Asia 2009 − 2010
Miscellaneous 2008 − 2009
Bolivia, August 2008
India, Oct 2007 − Mar 2008
Vietnam, Apr 2007 − Sept 2007
Thailand, Oct 2006 − Mar 2007
Sunday, February 26, 2012 − My Favorite Travel Things
I was thinking that if Oprah could have her favorite things list, why couldn't I? Oprah's list is great, but outside of my personal lifestyle. Here's a list for you ladies who, like myself, have itchy feet. My favorite TRAVEL things for packing light. This list is made for the traveler who will be gone for no less than a month living a modest lifestyle.
First rule of travel and packing, is know thyself, which I guess applies to everything in life. When you pack and travel, you have to be cognizant of whether you are the type of person who hates carrying heavy bags (me), or has to have a certain level of creature comforts. With this in mind, we can pack that extra thing to give us comfort but be watchful when need turns into a heavy bulky beast.
My theory about all things packing is to pack light, and cheap (unless you are absolute certain it is perfect). If you pack something that is expensive or in some way precious, you will not be able to abandon it if it turns out to be the wrong size, unnecessary or somehow inappropriate. For example, I once bought one of those overpriced small lightweight umbrellas. It was totally impractical and I didn't use it very often. If it were cheap, I would've abandoned it in a heartbeat but because it was a little luxurious I carried it way too long, probably until right before the rainy season started. This is the very reason I never travel with borrowed luggage. On numerous occasions I have bought smaller or larger cheap luggage and abandoned the other. At one point, I was travelling with just a cloth shoulder bag. It was great because it wasn't flashy and seemed to have limitless capacity. Because it was cloth, it was also a pretty good pillow. The downside was that it wasn't really comfortable to carry and the top didn't close really. For the most part, I just had clothing in it but when on a train and moving about, one still wants to have it closed securely. I am not really that big of fan of backpacks but I am coming to the conclusion that they might be a necessity. There really is nothing like having the weight of your belongings distributed across your back.
Try not to select a black backpack, everyone has one and they are difficult to spot and find things in. That said, light colors show the dirt quickly, where as a pattern will show it less. I prefer a small pack that will force me to pack light. I hate to schlep and I often feel burdened and hamstrung by a big pack or suitcase. Let's say you are on an extremely crowded train. How likely are you to pick a huge bit of luggage up and shove your way through the masses? For me it is a lot easier choice if I have a small bag that I can hold in front of me as I shove my way through. A pocket on the side for a water bottle is nice but generally I will carry it on my shoulder bag. A handle on the top makes it easier to pickup. Straps on the sides for attaching things like jackets, wet towels, and yoga mats are nice if not essential. An attachable strap to adhere it to a rack. Add a lock for added security. Even just looping a strap through a rack can be deterrent to prevent a quick grab and dash as you sit and watch. A rubberized bottom to protect against dirt and moisture would be good. Many book backpacks come with a padded laptop compartment −−− yes it takes up extra space however, it will probably be a good place for your camera if you carry one.
A hidden money belt made of a natural fabric is needed. I don't like my money belts to be too bulky or it will be uncomfortable. Essentially I only carry my passport and larger sums of emergency money. I once had one of those things that hangs around your neck, under your shirt. Couldn't have been more obvious or easier to steal. The downside of natural fabrics is that your perspiration might moisten your passport and money. Money, who cares but sucks to have to replace your passport before expiration date.
Second Rule is bring as few items as possible, obviously, but make the ones you do bring multipurpose. My weakness is that I like to bring small useful things, and to bring an extra one just−in−case. So, instead of one, I'd bring two. Sure each little item is, well, little but ten little items will add undesirable bulk and more importantly weight.
All the experts say to pack it all up and walk around the block with your pack before you go. Now really, who has time for that? However if you do it, chances are you will be coming back to lighten the load. Reassess − can you take out a couple of these, or one less of that? Put aside those maybe's. That small pile weighs just a little too much doesn't it? Have faith that whatever you need, you will be able to buy on the road. It is part of the adventure. Part of travel stress, is trying to do too much. Make a plan but realize that things will go awry. That's part of the adventure. Relax and know that this is part of the plan too, just not yours.
So, even though you will be packing light, you will still want a shoulder bag to carry your valuables, and day trip things. Select a bag that will be comfortable but also big enough for camera, cellphone, water.
All the Rest
- Paper clips − good to have a couple
- Binder Clips − great to have − to close up snack bags and necessary as clothes pins. Paper clips snag clothing.
- Rubber Bands − just a couple, elastic hairbands are probably more versatile
- Pen − but only bring one. They are easy to find abroad.
- Sharpie with tape around it − sharpies write on anything plus a permanent marker are necessary for international mailing
- zip ties − Useful to repair things. Or as a lock replacement or in addition to a lock. When I check in luggage, I would sometimes put on a zip tie. If someone went into my bag, I would know as the tie would be cut.
- Smartphone − a good smartphone can replace many things and really lighten your load. It can be used as a camera, a music and podcast player, and to read books including travel guidebooks. In addition, it can provide maps and GPS directioning. You will also be able to access the internet more readily either through wifi or through your sim/cellphone service.
A note on cellphone service: essentially, many less developed countries skipped the wired stage and went right to wireless therefore it is actually quite easy and cheap to get a data plan through a cellphone service. In some countries, cellphone service is a simple as stopping by the nearest convenience store. In others you will need to provide passport and other details. Regardless, it is generally much more reasonably priced than cellphone service here. You will need a phone in which you can swap out the sim card plus your phone will need to be unlocked. Smartphones are about the same price here as abroad, so you might as well get it here. If a smartphone is outside your comfort zone, I still would recommend a cellphone. For me they add a layer of security plus they obviously are good for making reservations etc. I just like the feeling of having a phone to use in emergencies. If you want to go low−end and going to a less developed country, then I would recommend just getting it in your destination. Lowend phones are cheaper and easier to comeby in poorer countries. Don't buy one off the street, but go to the mall. You may pay more but it's worth the extra $10.
- Extra Cellphone memory. If you plan on using your phone for photos, you may wish to bring extra memory.
- Cellphone Charger
- Power adaptors change the plug to one that will fit in to one that fits your destinations. Don't bring the whole set, just bring the one you will need most. These are generally fairly easy to buy abroad. You might also need a power converter which actually changes the type of electricity. Chargers are meant to use the power type of the country you bought it in and all countries do not use the same. Many power cords are meant to be universal. I can't explain the details but you need to look at the back of the plug and compare input values (volts and hertz) to those of the country you are going. It's possible it could work even if it's not the same but it is also possible it could burnout your plug or worse, your device.
- Extra cellphone battery − I bought a super fancy phone but the power lasts only one moment. I will be traveling with an external battery pack to keep my phone charged during the day while moving about.
