Canada and the USA,      Mexico,      Belize,      Guatemala,      El Salvador,      Honduras,      Nicaragua,      Costa Rica,      Panama,      USA, again,       Thailand,       Lao,       Vietnam,       Cambodia,       Thailand, again,       Turkey,       USA, to stay?      

Journal Index


New as of March 25th, 2006 (St. Paul, MN, USA)

New as of May 16th, 2006 (St. Paul, MN, USA)

New as of August (Minneapolis, MN, USA)


Culture Shock Phase I

April 21, 2006

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Well, here I am back in Minneapolis / Saint Paul. Considering I have only been here a week or so I have been busy. (It doesn't hurt I started planning activities before I left Turkey.) Also there is the fact that for the last 21 months I have been out of the habit of doing much of anything, let alone anything on a schedule. Up until now if I did one or two things in a day, excluding feeding myself, it was a full busy day. Now somehow feeding myself and going to Morris practice doesn't seem like I am doing enough. I'm not sure if, in the big picture, living simply and not worrying about doing lots of stuff all the time is actually bad, but I think a little ramping up is in order.

After landing and going through Immigration and Customs, I hopped on the light rail and went directly to the Seven Corner's neighborhood to Theatre in the Round. Since this was the end of the trip and I had thoroughly over packed my backpack I wanted to unload a little stuff and I figured Steve would let me leave a box of stuff there. He did and I got my first key. Now with a lighter backpack and a place to call home, I headed off to my 'normal' Tuesday dinner at Chipolte for a burrito and to Morris practice.

Being back here is a bit like being in a mirror world. Everything is right, but not quite. Most things haven't changed but then there are things that have changed and 'the locals' have gotten used to and don't see as new any more. Then there is just the fact that I know lots of little details about stuff that it feels like I shouldn't. Being home is weird.

Morris practice went well. I am so out of shape in a cardiovascular way. I was sore later in the week. I think I was saved a bit by the fact a couple people had to leave early and I only had to keep up with everybody for an hour or so. This past Tuesday was better.

During practice I was half the time remembering how to dance, and the other half actually looking up and Dancing with my sidemates. It's the second half that is the real joy, although the first half is necessary. Going into some figure or another you would catch someone's eye and just get a boost probably followed by a silly grin on your face. Belonging somewhere is great.

After Morris practice that first night (and the obligatory pub stop for beer and pizza) I was dropped off at the house of one of my sidemates who are out of town and offered me their house.

I decided the house must like me because everything I need something it was just there. I had a lovely book filled spare bedroom, a bathroom that had towels and toilet paper and towels. What more can you ask for? (OK here in the U.S. toilet paper is pretty normal, but I am still carrying it around in my day pack. Traditionally Turkey doesn't use toilet paper; there is an extra water jet built into the toilets.)

The week at Matt and Deb's was great. I had an entire house to myself to work and getting used to being back in the U.S. There are things I am taking it slow with. I have yet to watch American television, and I think I will try to keep it that way for a while longer.

On Wednesday I met up with Becca who has been taking care of my mail and playing representative back here. It turned out to be her, now, husband's birthday so I even got to see Donna. (Becca and Ken got married while I was on the road. Things change.) I also made it into Ted Mann and saw some of my old coworkers. It seams a lot is the same, but of course changing. I miss the old place sometimes, but I'm also glad I have moved on.

Thursday was a lazy day. Going almost straight from the plan to Morris practice (after being awake for 24 hours straight) and lots of bike ridding on Wednesday I picked up a bit of a cold. I also think the water is affecting me a bit. Just like any other country my system has to get used to it.

Friday was about getting mail sorted out and off to my science fiction convention.

MiniCon is always over Easter weekend and gives me a chance to hang out with geeks. The performing arts sometimes feels like where people who didn't like math took refuge. So spending a weakened with readers who, if they aren’t scientists, are comfortable with science is a bit of a relief. The hardest thing with the convention this year was that I was living in Saint Paul and it was being held in a hotel on the other side of Minneapolis. Something along the line of a two hour bus trip. It was a long commute. I ended up staying overnight on Friday although I went home for a nap and shower on Saturday. Had the weather been warmer hanging my hammock out in some trees would have sounded like a good idea.

Heading back out on Saturday afternoon I ended up with and hour and a half layover at the Mall of America. I needed supper so I figured I would just pop in and have dinner at my favorite fast food Japanese place.

I'm not quite sure if I should set foot in the Mall of America again for a while. I can't put my finger on what was so bad, but this was a good sized chunk of culture shock. I think it was all the overweight blond people.

