Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dear Penelope,

Day 34 since I've left the island.

I happen to be completely irritable.

I'm in a guesthouse on the edge of the center of town, covered in foliage, (flowering vines, plumerias whose whole flowers drop with a spin and a quiet thwat against the pavement, with picturesque statues and as LP said, replete with charm. I would disavow them completely for the shoddily slow internet but it's been cutting out all over town, as I duck in to escape the heat and have another smoothie or another iced coffee or another something, and besides as I said- charm, the quiet, the feeling of living on the edge of something and not just being yet another cog in a hole. I'm blowing my budget in frivolous hydration, however, and collecting internet passwords, maybe more so then my entire time on jeju. And I haven't seen a whole hell of a lot but walking by some wats, a pillar and their version of the arc' d triumph. Apparently the US sent the cement for a highway and the laotions decided to build a hulking mass of a temple slash gateway. Well why not? Oh and I'm drooling over silk. There's nothing to be done about that though. Also lots of cars for a city of 700,000. Small but not overcrowded. Relatively clean and unassuming as a town. Not particularly inspiring, but a good change of pace from the relentless frenetic energy of Saigon. So that a mere 6 blocks doesn't exhaust me-- And walking in the street not nearly as perilous, though here i'm not sure the motorbikes are as adept at weaving around pedestrians- and they never imploy the horn really.

The moon is waning but bright, the night warm. The fan rotates sending my diy mosquito net billowing up around me in fits. The ceilings are high and the walls white with cobwebs, some decay, and a few telltale footprints of peoples impassioned thwacks against the antagonist mosquitos. I woke up feeling positive, and then I had an email that sort of obliterated my head a bit and reminded me of sex-trafficking in these particular countries and just the predatory nature of the dark, the power of desire, which had me pondering all day- and the missionaries aren't getting back to me. It made for a hell of day of feeling like I had to get out of here. But as it is, tomorrow i'm sure i'll find clarity in the email, and just now I see the missionary will met me tomorrow and i'll get to go prayer walking. It's the problem with not having my course set. I'm gasping a bit and floundering. oh and there was another thing- our church is officially homeless come July. And I got another email this morning saying that due to another citation on the lot all the plants need to be removed and what does it matter, the saving of them since the whole place is up for grabs- so I got a fwd, and a tag about saving and dispersing the plants. So there it is- all my work- obliterated. Transient? transcendental? Fleeting, as a summer breeze, a dying bloom. I suppose I was right in the end not to really put my blood into the earth but still. Who wants to be right about things like that.

And as she says "Is that a tear?" Poirot: "No, It is the breeze."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

dearest oldsame,

Laos! The last part of your journey has arrived. Or you have arrived to it. I cannot be-lieve your long-loved knife was taken, and how vexing that its fate was due to an oh-so-simple lapse in human mindfulness, a mere glitch in the everything-is-in-its-proper-place-for-my-next-phase-of-travel rundown. Ach. Eff. It's so. unfair!

The LentenFestival-retreat-type weekend was delightful in the end. A lot of leadup, and some trepidation over it being all-too-much and worrying over the success of things like the Easter Garden. But the garden was successful, as was the decoupage, and both were displayed during Sunday service and officially dedicated in prayer. I mean. Thankfully I wasn't asked to stand or anything, but it was both mortifying and beautiful at the same time. The garden came out so. good. And not just aesthetically, but everyone old and young alike seemed to love it. It lives on in the Fellowship Hall, where I hope it will receive enough light and whateverelse it needs to stay alive or even thrive. Hopefully not die. We'll see.

All the rest - bells was a success. Our variety show portion I mean. I think people got it. And the rest of the show was a delightful blend of young and old, talent and silliness, magic shows and a keyboard performance and the tango. And then a synchronized swimming skit by a group of the older men that was totally posted on youtube, so I'm sending you a link. Saturday after gardening and birdhousing and musicalinstrument-making, I went around the hobby showcase to see the things people delve into in their ordinary lives - again, how delightful. Coins and photos and felting (like actual spinning of the material) and robots and art. And I briefly learned to knit. I think I'm officially sucked into the knitting group on occasional Thursdays, though it's doubtful how long my schedule will abide. But the older ladies in that group were just so. pleased. that I might be interested, how can I say no now. Hmm.

I miss you and hope you come to visit soon, even if it's not in March. But I hope it's in March - is that even a possibility still? I haven't tallied all the places you've been monetarily thwarted and spent to see if you can come here first before Cali, even though probably you are completely yearning to be back in your true homeland, not just stateside, and I completely understand that. If I won the scratch-off lottery and were able to buy a plane ticket, I'd visit you tomorrow. And take puppy with me.

The caterpillars, which I have yet to blog about but I'll fill in the gaps shortly I promise, lie dormant in full chrysalide mode on the dining room table. Today is rain and cold and some homemade soup I think. March holds: more jobhunting, cabincamping, consignmentsale-ing, 35thbirthday!-ing, fairtradesale-organizing, oh and Easter. And planting! Right? Some flowers and some lettuce at least.
love to you in laos-land,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dear Friend,

Right so where was I?
There was a frenetic amount of activity followed by more activity. Oh and then I woke up realized I'd been bitten by a tick. Mother-cusser. Who the cuss knows where it came from except that it was latched on under my armpit. It still hurts by the way. It was a tiny little cusser too. I ripped it right off and popped it btw my thumb and forefinger. Cusser! Luckily there was not much blood and it was still pretty small. So I can't say how long it'd been there- hopefully not long?

So yes, after that Cath kicked up some good emails to agoda for such a shit recommendation. Although shame for LP too. Well we can't have it all. We can't trace the tick can we? The CA guesthouse which as a chill vibe as its namesake is filled with drama too- cock fighting in the alley, constant stream of gambling in the kitchen, there was a laptop stolen (not sure by who as we came to check cath out), and then a guy suddenly was moving out the next night which seemed to hint a larger story. Also confusion abounded over paying the driver, laundry and the girl forgot to give me my passport- which I remembered THANK THE LORD, 3 blocks later with my now 19kg pack. Cuss! Total border town feeling.

First order of business smoothies. The woman thought I wanted 3. Which is crazy. Since I came not just the day before and did exactly the same thing. This one was not made with as much love as the other one but guava, passionfruit, and mango- so good. and only a $1. Right so then I made Cath take the bus and there was some map discussion about bus#'s with the attendant. Cath said she was impressed with my determination but it seemed a day to be brave. And we made it to a fairtrade shop where I bought some bits which I wish had had more but it was for a good cause. Now when it comes to a two man team I tend to try for constant negotiation of what to do and how- since I don't need to be the one demanding we do x and y unless I really want to try something. But the uncertainty of where and when was a bit much for cath at one point where I was verbally processing about bus, walk or taxi so she chose taxi. It would've been a 2mile walk and we weren't sure what bus so for $3 or whatever it cost- it was worth it. Next we wandered, got lost, as cath said ignored local advice, reoriented ourselves, and found the rather ominous Jade Emperor Pagoda. I started getting a headache and nothing would induce me to cross the inner threshold. But I did sneak a peek at some rather fierce looking guardians from there and around the side. The day sped by to various stops- and I think overall we walked much less then our first day trek which I estimated covered over 6miles in 93+ degree weather. Sometimes the bus SAVES.

The next day I made contact with the persecuted church. At one point I thought she was referencing lost ships... oh lost sheep! Right. To which she then equally assumed I knew nothing about the bible- but I countered that I heard something rather nautical and not pastoral in her accent. What to do! More on all that in a later letter- but suffice to say we had a good meeting, which consumed all of sunday and the beginning of Monday, and then Cath and me had a very low key last night together in Saigon. We went to a Mexican restaurant. Funny enough. And all went well. besides being grumpy at having lost my lovely travel companion. I soldiered on. Settled my bills, having sampled most of the coffees on TrungNguyen's list including Weasel Coffee, and excepting #3 "idea"... I found ultimately that the #4 coffee "Creation" to be better than #5 "Success". Apropos.

I got out of Saigon but barely as I felt it didn't want to let go of me, the passport for instance, the inability of the taxi driver to make change, shrifting me 10,000 (.50c)- you'd think it's nothing but it adds up, and then of course the tragic swiss army knife lost- I've had since '96. Which means it traveled with me through Europe, Ireland, Turkey, Korea, Cen AM, to be finally consumed by Vietnam. I don't know. It's loss makes me irrationally irritable.