- Flash drive for pictures and important documents.
- Wireless Keyboard for my smartphone but only if I have intentions of writing on the road
- Sim card holder − not easy to find − this is the one I like best http://www.mishu−things.com/index.php. It fits into a wallet and you can put in multiple sims plus the large pocket can be used too. Could use an empty breath stripes container but be sure to paint it or something so you don't accidentally throw it out.
- Electronic files − digital copies of important documents. Carry on a flash drive, cellphone and email to yourself for on the road access.
- List of important numbers including friends and family at home, any numbers of acquaintances abroad, plus US embassies at destinations. I have never had to use the number of my embassy for me but I once used the Australian embassy to help a lost Aussie. Also, get your hotel details. One time I was on a tour from the hotel I was staying in New Delhi India. I ended up in this sticky situation and so I called the hotel. The owner helped me navigate the situation and all was well. I was really grateful that I had a cellphone and the hotel number with me. Always pick up a business card of the hotel you are staying upon check−in and carry it with you at all times. When I was very young, I moved to Chicago and stayed at the hostel in a questionable neighborhood for the first few weeks. One night I went to the grocery store. I stopped into a little shop on the way back and I got turned around when I left. I didn't have the address or number of the hostel with me and it wasn't listed in the phonebook. It didn't have a sign up so no one knew it. I ended up asking a kid directions to a college that I knew was nearby. I had a brief period of panic and learned my lesson the hard way.
- Music & podcasts
Health & Beauty
Remember all of bottles and tubes need to be small enough for carry−on. Most of these things, probably all, are available everywhere in the world and shopping for things while traveling is part of the fun. Just keep an eye on your things to leave plenty of time for shopping. You don't want to wait until you are completely out of toothpaste before getting another. So, keep an eye out for necessities as you are wandering about.
Comb to keep you looking respectable. This is the one item that I don't have a special one for travel.
- Tissue packets − always a great thing to have, available in some countries but not others.
- Towel − Don't bring one but if you must, bring something cheap that you can replace if it were to get too grungy. On one of my first trips, I bought this super absorbent, light weight towel. My first stop was Thailand and that thing got stinky quickly. I had confused absorbent with quick dry. If you will mainly be staying in hotels, then towels are generally provided. In a pinch you can always use a t−shirt to dry off. Or a sarong.
- Feminine Products − pads are available everywhere, tampons less so. Only bring what you will need not a year's supply. Do a little math and save the space and weight. Every little bit helps
- Non−prescription pharmaceuticals − only bring what you will need for a few days. Most things (even many prescription drugs) can be gotten cheap and readily. Only bring enough to tide you over until you make it to a pharmacy which is probably only a day or two. A note on transporting pills: it is rumored that you should keep them in the original bottle but bottles are bulky and heavy. I vote throw them in a plastic bag. I recently picked up some specialized small ones at the travel luggage store for this purpose. They certainly aren't necessary but I liked the compact size and the sturdy plastic. I have never had anyone look at my medications and I have been known to travel with many during my first trip. However, I never get checked anyway −−− middle aged woman travelling alone. Oddly enough, I get checked more frequently on domestic trips than I do abroad. My philosophy on medications is that if questioned I will tell them to send them to a lab for testing while I wait (keeping a sample for myself of course) and call the embassy to inform them of the situation but honestly no has even asked. If you are carrying only the amount for personal use, even a neurotic's personal use, you shouldn't be hassled.
- Airborne − mostly for the plane, but good when you are feeling run down. I like the packets more than the tablets although more difficult to find. The packets can be easily put into a water bottle.
- Pain Killer − for aching muscles and headaches and a fever reducer
- Cold Tablets
- Diarrhea medication
- medicated balm like Tiger balm − these balms have many uses. there is the obvious muscle pain relief but they can also be used on insect bites and I think even as an insect repellent in a pinch. Rubbed on temples they aid headaches. I am not a huge fan of Tiger balm − too popular perhaps but I do like White Flower. Comes in small 5ml bottles of clear liquid.
- Multivitamin − these aren't that easy (or cheap) to find. Bring some but use them sparingly, maybe plan on taking them every few days.
- Stomach Bacteria − found this helps reduce stomach issues. Buy the ones that need no refrigeration. I might bring only a month's supply.
- Prescription drugs − Almost all prescriptions are available abroad. However, the quality control is often questionable.
- Fiber − ah, how to keep regular when you are not eating uncooked produce. Dried fruit is nice too but you always have to be wary of vermin issues and it's bulker and heavier than pill forms.
- Earplugs − for those noisy hotel guests and don't forget to put a pair in your handbag for that crying baby on the plane. Bring extras to give to new friends. Small and light weight.
- Back scrubber − one of those pieces of rough fabric. I like them because they are lightweight and can also use it on my face. If you are only go for a few weeks, I would probably just forgo it.
- CocoButter Stick − can be used on lips, and dry skin and feet, very useful.
- Lip Balm with UV protection, could just use the cocoa butter but lip balm has UV protection and adds a little color and shine
- Band−Aids − in a travel pack. yes that little thing is overpriced but nobody wants to put on a tattered bandaid on open blister.
- Nail Clipper with mini file thing− also good for cutting string and such
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste − easy to find and cheap. small tube so no carry−on issues.
- Floss − this can be difficult to find. It's there but you might just have to get it at a pharmacy. Recently, my sister gave me her dentist's business card that had dental floss in it. I want more of those as they are more compact and lighter.
- Hand sanitizer, can also be used to clean a filthy toilet and dab on a cut but brace yourself against the pain. Readily available in most larger cities.
- Sun block − available most places but can be expensive
- insect repellent − same. I don't usually travel with it. I use balm if I am desperate.
- deodorant − you don't use as much as you think. Buy as small of a one as you can find. It's also a little heavy. In Thailand they sell really small ones for $1 at the convenience store. If you are not a smelly person, you could also just try using deodorant soap and forgo deodorant altogether
- Shampoo packets − We get them here as samples but they are also sold abroad in poorer countries for almost nothing. Very convenient for travel, however, most women will need at least 2 packets per washing.
- All−in−1 soap/shampoo/laundry − like Dr. Bronner's. You can use this for everything, wash your body, hair, clothes everything, even your teeth. Not super spectacular on hair but for a couple of months, what's the harm? It'll grow back.
- Shaver − only bring one. Men everywhere shave.
