Approachable

Amp joined me in one of my regular coffee shops, and laughed as she told me that the staff thought I always looked “so serious”. I’ve caught sight of myself in windows while I work, and they’re right – my neutral expression when I’m working is intense, furrowed, and definitely unfriendly.

That was a few years ago, and I’ve been working on being more approachable since. On Saturday, I had several random strangers approach me and start up conversations, and I thought, “Win!” Today I realized I may be too approachable.

Sitting at a small outdoor mall watching people walk past, I was surprised when I Chinese woman came very close and asked me where I was from. A group surrounded her, from little round-faced children to older retirees, and they seemed so damned excited about my answer. The leader showed me a question on her phone, asking me to help them with a game. I said “sure, I guess” – and the group actually clapped.

They told me to repeat a short phrase in Chinese, and with my year of living there, copying the sounds was easy. They clapped again! This is great! I have no idea what’s happening!

Then they motioned me to follow them, and I walked to the front of the shopping area, where I saw no fewer than five high-end cameras with oversize fuzzy microphones all pointed at me, recording, and the woman asked me to repeat the phrase I had just “learned”.

But… I can parrot almost anything with a decent ear for language, but my memory for language is essentially nill. I don’t think them recording me saying, “I don’t remember,” in English was quite what they were hoping for. But it’s what they got.

Gamely, they still gave me a keepsake… keychain? Window pull? Curtain tassel? A keepsake. We’ll just call it a keepsake.

Goal!!!

Goal! I was just researching some info on fitness, and opened up the settings of my food tracker (SHYE, See How You Eat) to make a note, when I saw the goal I’d typed in months ago: 34″ waist size at 200 lbs. When I downloaded this app, I weighed about 225 lbs (down from my all time high of 243 lbs), and had a waist of somewhere in the 38 inch range. Since then I’ve been steadily losing weight, but like most goals, I like to shift the goal post as I go. Last week I noted with some discouragement that my waist was still 2 inches more than I’d like, and I recently decided I’d like to lose an additional 15 lbs. I’m hard on myself. I was discouraged.

But opening up this app, I realized how far I’ve come: my waist measurement was 34 inches last week, and my weight is now below 195 lbs. Without even realizing it, I’d already passed by my old goal.

Wednesday Weekly Update: Sick!

We said goodbye last week, my sister and nephews hugging us tightly before walking the winding queue through security, and disappearing beyond. I miss them – funny how quickly you get used to having family around, how lonely it suddenly feels when they’re gone.

But at the same time, I was looking forward to some rest. This summer has been almost excessively busy – like a proper summer should be! – and now, I thought, would be a great time for catching up on work and resettling in Chiang Mai. Instead, we spent the week in bed sick.

I’d started getting a cold on Monday, and by Wednesday it was in full swing. I tried working a couple of times, but felt incredibly stupid, like I was using an underpowered computer. “First I click here [pause] and then I’ll need to [pause] yes, add that feature to the model there [pause] and then I’ll [pause] fuck it.” On Friday I sent a series of hurried and apologetic emails to clients; gladly, I received only kindness and well-wishing in return.

Luckily, Saturday I was starting to feel a little better, and wanting to get out of the house, hoping to clear away the cobwebs before Monday arrived. We’ve been enjoying the MoBike hubless bike share here, and so we grabbed a couple bikes to head to the university grounds and explore.

We’d been to the arboretum before, but a group of volunteers happened to be painting, and we got to see the fitness equipment in transition to their new, cartoon-animal selves.

For lunch we headed to my current favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai, Sushi Umai. The sushi is spectacularly good, but I come in equal measure for the quiet I find there. The staff is always friendly and welcoming, the interior has a pleasant hush to it, and a TV plays NatGeo on low volume, usually showcasing international eats that whet both my appetite for the delicious maki and sashimi I order and for more travel. It suits me, and I go there as a sanctuary, stepping into the softly lit interior like timeless prince into a fairy ring (Zelda fans know what I mean).

Sunday we woke with little energy; Amp had picked up my cold, and we mostly hung out at home. Monday I was able to get a little work done; Tuesday and Wednesday I was tired again.

However, I have decided to try setting aside a middle day each week to explore business opportunities, and Wednesday I wandered the large Worarot Market near the Ping River in search of silicone nylon to make outdoor and travel gear. A helpful cloth merchant was willing to point me in the direction of another cloth shop and even wrote down the name of the material I wanted in Thai for me, but though I found that shop, and stopped in at a dozen others asking for the material, I had no success. I don’t think silnylon is available here in Chiang Mai, which casts serious aspersions on my dreams of manufacturing outdoor gear here. Not losing hope yet, though — may be able to find something in Bangkok.