White people I got used to back in Turkey, but blond people are new to me. Also just the results of the American diet shows. Sure in Thailand people eat all the time. They are snacking all the time but it's always on noodle soup or something with lots of greens and in small amounts. Here people drink 32 oz cups of soda pop. The gas stations sell refill mugs that I think I could put my head in. Even with all the sugar the Vietnamese put in their food wouldn't compare to the average glass of soda here. No wonder people overseas couldn't imagine that I only wanted water with my food. Buy stock in Coke and Pepsi.

The convention was good. Harlan Ellison was the guest of honor and he is an interesting guy. I didn't get to see as much of the convention as I would have liked to, as I spent a lot of Saturday sleeping from staying up most of the night before. I did get to catch up with some people who I don't get to see that often and it was a bit of a break from culture shock as the convention is its own little world all into itself.

Monday was on doing my taxes. I wasn't required to file as I didn't make any money in 2005 but if I got back to University in the fall financial aid will want my recent tax returns. It is amazing how confusing the tax laws are when you made nothing and had no withholding. Lots of if you owe taxes or if you need a refund, but nothing if it comes out perfectly even. Then there is what state I am resident of. As far as time spent anywhere I could just easy claimed California or Wyoming. In the end it doesn't matter so I went with Minnesota. As it was I lost money on the process as I had to pay for a stamp for my state return. Oh well.

Monday night was One Voice Mixed Chorus rehearsal and their last rehearsal before the school tour they were doing on Thursday that I signed up for being crew on. I had fun getting to see everybody and I got an idea of how the tour was going. I even ended up packing on of the cars that hulled stuff. On Tuesday morning I awoke to 17 One Voice tour related e-mails.

OK, I just got into town the week before and this tour has been in the works for months and suddenly people are asking me all sorts of things. Of course I did have answers, of sorts, so maybe it is justified. But 17 e-mails less then 14 hours after they have seen me? I don't know how the Artistic Director survives.

I became bus captain for the Saint Paul pickup and was focused on how the chorus moved around. It's part of what I did at Ted Mann and they listen to me so it fits. Just a little funny as I knew less of what was going on then they did. Even getting the paperwork ready and printed involved doing it on one of the public library's computers. My life as a homeless person.

The tour went well, and was fun. I still would rather have been a singer but decisions have to be made. It was either going to Turkey or singing in this concert season. This way I also got to meet some of the new singers as well. It's a different first impression than would be my preference, but oh well. We were even on schedule the whole time. The chorus has taken two bus tours out side of the Metro area since I have been on the road and it showed. They know how to bus tour now. It's great.

Culture Shock

Since I have been back I have had a few little bits of surprising culture shock moments. I figure I will learn more about the trip and my own culture by finding what is odd when I get back.

Bird flu and fear

Sitting at the greasy spoon breakfast place near Matt and Deb's my first morning back I opened the local paper and saw an article about how the local ice areas were getting ready for a bird flu epidemic. What ice areas have to do with bird flu was my first question and the point of the article. Apparently as part of the disaster preparedness they are arranging so if people are dropping dead left and right the ice areas can be used as emergency morgue space. All in all not too bad a plan. Good use of existing infrastructure. But the article was so much in the line of giving people more reasons to fear. I was just in the heart of the bird flu a month ago, and people just dealt with it and moved on; no fear involved. A thoughtful report on preparedness that included the ice arenas would be great, but something about just saying how the government is getting ready for everybody to drop dead only encourages panic. It's probably good I'm not watching TV.

Sitting on floors

OK, in Thailand and most of SE Asia you don't wear your shoes inside to keep the floors clean, but even there you don't sit on the floor. I walked into the grocery store near Matt and Deb's and there were people sitting on the floor working on updating and cleaning the labels on the bottom shelves. It looked perfectly normal but I realized that where I have been no one would ever sit or lay down on the floor like that. Just a bit odd.

Thank You

At the breakfasts place I had a bit of a 'Thank You' melt down. Everywhere you go there are certain little dialogs we all go thru as part of social niceties, and you have to learn then. Well I am now relearning the Midwest American ones. I don't know when wrong but there was one point where the waitress and I exchanged 'thank you's about six times in a row. Clearly I forgot my lines.

Off handed

I am still a bit started when someone will hand me something with only one hand. After five mouths in SE Asia where it would be rude to hand something with only one hand, or even worse only the left hand, being here where money is handed off so casualty it startles me. I still sometimes am handing things off with both hands even if it is more awkward, but it is really odd to have cashiers simply pass my change back to me one handed.

Garbage

OK, I have been a little more aware of garbage and solid waste disposal than the average person for a long time. Even knowing this I am shocked at the garbage generated so easily here and maybe more importantly how well we are at carting off with it. It's not that I miss people burning their garbage on the street, but garbage is so effortlessly taken care of here it's as if people don't even notice they are making it. At least if you had to hull your own garbage you knew how much you were making and where it was coming from


When you least expect it.