And of course I did all this planning for Vietnam and over today and yesterday have had to rapidly orient myself to Laos. And remind myself I need to adjust as much as I've been plowing through change after change- each country still has a how it's done curve + language, money exchange and hotels and am keeping my eye on the diminishing money vault since I still need to tickethomeit. Which makes me also cranky vacillating between wanting to give up and go home right now to excited and wanting to trek through the jungle. Each experience making me manic in my judgments and attitudes. The hotel, boo. Vietnam was better. The street crepe made with onion, egg and pepper- amazing! I'll stay. The croissant this morning dismal! I want to be back in Saigon. Though since, the pho and the perfect latte are trying to make up for it. I hope to try and go swimming, and tomorrow cycle through town and figure out the next step. That or just calm down and blow away some days. I'm only spending $10 (80,000) each night on the guesthouse now I've moved. and the pho was maybe a $1.5 (15,000). So I'm going to be optimistic that my money will stretch a bit more. I hope?
Whatever. Now i'm rambling. Also I realize I havent' really been describing places well- or have I or just recently. Can you ask me some questions Pen?

Love you from over here,
ps. how's the bells?


Friday, February 22, 2013


How is one to resist Sophie Charms. First pic by J.Lo. Second, Sophie looks up to her larger counterpart, however dubious a role model. Last, two failed but somehow brilliant attempts at selfies w/ puppy.

dear m-and-cath,

How you ladies persevere! over the strife of bad hotels and tourist ripoffs (the French are the same way about napkin usage - wtf people?) and somanystairs. Mostly it sounds like you're both rolling with the hot and the sweat and embracing the ride, vanbreakdowns and all. I love hearing about candy-making and random snake-handling and tour guides addicted to Facebook. Also, let's not overlook the fact of a guide named Cornelius, which makes me think of the Rudolph special and Yukon Cornelius checking his pickaxe for gold. (There's an old-school Christmas special reference in EVERYTHING.)

It's been two weeks with Sophie and after her morning bout of Puppy Crazies, she's resting in my lap. Aw, puppy. She's a good one. Loved and loving. Smart and so far an oddly good little puppy student, although there's of course the obligatory streak of stubbornness and spite, with a dash of punk. Would things be interesting otherwise. And Bender, dare-I-say, is making a full recovery with YuckBattle 2013. One would think canned food and meds would be a giant pain in the ass, but that she's a heedless wolfer-downer-of-mushy-food, this has all been mercifully easy. So Bender lives a little while more. ThankyouGod for that. Because she's a spaz, that one, but need I emphasize my love for the creature.

Oh, I feel like I traveled to you last night in my dreams! Like I did some high-five with Cath as she left, and I appeared, and who knows what country we were even in or going to, but it all made sense in the dream. I met M, I feel like? And some other K teachers? There were boats and hotels and sunsets. Cityscape. Lots of glass and water. And it seemed improbable even within the context of the dream that I was there, but somehow there I was and you were like, here's where we are going, come along with me.

Bells was not as epic-long as I had expected, because I'm not in fact playing Sunday (the next Sunday instead), but tonight shall be some silliness in which our director will pretend to be very arrogant, direct us badly, get fed up, direct a recorded performance instead, during which we walk out - then we play for real (hopefully well) without his help, but then he takes a bow for our performance, taking credit. And gets a cream pie to the face. For realsies.

J.Lo has The Snarfle now, adding a high-maintenance wrinkle to weekend events, but whatevs. I think he'll still rally and participate as penelope requires. He did build me the awesome planter box after all, complete with wheels. And I've been gathering Easter Garden supplies, although according to Mom I'm still on Wilmington time with my expectations of what the home improvement store should have available this time of year. Slim pickings, but I'll make do. Yesterday I harvested moss from the yard(!) (will it live!), made a cross from string and sticks, purchased a $4 clay, stone-esque pot MADE IN VIETNAM that will serve as a tomb. Rocks from the yard have been collected. Today I buy dirt, and drainage rocks, and pansies and some succulents. And take it all to the church in the Starship Lo.Co.

My. However will it all be executed. And I'm still in my pj's. But to be fair, I've already baked the dessert for tonight's churchsupper (that I should have baked yesterday) and K.Lo was operating on a 2-hour delay for school. Because that's what we do every time a snowflake falls somewhere in the county (which is the size of Rhode Island! and therefore increases chances of snowflake delays). Also, I'm feeling all productive and hopeful about the second job I applied for, the envelope currently laying-in-wait in the mailbox, even though I feel like it will be a lucky break if they even glance at my application. But it's a library job, developing youth programs, and that would be kind of awesome, right?

Eventually employment will happen, according to the laws of odds, or so I keep telling myself. Will I be a Hardee's biscuit maker, or something more? it's out of my hands...

Coming soon: the blogpost about gremlin caterpillars.
love to you both across the seas,

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dear Penelope,

After a morning tromp with our german tour guide Cornelius we arrived at Crocodile lake. We saw 1. Wee. After the locals extincted the original population, Siamese crocs were introduced by some dutch eco plan as were the fish. We saw a heron eating a fish, a spider accompanied by an insect photographer, and some more birds and that was about it. Oh and butterflies. We did tell Cornelius to quit smoking as he’d just started at 20 (just now) and had time to turn back. Quit while you’re young, I said. The germans are all over eco-tourism ventures in Vietnam. They had their hands in the waterpark area up at PhongNha where locals once swam, and now had to pay to get to- and then this place, where it’s probably a good thing to have a guide- who is a volunteer and has better language skills though he knows nothing of the land at all really but the basics. So that was a bit of a downer. But what to do. We stop, we listen for monkeys, we keep walking. We ask what bird we hear, he doesn’t know. But the plant basics- ok. And hope over time the people catch on to the whole tourism = $$$ like costa rica has. You can really see the difference. They just don’t get it- though the wi-fi connections are way better here then in CenAm. Anyway after tea, and a hot trek back , we drove across the uneven slow roads into Saigon. We came back late to the chaotic street of Bieu Vien, closed and cramped and pressed out everywhere- foreigners and locals alike to eat some bbq-- The phoenix hotel mercifully had a lift since the one before it was 5 flights up and didn’t. Another early morning start where we successfully hunted and gathered our breakfast wares- of passionfruit/mango smoothie and most proud of cathy who brought back an omelet sandwich for me and a vege sandwich for herself. I was however not awake and so having to hunt down money to pay for the trips made me totally grumpy- and our plucky new guide Xuon (soan?) took a bit of my grimacing but he was never without a smile. Since he hearts his hometown that is the Mekong delta, and the mandarins his hometown is famous for. He was also never without information and a thick Vietnamese accent that was hard to wade through sometimes. But we managed and he was nice- warning us about motorbike! Motorbike! Be careful! And it’s good you should try it. Very delicious. Or that’s terrible. I hate it. He is also addicted to facebook and we are now friends. The 3 days on the delta was a haze of activity- yes there was some enjoyable moments- candy making ‘factory’ where we handled a snake? Which he said wasn’t poisonous- however, unless it was defanged could still do some pretty damage if incited. Anyway then a couple shots of banana and snake rice wine- cuz why not? Really? Uh. I can only hope they don’t starve it and it’s doing ok as a captive snake… And more watching the candy making- better. Onward to a fruit farm, and more canals, and noisy motors, and houses on stilts and boats going here and there- none of it really for show- as everyone seemed hard at work harvesting rice, pulling in fishing nets, rowing fruits to market. There was also a rice factory, that had pet hedgehogs and a jungle cat, really a small operation like the rice candy making place- bustling tourists in and out in the small not very sanitary? quarters. There was a bird ‘sanctuary’ where we, for a thrill- were put on motorbikes if we wanted [we were non-pulsed] not like those other tourists he talked about having- and taken to an outpost where there was a massive amount of egrets and cormorants- however while we were there the woman down below was carrying a dead one, probably a baby fallen from one of the trees and I think one was about to be bludgeoned for the same offense, since I don’t know she can’t return them or? That’s life on the farm or in the wilds or whatever. Not for the faint of heart. Somewhere in there was a weaver at a poor Cham village [enclave of muslims], an iridescent bird flying into the water, cats and dogs and plenty of chickens wandering about and bridges and information about bridges, the different regions, map gazing, and a couple more random temples each chaotic (one with caged birds you could set free and loads of incense, another where there were whole roasted pigs, fruits and flowers being brought in to be blessed and left and then picked up the next day? Or hours to be consumed by the owner) and so popular was this place you had to pay to get in the area by the government run temple… and a deserted venture with dinosaur replicas. As well as the fried elephant ear fish, and some delicious basa fish, and amazing taro root fried rolls, pumpkin flower fritters!- what else? More fruit. An elderly cat not doing well by the riverside. All the women in the colorful crazy printed pants. Narrow plankways half standing, creaking, decaying- on and off boats and a fish farm? Cocky young boys driving the waterways with their feet, laughing or serious lined women rowing the long oared boats down the canals. Pineapple on the floating market even though cath can’t eat them and I only wanted a piece. We had to take the whole thing. Oh and while I had the best cashews of my entire life in cat tien, I had my worst cup of coffee here in the Mekong. But quickly amended as I ran across the street to a café and got more. Oh and government mandated flags adorning each property or fines await. And now we’re on our way back. A bathroom stop, a lunch place, tipping the driver and guide and 2 days left in Saigon before Cath heads out. Update- the lunch place was a tourist trap. They charged us to use napkins! are you KIDDING ME. horrible end to a pretty solid tour even if it was a bit slapdash in it's togetherness. We did break down once? Did I mention? But my van did that in CenAm too- though cath says it's her fault. Back to that horrible restaurant we won't ever talk about! Ach! To which when asked I said, Xoan horrible. VERY BAD! Tourist-TRAP. He laughed and seemed equally horrified. But mainly in that- omg they think it's a tourist trap just like I do kind of thing. We still tipped him well but STILL. Anyway we had all this fruit to carry afterward- and our hotel is like 5 flights up- good god and we asked the woman and half paying attention to us she said they were full- then didn't tell us about breakfast or that she was shutting the doors? so thank god cath noticed the bell... and ugh travel weariness has set in. We did, after cath braved the 5 flights AGAIN to get the password right even after we verified it the first time! It was wrong. Needlesstosay we are so only staying here one night. And getting thee gone to the California Guesthouse ASAP. Where we should've been all along. Tomorrow weasel coffee, jade emperor pagoda, Saigon beer, yogurt and hopefully good attitudes. We must make stands where we can! Even if it's not that bad overall. Even if we can make due. Sometimes it's simply better mentally and emotionally to say, no, let's make a change. Who's with me! ok- xoxo, m.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I just realized most of these are of Sophie sleeping. But in different rooms! In different contexts! And then there's the one with some snowflakes on her head. Puppies, sleeping, snow! Just try to deny the cuteness.