More next week, I hope. -Ch

Sacred

What is sacred?

Sacred means set apart. As a culture we have ideas of things which should be set apart, should be sacred. Sex. Marriage. Death. And maybe these are good and right; maybe not.

But this morning, what is sacred?

My coffee.

Sacred is what I’m setting apart, what I’m cordoning off from the craziness of life in order to deeply experience, and today that is my coffee. I’ve purchased Thai beans from the Royal Project and ground them in my little grinder and when I dished the beans into the grinder I could smell their rich earthiness and I poured hot water in a small backpacking coffee maker and served myself this coffee in a mug that’s handmade by a local artist, a mug that was a gift from Amp for our first Christmas in Chiang Mai,  and when they were grinding I was talking with Amp, and when I drink the coffee I sip slowly and look at the mountains —

And this is sacred.

Siam

Today I awoke in Bangkok. Getting here hasn’t been easy, but it feels great to be back. Last night after arriving we went out for a quick snack from 7-11, and walked away with spicy fried basil for less than two dollars; it was delicious. I walked down the hall this morning and saw flower covered vines growing across the back parking lot wall, carelessly guarding the colorful scooters parked beneath, the kind of careless beauty of the untended plants here. And today we’ll be visiting King Kong to get our fill of charcoal grilled meat… it’s good to be back.

Shipping

We packed her and wrapped her and set her on a pallet, and the forklift took her away. I’ll miss my bike for the next couple weeks, but even more, I miss knowing that I’m about to ride somewhere new and exciting. I bought the bike just for this trip, and even though I don’t know when I’ll do another lining ride, I can’t bear to think of selling it right now. Even shipping it hurt a little…

Last crossing

We’re in Chile! The last border crossing with the bike is finished, we arrived in Victoria yesterday evening, and we plan to finish our riding today (inchallah). The relief at crossing yesterday was amazing – another hurdle cleared for us to run this last leg.

Our day didn’t go as expected. We’d planned on crossing the border within the first couple hours, riding to Osorno, then spending the rest of the day riding north to Temuco. But three hours of riding in Google still showed the border being an hour away; it turns out I’d made a wrong turn at some point and when I’d pulled over to check the map, Google had already rerouted us to a border crossing further north. By the time I became suspicious enough to zoom out to see the whole route, we’d gone too far to go back. I wasn’t worried till we saw the gravel section coming up, which took us 30 minutes to travel just 7 miles.

We got lucky, though. The Chilean side of the Mamuil Malal border crossing was fully paved, and beautiful. And instead of the 3-hr wait as we expected for crossing at Antonio Samore border crossing, we had about 20 minutes total of friendly officials who liked my Thor’s Hammer.

And while I’d been worried about my fuel, we found a beautiful lodge-style gas station with a restaurant and friendly waiter, a man from Haiti who’d immigrated to Chile.

As an even bigger bonus, we were sad to leave the YPF gas stations with Full Cafes, but the highways here are lined by magnificent stations with Pronto cafes. I’m happy to be in Chile, happy to be making it safely so far, and asking for one more day of grace on the road; and a lifetime after that while I continue to travel, because it never hurts to ask, right?

Day off

Sometimes you just need a day of lazing amongst puffy white comforters and watching Netflix.

We’ve had that today, and tomorrow, apparently, we’ve got a likely 3-he border crossing to complicate our 7 hr drive. Gotta get a good sleep tonight.

Yet another long day

To El Bolson

The trip up hasn’t been easy; but there are definite rewards. We cleared our heavy goal today: 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM, with a break for lunch. Wind, again. A small gravel section during road construction. Tiredness. Soreness.

But also, we made friends at lunch – we shared a fantastic couple hours chatting about the road; they’re from Canada, doing our trip in reverse on two BMWs.

And when I was most tired, we stopped for a break, and the road yeilded a wild blackberry bush, with a handful of sweet, tart, juicy, sun-ripened berries.

And at the end, we’re here in El Bolson, eating roast chicken on a terrace in twilight, the mountains looming over us. I found a new tire for the motorcycle – my back tire is getting more worn each day, to the point I’m relieved when cornering to be on a treaded area instead of further wearing the flats – so tomorrow I’ll have less worries.

Today was hard, and beautiful.