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