dear m-and-cath

Still snarfling, yes. I feel like the cold is progressing either for the better or maybe it's gearing up to infect my chest, ears and sinuses. Let's hope the former. Today I do feel more fully functional. And I ended up calling the job-place to confirm the fax receipt, rather than stopping by, because when it came down to it, I just didn't know what door to go into. True story. It's a small school with separate buildings and there seemed to be three options, but none of them obviously THE ONE, and then you know most schools keep their doors locked these days, so I really did not want to be That Person tramping about, trying to figure out which door was the right door and looking, best case, like an idiot, or worse case, like a creeper. So I called. They were friendly. They got my fax. The end.

Prepare yourself for some EXTREMELY CUTE PUPPY PICTURES, to be posted separately once my phone updates.

I love hearing about the motorbike riding. The name of it and everything. And I suppose dried out vegetation would be preferable to swampy leech-filled-ness, if one has to choose. I do love the pictures on Facebook, as well as your words! but DO need to know more about the snakes.

Tonight I have an epic-long bells practice, for performances both Friday night and Sunday morning? I have a question mark there because in spite of the email sent out the other day to clear things up, I still don't know exactly what we are playing and when. And then Friday's thing is part of a variety show, so it's supposed to be a little silly, which makes me think of the California Raisins claymation Christmas special, but then again, everything I play makes me think of the claymation Christmas special. And not being That Bell.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

New expression picked up from Community: "No sweat, Boba Fett." I hope it becomes a thing.
no sweat, boba fett!
xoxox and keep eating good food for me,

Dear Penelope

Forgive the delay in my letter writing. It has been many days since I’ve been near a place in which to post them. So I’ll try to send as many as I can from here.

Many days ago, it was- a warm night in Saigon. I put on my black linen pants that I’d gotten tailored in Hanoi. And my new blue t-shirt that hugged my form. After a little insistence on my part the hotel helped to procure me a xe om (say-ohm/hug the) driver to pick up Cathy from the airport. He still overcharged me but only by .50c or so. I shrugged. I had wanted to give him more, but since he decided to take a little bit as it was- nevermind. It felt lovely though to have the wind in my hair and to glance up to see the lights and the moon overhead. And obviously just a dash thrilling to have no control as the driver got used to my weight at the turns and that if I scooted too far back the motorbike would start making that exhhh, exhhh sound of one complaining loudly about the load. Sleepy but sound cath joined me and after a few like, are you serious?! Looks at the taxi attendants grabbing taxis for people willing to bribe them we got a taxi and made it into the city.

The day brought brutally hot weather. So we took a lot of café breaks. I was most excited to dive into some eating of delicious things but cath disavows eating if overhot and if it’s dark? I don’t know. We persevered and had some spring rolls, and I tried beef with vermicelli noodles as well as a chicken salad, and then bananas with coconut for dessert. There was pointless wandering in there somewhere, or “exploring” as we call it, almost melting, dragging, down some beautiful alleyways of course, which led us eventually to a spa oasis called glow, which was delightful. And then a mediocre dinner- highs and lows on this our first day together. The second day it was a long drive up into cat tien- which was as a forest goes a little disappointing in it’s completely dry scrubby state. Sure we came during dry season, so we didn’t have to wade through areas with leeches or contend with swarms of mosquitos and the cries of the cicadas were only marginally noisy opposed to deafening- so it made what could be somewhat adventurous wandering into slightly mundane especially as the 2nd day brought walk ways laden with everywhichway volcanic rock as we heard signs of monkeys and birds but didn’t see any. On the way up though our guide Nam showed us rubber tree crops, and pulled over to have us taste the fruit of the cashew. And over dinner he told a cautionary tale about an older woman drinking too much coffee and having a heart attack. After I had ordered my 2nd cup... Explaining since I was young, I could do that. (and yes, of course the woman died and they had to break down the door to get her).

Meanwhile we took a night drive on a hunt for tigers? Probably not- but maybe elephants? Or uh? I don’t know what. We saw deer, a boar, and a small jungle kitty cat. It’s like the thing they do out here to make you feel your out “exploring” the wilds of nature but in a noisy car, on a dusty road out in the wide open hopefully away – far away from danger. The only upside- the beautiful breeze, the calm moonlit night and the smattering of dreamy dusty stars – of being somewhere other, having journeyed out and beyond.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Hello M-and-Cath,
Have you watched Downton yet? Clearly the season 3 finale has priority over, or at least on par with, all your world-traveling adventures. I was in fact much less stressed out than expected, knowing what was coming, but disappointed all the same. It seems like a kick in the teeth to us loyal viewers, really. Also, I fell asleep after an hour Sunday eve and had to watch the rest in the morning. After a restless night plagued by the sudden onset of Disgusto-Cold. I have been snarfling, head-aching, tired and *wah* ever since and would very much like to hide under the covers until it's all over.

However, life swirls on and demands attention. Like Bender, who seemed to be on the upswing from her upsetting state of being last week, but then left this horrifying, not-small streak of blood on the bed this morning and after a vet visit was determined to have colitis, or a parasite, or something. She's now loaded up with pills and powders and special foods. And if that doesn't solve the problem, there will be blood tests and other things that I'm covering my ears and LALALA-ing about.

Puppy is better behaved since Saturday, at least. Partly, she's been thwarted by her new nametag, which jangles everytime she moves. No more silent-surreptitious-shadow-lurking for the tiny fur-creature.

Also, poll-time: I applied for a TA position at a nearby school, faxing in my resume as directed by the emp agency and now, as the next forward-but-ideally-not-obnoxious step, do I: a) call to see if they received it or b) stop by in person and ask if they received it? Less to ask about the fax than to get my name remembered, or whatever. Keeping in mind that the 3-minute commute is highly appealing, amongst other pluses. And that I tend to suck at job procurement.

Today, inexplicably, K.Lo has the day off (teacher workday, or somesuch) so we're reorganizing her bedroom furniture according to her, um, vision. And it looks pretty good so far, aside from the giant, horrifying pile-o-junk in the middle of it. I mean the furniture placement is remarkably smart. She's been watching House Hunters and Love It or List It on HGTV. Mwah. And likes to switch up room furniture, which is J.Lo's bane, but my secret also-obsession, so I can't help but support it. Even when I have a cold. And want to die before moving furniture, as mentioned.

Love to you both across the land and seas,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

penelope's terrible horrible no good very bad day

A bit hyperbolic for sure, but Saturday did pulse with expectation-fail and decision-regret. Like what was I thinking when, soothingly and cheerily, I was all, I'll stay with the dogs! No problem. And then sent the puppy-whisperer away with the children on their weekend.  I love my puppy, but my whispers do not yet reach her soul. At least the disciplinary ones. That's J.Lo's gift. So it was a day filled with accidents and sharp teeth and bitter tears. In retrospect, I realize two things - 1. it's so wicked cold out that outdoor trips are pleasant for no one; whereas the rest of the week hadn't been nearly so arctic, and 2. my dreams of all I'd get done or not done were way too large. Work? Psssh. Cleaning the kids' rooms? Ha. Also 3. Hormones. Duh. Why do I ever expect that to go well. I should have just had one thing on the list: Puppy. And everything else accomplished would've been cream cheese.

