Friday, February 25, 2011

Reincarnation and Really Big Moths

Today was such an unbelievably weird day I really just had to sit down and write about it. I mean, really weird and kind of amazing!
Logistics first. We are in Chiang Mai now, this beautiful little chill city. There are amazing restaurants on every corner, and I think that here is where I wil begin the process of becoming a rotund little ball. Everything tastes SO AMAZING. today I got this chicken curry with egg was so hot I was sweating and just about crying, but my god, did it taste good. I've been eating loads of rice, tons of noodles, and even vegetables (crazy, I know). I've also gotten into tofu with all these weird vegetarians around (just kidding, elana!) and am starting to branch out on new foods now that my stomach has calmed down and I feel healthy again.
We stayed at this really fun hostel upon our arrival in Chiang Mai, which was exactly like a hostel should be. Tons of backpackers, all just chilling out. It was so nice to be in that kind of an environment again, because for the past three weeks, we really haven't been in anything like that! All of the places we'd been staying at were for couples (something we didn't mean to do at all...we just sort of found ourselves in these type of places. Weird, as we're a group of single women.) Regardless, we made lots of new friends from all over the world. Last night we went to this barbeque, which was strange as we made our own food on personal grills. I got nervous and just ate a lot of spring rolls. Then we went bowling, and even though I protested, I secretly loved every minute of it. With my five bowling trophies from second to sixth grade, I felt pretty confident in my abilities and even thought I might have a chance at the much coveted prize of one free night at the hostel. However, I got tired at ten o'clock and blew the game and started to fall asleep on people's shoulders. So typical.
Today, however, was the most special. We went with a bunch of our new friends to this beautiful temple up in the mountains called Doi Sethep. It is Chiang Mai's pride and joy, and for good reason, as it was absolutely stunning. With views of the whole city and so many gold buddha's all around, it felt like a yogi's dreamplace. Caroline and I wandered into one of the many small temples in the larger temple area and sat in front of a monk who, wth water and some sticks which I'm sure have more significance than i can describe here, chanted prayers and blessed us, showering us with water. He tied white string around our wrists. It was so beautiful.

Manny Buddhist visitors will buy a lotus blossom and incense and pray at one of the many buddha's. I've done this before and did it again today for my grandfather and my family. And this is where it got interesting. After my nana died last summer, I began to think about death and the possibility of an afterlife. I'm still not entirely sure on where I stand on the whole issue, but in reading Virgil and Dante, I started believing in the possibility of another world beyond the living, and specifically of the idea of an afterlife. Perhaps it was my way of dealing with grief, but I truly felt like my nana came back to the world as a dragonfly this past summer. I felt a strange connection with an insect (insect, right?) that I'd been scared of before, and it assuaged a tiny bit of my pain. Well, today, after praying for my grandfather to be in a higher, better place, wouldn't you know that the LARGEST MOTH IN THE WORLD planted itself right on my leg. Now, for those of you who know me well, you will know that the bug I am most scared of in the world is the moth. And this was the king moth. I don't know what my Poppie decided to come back as that animal, but come back he did, and he didn't want to leave. I just stood there, totally frozen, half out of terror, half out of belief, with Caroline snapping photos of the immense winged creature on my calf. "Transcend! Transcend!" she said to me, as I stood there with my eyes squeezed shut, trying to transcend and find inner peace and love the moth but all I wanted to do was scream and run away. After a solid five minutes of inner turmoil but calm surface, I called out to a man (there were several people watching at this point) to please get this moth off me, at which point it started crawling up my leg, wanting to get closer to me. Then I started screaming and running around the Wat, which was totally bad and innapropriate but geeze, the thing was huge.
The point of this rambling story is that my grandfather is a moth. Maybe he wanted to help me get over my fears, or maybe he just wanted to let me know that he was indeed in a better place, just like I'd asked. I'm not sure why the universe put him in that form, but I'm not going to question it. I'm just going to go with it.

