A Year in Seoul - video by Maddy

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Morning in Chiang Mai

I wake up before the sun rises and head out to the street. The air that envelopes me is cool, dense, and humming with the vibrations of a city awakening. This is the most peaceful time; the swarm of motorbikes has not yet taken to the street, its guttural cries not yet permeating the sounds of a night in decline.

Monks walk barefoot in their orange robes, tracing well worn routes as the sky tints pink. They stop from time to time to accept offerings of food which they return with blessings. The offerers kneel in the street, their heads bowed low as a river of chanting rains down upon them. Always when I see the monks I think there could not be people whose lives have diverged so completely, I and them, yet here we are in this Chiang Mai street, watching the morning come.

The vendors lining the street have not yet opened; their warring scents of spices do not yet fill the air. The sky is orange then yellow as a chorus of birds greets the new day. Then, in an instant, there is sun, and the city swells in recognition. The world is suddenly thrust into motion, and I stand amidst it all, my thoughts drowned out by its song.

Mai Thai Skit

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Traveling Gordito and the Mangosteen!

You know it had to be... THAI FOOD!!

It wouldn't be right if I didn't spend some time on the splendor that is Thai food. For under a dollar you can fascinate (and sometimes scorch) your taste buds on some of the most delicious food under the sun. Chile, garlic, cilantro, basil, lime, curry, coconut, and peanuts mingle in indescribable proportions in a land where "spicy" means painful and "not spicy" means pretty damn spicy.

The Thai people live up to their legendary friendliness and are always glad to explain the various dishes to bewildered farang foreigners. When language barriers make this difficult I have found that pointing at pretty much anything results in a sensational meal. Last night I had a fantastic Thai version of nime chow from a street vendor, hand made with tofu and fresh vegetables with green chile and cilantro sauce on the side. Also, just when I thought I had run out of new fruits to try, enter the mangosteen, a small purple fruit filled with tiny white globes that taste like a cross between a mango and a nectarine.

Its no wonder that cooking classes are so numerous and popular with visitors to Chiang Mai. Sampling authentic red curry or pad thai and experiencing the symphony of flavors within each dish inevitably leads to a desire to unlock the secrets of the cuisine and bring them home. I get the feeling, however, that these are not the types of dishes that can be replicated faithfully, so I defer to the masters and eagerly take on the role of appreciative taster.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Upon Leaving Part II aka Leaving is the hardest part

I don't have to be doing this. I think this over and over again. This was all me. I dreamed up, instigated, and executed this entire plan. What if I made a mistake? What if this was all a big mistake? Okay, breathe. I am in control here. If I make a mistake I correct it. But this is no mistake, this is my life.

Okay, I think, I can handle this. The plane begins to roll away from JFK... slowly like my pulse. What? Clearance already? The engines are roaring in my ears and the plane rapidly gains speed along with my thoughts. I'm losing it again... the horizon is a blur, the plane is so loud. Its definitely lost now as I feel that unmistakable transition from grounded to airborne. I am on a sixteen hour flight to Hong Kong. This was all me.

I am a crazed pendulum. Swinging back and forth out of control. I feel giddy. This is my adventure. Not only that, this is the beginning of my adventure. But here comes the swing: there are six plane letters in my bag. I don't think the writers of these letters understand their own perverse cruelty. I read all six in a row like some kind of nostalgia junkie. I am crying and sniffling all over myself. The people around me look uncomfortable, so I search for a tissue and somehow manage to knock orange juice onto the woman next to me. There are orange pools standing atop her black pants and I don't even have the tissue to offer her. I am mortified. I need to get a grip.

Or, rather, I need to get out of the grip... of fear. This is where it happens. Every time. When you are traveling alone and you know your journey is long, that first plane ride is an intense emotional obstacle. The wonderful thing about experience, however, is that the fear and confusion have become familiar if not easier. I know its going to be frightening. I know I am challenging myself. I know I will meet new and amazing people, see beautiful sights, and learn more than I can imagine. I know I will be happy.

And then, magically, I've arrived and the fear gives way to wonder. There is no more time for apprehension once I've left the time/space vortex of the plane ride and it is time to start living. So here I am and we shall see what dreams may come.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Upon Leaving

Leaving. We do it everyday without blinking an eye. We take our leave because we know we are coming back, that our path invariably winds through the same locations. But life gets in the way, and weeks can go by without us ever meaning for it, though nothing more miraculous than a change in the wind is all that’s needed to move us back into converging paths. There are some who take their leave often and impulsively, while others seem resigned to wait. There is the kind of leaving whose longevity always seems cruel to someone. The kind of leaving with tears in both senses of the word. It might be instigated by the one taking their leave, or by outside forces which compel one to move on. Either way, most often there is distance and the sense of missing another who belongs with you. And then there is the kind of leaving which is final. For those left behind it is oppressive and often unexplained. We leave people we never wanted to part from and often never know why. This is the leaving that clenches us inside with an unrelenting grip. Whether the enforcer be man or nature, this is the leaving which in the proper environment can define an entire life. No matter the type, however, we cannot control who we leave. Day in and day out there is life to be living, choices to be choosing, and paths we must diverge from. But what we can control, is who we come back to and how we greet the ones who make it back to us.

20 '09 Resolutions

I resolve...

1. to see a bamboo forest.
2. to stand on the Great Wall of China.
3. to go swimming in the ocean in every place possible.
4. to hear wild elephants trumpet in Chiang Mai.
5. to smell the cherry blossoms in spring time.
6. to taste sushi in Japan.
7. to touch an ancient Buddha.
8. to learn to meditate in a temple.
9. to remember how transient life is.
10. to forget my limitations.
11. to keep up with my yoga!
12. to read at least five modern classics.
13. to find new friends in unusual places.
14. to write about fear and loneliness.
15. to travel to a place whose name I don't even know yet.
16. to teach with passion, commitment, and silliness in proper doses.
17. to conquer the Korean language... or maybe just learn a few conversational bits...
18. to say yes to new opportunities even when i feel like being a hermit.
19. to organize a trip to Bali.
20. to plan another year as if it were my last.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Check out my new city!!!

So far its looking good!