- Footbrush and pumice stone − If you are wearing sandals every day, your feet will get nasty like an old peasant woman's. If you are only traveling for a month or so or if won't be wearing sandals, don't worry about it but if you are going to be gone for a long time, a footbrush with pumice stone will be a very nice thing. I bought a brush/stone combination for 25cents in Bangkok at the convenience store. (Gotta love the Thailand convenience store.) When I was in India, and at that point, been traveling for over a year. An Indian friend took me to a salon for haircut and since we were sitting there we got pedicures too. The poor guy ended up bringing out a rasp − I am not kidding. One of those giant files that they use on wood. That was pretty sad and a little embarrassing. My Indian friend wasn't really willing to laugh about it with me nor did she find me comments about having feet like an old peasant woman amusing.
- Nail polish − years ago I met a woman who traveled with polish because she couldn't stand to look at dirty toenails. This is true if you are traveling in warm climates in which you will be only wearing sandals (also see commentary on foot scrubber). It is a nice special treat. Now days they make those tiny little bottles. I say bring the tiny treat but do not think beyond this and start to bring files, and clippers and remover. Only the polish is needed.
Perfume − this certainly is in the same category as nail polish. Perhaps bring a small bottle or sample with you to keep you and your pack smelling fresh. Please note that perfume should not be used as a replacement to good personal hygiene.
I am of the opinion that clothes should be of the same color scheme such that if you wash things together nothing will get stained from color dye running. It's not really all that easy however. I like my pants to be dark but don't really want to wear a black t−shirt with black pants. I think even a dark brown shirt with black pants in most countries will be seen as strange. That said, you could choose to not care as no matter what you will be regarded as strange. Everything must be mix and match like granimals from when you were a child; Every shirt must match every pair of pants. You may be wondering if you should pack something nicer for dinners out. My instincts say no but I am not really the type to go to fancy restaurants. I am more of the type of person to eat street food. I think most fancy restaurants will be for tourists anyhow and so it's unlikely that they will be shocked by your traveling clothes. You could also buy a new outfit every time you want to go fancy then ship home afterwards. It will be like Christmas when arrive home and find these packages waiting for you. On my first long trip, I shipped a package home every couple of months. When I got back and opened them, I was surprised by all this great stuff I forgot I bought. Yes, shipping is expensive (could be $60 or more), but it's totally worth it. You can also put in unwanted items to send back.
What you really want are your current clothes but specially selected. The features you are looking for are no wrinkle, fast drying, with colors that won't show the dirt quickly. No need to go buy special travel clothes, unless this is already your style. That said, some of the travel clothes are great, and stylish. First go through your wardrobe and select out possible travel pieces. Winnow it down and see if there is anything missing. Be careful with buying clothes just for a trip as they may turn out to not fit right. Use it for awhile before you go to make sure it's good.
On a related note, shopping for clothes abroad. It's a really nice theory that you will be able to discard tattered faded stained clothes and buy new while traveling. It's possible but it depends upon your personal style, and your size. In many countries, the women just are not as large as western women. I am short by American standards but in Southeast Asia I am a big girl, garnering a size L, normally a small or even extra small here. If you are good with hippie−wear, by all means bring your old junky clothes and planning on buying new as you travel. That would be great fun and adding a reason to shop.
- 3 fast dry panties − you need at least 2, maybe even three if you are menstruating. Think about it. You are wearing one. They are soiled. You wash them. You put on your clean ones but a few hours later you'd like to shower but the first ones are still wet. You are going to put on dirty underwear after a shower? Really, they are so small and lightweight, that I am thinking 3 pairs are a necessity. Plus, let me add, let's say you are staying at a hostel in a shared room, mixed gender. Do you really want to rinse out your panties and hang them to dry in the room? This again is a matter of comfort−level, know thyself. Another option is that there is such a thing as disposable panties. I think I have only seen them in China and thus Chinatowns. They are cheap and the fabric is like covers on some feminine pads. They are disposable and I have been known to get away with a few washings. The downside is that they are not all that easy to find and thus, if you have them you might be inclined to hang on to them for fear you will not have them when you really need them. So, you carry them around without using them. Pointless.
- Bras − You will want 2 bras for a similar reason as the panties. Plus, in hot climates, bras can get icky fast and need frequent washing. Bras are not that easy to get abroad. Not because they aren't there but because they aren't styles and sizes we need and want.
Even if you are going to a warm climate bring socks. Trains can be extremely cold and occasionally you might hit a cold night. Also, they are good for a little extra protection like let's say you want to go on a little hike, add socks under sandals to protect against leeches. Don't go getting all high tech as those are expensive and if you decide to ditch them, no problem. If it gets cold and probably wet at the same time, you will need a second pair. Luckily, socks are cheap, and available abroad in funny little patterns.
- 2 pairs of cropped pants. Always appropriate, unlike shorts. Cooler than full length pants and better in the rain. I am not a skirt wearer as I feel vulnerable in one. Skirts that fall below the knee are also appropriate but I wouldn't wear one above the knee. One thing you have to remember is that you as a western woman are seen as having loose morals. Don't add to it by dressing at all revealing. Try to think like an old church lady.
- Pajamas top (should be one you can wear as a shirt too) & PJ bottoms. Your sleepwear should be as conservative as your day wear. You maybe wandering halls at night to use a shared bathroom and you really don't want to send the wrong kind of message. Plus, if ever you want to wash all your clothes at once, for example, a cat peed on your pack. You can wear your pajamas to lounge around. In some countries, there seems to be very little difference between these clothes. I remember when I first arrived in Asia, I was wondering why all these people were wandering the streets in pajamas.
- 1 long sleeved shirt − I have a few thoughts on this. and you might actually want to bring 2 − one long sleeve t−shirt and another would be a light weight cotton button down that can be worn at the beach, or as a light−weight jacket, and can protect you from the sun as you are tooling around the countryside on a motorbike. You definitely want to bring the button shirt but as for a long sleeved T, I am not sure. It depends where you are going and the predicted weather there. Right now, it's winter here and I think a long sleeved T is a good idea however when I land in a place where it's 80F and 100% humidity, I might realize the error of my thinking. I guess I would play it one of 2 ways, either bring only the one shirt and planning on buying if I need another. Or I might bring a second shirt with that I am comfortable abandoning.
- 2 short sleeved shirts − both must match both pairs of pants. (Actually, if you include the one for pajamas, you will have 3 shirts.)
- Black silk long johns or leggings − previously I would've sworn by the silk long johns, even in a warm climate (that can have cool unpredictable weather) but I have recently had second thoughts thinking that leggings are far more versatile and add only a slight more bulk. However, be extremely careful about wearing them solo as they are so often inappropriate but most guidebooks will never explicitly state that skin tight clothing (especially for the solo woman) is risky.
- Swimsuit − I am not much of a swimmer so I never travel with one but if you are you might bring one or consider having colorful underwear that can be passed off as one.