It's ten o'clock at night now and obviously I'm wanting to go to bed. Tomorrow we are going elephant trekking and white water rafting in the mountains!

Sending lots of love and peace,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Alive in Chiang Mai

Sawadee ka, everyone!
I hope this post finds you all well. I certainly feel better about things than i did in my last post. While I am still dealing with many of the things that I was clearly struggling with in my last update, I am beginning to feel so much better--not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.
I'm into my second week here, which is bringing with it feelings of stability. I had forgotten how difficult the first two weeks in Georgia were--they were some of the hardest times in my my life, adjusting to a new country, a new lifestyle, a new language. The adjustment away from home is difficult in itself, and the added dimensions of change further alienate us during those first few weeks. Now, however, I feel more settled in. I've been religiously writing in my journal, recounting the events of the day not so I can remember them, but so I can feel a sense of closure as I close my eyes at night. No part of the trip is going the way that I had (or hadn't....ugh, not gonig to start that again) planned, but i'm learning to go with the punches.
Our week on Koh Phangan was absolutely beautiful. We stayed at this lovely little bungalow a few hundred feet back from the water, and spent every day at the beach...sunning, reading, eating, sleeping. lazy bums we were....and happy about it. Some highlights from our week on Koh Phangan:
-a stray dog got into Elana’s and my room. Yes, a stray dog. I was coming home from the local convenience store around 9 pm, and a cute dog that resembled a golden retriever was sitting on my steps. I chatted with him for a bit, persuaded him to come down by talking in a high pitched voice, and then when I thought he was settled next to me, ran for the door. Well, so did he, and he lodged his little face into the door and I just couldn’t close it on him. I tried pushing his head out, but he was strong and he just barged his way in with me screaming profanities and elana’s name like bloody murder. With the two of us forming a barricade, we created a wall so our flea-infested friend couldn’t penetrate beyond the first ten feet or so, and using all of our brute strength, we got the pup out the door. Locking it immediately, we screamed and ran to the bathroom to wash our hands.
-Full Moon Party. What is there to say about that? It’s the craziest party in southeast asia. Let’s just say lots of alcohol—buckets of it, really. A slow boat over from one side of the island to the other, thank goodness we were wearing bathing suits. Thousands and thousands of people miling about the island, getting wasted and sexually provocative. Think of a frat party gone awry, on the beach, with bathing suits and a bucket of alcohol sure to make someone like me drunk after a few sips for only 100 baht—a little shy of four dollars. People were peeing in the water, and apparently if you stay past four, you see people actually having sex in the waves. Lovely. Needless to say, I got drunk for about an hour, sobered up, felt ill (obviously)….got hit on by some pervy Australians (EBT, there was one cute guy from Melbourne, but to be honest I didn’t think he was straight and then the hitting on was just all very confusing). We ran around for a few hours, covered ourselves in body paint, and got back at 4 am, only to take a ferry out the next morning at ten. ROUGH. MAJOR ROUGH.
    A ferry, bus, and two overnight train rides later, we are now here in Chiang Mai, in what is supposed to be one of the best cities in Thailand. We got here a few hours ago, and are about to shower up (and wash the paint out of my hair…lovely) and scoot downtown to do some sightseeing.
I feel like our journey is really starting now that we’re off the beach, plunging deep into the country. I feel better about things and life every day….and I think its onwards and upwards from here. I’m spending a lot of time thinking (we have a LOT of time to think, between the various modes of transportation we take), and I feel like I’m already growing, already changing, already learning more about myself. We’ll see where it takes me. Will write more later….but the mixture of aloe, sunscreen, bugspray and sweat that covers my body is really starting to get annoying.

Happy 21st birthday to my little brother….I’m thinking of you, tools, and wishing I could ring in your big 2-1 with you.