I did watch a fair amount of TV, however interrupted. And this morning I read. And it's been much calmer. Later if I can stand it, I'll go out and procure puppy tags that will make Sophie's collar jangle in an annoying but effective way, so I at least have an idea of where she is.

Oh, also, I took a long-talked-about trip to Goodwill in the next town over and found for $10 two pairs of Old Navy pj pants and a flannel J.Crew shirt that I absolutely adore. The fit, the softness, the color (green w/ white and pink) are a delight. Rural NC, you never cease to surprise me.

Church decoupage project: finished. Easter/Resurrection Garden prep: underway, at least in my mind. J.Lo built a planter box out of pallets (oh Pinterest, you're so magical with your ideas) and Thursday or so I'll go out to procure soil and plants and everything else. Oh, and rocks (to paint? I can't decide), I'll procure  more of those from the yard. Ideas welcome. Saturday is the day.

So now please tell me of your magical adventures with Cath! I want to hear everything. And see pictures. Although maybe you've posted some on FB; must go check.

love YOU,
penelope, not a vehicle or a puppy-whisperer, but still tentatively optimistic about the new day

Friday, February 15, 2013

dear oldsamey,

You're right, I have stopped labeling my posts. I don't like the new interface either - like they have tried to "simplify" it with all the white space and aesthetically I can embrace that, but its simplicity is actually complicated. It's a lie. And, I finally became so fed up with Windows Live writer, with its own impositions on formatting and the inability to add more label-categories, that I uninstalled the whole dumb thing. It was no longer bringing anything extra to the table and in fact was inciting hostility.

Two futures lay before me for the weekend - some travel, which will apparently include snow. Or staying home with puppies, the bigger of whom is ill. And smelly. And making me say things like, "Only my dog." Only Bender, possessing less sense than God gave a turnip (#blessherheart), would continue to seek out with fervor some substance that makes her grossly sick. Anyway. While less exciting, this Plan B alternative would be kind of thrilling, as it would involve a. alone/down time and b. a lot of catching up on TV. I think I'm now three behind on Grey's, one on Downton, one or two on Carrie Diaries? New ProRun. And then (completely ambitious) I still really want to watch P&P with Colin Firth. All in one go.

Or... read. I do heart my latest book in its soothing, magical prose.

Or... some work. Gag-cough. It's not that I'm not grateful for the quasi-abundance of topics in my q, even knowing half will ultimately be tossed (I can sniff out potential problems with editorial approval a mile away), but I'm more and more getting frustrated with freelancing for the time/effort it takes and correlating payment. Like after seeking, sifting, sorting topics, claiming them, figuring out if I can actually do them, writing them, finding pictures, labeling, titling, submitting them and holding my breath on their acceptance, it's like defeat waiting to happen. Granted when that $25 a pop comes through it's a brief but solid thrill, like winning a scratch-off card. Yay. And it's much more awesome to work at home, filling in the gaps of time and not dealing with human coworkers. I get the trade-off. But then. 98% of the topics, when available, are irrelevant, or problematic, or incite great snark. "Activities for Kids on Caffeine?" I think not about pinteresty crafts and lessons regarding chemical makeup and properties of the compound, but rather, Should you really be giving your kid caffeine? Won't it make them hyper and stunt their growth. How would you even reign in their caffeine-riddled energy to do an activity. And every time I see the "Chinese Teething Myths" topic in queue, I want to take a shot. Of hard liquor. Because it's been months now seeing it, and it's been claimed, unclaimed, claimed, unclaimed, and ultimately never written. Because it is a ridiculous topic. Why not just make it "Ancient Chinese Secrets," just as nonsensical and pointless and vague.

I suppose I should engage in something productive now. Like perhaps packing for the weekend, at least the children's things, or finishing my church mod-podge, even though I'm waffling on the overall design (is it cool? does it need something more?) and lamenting my lack of purple paper to fill in the remaining six gaps.

love to you and weeeeeee! enjoy your motorbike ride,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Straws and Atmosphere

Sidenote:Have you noticed you've stopped labeling your posts? This stupid new interface sucks. It's been a while we've had it but there it is. I digress.

Nha-Trang which will come to be known in my mind as the most annoyingly mediocre place I've ever been to is also where I lost my ipod. Not that we can believe that by degrees I'm losing my electronic devices. May there be a hedge of protection around my camera and laptop. I lost it somewhere between getting my pack from the hotel and going to check in at the bus depot. Weirdly I still have my headset which leaves me curious as to whether I lost it or it was stolen. But I don't remember. I checked my ipod because I wanted to know what time it was. I might have detached the earbuds to do this at one point but I don't know and then put it in the sidepocketofdeath? Maybe? Whatever. It was just another kick in the back for which I will blame nha trang for, and one that I didn't discover until the next day. In addition to the bus company dropping me off a full hour before schedule in Saigon. A good thing if it weren't 530am on a grubby dark street with taxis pestering me. A guy a bunk over was complaining nonstop and I think I overheard him say we were suppose to stop at one point and we didn't. Needless to say not happy- my optimism or frugalness for the bus backfiring/succeeding? I found a taxi which did eventually rip me off - but I yelled at him for it because I knew he was taking me around. I wasn't exactly sure of my location but I knew I wasn't far from home as I shook the map at him. What an ass! I consoled myself by saying it was less than $3. Really. But still. I succeeded by trying, as my fortune cookie mind tells me. It still makes it all rather tiresome.

So down an alley I went with my pack and saw the California flag and a bench labeled with California on it. And peace washed over me. A  man asked if i needed help to which I grumbled no because wouldn't he just try to rob me or annoy me? I don't know. I did after a few minutes try to get in and some sleepy attendant/maid? I don't know- I said I had a room but was really early and I was going to just sleep in the chair and not bother her but then someone else appeared and she said I should go up to my room, and to check in later, and pointed where I could make breakfast and drink coffee on the way up. I collapsed on the bed with door and windows left flung open and woke sometime later with the light streaming in and a chorus of birds- as if I was in some place not the city.    
I'm in a courtyard surrounded by caged birds at the California guesthouse, in a quiet alleyway. The staff who look like they're all in their pajamas, spend most of their days gambling on the floor of a kitchen off reception- it is Tet afterall. It wasn't until the day after that I finally checked in and that's after I mentioned that uh, shouldn't I? So I am left largely to myself. I even sent my laundry out by dumping it into a basket and off it went. I keep forgetting I'm checking out of this place tomorrow. But thankfully I've scouted the location of the next place for Cath and me which in comparison is super high energy and CITY to the idyllic lazy quiet respite I've had despite the smokers room smell.

That day I was out and about, wandering around and eating and drinking way too much of everything. I really don't know if I succeeded in doing anything else- God, was that just yesterday? I feel I've already been here an eternity. I bought 2 t-shirts. The pants I wanted almost fit if I wanted sausage casing pants. And a cockroach that had been on my backpack crawled on me and luckily I felt something and shuffled it off instinctively before I realized. Cath says that it was encounter with local wildlife. Shudder. Nevermind let's not talk about it.   

Today was more of the same. I talked myself out of yoga and I still went over budget foodwise. LP and I have totally different categorizations of $,$$,$$$. Really the places they consider $ are $$ places. And the one place I've been to that's genuinely been on the cheap charged me .50c for rice. And that was just annoying. Everyone's trying to make a buck here and they cut at you here in there by degrees. But what do you do - I suppose I could start arguing over a literal cent, like that Czech couple did in dong hoi, and yet?

So anyway this place doesn't have the atmosphere of Hanoi by any degree. It's definitely a place in which finding your neighborhood is important because it's going to heavily define what you think of the place. Cath was wise to have us stay in 3 places- which initially I thought tiresome- but now I think genius. What I had set out to say at the beginning before I began my ramble was my latest obsession with tableaus- Entering into scenes you think are beautiful and perfect and then making a conscious decision on whether or not to be a part of the stage or just to gaze at it. Today for instance as I sat eating really delicious grilled fish with salt and chili sauce and a blackcurrent iced tea (all for $9.76. Expensive. I know you think I'm crazy. And yet it is comparatively. I almost balked at that price in Hanoi and I got double the food.) All that to say the walls were brick with lovely wood décor in an old colonial building, and the light was streaming in over the white table cloths. And I felt I wanted to look at it more than be a part of it- I set up my room in jeju in much the same way. Are places designed for you to look at them or enjoy being in them? Or as Heidi and Nina wonder- did they consider the garment from every angle?

