doesn't look so beautiful anymore:
24 May 2006
Sigh. Another semester at Olin flashes by and I’m still puzzling over
Once upon a time, in the land of skyscrapers and alleys jammed with bored taxis, I found the right skyscraper at the back of the wrong alley and took the elevator to the 12th sketchy floor.
“Have you ever seen The Life Aquatic?”
Welcome to the Coastal Preservation and Development Foundation. Sounds impressive, don’t it? Three guys packed into a sardine can excuse for an office, tapping away at laptops, trying to save the world one tropical island at a time.
On paper, CPAD is a [cough] grassroots [cough] organization working towards sustainability on the touristy
Not to mention the pterodactyls. Their
Ummm...right…so I had an internship at CPAD (interns don’t get glocks), working on a gloriously glamorous project. That's right, kids! It's everyone's *favorite* dinnertime conversation: SEWAGE, BABY!!! My swell mission: look at how waste water is handled on the island [cough]holesintheground[cough], examine how it's affecting the ecosystem, research alternatives, determine how practical they are, and James Bond. (<-- That's the gloriously glamorous part.) I hate to admit it, but I had a fantabulous time.
This sounds a little weird, but my sewage quest led me through a lot of paradigm shift musings. Honestly, how many people get to run around a tropical island and ask the locals, “Hi, I’m another stupid tourist. So…wanna talk about sewage?” I thought a lot about the way communities develop when tourism strikes, how I travel, and where I spend my money. And I found out that the holesintheground method isn’t half bad. It’s when stuff starts leaching into the ocean that problems arise…
However, the most awesome things that came out of CPAD were the side tangents. CPAD is looking to build a green research building on the island, so I started doing a little research on mud building in
Took a 2nd class bus to Chiang Mai after school. I found the right bus by reading the sign in FUCKING THAI! (Yesssssssss!!! I learned something!) I was only white person onboard…(I’m not a tourist, I swear…) Had a wonderful time at the Chiang Mai bus station teasing the taxi drivers who were trying to rip me off, then (following instructions), found my way to a random back alley with a random white truck, and jumped in. The driver was very friendly and I held up half a conversation with him in
Wow, that place is…amazing. Imagine a cooperative community snuggled in the foothills with happy little kids running around speaking 3 + different languages (English, Thai, Burmese). It was the antidote to the smognoisepollutionblatantconsumerismhurryhurryfast that had been killing me in other parts of
...and so many mind-bending conversations…
What am I doing?
06 January 2006
I was in Laos a week ago. A week ago I was in Laos. Now I'm back in the land of freedom fries where everyone's huge and old. (Thai people are so small...and they age so well, Thailand feels like the land of children now. My mind is filled with visions of skywalks filled with Thai uniforms.) It's cold here. And the sky is brilliantly blue.
The refrigerator's different. This is more disturbing than it should be. Apparently, our old, brown, faithful fridge bit the dust the night before Thanksgiving, and now there's a looming, white, sterile, foreign intrusion in our kitchen. It's very white. And big. And it doesn't hum--it makes a quiet, hissing, boiling water sound instead. Reality blinks every time I walk into the kitchen.
03 January 2006
Ironically, I've been pretty careless this whole trip about eating streetfood and [gasp!] drinking tap water, but my body waited until the day before I leave to get sick. (Mmm...20 hour airplane ride with an unhappy stomach...sounds thrilling...I blame the ever-sketchy Shangrila restaurant in Chinatown. Stay away. Stay far away.) Actually, it's not half bad. It's given me the excuse to lie in bed all day and collect my thoughts from where I'd left them.
The most tragic part is that my appetite took off running at the first signs of trouble. All those mouth-watering Thai dishes I wanted to try for the last time...one sniff and my stomach jumps into my throat. Rice, bread, and salt-water it is, then. (BTW, ginger is pretty damn effective at stamping out nausea. )
I've spent the last month traveling with Eve and my family. I didn't realize it would be so hard to travel with other people. I felt so responsible for them. When I travel on my own I tend to get incredibly lonely, but I don't worry too much about myself. I can deal with just about anything: strange food, street-cons, pushy tuk-tuk drivers, cold showers, grubby rooms, filthy streets. Suddenly I found myself worrying about 4 other people. What could they eat? Where should I take them? How can I protect them from making all the traveling mistakes I've already made?
I feel like I've relived Thai culture shock twice through Eve and my family...I had to experience Bangkok through their eyes in order to show them around. I'd already settled into Bangkok pretty comfortably, but when they arrived, I had to force myself to remember all the unsettling things I'd stopped noticing.
That aside, it was absolutely smashing to hang out with my brother and Eve. Good times. Ask me about Mike's special passport sometime.
- Riding the train 1st class
- Dancing on the beach in thunderstorm winds
- Random haircut while waiting for a train in Surrathani
- Surrathani's night market
- Watching a game of kataw (think volleyball with feet)
- Trekking in Northern Thailand (yummm...silkworms and green chile)
- Battlescars from bamboo rafting
- Laos (and spilling hot chocolate, coffee, tea...)
- Vampyre and the Jazz club
Foot, bike, taxi, tuk tuk, public bus, skytrain, motorbike taxi, subway, friends' cars, riverboat, canal boat, train (1st class, 2nd class sleeping, 2nd class sitting, and third class), inter-city buses (VIP, 1st class, and 2nd class), songthaew, pick-up truck, airplane, elephant (okay, that one doesn't count), mini-van, mini-van with a rigged gas tank (shudder, shudder), long-tail boat, ferry, and express boat.
Best way to travel between cities: train
Best way to travel within Bangkok: riverboat
Best way to travel within Bangkok runnerup: skytrain
No coup d'état. Apparently it was a rumor spread by Thaksin for nefarious purposes. Whatever.