Until next time,

Monday, February 14, 2011


I don’t know what to title this entry because I am so totally overwhelmed by this experience and my emotions. The past week has been a microcosm of sorts for what I anticipate this experience will be. Caroline, Elana, and I have been through a spectrum of emotions and physical states and are trying to carve out the future of this adventure as best as we can. It is, however, difficult to plan an adventure with no end date in mind, with no itinerary—to create a plan with no plan. I guess that is the challenging part of this for me. Even though this blog is entitled, “No Plan, No Problem,” well, not having a plan IS a problem for someone of the likes of me. I love structure, I crave itineraries. It assuages my anxiety and helps me feel like I have a purpose, like I’m doing something productive in the world. The past week has been totally devoid of such plans, of such feelings of purpose—which is one of the many reasons that perhaps I feel so out of place.
It is ninety degrees here and my body is covered in sweat, sunscreen, and bug spray (so attractive, I know). I spent the last night violently throwing up, alternating with Elana in our cockroach ridden bathroom. Yet, this place is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I step out onto the beach, totally awed and amazed and feeling frankly pretty crappy about complaining. I guess what I am most reacting to is this feeling of intense vulnerability. I feel totally out of my element, being in this foreign part of the world that speaks a language I don’t, that breathes air I’m not used to, that eats food that gives me problems in the middle of the night (to put it mildly…). I am totally terrified of bugs. SO TERRIFIED. I used to be afraid of ladybugs…and the other day we saw what was undoubtedly a poisonous black and yellow spider that was, without exaggeration, the size of my face.
I think in trying to not have a plan, I subconsciously tried to create one out of its nothingness. I set a time frame for myself (a vague one, but even that has led to expectations), organized places that we wanted to volunteer at, and applied for jobs for my return. But nothing has worked out the way I planned, or tried not to plan, or planned nothing at all. Our time frame is totally different, and after a breakdown this morning at an internet cafĂ© after discovering that the hippie organic commune “won’t be a good fit,” I had thoughts about coming home in a plane tomorrow with a british girl we met. But that would totally defeat my purpose for the trip—my purpose of further exploring myself and discovering the world and meeting amazing people. No, I’m not giving up. But I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t hard. Not feeling well, still jetlagged, homesick, and concerned about my place in the universe add up to create a feeling of paralyzed overwhemedness (I don’t know if that’s a word, but I’m going to use it). Caroline and Elana bought me this cute little Asian-cartooned journal so I could write some of my thoughts and hope to assuage some of my concerns about life, and I started doing that last night before I got sick. I know that this is the right thing for me to be doing. There was nothing I was more sure of, that this was what was supposed to be happening. But now that I’m doing it and struggling in it, it doesn’t seem as clear cut. But then again, life isn’t.
My grandfather died the other day. He has been sick for a long time now. He started going downhill well over a year ago, and we thought he would have passed long before he did. I feel so awful for feeling so sorry for myself and for complaining when my mom has just lost both of her parents in the same year.  I feel so awful for complaining as I’m having an experience that many people would kill to have. I feel so awful for not being there with my mom as she has to deal with losing yet another person she loves. I am grappling with feelings of such intense vulnerability as I realize that we are not invincible, that we do not live forever, that we will inevitably lose the people we love. I prayed for him in Wat Pho, this beautiful temple of a golden Buddha who is peacefully reclining. I hope that my grandfather went in peace and that he is in a better place now, wherever that is.
To my beautiful family, I love you so. To my aunts, uncle, and mother, who just lost their other parent, my heart goes out to you.
With deepest peace-- even amidst fragility and uncertainty-- and always with love,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

And We're Off!

Sawadee kha!

I am writing this blog entry from the other side of the world. We finally made it to Thailand after what seemed like an interminable affair with Delta. Here are some of the highlights:
-Caroline and I arrive at Logan Friday morning at 6:30. We fly to Detroit and arrive at 11.
-Flight out of detroit is cancelled. I have a brief freak out moment; Caroline maintains her cool and we snack on oreo's.
-Caroline argues with Delta on the phone, speaks with a woman who tells us we will get to LA and then Bangkok that night. Hooray!
-We check in. No such flight exists. The woman blatantly lied. Brief moment of freak out.
-Delta puts us up in a hotel, but not before Caroline and I indulge in frozen margaritas at Chili's, served by Daryl, who we believe to be our British/Floridian friend reincarnated.
-Caroline and I have a sleepover party and watch Celebrity TV.
-We fly to LA the next morning, have a seven hour layover, see a dear friend from College (thanks so much again for dinner, Mark!) and leave for Bangkok Saturday night.