Otherwise the only thing left to mention is that I've taken a disliking for straws. Mainly I think because it made my iced coffees disappear too fast- and I find here to be throwing them on the table with a pretty marked attitude of someone who will disavow them for life- especially in the lands of nofreerefills. I hope its not a permanent shift. Oh, and twice I've shaken hands with guys who've wanted something. One was friendly enough, and I walked away he had that look like he was surprised it hadn't worked. Or that I'd actually said no. I didn't want his postcards even if he had lost a leg, both legs? I don't know. And I felt my hand in his hand for a while after. Has that happened to you before? Where a handshake or something stays with you? The 2nd time was here. He wouldn't let go of my hand- this guy wanting to offer me a $1 ride on his motorbike. One of these days I'll say yes, but he had a hard bullying grip. I still said no. And he released it, before I started punching him in the face, which granted it would've take a while, as Im more likely to drag him off with me but still- His energy or impression in my hand lasted for blocks. It was so weird. I had to pray it off me.

So that's it. Its night. I'm over budget again. I haven't bought tickets to anywhere and tomorrow I can only imagine what i'll talk myself into or out of as the case might be. A massage? Maybe. Rock climbing- I could wait until cathy gets here. A show? $25... Get a garment made? ride the bus? Find that savory crepe place? At least the simplest things are an adventure here. I bought a pen. Hurrah! It was only 8.000. I ordered good coffee 2x. I didn't get ripped off. I got ripped off. I ordered X. It was good. I ordered Y. It was ok. I went here I went there. I walked and I walked. I managed to...

so goodnight from Saigon @ the trung nguyen coffee house by the fish tank having drank coffee #1 thought. this morning I drank #2 discovery, which was if not thee best pretty close, and having last night eaten pho until my lips were burning, for you pen, for you. Oh and futurewise- I think I lost 2 hours going to Vietnam- so I'm probably closer than I was before- like 11hours maybe ahead? Uh...

later days,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

i'm so glad we're on the oldsame page

I did know you were quite up on all the TV shows while in K, but for some reason imagined you unable to download anything or have time to watch whilst r&r-ing, food-touring, countryside-seeing. I have no idea why I came up with that, but YES LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT GUY'S MOUSTACHE. He is a fave, for sure. I do enjoy Zac Posen well enough, and Nina of course provides a certain level of delicious disdain, but Michael Kors - the things he says and the way he says them. I miss that.

Also, I love that you signed your letter, Peace and Love (Tyra!).

And yeah, Anthony Ryan. He had definitely grown as a designer and the win was spottable a long way off. I can't say his final collection was my favorite out of the three - there was something spastic about Uli's crafty tangents this season, but I kind of loved most everything she turned out. But then, I love that she was just like, I'm enjoying the ride! and wanted to win but was also happy for whomever was going to win.

I spent the morning at the Honda dealership while they reset set a tire pressure sensor. All for the sake of turning off an alarming orange light on my dashboard, but it seemed like they could have done that in 10 minutes, rather than 90? However, they do provide free food and drink and I really needed some, since I was headless chickeny in the morning, between puppy attending, K.Lo cajoling (K.Lo-jing??) and oh, just a random haircut. It was time to lighten up some of the weight while the length carries on. Since two of my favorite people have been campaigning to have me grow it long, longer for awhile now. I shall appease them (you, J.Lo) and see if I can do it right this time. I was pleased with the haircut outcome, even if it took way too long and was badly timed and yet perfectly timed. Since I couldn't stand another second of its haphazard messiness.

Boo on bad massages and restless and foo on nha trang. Sayonara to its bullshit as we wave goodbye from the bus. But oh how I would love some authentic pho. Omg. Eat. It. All. Everywhere you go. Do it for penelope.

Applying for jobs requires entirely too much effort, btw. Not that I've even applied for a lot, because there are hardly any. But the seeking, the sifting, the registering with this and that site and the recopying of all one's bullshit information. Ugh. I demand a paycheck just for that. From whomever. Direct deposit would be great.

Also, in puppyland, I was rather pleased with myself for cutting maybe an inch and a half off the bottom of these jeans-that-fit I found at goodwill last week for ONE DOLLAR and thinking to myself, I shall tie three knots in the leftover fabric strips and give it to Sophie. And it's like her new favorite toy. Maybe there's a market for denim chew toys? (Probably not. and probably some puppy somewhere would choke and I'd get sued. and would feel devastated for having caused puppy murder. happy thoughts, penelope? i know. it's the way my mind works.) And also, she is such a good, sweet puppy! Love her. So smart. And chill. Such a different experience that raising the spazcase demonseed epic challenge of a puppy that was Bender. Granted it was a different world back then. And Bender was the impetus for overcoming my dog-fear. And I couldn't really know what I was getting into, right? But got some points I think for my blind optimism madness bravery. And she turned out okay, after all. I do love when Sophie dishes out some puppy sass in response to the crotchetiness that is Bender-Dog.

May you find THE WORLD'S BEST CUP OF COFFEE! on your travels today. (Be sure to congratulate them on that accomplishment with great enthusiasm.) In the future. How much in the future are you, btw? And where are you, again? Where in the world is mendacious!

dear non-vehicular penelope,

You've forgotten that I did in fact watch all of pro-run allstars, but then there have been gaps in our maybe this is an unknown... As if we couldn't see from a mile away Anthony Ryan winning- since the buzz words of "new" and "fresh" are always guarantees to run over even the best or more experienced. I've managed also to keep up with once, new girl, and had even started watching downton- which surprisingly stressed me out too much. So I stopped watching and just read all the spoilers online. Oh and the office, the lice episode- genius, the women this season have been given some really epically good lines, though I could do without the triangle of david/pam/jim- even if I love finally that the film crew is involved in the end- about frickin time but really this is how they chose to intro them- really!?, oh and the end of 30rock. And have managed to, despite your disbelief in reading this, am up to date on prorun- teamNOTastic edition. Seriously james. And that poor woman with the taffeta her team encouraged her with. Good god. I do love the guy with the stache though. How can you not? I don't know. The non-kors guy is ok- he has that look like oh seriously are you trying to lie to me right now? Your garment is going to make me cry. He might warm up on me.

All this to say that I have a lot of time by myself- being a non-partier, not nightgo-outer. Oh and that I'm by myself. Entirely.  I paint my nails. I cut off a couple inches of my hair. I compose emails, blogs, stare at my budget, get headaches trying to plan when i shouldn't, and drink a lot of soda water. I did just meet a couple I met in phong nha and that makes me happy- they were pretty downtoearth and got stuck in nha trang too and seemed pretty ambivalent about being here just like I am. Though they just arrived. There's this backpacker trail and its not a bad thing, though I can't say I've made a band of brothers or anything. And this last 5 days has me pretty bored. Even as I muster gratitude for coconuts, coffee and sand. Just yesterday I had the most boring massage. I sound horrible right? I mean I was so tense. I couldn't relax. It was just appalling in its lacklusterness of the girl didn't know really what she was doing but trying to "relax" me. And today I actually left a restaurant, after I ordered, because they were serving tourist groups ahead of me only for it to happen to me in the next restaurant on a smaller scale. I shit you not. And then I went to get a smoothie and they were out of ice. At which point I was like fuckyounhatrang. Here's my middlefinger. Anyway. I'm ungrateful. I've been apologizing to God nonstop for being so completely agro about this horrible life I have. Contracted prisonsentenceOVER. Money made to travel. BooHoo.

But I think the go-go-go of my past year of a life has made it impossible to some extent for me to stay put and I'm having some sort of forced r/r here. And resenting it. I keep thinking, I should go on a hike, or a long walk or a run, or SOMETHING. But i'm so restless I just grumble and am like EH. Needless to say I am totally psyched to have some friend company that is Cath. Thank the Lord. Who has limited time and wants to see things. Otherwise seriously I might just wander around Saigon eating Pho and finding the best coffee- though really is that bad? I've totally become a food tourist, a shy one but still. However, right now I feel a little emotionally unhinged with all this pentupness like for some reason just a bit of disappointment or crestfallenexpectations and I start cracking like I might cry. So hello neuroses. I guess it's probably good i'm not going to any idyllic honeymoon/valentines day spots that are mui ne and dalat or I might justflipmyshit entirely.

So yah, life at the perfumegrass is pretty grand if I weren't so grumbleguss about it. There's plants and fish and fountains and  niceness. Though the smell of incense pervades over any grassness. Let alone the shit they burn for good luck constantly out and about on the streets- I do love an excuse to set a fire but it just seems like a bowl or directly into the street is just - a little what-ever. Ok i'm going to go try for my smoothie and yet another attitude adjustment. Wish me luck. I am in some sort of hedonistic capital of paradisical excess so I might as well enjoy it.