- Shoes − One pair, which you will wear so will never carry. For me I like Teva sandals. You will be walking walking walking. Be sure they are comfortable. Obviously, they are great in rain, and warm enough and if you have to, stick some socks in them on cool days. Be European. A word of caution, the fancier your shoes, the more likely they will be stolen, but probably most desirable are name−brand sneakers. Sneakers are not that great in warm climates as they get stinky really fast. So do Tevas, actually, to remedy, I occasionally squeeze some hand sanitizer in them with my foot in it. I really don't recommend flipflops. Yes, they are cheap and easy to get but they are not great for walking, nor running if ever necessary. Some people like to bring them for inside hotels and showers even. To me, it's not worth the extra weight. With Tevas, I can put the back strap down and use them as a slip on. That's good enough for me.
- Silk scarf − one time I had the best scarf ever. It was magical. A silk scarf from Tibet. It wasn't one of those smooth textures but the more rough one. Multicolored so matched everything and was a very large square. I used it to stay warm, to shield myself from the sun and even, this is the magical part, the rain. I have never had a scarf since or before that would keep a light rain off of me. Ok. so we are never having that rain protection again, but I would still recommend one to keep warm. It's amazing that if you have a slight chill, wrapping your neck will work well. If you are really bold, wrap your head. Plus, sometimes that pillow looks nasty, so that scarf makes a very nice barrier. I find them a little comforting. They are super compact and lightweight. Plus, they can accessorize your wardrobe.
- A cotton sarongs is very very useful. Can be used like a wrap, and obviously a skirt, but can be also used as a towel, or a sheet. Really excellent. A few bits of advice on sarongs − try to find one that doesn't look like a sarong, you will get more use out of it. Tie−dye sarongs are very popular in beach destinations. There cheap and pretty but they scream beach. I would like one that has a more neutral feel, however I have yet to find one. Also be aware, that some sarongs are not cotton but polyester. They dry fast, because water runs off of them. Good for a make−shift umbrella but sucks as a towel, no pun intended.
I am a big fan of abandonment, not so much of children, but of unnecessary things. One thing to remember is that if you leave that item behind at a hotel, some cleaning person can use it or sell it. In a way, it's like a tip. Spread your good fortune and embrace abandonment.
- Passport, of course
- Important papers − what exactly you will need depends upon your destination. Some countries might require health and financial documentations. Most, however, do not. Unless, you are pretty sure you will need them, I would only carry digital copies.
- Money: I like to carry about USD$500 which is enough to keep you for a good period of time. This you will keep primarily for emergencies. This amount of cash will buy you out of most any trouble and depending on your lifestyle, is enough to live on for a number of days. One time when I was in India, my ATM card, nor my companion's, didn't work. It was a worrisome situation. Since then, I always travel with enough money to keep me safe. For me $500, is good. It's still a huge sum in many countries but not an obscene amount. If I lost it, it would suck but not be the end of the world. However, it's enough to pay for rooms, food, and transportation for a number of days. If I had less, I might be forced to move on prematurely.
Before I leave home, I like to have a little bit of my destination currency, like maybe $100. However, most airports these days, have ATMs, and certainly currency exchanges. The Currency exchanges at airports have notoriously poor rates but it really is a good idea to have some local currency before leaving the airport. Find out before departure and plan accordingly. Know your comfort zone. When I head to a new destination, I am more prepared.
A note on handling money: as a tourist you are a target because you have money and you stick out, probably because of your skin color and nothing you wear will make you blend. Even if you are the right skin color, and have the same clothes, there is a subtly that will make you stick out. I grew up in Wisconsin and when I go back, every person knows that I am not from there. Honestly, I, like them, am wearing jeans and t−shirts but still there is something about me that is a big red flag. So, the point is you are a target. You don't blend. They want your money, and your goods too. So, besides your emergency cash, don't carry large sums of money. Carry only enough for a few days. ATMs are prevalent almost everywhere these days, just check your card will work abroad. It's true that some banks charge high fees − like $5 or more per transaction but traveler's checks are not that common anymore and are not cheap. Is it worth opening up an account in a more fee friendly bank? Maybe. It depends upon how long you will be gone. Spread your money out: keep most of it in your spending money in your pocket, but some can be in your backpack, your shoulder bag, obviously most in your money belt, a small amount in your wallet including a modest amount of emergency money, like $40. Put some in your shoe even. I like to keep a piece of paper with my larger sums to keep track of additions and deductions. Some thieves are very clever, they won't steal all your money just a portion. If it were all gone you would know it were stolen but if it's just some then you are not sure thinking that perhaps you spent some but forgot.
- Individually wrapped snacks. Very handy for traveling. Bring a couple different types: protein, sweet, savory. On my first real trip, my first stop was a meditation retreat. I heard that we couldn't eat after noon so I was afraid I would starve so I made and brought a gallon−sized bag of trail mix. It was a tropical climate. I didn't eat hardly any, if any. It got soggy very quickly plus I had to keep vigilant for ants.
- Extra passport photos − Keep a few extra passport photos in your wallet just in case you run into some sort of visa issue. Good to just have in your wallet for emergencies. Keep a couple in your backpack too as identification. A thief might have some difficulty explaining what pictures of you are doing in the bottom of his bag.
- Handkerchief or bandanas, although more ugly are a more useful size. To be used as napkins, washcloths, scarf, headband and God forbid, a tourniquet. They are small and useful, so I would bring 2. Keep one your backpack and one in your handbag.
- Ziploc bags − I have to confess these I hoard. They are difficult to find abroad but oh so useful. I like the small snack size to carry gum and candy that go sticky quickly in tropical climates. And the large ones with the zipper thingy are very good. I recently saw some guy do a demo on Utube showing how to wash clothes in a big expensive travel pouch. I think I will try this next time although using a 2 gallon ziplock. I never carry a bulky heavy toiletry bag, instead I use a large Ziploc.
- Plastic grocery bag − for the apple core and candy wrapper, and dirty laundry.
- Nylon grocery bags − for a bit of extra carrying room and to save the environment abroad too. (I acknowledge the irony of the having plastic bags followed by plastic grocery bags). an extra bag, if you run into overweight luggage issues, often times you can just put a few things in a spare sack to carryon
- A few feet of string − useful many purposes but mostly for stringing up as clothes line. I like the plastic stuff that they use in Chinatown a lot which comes in various colors. A giant roll can be purchased abroad for a very small sum. Special travel clothes lines are available but I think they are too heavy and limiting. String works everywhere.
- Clay sink plug − this is my new invention. Often times you want to do laundry in a sink or take a bath but there is no plug and there really is no universal plug. So, I carry a hunk of non−hardening clay which I put into a plastic bag and jam into the drain. The bag prevents it slipping in and causing jam as clay can soften in hot water. Can also be wedged beneath a door to form a door jam.
- Key chain flashlight − indispensible. They can be a little expensive ($20) but worth it to have a light in a dark hallway when fumbling with a key, or after dark in a small town. Don't buy from Brookstones. That one sucked − broke almost immediately.