May 2, 2006

St Paul, MN

I figure culture shock is something that can only sneak up on you. It only comes when you least expect it, like the Spanish Inquisition.

I was walking back to where I am staying and was thinking about the Roman ruins I had visited. Then as I was watching my feet, the good old concrete sidewalk I was treading gave way to one paved of marble slabs. And for just a second I felt like I was back in Ephesus walking along the marble streets. I don't know why this one house in a quiet residential neighborhood in St. Paul has half it's sidewalk done in marble slabs, but it was a bit of a shock.

I am trying to figure out how these things are odd. Today is the first day I have worn jeans in about a year. To put on denim feels odd. I found myself feeling the fabric as if it was something new or special. It's not that these are even special jeans, just which they are out of place with my life for the moment. I wonder what my reaction will be to unpacking all of my old stuff and having a closet full of clothes.

Things keep going and I am keeping busy. Yesterday was May Day so I was up before the sun to dance up the sun with all the other morris dancers down by the river. Off to breakfast and then to dance for a couple of schools where some of the morris dancer off spring attend. I broke the day up with a meeting at Theatre in the Round where based on chatting with an old boss from the Guthrie we may buy their old lighting dimmers. Since I was there in full morris whites and bells, and had to rush off it seamed I spent the entire time talking as I had all the information about the dimmers and a few things that I think had been misunderstood about tech issue during the show and then I ran. Now I have to find out about how the rest of the meeting went.

After running to catch a bus, being in full whites and wearing bells I was easy to spot, I met up with my morris side downtown for more dancing and the traditional stop at the pub for more dancing and singing. A fun and busy day.

Today continued the same theme and after about twenty e-mails about the dimmers I had another dance out at Macalister University where we try to catch the students before their finals happen. Not as much dancing as at an ale, but not bad. All in all I am keeping pretty busy although I wish I was making better headway with my housing. I had originally hopped to be in my new place by now, but it took me longer than I expected to get over the shock of being back.

One little thing that surprises me every night is the guestroom door. This is an older house, but in good shape, but it still is a little special because the door easily swings closed with out rubbing or binding and simply latches with out any problems. Quality finish carpentry is not something I saw a lot of. I have gotten used to places were if you can shut the door with out putting a lot of force into it, or once closed it stays closed you consider it well built.


Climbing trees and other stories

May 8th, 2006

Saint Paul, MN U.S.A.

This past Sunday was May Day number two. Each year on the first Sunday in May the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre puts on a big May Day parade and ceremony in Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis. It is one of those amazing community experiences where everybody seams like family. Even though it is a big festival that draws thousands of people it is one of those places people let their kids run off where they will and everybody seams to have a good time. Although the theatre the runs it was started in the mid 70's, I believe the expression that best fits is a child of the 60's.

Of course at such a community event, let alone one celebrating the coming of May, there are Morris Dancers. My side tries to catch the crowds as they move from watching the parade on their way to the Tree of Life Ceremony on the far side of the lake. It's a good gig and a wonderful day to be out in the park. (Or so it always has been for me. I missed last year when I heard reports that it was spitting snow and the wind nearly scuttled the Sun flotilla crossing the lake.)

This year had near perfect weather and it is probably safe to say that a good time was had by almost everybody.

Part of the nature of the event makes it a very open place to meet people and to say hi to everybody. There were a couple people who I recognized from other parts of my life but here was a place I got to actually stop and talk to them and not feel embarrassed about it. I ran into a couple old friends from going to university back in Morris who I hadn't seen in at least three years. In other words, a perfectly normal day at the festival.

The dancing was good with a very appreciative audience. I ran into Andy, the other tall, skinny, dark hair bearded guy with glasses who works in technical theatre and now I have a plan to recruit him to join my morris side.

Between morris dancing and other wanderings around the park, I played cat's cradle with several people and gave away stings. It fit right in as there was a juggling group that had all their toys out for people to play with, a woman giving away food, along with many free performances and the like. I enjoyed it much like the park back in Bangkok. I think maybe one of my goals in life is not only to fine more places and time like this but to increase them so that all the edges run together.

It is also traditional for me the day I climb my first tree of summer. Along one side of the park it isn't very busy and has some lovely climbing trees that you can easy get right up to the top. After dancing before the ceremony and then the traditional group singing of "You Are my Sunshine" after the sun flotilla makes it across the lake, I head over for a little time to myself with a nice tree. Since I have become a morris dancer it has gotten a bit harder to climb the first tree as I am also trying to keep my whites clean. Some day I might bring clothes to change into but it is also nice to be in whites as it adds a bit to the festive nature of the park. Yet again, this year I successfully climbed to the top of the tree with out getting dirty or any pitch on me. (Pitch being especially worrisome as my normal 'super duper gets everything out' stain remover is buried somewhere in my storage unit.)