Peace and love,

Monday, February 11, 2013

dear oldsame,

When I am not painting out calligraphy to you on parchment paper and gazing out the window reflectively as I write, I'm lamenting that you're unable to keep up fully with western popular culture until your stateside return. Because who else can I discuss ProRun with? Although I will say that I'm already disappointed in the new season because a. Michael Kors - whose one-liners pretty much make the show for me - isn't there, something about a schedule conflict and b. it's all teams. ALL teams. every challenge. And that wears thin after awhile, or one episode, whichever comes first. Also, I'm afraid you're now behind on an entire season of Downton. I have the finale left to watch, even though I already know the worst thing that happens. The whole season's been an outrage, really. A delightful, beautifully costumed outrage, but still.

The puppy name - oh she is so warm and furry and sweet, that puppy! - was decided on with surprising speed, although J.Lo did recall I liked a version of Sophie for the third child we're never not ever having, and he required that it be something upbeat, easy to say, happy. And I said it had to be two syllables. And then he suggested the name and I looked back at her, so tiny in the full-sized crate in the minivan, and it clicked. She is Sophie.

My van I have no name for except maybe Lo.Co. Lightning. It has to be something with Lo.Co., I feel, and the vaguely cheeseball reference to Grease does amuse me. K.Lo suggested Penelope, but clearly that was going to cause much future confusion. I am Penelope; I therefore cannot drive around a Penelope. That would be weird.

I cannot be-lieve you are done with your prison sentence, completely. (I'd make a Mr. Bates reference here, if only I could.) Hurrah, you! My dragon friend. What does it signify when it's your own year on the Chinese calendar? Will I have extra luck when the horse gallops round again? I feel the need to look up past years and see if I was lucky then.

I'm excited for you and Cath and your upcoming adventure! Floating markets! Hikes through the forest! Photo shoots with Tyra! And hope you find your next step soon, if only for the peace of mind. Does the hotel smell like perfumed grass, or is it just named so. Or both.

I want a lychee fruit. But I guess I'll settle for some afternoon coffee, instead.
yours from afar,
(a person, not a vehicle)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

dear oldsame,

I call to you across the waters, across the farawaylands, as my dragon self breathes fire. It stretches itself on the beach and lances lychees with each talon and orders rum with coffee and hurumphs and sighs with no other dragons at all to play with. It snorts as it lifts its head to the breeze, knowing that even though it's the last place on earth it would want to be- dubbed a 'hedonistic beach party' by LP, it is in some sort of paradise. It is reminded that though it's alone it has some sort of larger purpose, and doesn't want to be ungrateful for the places it's got to fly and see- even if it longs to be in the mountains or at a different beach... or not be a lone dragon anymore, like something mythical and extinct.

The lunar new year dawned as I slept in my cave at the perfume grass hotel. A much better place if I'm going to be made to pay $20 a night. (up from $11). Roused only briefly to hear the dissonance of all the noise being made- deliberately to chase the bad spirits and luck of the old year away. And invite the new. I went back to bed as the fan circled overhead and the old tile and wood stood solid against time.

Yesterday I drove myself a little crazy- I had the joy of seeing my 2 paychecks +flight come in. Paid. And finished with the workplace.  I paid off a creditcard and some bills, with money to spare--I was excited to start executing and accomplishing. I then descended into internet scheduling hell of coming and going from laos. Which I still haven't figured out. And coming and going from here. Which I still haven't figured out. And even though there's an immediacy I suppose I have time and i'm going to have to leave it to God to determine when I get to Saigon and to Cathy on the 15th. And of course it's His business why i'm here even if it's not exactly mine. The only 2 things besides that was washing my face and looking up to see a lychee fruit stuck in my hair. (Which mildly amused me and perhaps made God laugh outright.)And finding no satisfactory postcards to send to anyone. I guess there's no point in trying to move in such a time of transition from the dragon to the snake. My year is over and Cathy's begins. Apparently without a spring. They call it a blind year. I got two. Yours is coming old same. One more year. Trod and gallop on.

Anyway I've meandered away a good couple hours here. It's time to stretch the legs and move even if i can't quite leave yet. I'm excited for you and your puppy. What's with the name? And the car- what are you going to call it? I can't even believe the louse situation. Pretty outrageous. Did you watch the SP episode yet, or at least have jlo watch it... I don't sound outraged on your behalf but I am. I blame the calming effects of the rum and the sensory pleasing effects of the coffee. Self medicating one step at a time. Though the music has been much too loud. I need a break.

Huff. Black streams snake into the air and are pulled apart. And up I go.
My love, M.

Friday, February 8, 2013

life ah salts

Howdy-doo! from Green William, as dubbed by K.Lo. He's a pen. Procured from J.Lo's conference yesterday - mapping swag. Green William, in addition to that fabulous hair, has ears. And somehow that elevates him to another category of awesome.

Recent adventures, none of which come close to phone pickpocketing and NEDs in cabs, in terms of excitement value, but worth mentioning anyway. 

The Good ~ 
K.Lo's b-day. She's 7. How and when did that happen. She's toothless, she can hear again. It's amazing. 
VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER. It's silver and a Honda. An '09. Lacking in some bells and whistles but big on space, low on miles and pretty much awesome for our present needs. Like traveling all in the same car anytime we go places and want to take things or creatures like The Bender. 
Puppies that I daydream about: ... and may or may not have just emailed the owners about. Eek. [OMG THEY JUST EMAILED ME BACK.]
J came to visit last weekend for K.Lo's party and this weekend, K.Lo and I will be adventuring to her new house and doing some crafting there. 
Some people played football on Sunday and as a result I ate a lot of good food. 

The Eh ~ 
Not a lot of kids showed up to K.Lo's party? Apparently it's nearly impossible to communicate invitations to first-grade classmates, even when you provide both phone and email for RSVP purposes. But, we persevered. 
I need a job and can't find one. I might just apply for a techie-type job and try to bullshit my way through it JUST BECAUSE. I'm so frustrated with my utterly worthless resume and equally worthless education and now I'm ranting. But seriously. I want to work in nonprofit, part-time ideally and nothing's presented itself. Although for a second that early morning making-biscuits job at Hardee's didn't look terrible. Really. 

The Ugly ~ 
Lice again. Am not even fucking joking. And not because I'm bad at delousing, because let's be honest at this point I'm a freaking professional. It's because some parent threw a fit in the past year about automatic class-wide headchecks by the school nurse and so no longer is that happening at the first sign of lice nor, apparently, education about delousing. So whoever has it isn't itchy enough to warrant attention and my sensitive-skin child with a hypochondriac streak is sent to the nurse's office immediately. 
So guess who is now going to throw a fit. J.Lo volunteered as tribute, to talk to the principal about policy and LOGIC. 
I'm horrified sometimes at my chronic lack of communication with you. You're right that I depend on you (and everyone) to initiate contact, communication, etc. It's a fault of mine. Suggestions to amend? 

Dear Me, [silence]

So, though yes, I do have lots of bells and whistles to distract me, I wake up every morning to see if my friend has blogged and she hasn't. I can only conclude she isn't talking to me. Which is easy to conclude since she isn't in fact, in any form whatsoever communicating with me- not even making chipper or sarcastic comments about my photos. I can't say I've gotten a strong psychic message from her either. The only thing I know about her life is that her husband may or may not have bought a van down by the river. Which while seeming inconsequential, I know, is a story... a thing i've missed. But how can that be helped, ... i wonder? Sure its only been like 9-10 days or something but then I couldve died yesterday so sometimes silence matters. But we all make choices. There are loads of people I haven't talked to in 9 days. Except for Cathy of course who manages to talk to me everyotherdayatleast.

And we all could've died for that matter, yesterday. Or tomorrow even. So if I had my last letter would've been to Bruckner about young werther, and what would that say but that I died alone in a foreign land, indebted and adventuring. Though I did hear a chilling story about a backpacker being brought to the farmstay since they were the only ones in the area that spoke english, and they thought he was ill, and then gravely ill. But by then it was too late- becausethe entire time, he didn't think he was that bad. But delirious people who've had a fever for 4 days shouldn't be trusted. Nor should they be without medical attention. And they should tell people. And they got him to a hospital in da nang, and then they were encouraging the staff to get him to Saigon, but by then his legs had turned black and he'd died. This was on top of a story from a guy who had just recovered from Dengue Fever. Believe me when I got bitten by a flying ant the other day I was watching the spot carefully. And all the premonitions of earlier days was hovering around me.