- Lock − useful for securing bag for short periods.
- spoon/chopsticks and bowl (forks often can't be carried on.) There might come a point when you want to make just a little something or eat street food in your room. Buy a knife upon arrival as they are great for peeling fruit. Remember, can't be brought on a plane. This is certainly a know−thyself item. If in doubt, leave it out. These items certainly are available for purchase at your destination.
In Thailand I was able to buy small notebooks, about 2.5in x 2.5in for 25cents. They are super convenient. Even in this high tech day and age it is often more convenient to scribble a note on paper and with these tiny notebooks they are light and easy to carry. Plus, they aren't as easy to lose as a small scrap of paper that we tend to scribble things on. I don't use it tons but it's a great way to keep notes. If you want to get really fancy, create a little pocket it in to keep those business cards you pick up.
- A luggage tag or something to quickly identify your luggage, particularly if you have a generic looking bag. On a related note, probably a good idea not to advertise your name and address on it. Also, I think it's probably a good idea to have some sort of identification card in the bottom of your bag in case there is ever any question about ownership.
- Neck pillow − I might be bringing a neck pillow on my trip. This might fall into that grey area of know−thyself. If I do bring one, it will be one of those super cheap blow−up ones with the flocking on the outside. Of course, I will use it on the plane. It might come in handy to use instead of nasty hotel pillow. Also I think I could use it as a portable meditation cushion. For me it's the right height, plus I think it would perfect for not cutting off circulation. It's small and compact. If later, I decide it's a useless piece of extra weight, I can happily abandon it.
- Pencil case − I keep not only my extra pen in a pencil case, but also my small amounts of various currencies and receipts
- Water Purifiers. This is a difficult one. I used to travel with one of those light wands but rarely used it. One the rare occasion I did, I was always worried about the toxins in the water that were not affected by the UV light. So the next time, I brought iodine tablets for emergency water only because it is really an uncomfortable feeling to have no drinking water and feeling like you are dehydrating. Didn't use that either but it's small. I'm not sure if I would travel with it again. To lighten my pollution load, I would try to reuse and refill my bottles at hotels when available. Not a great solution I admit.
- Safety pins − I never travel with needle and thread. Rarely do I need them and if I do they are easy to get, or better yet, easy to get stuff repaired. A pin will keep most things together until repairs are done.
- Carabineer − this another one of those items that I haven't actually travelled with but I like the idea of bringing. I travel most of the time alone and even if you don't, you can't possibly watch everything all the time. I think to clip your bag on something with a carbineer would be useful. Sure it's not a lock but it would prevent someone from casually walking by and lifting your bag. I once heard a story by a couple traveling on a bus. They were one of the first ones on a fairly empty bus. They put their bags in the luggage rack near them. Someone who they thought was an employee, came through adjusting luggage and took their bag and threw it out the window to a waiting accomplice. If they had a simple thing like a carabineer attaching it to the rack, they might have been foiled. Of course, you could use a strap or something but I like the idea of this little metal loop that you can just have conveniently hooked on your bags. Plus, I have fantasies that it might be useful for other things.
Since I like to travel light, I don't carry a lot of clothes so I am frequently washing. and with so few items, I am not likely to get them done by a service. Plus, the services are hit and miss, sometimes the clothes coming back dirtier then when they started. I have never traveled with just one or two pairs of underwear but I might next time. I doubt I would ever travel with just one, or even two. To me it seems like a minimum of 3 pairs. One to wear, one dirty, and then you arrive somewhere exhausted and you want a shower but you have no clean underwear −−− I am thinking 3 would be good. Plus, any menstrual cycle issues: 3 seems necessary. The idea with 2 pairs of underwear is you are wearing one and the other is being washed/drying. So, you are traveling with only a few items so pretty much nightly you will be washing either when you arrive or before bed. When you wash only an item or two, it doesn't take long. Most hotel sinks do not have plugs, so I bring a lump of non−drying clay in a plastic bag. It must be in a plastic bag or it will melt in hot water and clog drain. (bad) Use that in the sink. I recently read about someone who travelled with one of those expensive super seal travel bags. He used it to wash clothes in. I like that idea a lot but am not crazy about spending $20 for a essentially a Ziploc bag. So instead, I will use a 2 gallon Ziploc bag. it's just like a salad shaker. Put all the stuff in and shake. Dump out dirty water, put in clean water and shake again. Drain and squeeze your laundry. Hang to dry. Also, flip the bag inside out and hang also. These bags can have secondary uses such as putting in wet towels, or storing other things.
Thursday, November 25, 2010 − Elephant
Today a fellow meditator and traveler and I decided to go to a historical town near Bangkok, Ayutthaya. We wandered randomly and happily. As the sun was high in the sky and we were heating up also, we decided to head back to the city when we spotted elephants. You know the ones who are “tame” and give wide-eyed tourists a ride of a lifetime. My new friend was very excited by them and as I had actually seen very very few during my time in Asia, I too was curious to get an up-close look. I hate to admit by I, the cynic, may have even been tempted into taking a ride had my companions exuberance taken that direction. We walked up, around and across to see them. As we approached the grounds of these giant animals with seat strapped to their backs, our attention was drawn to a handler on top of an elephant. He was trying to get it to do something but it was not cooperating. The handler, a young man looking to be 15 but was probably in his 20s, was getting very frustrated very quickly. He pulled out what looked like a blunted pick-ax and whacked the elephant in the middle of its head with resounding thud. And again. And again.
Finally, the elephant passed up his flipflop. The elephant gave a loud retort in anger and they shot off to a nearby area. Again, a loud roar. We did not follow but stood in our own pain, and frustration. We gazed at the rest of the elephants in waiting. All of us, in the hot midday sun. After a few moments to recompose, we continued on our original journey back to the big bad city. This took us back across the new location of that elephant who was now in frustration thumping his trunk on the ground (which surprisingly made the exact sound a plastic tube makes when thumped on the ground) and an occasional roar. Also, she was rubbing her head with her trunk where he hit her with the pickax.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010 − Berlin First Impressions
The Germans are known for being organized and efficient. At the Bangkok airport, the check-in line was huge and slow. That was my first impression and I realized that perhaps my stereotype of Germany was not going to be accurate. The airplane was clean, as I had expected but a bit tattered. The attendants were refreshingly normal looking i.e. not super beautiful (or should I say uber beautiful). They kept speaking to me in German. Guilt by association I guess. The Berlin airport, Tegel, was small and not nice. Catching a taxi was annoying. No line. No organization. Stand on the curb and wait. The taxis would not pull up to the beginning but just stop anywhere, usually at what I would consider the end. Not efficient. On the rather pleasant ride to the hotel, I saw many people riding bicycles including people in business attire. I had heard that people bike in Berlin but that was great to see. Warmed my heart. Inspired me to bike. I feel safe here but also feel people are annoyed by my lack of German. I have no way to communicate. The bad English spoken here and accents are different from those in Asia. I am having a tiny bit of a problem understanding them. The people here are not particularly friendly and to me seem to speak in a rude abrupt manner. I haven’t decided if it is cultural or if they are being rude. I have already learned two words: kase, cheese, and spinat, spinach. I learned kase on the plane, remembered it because it sounds like the Spanish word for cheese, queso. Spinat I learned while wandering around with my friend who I made tell me what was on a menu. I feel fluency just around the corner. As always with jetlag, I was up at the crack of dawn. I went to the bakery. Had a piece of bread with scrambled egg on it. Surprisingly delicious. Soon I will be pudgy again.