Year before last when I walked to join my morris side before dancing they were all surprised to see I wasn't wearing my stilts. (I often show up to dance outs wearing stilts as part of walking there.) I considered bring them this year to walk around the park, but I decided not to. I was trying to figure out why I am perfectly happy to wear my stilts in to fast food restaurants but not to bring them to this event. (So far my average discount for wearing my stilts in a restaurant is half off.) I figured there were two reasons. First off there are lots of slitters in the parade and in the ceremony so stilting isn't a big deal, and secondly this isn't an event that needs more sense of wonder and strangeness, it is already there. Last year when I was walking around Mel's neighborhood I was adding something to the community. A person on stilts may give them something to smile about or a chance to think of the potentially amazing world outside of the box they may be living in. Here at the Podwerhorn Park May Day festival people are already out of that box and I want to just be down on the ground with the rest of them enjoying the place and community. Not to mention I will already stand out as I am in my morris whites.

Two last bits for the wonderful day. On my way out of the park someone waved 'hi' to me and I went over to great her even though I didn't recognize her. In fact we didn't know each other but in parting to my 'Happy May' she returned 'unto you many blessings be.' a nice sentiment. As I walked along Lake Street, still in my whites, I passed a man waiting for a bus, or something, and he asked if I was all in white for Cinco de Mayo. I explained that I was in the park for the May Day festival, and in our parting he wished me 'to have a blessfull night.' I seaming to be picking up good wishes left and right.

The end of my day was stopping in at a whole in the wall Mexican restaurant to have dinner. It was a place that is all in Spanish and while I was picking out my order I figured this really was just a local stop as the woman who was ordering in English was having difficulty being understood. I got to order in Spanish and they spoke back to me in Spanish so all was good. I got stared at, but I think that was because I was dressed from head to toe in white, save for the yellow socks and suspenders with yellow and green arm ribbons. The food was good and it was a nice end to a wonderful day. Now I just have to remember next year to wear a rainbow hair tie.


You can't go back to Constantinople…

May 13, 2006

Saint Paul, MN, USA

Well, Thursday (the 11th) was my return flight to Istanbul. I'm not sure how I am dealing with this. On one hand I didn't realize until the next day that I had 'missed my flight,' so I must not be too fixated on it, on the other hand this is certainly a mile stone, and I'm not entirely OK with it, yet.

The other big mile stone will be tomorrow when I go to work for the first time in 22 months.

The work call should be pretty short and it's just a strike, but it will be work. Eekk!

In my little day pack that I have been carrying on the trip has two little side pockets. The pocket by the Carrot held index cards, pens and pencils, a toothbrush, band aids, and all the other little stuff that it and the identical backpacks before it have held for the last twenty years or so. The pocket on the other side has held my camera and spare memory chip for the camera for the last 22 months, but before this trip it held my wrench and Leatherman multitool, my work stuff. So tomorrow do I exchange my tools of my trade a camera for a wrench?


600 masks and other stories

October 29, 2006

Minneapolis, MN USA

When it rains it pours, and lately I have been having a flood, but it will soon open up and I will be board again but I am still having fun.

The last couple weeks I have been putting my spare time, and then some, in over at the Bedlam theatre space working on the BareBones Productions show. It's a big Halloween puppet pageant. I had seen the show a couple times back before I went on my trip.

It's a big outdoor show done at night in the dark. A lot of puppets are larger than life. It's cold and spooky and a perfect counter balance to the May Day celebrations at the beginning of the year. In the past I have come and seen the show and then been one of those really good audience members who stay after and help clean up. They have the Sisters of Camalot provide free food. (And this is just not any free food but good food that is good for you.) They often have a band after the show as well as labyrinths. The theme is always different but is often around death. I love it because we are out at night. Some day I want to try to do the lighting for something like this. It's a cool show.

This year I found time to head over to one of the build days and get some work in building stuff. It's different than the theatre work I normally do as here the primary medium is paper mache. The big project I worked on was making masks. Not just a few masks, but to make hundreds of masks so the audience all wears masks as well. You gota love working with anyone with enough audacity to try such an idea. I spent a lot of time coming off of work and heading over to the Bedlam theatre space and making masks, or rigging masks, or painting masks until it was past time to go home and to bed. It's been great. I have gotten to meet some new people, lean a bunch about mask making, and just found a new community to hang out with. I also worked on the gargoyles costumes which were beautifully designed by someone else. It was epically fun as they opened the main part of the show.

The building the Bedlam theatre is in, is owned by a mosque that is most of the rest of the building. So some nights during Ramadan when the shop wasn't too noisy we would listen to the prayers from next door. It was like a little trip back to Turkey or back east. Sadly there isn't any chanted call to prayer around here. I wonder why not? From my count there are three mosques in the West Bank neighborhood where both TRP and Bedlam are. Then again maybe in this day and age they feel it isn't in their best interest to draw attention to themselves. Or they just couldn't get a noise permit.