Well anyway enough poor me. I'm in Vietnam after all in this horrible tourist town called NhaTrang, surrounded by grim looking russian tourists, which I hadn't even wanted to come to in the first place. Except I'm here. Because I'm avoiding the middle. I guess I have plenty to do, I saw in a vision of it that it was an octopus. And then I looked up the symbolic meaning of the creatures- it indicated "difficulty"... maybe difficulty extricating myself from this lacklusterfuckingtown. I'm in a bad mood though...

To be fair, on my transport to the trainstation we almost got into a headoncollision with a mac truck-think chunky army green tonka truck. I finally exclaimed WATCH OUT! The driver barely came out of his stupor [unconsciousness] to meander over in time as the mac truck began to grow concerned and flashed his lights. Thomas, fellow passanger and escaper of death, thanked me later for helping to save our lives. [saying that was the most dangerous moment he's had traveling the world in the entire year and he's been to india!] He kept an eye on the driver after that and I didn't even remember how it managed to escape my lips except we were all thinking surely he's going to get out of the way in time. Surely he's not ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL. The mac truck driver thought so too, otherwise I think he would've engaged his horn too. We were all too unbelieving. Until I wasn't. Just before my parents were underwhelmed by my skyping them from vietnam, exclaiming oh, it's green, and hold on, let me take this call. So it's a good thing I'm alive to be able to complain about this all retrospectively otherwise that would've been our mutual last memories of each other.

Meanwhile a mostly pleasant overnight train to NhaTrang where I survived on a quarter bottle of water, almonds and a cliffbar. And I passed out to WillyWonka&theChocolateFactory. I woke up a bit too heavy from sleep and the revolving bottom bunks of people. I don't know why I was so tired except the sway of the train maybe. So I woke up blurry with an idea of finding my way to the hotel, which didn't seem so far away, with a quick glance of the map and the idyllic countryside whisking away behind me. I felt secure but on exit, I'm getting harassed by a guy who wants me to come to his hotel, which is all while i'm trying to orient myself anyway, and then after he gives up this woman completely high on something pretends to lean over and peer at my map like she's going to help me. I think I have everything protected so I don't really think about it. Until I realize maybe 1minute too late that my phone was upforgrabs in the sidepocket. And now it's gone. Most likely by crazymcshiftyfingers.

Resisting the urge to return to the trainstation and get on the nexttrainoutofthisfuckingtown I persevere. I find a cafe and with the 12minutes remaining of battery power on laptop, and thankfully free wi-fi! I take a picture with my camera of the googlmap from the cafe to the hotel all the while nursing my irritation with some Genius I think. A message pops up from my mother saying Marley is purring on her shoulder, to which I reply I would prefer that as my phone just got pickpocketed- to which she replies "smileyface". Seriously. I know self, I can't believe it either. [ :) ] I mean I know I can at times be melodramatic, but I was being on this occasion quite literal. Luckily I had loaded most of my photos onto my computer. And I'll try not to reach for my phone for everyfoodshot i want to take. I'll just try to forget you ever existed. But it's hard. It's going to take time. I have my life at least. I have that. Not like that other poor backpacker. *shudder* *@(*&!*

Anyway I got to this hotel which seemed a bit bleak. I didn't feel like staying here one night let alone one minute. But it seemed ok to give myself a break and then find something else the next day- which is what i'm doing, and paying more because seriously, i'm over it, so i'm moving digs- and then booking a bus out of this place. Ok self- be patient! Because of tet it's going to take a few days- day 1 DONE. 2 more to go. I can only hope tomorrow to get the bus booked and a mudbath scheduled and then hunker down for the day where everythingisclosed and then get the hell out of here. Except i think i heard mui ne is overrun with russians too- I'm not sure why i'm loathing that population except so far- the flavor of this icecream is not to my taste. And i found myself so much more in love with hanoi- which was unexpected really. So I dont know what to do. But berate the fact that things are written in russian too, as well as the fake croissants and that weird fake mint that ruined my perfectly good mango shake. The coffee is good at least. And just for kicks i'll just assume my money won't run out and the money transfers from my job will go through and everything is going to be just fine. And aren't all travels incomplete without hiccups and neardeathexperiences? So you're on schedule self. You're doing just fine. It's all going to be OK.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dear Bruckner,

Ah yes. Poor young Werther. I admit I had my hopes up when I saw his sleeping back and tattooed shoulder. But then i saw his shoes. And I called the whole thing off. Perhaps years from now we'll meet across a crowded room and something will pass between us in a glance. What was. What could have been. A momentary constriction of the heart muscle, a breath. And then nothing.

Meanwhile, I got the fried fish, sitting conspicuously alone on the last night. Left with my choices and the way the red peppers floated in the sauce, the combination of noodle, fish and greens together. I went back to the Hanoi Rendezvous hotel, my bags already packed, and I waited. And though, despite what the hotel name suggests, it's all a matter of timing isn't it? I keep waiting to be met by something somewhere- but maybe just being in a space brings a change you can't conceive. Even if it's not the one you want.

...I took a taxi out into the night and joined a host of other backpackers in various states of looking around to board a jostling railcart in a faded mint green compartment one can only associate with prisons, mental wards and communist regimes... though i found the pillows to be quite a lovely retro touch. I was living large in a 4berth soft sleeper. car 9. space 25.  I met a plucky couple who quit their jobs and were on a four month adventure. We chatted. And I was sad we werent travelling to the same place. I shared my lychees with them and they shared their coconut crackers... and i tried to insure sleep with 2 benedryl and some yogic breathing. It worked.

Even as I try and continue to write this- but the young german has followed me from Hanoi. Walked right into the doors of my farmstay- which frankly is more of a hip outpost than farm. And now that I understand this, I like it much better. I spent my first day in and out of sleep staring out into a would be magical space of brilliant green rice paddies with egrets flying around looking idyllic, and women in those iconic conical  hats. Still a vague sense of detachment while the hammock swayed. Of having to sink back into a place and be here and already missing Hanoi. Even meeting the two original explorers of the largest cave in the world didn't shake me until hours after it was too late.

And the threads woven around me in korea trying to break off of me bit by bit. I can't tell how. The next day though I went on the Paradise Cave tour. It made my heart race faster. It made me giddy that such a thing existed. It was glorious. I then got to pretend to be an explorer, bathing in the waters of an unknown spring source- brilliant turqouise...talking vietnam, politics and the war, kayaking to the darkcave, wading and swimming 40m through a cavern with headlamps, trudging through sand, stepping between basalt passages with sharp edges- wonderous and awing- and then tramping through the softest mud, slick against the walls and cooled perfectly like being in continuous passages of milk chocolate truffles in various states of being made. And then out again. Rum and soup awaiting us.

After that I had planned to contemplate my detachment to the ricepaddy field but i was swayed to take a trip to the dragons mouth cave, and bicycle wheel rutted mud roads 7km (though just the first part was really difficult and the rest smooth flanked by children and their staccato HELLO!), to take a rickety looking tourist boat to what seemed like some sort of journey to the center of the earth replete with 70's lighting, and then back to eat an entire boned fillet of some sort of river fish. It was delicious. Anyway I'm back now after all of that and all of this- and the young werther has left as there wasn't any room at the inn. I've eaten a fruit salad and some pho ga. Drank a grain tea and am fighting sleep. Tomorrow- my last full day- i'll try and tackle the ricepaddy again. To see what's out there in a place where I thought certain the volcano lay.

my love,

(ps. its still pen's turn)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dear Penelope [the noise]

My notes upon entering Hanoi: apple bottom jeans (as heard in the hired car), beer and a motorbike (as in i saw a guy unapologetically drinking it and driving). The next note was something about "lose/loose tree ?" for which i have no explanation and "horror" which correlates directly to the fact that my dorm room was 6 flights up. Later inhabited by a young german studying international law. He only annoyed me with his boy-ishness. Otherwise he was quite nice. Our last interchange showing harmonious domesticity with "honey, i'm back" and "did you have a nice time?" And on the last night I had the room to myself again since he was living large on his fathers dime 3 flights below.

Meanwhile I've been intermittently attacked by allergies. I think i dodged the cold that was hovering, which i can only thank solid sleep, and my obsession with eating lychees. The first day i stepped out onto the street i had that giddy feeling of ooo and wow and oh my! The noise. The incessant tapping, honking and voom of motorbikes- locusts taking and inhabiting every free space. Every sidewalk. Coming and going from every dimlit corridor. The jarring chirp of birds, which seem to insist on another kind of life. Had me jerking my head up and pondering their lives amidst the cacophony. And the charming colonial houses slashed and hacked and assimilated by the din, the electric wires, the black grime coating their graceful facades and the trees roping and twining and expanding and stretching all together it came at me with a way that was both glorious and terrifying.