I am having fun already.
Saturday, June 5, 2010 − Finals Days in Hanoi Part II
Yesterday, a very busy day. Spent the morning making art and sorting things. Then went to eat and coffee finishing my postcards. Came back to address said cards and found I did not have everyone’s address. Went to workplace to pick up pay. The 5th is always payday. Walk in and she tells me she isn’t work today. I tell her I am leaving on Monday, shrug and wait. I say I told the dingdong manager. I get my money begrudgingly. I then go to sell books and exchange money. Surprisingly I am able to get Euros. Happy day. Then to the post office where I lay down nearly $20 to mail about 20 cards and letters. Ouch. I am now hungry so I eat a sticky rice thing, perhaps one last time. Off to meet the 20 year old interpreter so we can try to get some stories from tea ladies. We start with my tea lady friend and we get very little. We realize that it is going to be nearly impossible to get anything interesting. Although, we do chit chat with one policeman who finds out I am American and tells about when he was 10 we were bombing Hanoi a lot. So he moved to the countryside and there a bomb struck and killed 34 people. He has a vivid memory of this. He then goes on to tell how Nixon was better than LBJ because his bombing accuracy was better. I have to say these conversations always make me uncomfortable. Turns out the interpreter’s grandmother was a tea lady and now her aunt is. So, after drinking tea, eating snacks and chatting we head to see her family. We found out a lot more about the business but did not hear any interesting personal stories. The reason I wanted to do this before I left was because I was wondering if I could comeback and do a story, video, or book on it. As it turns out, I think it will be nearly impossible because it is sooo hard to get to the good story. So, I tried. Then I went to eat Che. Talked to an orchestra conductor from Albany NY who was going to be conducting the Vietnamese symphony at the Opera House. I felt certain it was going to suck. I had tickets to see some Haitian band. It was fun but long and as time went on I could only think about all the things I needed to do. Seats were really inexpensive but it was mostly empty. What a pity.
Friday, June 4, 2010 − Finals Days in Hanoi Part I
After being in Asia, mostly Hanoi, for over a year, I am leaving on Monday to go to Berlin, Germany for the summer. These entry is about my last few days here.
After carrying around a fabulous piece of fabric for literally years, I was going to get pants made from it and get a pair of my favorite pants remade too. I went to “the” place in town and they said nearly $30 each without fabric and 10 days. I didn’t have 10 days; didn’t want to pay $60. A different place was recommended by a friend. I went and was able to convey my needs in my basic Vietnamese as well as pointing and drawing. Pants would be done on the 6th, no 4th because of my departure day. She was really nice and helpful. On Wednesday, I finally took a long awaited solo motorbike trip, albeit only for the day. It was a great experience and made me realize some of the drawbacks that I would have to address before I hit the road for a longer period of time. I have been making art. When I returned to Hanoi 3 months ago, I promised myself that I would not have any other aspirations other than making money by teaching English. One day while out with a friend we stopped at an art supply store. I bought a pad of watercolor paper and forgot all about my earlier declaration. Well, that had been forgotten anyway, as soon as I started teaching English and was ousted by an adult class and was relegated to teaching little children. I slowly had been working on these pieces which were scattered on my floor but had to be picked up with the lame cleaning woman came on Sunday mornings. Some how I got an urge and inspiration about what these pieces were about. I had been sort of chipping away at it but more images were wanting to be used and I realized the meaning. They are about what I had hoped would happen in Asia this trip, which did not. The series will be called Homage to Hopes and Desires. So, I have been cutting out things, and experimenting and even dying things in tea. It has been a great source of joy. I work on them for maybe an hour at a time multiple times a day. Yesterday, I drove all the way to the old Quarter to have banh gi (spelling? who knows) which is a square sticky rice patty split open with a bit of sandwich like meat stuck inside, and then had a nau da, Vietnamese iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk at my favorite cafe. Went to see an artist friend’s artwork and custom printed fabrics. In the evening, I went for bia hoi, with a friend’s son and wife. We drank cheap local beer at about 25 cents a glass. I tried to impress them with my knowledge of Vietnamese culture and failed miserably. Ended up ordering the wrong dishes. They are in their late 20s but are super great. Funny, delightful, and unpretentious, obviously not from NYC. Today, downloaded pictures of me being a tea lady from my camera. Tried to download the video too but lacked the right cables. Debated on whether to keep it to tape more interactions with tea ladies but decided it was too big of an overhead. Keep it simple. I have been organizing visits to more tea ladies, and perhaps a gentleman too, thinking it might turn into a book or video project, next time. Last Friday I bought a pack of cigarettes to burn out fishes out of a plastic tablecloth, to use in my art. Well, sadly I have become addicted and have been smoking them ever since. I am now out of cigarettes but want another pack. Like I want a cigarette right now. Went for “lunch” at 11:30am, then for coffee. Wrote some long overdue postcards. Some of them I have been carrying around for nearly a year. Made plans to meet up with a friend to get more pictures from being a tea lady. Went home and decided to work on my art a bit. Ended up losing track of time and left when I should’ve been arriving. Hung out with him and talked about life. I mean literally about the meaning of life. Left. Now I was hungry so I had banh gio which is rice flour with mushroom and meat in the center cooked in banana leaf. Also saw a new item and had to buy. It was sticky rice shaped in a square brick with pork fat wrapped in a banana leaf. Then I picked up my pants that I paid about ten dollars for two pairs. Initially fearful I forgot to bring enough money. Luckily it was super cheap. So, cheap I didn’t even bother to try them on. Left. Went home, worked on art and took a nap-ish. The food here has sooo much MSG that I often times feel like crap after eating. This was one of them. Worked on art some more. Tried to get a hold of people to return things to. No luck. Ate the above mentioned sticky rice thing, with a beer. Worked on more art, now writing.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 − Solo Mototrip
Today was my first ever real solo motorbike trip. I drove to a mountain national park. Except for in Hanoi, it was a pleasant drive and people were nice. A young couple had me follow them because they were going in the same direction. I followed them over a path in the gravel of an incomplete highway, down a brick road (not yellow), and over a suspension bridge (they even paid my toll.) The rest of the road was ... road. After we parted, I asked directions a few times. It was refreshing that these Vietnamese people understood my bad Vietnamese. I guess because it wasn’t going through the she−must−be−speaking−English filter. The park was beautiful. Misty, foggy, and empty. I road most of the 14 kilometers up the mountain but turned around figuring I had seen really all I would be able to as the fog thickened and I got chilly. Used the toilet (notice I did not say bathroom or restroom) on my way out of the park and headed home. Stopped for some hot green tea and a snack, twice. Hit Hanoi during rush hour. Ugh. That was poor planning on my part however, what was I to do outside of Hanoi alone until 8pm? As it turned out, I drove for about 5 hours which as a friend who is a seasoned roadtripper warned was too much. My butt, back, arms and shoulders hurt. My eyes burned. Overall it was great. Want to do a long distance trip. Can I?