This was fun, but it would have been more fun if it happened on one of the weeks I was between jobs and had more free time. I also got a cold during the week and neither wanted to take time off for puppet making nor time off from work as I don't get sick time. It's too bad things don't work out like I want them too. Next week will be nice and calm, if not downright dull.

Also this had been a high time for Border Morris stuff. Today, before heading off to the BareBones show to hand out masks, I did a dance out with Great Northern Border (my winter morris side) at an apple orchard. It was a beautiful day to be out in the country and we had a fun place to be. I got a good amount of dancing in and didn't mess up too badly. Someday I will get the border dances down. Sigh.

Once all of this Halloween stuff is over with I move on to focusing on the One Voice Mixed Chorus tour to Canada. I don't have any awful or complicated parts to work on that one, but I do have some things to work out and I like to keep a little free time to help out as I am need elsewhere. Not to mention I have music to memorize.

Toss into this doing some work on Theatre in the Rounds show and even making it to a lovely dinner party at Fran's. (The woman who walked every street in Minneapolis.) Times make me wonder how I made it. But it was all fun.

So much to do, so little time. It's fun, and I am getting good at layering my clothes. (Tonight I had on four pairs of pants and three shirts along with a polorfleese pullover. Now if I could just find my thermals....)


New sidewalks and travelers

November 2, 2006

Minneapolis, MN, USA

I wondered over to the Bedlam theater to see if there was any clean up that needed to get done. It was they day after the last show and the big closing night party so I wasn't expecting a lot of activity. Actually pretty much nothing was going on. There were a couple people hanging out and that was about it. I sat down on the couch like object and started reading as I figured sooner or later something would come up.

The Bedlam is one of these places sorta like the Hard Times Cafe that collects people odds and ends. Of this group included people who are backpacker/hitchhikers. Sorta like the punks back in Montreal. A group of people who don't live by the normal set of rules about how life is going to go and just go. On the road theses were the people who had dreads, bag that were clearly held together by dental floss and safety pins, clothes that were held together by the same, and were worse dressed than the average Hispanic homeless person. They probably made jewelery and sold it as they went and survived off of that. Where I might buy a partial share in a Lao fishing boat and go down the river, they would find a broken down boat along the river, spend a few days fixing it while sleeping outside and quite possibly foraging their own food. (Some of this due to esthetic, other because they are running on a USD 5 a day budget at best.)

In many ways I am envious of these people as they have been everywhere. They have friends on every continent and have found crash space on strangers floors more often than most people have left town. For them travel is truly a lifestyle. They know all the tricks and back doors. The cheep air fare from Bangkok to India, which embassy gives out the cheapest visas, and how much you really should pay for a back of the pickup ride into the next country. As much as my trip differed from the American Vacation package, their differs from mine.

Of the people who had passed thru Bedlam while I sat and waited for something to happen, a pair of these travelers stopped in.

They were trying to get a hold someone about returning a bike they had borrowed, figuring how to get to the bus station along with making a salad sandwich and eating leftover Indian food. They were the chance travelers who were soon to be heading off in different directions but for now were working for the same goals. An important one being staying warm in the beginning of Minnesota winter. (Layers and layers of most of their clothing with a little raiding of various lost and found boxes to fill in the gaps.)

He said something about Turkey and we started chatting about Turkey and then Thailand and then our favorite Central American countries. (He didn't like El Salvador, but we both liked Guate.) We talked if Luang Prabang in Lao was the same as it was when he was their five years ago. (I said it would be recognizable but they they were just putting in all new streets and sidewalks.) It was like being back in a hostel. I miss travelers. (Of course while I was on the road I missed my friends so I guess you can't have your cake and eat it too.)

I was glad to run into them. Even if I don't think I would want to travel like at lest she did. With a dog (with service animal paperwork) and a full sized keyboard accordion. They are out traveling seeing the world on less than five Alturian dollars a day. [N.B. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe reference.]

It occurred to me as I was writing this that one of the reasons I haven't been good about posting since I have been back, not that I haven't been doing some writing but it never makes it on line, is because now I run into my readers. When I started this I didn't have to see the people who read this but now they are part of my life again. I don't know what this means as these are things I am perfectly happy sharing and it's not like they haven't been reading it up until now. I will have to ask how this works of a friend who's blog I read who said I was one of the few readers who he knows from the real world. (And at that point I was on the road so it wasn't like I was around.)

We shall see. Life's an adventure and it's getting to be time to renew my passport.


Press Escape to continue.