We arrived in bangkok early monday morning and met Elana at the airport, where our journey really began. After taking a speedy, clean and efficient train (we all know I love efficiency), we got to Koa Sanh Road (pardon my spelling, I don't speak Thai!) which is backpacker's central. We finally found a hostel to stay at after two hours of walking and growing grumpiness, and checked in. We spent the rest of the day walking around, eating, drinking, and almost being run over by tuk tuk's-- open carts on wheels driven by small Thai men. After a late lunch, Caroline and I almost fell asleep on the street, and subsequently went to bed at 4:15. Cool.
Yesterday, Tuesday, we continued to walk around and explore...bought some really weird and hippie flowy pants that make us look like multi-colored genies, and continued to eat. I think i may become a rotund little ball by the conclusion of this trip...but with how good the food is here, I am totally okay with that. Fresh fruit on every corner, noodles and chicken and sauces and spices everywhere--this is my kind of place. We checked out and made our way to the hostel from which I am writing this post. We're planning on exploring the big temples here today and getting out of Bangkok (you don't want to stay here for more than a few days) tonight. We have a 6:00 overnight bus which will bring us to Krabi, which I hear is one of the most beautiful places in thailand. I will be taking LOTS of pictures and posting them up as soon as I get internet over there, so rest assured you will all be here with me! I just wanted to let you all know that I got here safe and that our adventure has officially started.

Anyways, who knows how long it will be until I shower, so I am off to get clean.

Much love to all. Poppie, I will pray in the temple for you.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Preparation.

So the big day has finally come...I fly out to begin the next leg of this adventure tomorrow morning. I can't believe its already here. It feels like just the other day that I was wrapping up my time in Georgia, consulting with Caroline and Elana about where we want to go next...what part of the world we want to see. And here I am, just a few weeks later, about to embark on an experience that I think will be nothing short of life-changing.
For those of you whom I haven't updated recently (or for those of you whom my mom hasn't updated!), I am going to Southeast Asia with two of my friends I met while teaching in Georgia. We are flying into Thailand and plan on backpacking throughout the country, up into Laos, down through Cambodia, and back up through Vietnam. While backpacking is well and good, I felt strongly that we needed to do something to give back to the communities that were going to be providing us with such life-changing experiences. I didn't want to be a self-indulgent bum, and so we have picked three places to volunteer: a hippie, organic farm in Thailand, a school in Laos, and an orphanage in Cambodia. We are aiming to spend 2-3 weeks at each placement, and then spend the rest of our time getting from one location to the next--and of course sightseeing and taking in the beauty that is this part of the world.
While we certainly have these "plans" in order, we actually lack just that. We have no itinerary, no real destinations. Caroline and I don't even know where we're sleeping on Saturday night once we get into Bangkok. But I think that this is the beauty of this explore and to enjoy the not worry about or wait until the final destination.
I'm leaving an amazing support network of unbelievable friends whom I feel closer to now than ever and a loving, supportive and resilient family dealing with impending loss and the realization of human frailty. To all of you wonderful people--I love you dearly and will miss you. Skype me, message me, facebook me, visit me. You are all in my thoughts and when I meditate in ancient, Buddhist temples, I will think of nothing but your happiness. Thank you for being the beautiful people that you are.
I leave the country with a renewed optimism, a new faith in the universe thanks to a chance encounter (you know who you are). I have re-discovered my belief in the power of human connection, and I can't think of a better way to leave the country than with this faith in my pocket and all I need on my back.

Here's to the journey.