Friday, May 28, 2010 − Cultural Immersion: Tea Lady
Hanoi has a vibrant street culture. A plethora of stores and restaurants flourish inside structures and on the sidewalks. A woman sells fruit from baskets balancing on a pole over her shoulder. Baguettes sold on the street corners. Men, on bicycles and with cases, sell accoutrements for men such as lighter fluid, wallets, and belts. Shoe shiners offer to make your shoes respectable again. The occasional kid sells gum. People are just out. Not to mention the thousands of motorbikes whizzing around. As time passes from morning to night, so shift the businesses. By day, a store is selling goods, but after closing, a street restaurant opens up.
Beside the hectic buzzing of the city, a culture of sitting and relaxing with friends, whether at a formal cafe, or a makeshift one on the sidewalk, also thrives. In the formal cafes coffee prevails, but on the streets it is tea. This is not the formal British high tea or the meditative traditional Asian tea. It is tea for the masses. It is cheap, fast and easy. The furniture is a small plastic table with tiny stools on a patch of sidewalk.
Mostly it is women setting up these little businesses. The tea lady job is not one passed down from generations nor is it held in high esteem. It is a job that people back into because they possibly have no other options. Sometimes they are unable to find a job in a factory or such, but also it is a job women can do with small children. The startup costs are minimal. The profit margin is large. On average they can make about $6 a day which might be more than they would make in a factory. They do not have to travel far, work for a boss, or in a very oppressive environment. As a tea lady, she sets her own schedule, and pace, while socializing with her customers, family and neighbors.
It is difficult to describe the fondness I have for such a thing as tea on the side of the street. Why are the tea stands so near and dear to my heart? For one thing, they are everywhere. They give you a place to sit, relax, and refresh, for just a minute or two, like a little rest stop, albeit without toilets. I remember wondering about these little places on the side of the street on my first visit a few years ago. I fortunately had one right outside where I was staying. So when waiting for someone, I would often sit and have a tea. Years later when I returned to Hanoi to work, I would sometimes find myself early for appointments and would wile away the time by having a tea. I felt that my fellow patrons were, like me, in between appointments. I loved these places. It seemed so civilized to me, to have a place to just recuperate for a few moments. When I stopped, no one hassled me. I just sipped my strong green tea and relaxed. The business is very informal. People sit. No one tries to get you to buy anything. People may even help themselves, particularly to the snacks.
As an artist with a history of performance, it seemed natural to immerse myself in the Vietnamese culture by being a tea lady. On the appointed day I arrived at 5pm. I sat and had tea with Thuy, the tea lady from whom I would rent a setup. We chatted a tiny bit but I really don't speak Vietnamese. I told her a friend would come at 5pm. When my college−student translator arrived I set about learning to be a tea lady right away. Thuy showed me how to make tea in a well−used porcelain teapot, kept hot in a wicker basket with a padded fabric lining and cover. We used hot water from large thermoses and loose green tea in a large clear plastic bag. The makings sat further away from the customers, I think because, if the police arrive, those things would be safe. Tea is served in small glass water glasses, 1,000VND (about 5 cents) or larger, perhaps plastic ones, for iced tea 2,000VND. The iced tea is made from the second run of tea from the pot. The tea is diluted with water in old plastic soda bottles and store-bought ice from a Styrofoam chest is added. There was a small bucket with water and limes to "wash" the glasses. Cigarettes, both loose and by the pack, are available (1,000VND per cigarette) as are lighters to use, usually with a piece of hose on it so as to not be accidentally taken home. A bamboo water pipe is also on hand for those who smoke loose tobacco. At some of these places bottled drinks are available, but Thuy has none. She also doesn't have a table, but instead only a basket with some snacks. Snacks consist of a few packaged cakes and seasonal fruits or vegetables, such as cucumbers, green mango and plums peeled and sliced on the spot, served with ground chili pepper and salt. Gum is also available.
We all sat on little red plastic chairs. Thuy told me how to serve the items and how much to charge. My interpreter was not required but I relied on her heavily anyway. I asked about police and received no definitive answer. They wouldn't come until after 10pm. I don't know why. It isn't exactly legal to sell things on the streets. In the more upscale neighborhoods, this activity is severely curtailed by confiscating the wares. No ticket is given and the items can be reclaimed the next day for a fee which would be less than the replacement value. I made the tea lady and her husband go away but, thankfully, they hovered around the edges. My translator left which made me rely heavily on gestures. The older Vietnamese men wanted to practice whatever foreign languages they spoke in years gone by with me: French, German, English. It was really very nice. One man insisted upon trying to converse with me in Vietnamese. I told him in Vietnamese I did not understand, repeatedly. He persisted. People were super honest and would give me money and explain exactly how much everything was. Two street cleaning women kept coming back for a tea or a smoke. They didn't stay long although it seemed to me that there was no boss present to hassle them. First there was the after work crowd to meet with a friend for a quick tea and chat with friend. Off and on all night the customers came in waves. Some would only do a quick purchase of a few cigarettes to go. Very few stayed for any real length of time which perhaps is testament that I make a very poor tea lady. This experience warmed my heart. The customers were nice, friendly, and helpful probably out of loyalty to Thuy.
Surprisingly very few expats came but the locals did. It seems Thuy has a thriving business of locals. They all came. They had tea and cigarettes. I made 85,000VND ($4.50) for her in about three hours. I suspect that was lower than usual but I don't know. It was fun and a little stressful because I have never been a tea lady before and I don't speak the language. It was great fun though. It was really a positive experience and if I had these types of experiences with these types of people, my view of Vietnamese people would be greatly improved. So I served them, they paid me. It was all fun and games. But it was also hard work to keep up and remember to do all the stuff.