November 4, 2006

Minneapolis, MN

I have recently noticed how I have been doing my own little escapist thing. All the signs are there, reading Harry Potter, Science Fiction that has it's own world, and too much sleeping and surfing on the Internet. It was good to realize it and remember to get reengaged before I waste more time and get annoyed at myself for it.

This of course lets me wonder how much of my trip may have been one big escapist thing. (Although I am probably implying that escaping is a bad thing, I don't really believe that. Some getting free and taking time out can be good, but overdoing it or doing it and not knowing it isn't on my good way to live list.)

I sometimes would think of travelers I met being in two camps. One being the ones running away from something and the ones running to / searching for something. The guy I met in Semuc Champey in Guatemala certainly was looking for something, a community, and there were people who had decided to get away from their jobs / parents / school / etc.

I had hopped that I was more just taking a run. A jog around the world. I can justify some of this idea on how the trip came up, deciding it was time to leave my job and only then realising that that I wanted to travel and it wasn't going to get any easer. And of course there would always be parts of different reasons for the trip. I was searching for 'what to do next' and I wouldn't be surprised if I can come up from something I was running from (probably responsibility). It will be an interesting thing to wonder about as I work and getting back into the swing of the real world. Of course the important thing to work thru is how to get over the escape rut I am in now and get on with it all.

The hardest part, noticing it and name it is down, now I just have to remember to keep doing it.

On an entirely unrelated note, I just had to brush a a couple drops of water off my keyboard's screen. Many years ago I would have found a rag or paint brush or tissue to brush it off. Just a few years ago I would maybe used the tip of my braid as this is just water and nothing really dirty. But this evening I just as easily grabbed my beard to whisk the droplets away. And it almost didn't seem odd, which is of course the really weird part.


Laughing Cow cheese and travel sewing kits.

November 28, 2006

Minneapolis, MN USA

Well here I am. It getting cold, no snow, yet, and I am mostly settled in. I still have a few things down in my boxes that I would like to find, but they aren't important enough to dig out. (Although I did find my ChoroGrip for my choral music so that's one thing off my list.) I am spending a good deal of time dreaming of the tropics and sleeping in my hammock in a land where all you need is your swimsuit and your tooth brush. Maybe if winter gets too hard I will see if I can get cheep tickets to Mexico and jump down to Belize for a week or two.

There are still a few funny things I end up doing. I have been hand sewing new straps onto my day pack. The backpack itself is in good shape but they way I was caring it on my front when I was wearing my big pack cut into the shoulder straps and they finally broke. It's nice to have a little project that is taking care of myself but is more concrete than paying bills or sorting stuff. I was working on it on my bus ride back from chorus rehearsal tonight and was thinking what a cheep plastic thimble I was using. It's the one from my travel sewing kit so that it was small and light and not valuable had been important. I was also thinking that I wasn't really using the right kind of needle but it was what I had, in my travel sewing kit. It then occurred to me that there wasn't any reason I hadn't pulled a good thimble or chosen a different needle from my big sewing kit that is sitting in my closet less than three feet from where I pulled the travel sewing kit out of my big backpack. I seam to have all my stuff back, now I just have to remember to use it. How long have I been back? Six and a half months or so?

Part of it is probably that the task is the kind of thing I would do on the road when I have all the time in the world. Back here you either replace the entire day pack (as a couple people have suggested) or use a sewing machine to have done with it in a couple hours. The idea of actually repairing or mending something seams almost quaint of not an atativisum. So I think I will go on with my and sewing, although I might pull a better thimble from the real sewing kit.

At the grocery store today I picked up, although with a loaf of good crusty bread a wheel of Laughing Cow Cheese. If you are not familiar with the Laughing Cow cheese products, this is not a fine cheese, although it is not cheese food. This is not a large step up from Velveeta. The package for the 'Creamy Swiss Flavor' pasteurized spreadable wedges says 'A French Favorite,' which I seriously doubt, but it does do a good cream cheese spread with a nice saltness to it.

Now the reason I indulge in this shelf stable cheese (best before Sept 2007) is I have found memories of eating it back when I was ten and lived aboard my parents first boat and we were in Spain's Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. Each morning my dad would go get fresh baked bread and we would eat it with one of the eight spreadable wedges. When I started living on my own here in Minneapolis I would see it in the stores and treat myself to it from time to time.

As I was slathering my French bread and thinking back to my younger sailing days I realized that I had also more recently been eating a good deal of Laughing Cow Cheese. While I was in Lao they used it a lot. The sandwich carts that haunted the bus stations would make you cheese and vegetable sandwiches with laughing cow cheese. Even on my adventure in the fishing boat down the Nam Ou we took the same little prewrapped wedges with us.

Now that I think about it, it's prevalence in Lao probably backs up the 'French Favorite' claim as had been a French possession and you can still see it in the architecture, bread and wine selection. I shouldn't complain as it got be across the Atlantic by boat and now thru Lao. I wonder where I shall find it next?