Then the motorbike drivers "hello." hello." where're you going." and the fruit sellers "madame."madame." and the shoe patcher and cleaners... "madame, your shoes. look. i can fix." and then i wandered. acquired lychees with the man holding up 3 fingers to say how much i should pay. a kindness. as the woman playfully batted at my arm, her prey.  to the place where they shot a part of indochine. my first coffee stop. bread with honey. yogurt. another juxtaposition between decay and deliciousness.

The 2nd day brought the best coffee of all the ones i tried on the LP list. and a food tour- there was the typical deliciousness, and then the weird juice squeezed from a bug eaten with korean ricesavorypancakes and dogmeatdressedwithshallotsandherbs, back to beer and nuts, and building back to various fruits, discussion of weasel beans and crescendo'ing with coffee. Worth it. The best. From there I made it to the temple of literature- reluctantly not throwing myself at the mercy of the 3 femaledoctors who were all my age and single and indelibly cool who were on the tour with me. I wasn't invited. Sigh. And then I got lost for what seemed hours. It was not ok. The only highlight came romantically from an older man, impeccably dressed on a velo, whom politely uttered bonsoir to me as he passed. Swoon. Otherwise the predatory nature of the fruit sellers pressed in and taunted me at every wrong lap i took. And just hours before feeling overcome with the beauty of life and living- it was as if i had become swept out to sea and was in danger of drowning... and knowing even as i had sat under the tree at the temple, knowing the moment was about to be snatched.

The 3rd day brought more peace as I found time to meditate in a church, and read at every coffee shop and food place i went to. Slowing down. Slow down. and more of the same just yesterday. Hearing liturgy sung. Learning the short cuts. Finding a tailor- linen pants taken in for just $3. More and better lychees. An honest man. A recommended street food stall. The best croissant. More walking. Coffee. Deciding not to go to Halong bay because it wasn't summer and i coulnd't muster the energy. Realizing how much a moment defines the experience. Again. How deceptive and rapt it can be- to determine my impression.

Today I took a taxi to the museum. I was bored. Though the traditional tribal houses were cool. The real adventure came in determining and succeeding in how to take a bus back- and as grace would have it right near the food place i wanted. And then a random waterpuppetshow and now i'm back at the hotel drinking weak coffee, and chatting with you over the sea surrounded by strangers speaking all sorts of languages. My next stop is to get fried fish. And take the overnight train to DongHoi. And continue to keep hold of my budget. I must.

There's more about you and your life buzzing around in my brain. Klo'surgery. Hopeful. Stressful. Delicate. Resiliant. And everything humming and oscilating around you I can't touch. Can't quite see. No idea what sort of big game your referring to and the exotic and foreign nature  of what it is to have a family but there you are amidst it- building and being built by it.

Goodnight, penelope.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Dear Penelope, [part2- the dark north]

We did need to eat something after all. So we chose starbucks. I chose it because it was one of the first places mtoo and i went together and I knew she would complain or just refuse mcds out right. I assume anyway. We took pictures on the plane. It all went. Damon was there to meet us, taller then I remember and darker hair- and aging of course from the youthful days of yore. He remained enigmatic as he constantly walked 10 paces ahead wondering why we weren't within earshot. Seriously claustraphobic apparently which left us wondering why seoul. Where everything is compact and 5 sizes too small. I guess we get locked into the familiar.  We got along though. It was an offkilter strange time in an expedition of... 2 intjs and an infj/p somesuch thing.

And then instead of dropping our bags at his apartment like he suggested and then ended up not fulfilling I ended up dropping my bags at the Seoul station- and having to pay a total of $20 or so for opening it once, oh and keeping it in there too long! (@*&(!*! So much for a time and money saver that turned out to be.Whatever. But before all that we walked in the frosty dark and found a hot chocolate place, and ate fancy tacos and queso like we were in some hip eatery in america. The owner even hostily wondered why mtoo was taking pictures. Uh? What? What?! Just walk away jerk before you ruin our dining experience. But Damon treated us to dinner like a gentleman and it was nice. And even over fatigue and mtoos phone dying didn't keep us from wandering and finding a resplendint french eatery. i cried out when i saw it because against all odds we found it, and where i accidentally drank damon's tea thinking it was for the table and eating chocolate tarts and walnut maple icecream- and then mtoo and me finding our way to a sauna where we wandered around naked and sat in pools of hot to cold water and exfoliated our skin. And slept on mats in a haze of other pink clothed people- feeling like i was on some oceanic tanker from the hum and drone of the white noise machine and the creak of the wood planks. Telling mtoo in a tired haze that a black snake was trying pull her down to earth...

I almost got sick plagued by allergies and lack of sleep since the guy was all blah-blah-juseyo and rolled me off the 2 other mats i was hoarding, but it was worth it. Since it is such a wheninkorea thing to do. And I did it. The next day the coffee place wasn't open since they dont understand morning coffee. They absolutely don't get it. IT's infuriating. And then we almost missed the tour of the secret garden which was the one and only thing i wanted to do- mtoo mistook my breakneck pace for hostility but i just wanted to get there. Again not about you babe. And in 18 degree weather i'm not sure what the point is to sauntering. And besides she began to lose circulation in her feet because of some condition- of course. And then her phone died again and the taxi kicked us out because he wouldn't help us find the restaurant we wanted...and said to her in korean that we should research where we wanted to go better first- and then he made us pay for the 30sec cabride... and i thought he dropped us fortuitously near the olleh store who refused to help even when mtoo asked in korean, but we kept standing there, and then even offered our charger until he was like, oh you mean this charger? Over here? Yes. Asshole. Thanks! Thanks seoul! You assholes.

We did find the wood and brick place but there was nothing i wanted to eat but i lost it and ate not only spagetti but bought a load of walnut/cheese bread and some jam- which i ate over the course of two days. And it was delicous. And then we went to the traditional neighborhood that was too frigid to see and there was no room at this awesome coffee house, though that in the meantime seated a couple after they had shoved us into the shed where they roast the coffee but it was just too cold to stay. The guy was cute and nice though and gave us a discount for the assholery and frost we were surrounded with. Mtoo chatted him up in korean... We don't blame you. You were a warm memory on a cold almost better forgotten day just like my walnut bread. But then we got to a tea house. And we lost precious time getting damon there but i had this persimmon tea. And some lovely pumpkin ricecake. And time slipped by. And we tried not to be reminded about the schizophrenic nature of life- or life as a foreigner because it can so easily slip one way or the other. One good experience, you go back and it's gone bad. You stay a little longer than you should and it gets ugly. Directly racist and then warm and hospitable. It's hard sometimes. As i was reminded by mtoo and damon- he was almost refused entry onto a waterrafting trip because he was white. Mtoo was shunned by my coworkers. Remember they wouldn't even try her food. I've been living and skirting by in ahow can they be mean to me? idyllichaze. And seoul just reminded me how precarious our preceptions are/ours.

Somewhere in the back of my head i kind of hate korea. I'm glad to be done with it. But how could that possibly sum up the whole of our experience. When there are so many things I love. It's just trying to tell me the door is closing for now. With some time apart. And though Mtoo is not quite the villian of this tale, the unpredictable piece? she was responsible for every delicious thing i ate or drank- and the care and keeping of me and for that i thank her down to the last ricecake i ate.

Anyway we had dinner, i don't remember where. Thai? We took that awkward photo which has become cool in my mind for its absolute strange awfulness. We drank coffee and they again argued with mtoo- are you sure you want that? it's small. are you sure you want that? it's not sweet. We said our goodbyes to damon. We went to the hostel where i mostly ignored mtoo's complaints about possibly being robbed and murdered in the night. She went to tango. She got text-harassed by an employer threatening to sue her at 1130atnight. She forgot her chocolates at the hostel. We got up early needlessly and forgot to check out- mtoo went back for her chocolates later and found out-- the flight got delayed for "mechanical" problems. 6 hour delay. and 2 meal coupons. Awesome. It was all rolling off me. Every little twitch or problem. Just trying to keep going and get to the next step.

But mtoo wouldn't leave. She stayed with me. Sarah came in perfect synchronicity on a flight back from Thailand. She wouldn't leave. They both stayed with me. I had been surrounded by people for a solid 2+ weeks straight i had no strength for sentiment. I just wanted to be alone. But not alone. But alone. And they walked off with their luggage. And I waved goodbye with a detachment bourn of wearniess since i love them still.  I killed time. I wandered around. I spent every cent of my coupons... i made a traditional craft. I watched the royal court walk by. I sat. and i sat and it passed by not at all like 6 hours. And then somehow and someways i made it to Hanoi, Vietnam. To be told the visa price had risen and that yes they'd take my koreanwon...To be met eventually by a driver half-heartedly holding a sign with my name on it. Too busy texting, too bored to see me. We swept out into the night. And it's always the same thought, where am I? And what have i done?