Monday, May 3, 2010 − Political Unrest Thai Style
On a recent holiday weekend in Vietnam, I needed to do a visa run. The visa situation was getting increasingly difficult here so flight back into the country was required. Due to the last minute nature of this trip, Bangkok was the obvious choice, many tickets available although not as cheap as one would expect when going to country for which the US State Department has issued warnings. I had plans to meet up with a few different people, most of which fell through, except for a coffee with a friend with whom I worked more than 10 years ago. Where did they want to meet? At Silom, which had seen plenty of action. So, being a good tourist, I took pictures. The Thai Police seemed to enjoying the photo op as much as myself: taking pictures with their cellphones and happily posing for me. Very cute.
I am absolutely no expert on the situation but this is what I have come to understand. A few years ago when I first visited Thailand they had a bloodless coup in which President Thaskin was ousted for corruption. Since then the Yellow Shirts (anti−Thaskin) have had many protests including one in which they took over and shut down the airport. I have been told that the Yellow Shirts are from the upper classes of Thailand. Traditionally, yellow has been the color they wear to show they love the King. Now, this new activity is by the Red Shirts. These people are Thaskin supporters and want him back. They are rumored to be the poor from the countryside and are being paid nearly double the going daily rate of laborers plus a promise of a few thousand dollars if they succeed. The police were wearing little snippets of pink ribbon to show that they are neither Yellow nor Red Shirts.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 − Funny Moments in Nepal
Sometimes you have one of those funny conversations with a friend that leaves you wishing you had or could record it. I was talking to Christina, I called her for her birthday which is tomorrow, but given the fact that I am in a third world country and tomorrow there may be no internet or perhaps power even, I thought I should just do it today cuz I can. I try not to dominate the conversation but sometimes I just have stuff to say, and the other doesn't. So, I started out telling her how I almost burned the house with the gas geyser. A small wall unit water heater is called a geyser (not pronounced like that gushing water spout in Yellowstone Park but like the old guy down the street.) I was fortunate enough to actually have hot water here. I was very excited, and really needed a shower. So, I got up in the morning, leaving extra time for said shower, since, I am in a third world country and I know how these things go. So, the day before the guy showed me how to use it. He merely turned the water on, and it went on, turn the water off the geyser went off. So, I know from experience that past performance is not indicative of future results, so I turned it on to test it out before I got all excited and took off my clothes. FYI the temperature has dropped her so it is cold and there is no heat. It seemed to work fine so I shut it off, and went and got some clean clothes and took mine off. Turned it back on and it started to spew steam, and water, and brown water, so I shut the water off but the geyser didn't go off. I just started to get hotter and hotter, so I turned the water back on, and it spewed steam and crazy crap again. So I turned it off but again it didn't go off. I was starting to get nervous and there was a smell of heated plastic. So I put my clothes back on, and continued to turn the water on and off. Looked for an off button, maybe even an emergency switch. Looked at the gas canister for the nozzle to turn it off but there wasn't one I could identify. The canister was conveniently located right below geyser, which was now heating up and smoking. I went to the hall to see if my upstairs neighbors could be spotted but went back in to monitor geyser. Finally got so nervous I started to go upstairs when a young man came down and I am speaking gibberish I am sure – the geyser, can't turn off, heating up. He came in and poked around and managed to find the turn off on the gas canister and maybe some other buttons. I am not sure he spoke English but was helpful as I stood in my western pajamas of knee length bag shorts and t−shirt. I think this was not appropriate attire for a fire since they, he and his mother, seemed to be averting their eyes. The woman about my age with plenty'o kids told me in spotty English that it was dangerous like somehow I only thought my smoking gas geyser was inconvenient and I exclaimed "I know, I know". They left without fanfare and I was left with a smokey wall and the smell of burnt plastic.
Okay so that wasn't even the funny part of the conversation. My disclaimer is that I was over tired from adjusting to another new country, and hopped up on inhaler for my asthma. So I was describing the apartment to her. The bedrooms are clean because no one uses them but the living room area is apparently a lounge for I am not sure who so that the couch is filthy and there are boogers on the wall above it. Christina is her innocence says something about no tissue handy and I was thinking, it's a third world country these people don't carry tissues but instead out comes "just eat it for godsakes. It's just boogers." It's a third world country; this place is filthy. These people are horking up lougies and wiping their asses with their hands and don't believe in soap. What the hell is a little booger? Well, with keeping with the third world−ness, they were right in it when they smeared the boogers on the wall above the couch, it's just a little booger. It does sort of match the "muddy" finger prints on the wall. (Where did they get the "mud"?) Anyway my little comment about just eat it had me in hysterics because although this thought did not go through the appropriate sensors it was that truth that is so deeply buried that we are not even aware of it until we are exhausted and it comes tumbling out. In a country like this what is a little booger but perhaps a nice snack.
Saturday, November 14, 2009 − Night Interrupted
Could not take Thamel, the tourist area in Kathmandu so I went to Pokhara, also touristy but more pleasant. Have I mentioned I love my little room in my new hotel? Well, I love my little room in this new building of the Chetrie Sisters. The one problem is that I must share a bathroom. Hell, it's the Chetrie SISTERS so I figure it's going to mostly women. First, it's just me, but two nights ago, a couple moved in, a hetero couple, which means a man, which means I need to check the toilet seat now. I have pretty good sleep in this little room except for being waken in the morning by a screaming kid, a screaming spoiled Nepali kid. What is that about? Doesn't he know he has a lot more misery to come and this temper tantrum will only be the start of a lot of hardships far worse than momma saying no. Toughen up. So, like I was saying the sleep is usually good. It gets quite cold here at night and with a warm comforter I am snug in my bed, even too warm. I have to say I have acclimated to the warm days cool nights quite well. I am rather surprised. These cool nights for me mean great sleep. Since no one was generally here, I have seen a couple of women who have come and gone, it is very quiet. Sometimes I think I am here alone. Well, in the past few days more, different people have arrived. The couple and now a man or two across the hall, luckily, they have their own bathroom. But now, I realize how noisy these stone stairwells can be especially with the doors with only these deadbolts that slide and bang. So, last night I was awoken by my shared bathroom guy, puking. All night long the slide of the deadbolts and the puking. This particularly night there was also funny cow noises but that I could've slept through. The retching and door banging amplified by echo could not be ignored. On the one hand, you feel bad for the poor guy, but on the other hand, I did want him to shut up. He was probably sleeping in between runs but just as I was dozing off, up he would go and wake me. I was hoping that at least he would stop locking his door. No one is going into a puker's room. Finally, I got up and found some earplugs and returned to my restful slumber. Turned out both of them had gotten food poisoning at one of the more upscale restaurants here and had been tag teaming the commode. This explained the lack of whispered "are you ok honey?"