B.I.C.

April 23, 2007

Bed, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Well I haven't been going anywhere much lately. I don't just mean that in the last year or so I have only been out of the metro area about 4 times. But I haven't been thinking much out of the metro area. Yes, I still day dream a lot about being back in Mexico or Lao, or Turkey, but I'm not really going anywhere.

It shows up most obviously when I am in a library. Even the smallest neighborhood branch library here is what my dreams were made of while I was on the road. But now I go in and don't make use of it. I feel guilty.

Much of this comes from what I have said before as being stuck between the denuma of my trip and waiting for the inciting incident of What's Next. For the first part of time I have been OK will sitting and waiting for the inciting incident to come along and find me. But either it has come and gone and I missed it or it is conspicuous by its absence. Either way I guess it is time to get going under my own force.

I was lying in bed the other night trying to figure out how to go around 'getting going' again. Part of me likes the idea of going off to Africa in August. Which, although a good idea, isn't exactly the kind of solution I am looking for. (Nor is it necessarily mutually exclusive of it either.)

But what I guess I am getting to is that my idea on how to work this out is to get back to writing in my journal again. I'm not sure if I will upload it, but the act of writing hopefully will focus me and help we mind out stuff. Either way it's cheap. So hence forth my new plan is But In Chair. (Mediforicly of course as I neither have a chair nor often write while sitting in one.)


A Map for Saturday

July 8, 2007

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

I just, mostly, finished up watching a documentary called 'A Map for Saturday' made by a guy who did a year of travel a lot like what I did. Every journey is different so it's not all the same. I really like it. He has done a good job showing things that I can't explain about being a solo traveler. I can see getting another copy and loaning it out to people. I think it may have found me in a good time.

After July 4th my summer tends to calm down. The Morris Dancing season is over (although this year we will be extending to the 20th for the Harry Potter book release), my chorus is done for the summer, and in general life in Minnesota heads to the cabin. So here are am free of all sorts of daily distractions of getting music learned or when do my whites have to white again. Now is a time for me to fact things that otherwise I can hide and put off. In other words the big question of 'Now What?'.

It's not that this hasn't had it warnings. The Tooth Paste Dilemma of a few months ago was one part. For some time I have been seeing life as being on a vector with a slope of zero. But now fifteen months after returning from my 21 months on the road, I am facing it. Let's try a new formula. More sleep, less media. (Probably not a bad idea considering the upcoming election anyway.)


Remembering the sinks

July 9, 2007

Minneapolis, MN, USA

I seem to spend a lot of mental time comparing and contrasting the here and now with some time on my trip. What was I doing then? Where did I go? How is the same or different?

I met a guy at a party this weekend who had returned from five years in Korea a month and a half ago. I asked him what was the most surprising part of reverse culture shock for him. He said it was how he keeps looking at situations looking for the patterns. Here he spend five years living in a foreign culture trying to decode the rules for things, and now back on his home turf he is still trying to do the same. I remember doing a bit of the same when I got back but he had spent a lot of time working in just one culture where as I skimmed along worrying more about details like how the locals cross the street. I wish I had more time to talk with him and get his response to reentering the US.

Last night I noticed something that came more fully to memory tonight. As I brushed my teeth I remembered how in most places I visited the bathroom was often outside in some way. Across the court yard, down the open air hall, or off in a separate building. There is something very nice about brushing your teeth outside in the open air. It's a bit like camping. The cool night air, a fresh breeze, maybe the sound of the crickets or stars to look at. I miss the bath house buildings where the sinks were just along the wall outside with a little roof to keep the rain off. Somehow standing in my bathroom with its harsh light staring in the mirror can really compare. I miss the bathroom at Las Marias near Semuc Champey in Guatemala where after the generator was shut down, there wasn't any light at all and I learned I can do everything in complete darkness except put the right about of toothpaste on my tooth brush.

Part of this is probably that here in Minnesota, the land of freezing winters and burning summers, we have to keep the outside at arm's length for so much of the year it is hard to let our house Embrace it the time we can. I just don't have enough windows and vents to have my space be as airy as a place in the tropics. I put fans in the windows to move more air faster, but in someways all I get is more noise; not the sound of crickets or the feel of the gentle night air. I guess our houses are weather Jacks of all trades, master of none.

Fortunately for me, living on the first floor, it is just two doors between the bathroom and the back stoop where I can brush my teeth by the light of the moon and to the sound of the crickets, even if I have to go back in to spit.


The two week panic

July 10, 2007

Minneapolis, MN, USA

If you are wondering exactly why I have stated writing now it has something to do with my friend Nicole who is on a three month or so trip from Spain to Turkey via Europe. We have traded roles, now I am living vicariously via her blog anxiously awaiting the next post.

In her last set of posts I related back to an early part of my own trip. She had been in Spain and then moved on to Morrico and the language, toilets, and culture shock got to her and she went back to friends she had made back in Spain. Where she was just in time to catch a big festival with paella and everything. (I'm envious.) I did the same thing about two and a half weeks into my trip. On the other hand I was in Boston, spoke the language, knew the toilets, and hadn't had my bag lost by the airline and sent back home. As is, I called Nicole and went back to her place and we spent a rainy weekend watching movies. She even handed me her phone and said, "I have lots of left over minutes, call your parents."

She is a smart woman. I can't wait for her next post.


The multiple of two primes, or finding oats in my pockets.

July 29, 2007

Minneapolis, MN, USA

Well the Harry Potter book release has happened, so the Morris season is well done; One Voice is done and inter summer projects; and it has gotten hot, so summer is really here. It's my slow time as far as organized things to do so I figure I should be caught up on all those thing I want to do, but I'm not. I still haven't made it out to all the museums I want to, written the letters I want to write, or read the books I want to learn. In some ways I am looking forward to my upcoming unemployment to maybe force myself into action with comparitivly unending free time. Not really a good plan as if I'm not doing it now, why wouldn't I do it then. We shall see.

Actually I am being a bit hard on myself about this stuff. I am reading a biography of Frida Kahola and am working my way thru some Cuban short stories. The last few days I have had some good time at the library. So things are moving forward, even if much of my activities might be summed up as 'busy'.

Yesterday was my birthday and as usual I had no plans. In the past I try to take it as a day for myself and just wander around and enjoy myself and reflect. Well as fate would have it, yesterday was the last day my friend Jodie L. was working out at the Oliver Kelly Farm and interpretive center. She is moving out to the Boston area and I will be much saddened that I will no longer be able to run into her around town. But one of the things I have been meaning to do for much to long was go visit the Kelly Farm and see what Jodie talks about in her journal from time to time. So finally I had a free day and she had room in the car pool for me to go, and although I don't normally plan something for my birthday, it was too perfect.

The interpreters at the Kelly Farm work the farm using period tools and techniques. (With the occasional cheat for safety or simply as they don't live there and stuff has to get done.) The big difference being that while doing the work they stop and explain what they are doing to the visitors and convince the visitors to do their chores for them. I had a great day there. I weeded my height in the garden, skimmed crocks in the kitchen, splice rope in the barn (which I actually showed the interpreter how to do) and hulled in a load of oats and even had a nice hike on one of the nature trails and wadded in the Mississippi the farthest upstream I have done so far. At one point early in the day before I had done much a couple patrons asked me if I was one of the interpreters. This I found quite funny as I was in cargo shorts, my rust colored traveling shirt and modern shoes, while all the interpreters are in period cloths (including shoes). They said it was the beard, although I figured if I was working on a farm that would go for safety at least. Either way I took it as a complement. Arriving before it opened and staying the whole day as fun. I still didn't get to do as much as I would have liked and will have to plan how to get out there latter in the season to see what is up at the farm. Either way I recommend it.

After the farm I followed Jodie off to a a big game of Super Game. It's a meta game of Jodie's devising that I am looking forward to creating my own version of. But one of the rules of Super Game, is that you don't talk about Super Game, so this is all you will hear from me here. Let it be said a fun time was had by all and I didn't get home until about 1:30am after getting up at a quarter to seven to make it to the carpool. I long and lovely Birthday.

The other treat this last week has been that Erick the Geek has been in town and I have had a couple of great long walks with him. I miss having him around. It's great to see him again and some time I will have to get down to Austin and see him there. We had breakfast this morning before is flight back so although I got to sleep in a bit latter, I never really got a good sleep in. Which, I think, is a good sign.


The day after.

August 2nd, 2007

Minneapolis, MN, USA

"On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below. This Bridge was on the highroad between Lima and Cuzco and hundreds of persons passed over it every day. It had been woven of osier by the Incas more than a century before and visitors to the city were always lead out to see it. It was a mere ladder of thin slats swung out over the gorge, with handrails of dried vine. Horses and coaches and chairs had to go down hundreds of feet below and pass over the narrow torrent on rafts, but no one, not even the Viceroy, not even the Archbishop of Lime, had descended with the baggage rather than cross by the famous bridge of San Luis Rey. St. Louis of France himself protected it, by his name and by the little mud church on the further side. The bridge seemed to be among the things that last forever; it was unthinkable that it should break. The moment a Peruvian heard of the accident he signed himself and made a mental calculation as to how recently he had crossed by it and how soon he had intended crossing by it again. People wandered about in a trance-like state, muttering; they had the hallucination of seeing themselves falling into a gulf."

The opening paragraph of "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" by Thornton Wilder


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