Monday, January 30, 2017

The Discomfort Zone

The older I get, the more I'm acutely aware of my own discomfort.  Looking back now, I know it was there all along.  I just wasn't paying attention because I was too busy forcing myself to do what I thought I was supposed to do rather than paying attention to how I felt doing it.  But, that's the thing about getting older, you start not giving a shit about what you're supposed to do and focus more on seeking contentment.  Except, comfort is difficult to come by as you get older.

Like the ultimate comfort: sleep.  (I'm writing this at 6am on Sunday morning.)  Why would I get up that early on a weekend morning when I don't need to be?  Because my body won't let me sleep in.  My legs get restless and my mind races.  Also, I really need to pee.  Even if I got up in the middle of the night to pee, which is happening more frequently now.  Especially, when I wake up in the middle of the night in a hot sweat, worrying about the state of the world and need to come downstairs to get a juice box to quench my thirst.  I think I'm the only one who even drinks juice boxes in my house anymore.  It's like I'm Benjamin Button, reverting back to a child, or something.

As, I sit here on my old wooden chair, writing in the dark, lit only by the glow of my computer screen wearing my third favorite pair of reading glasses because I couldn't find my favorite, nor its runner-up,  I haven't stopped moving.  I literally cannot sit still.  Because when I do my legs ache and/or they fall asleep.  Granted, this old wooden chair isn't exactly cozy.  But, the thing is, it doesn't even matter.      If I'm on the couch watching TV, it's the same thing.  I can't get comfortable even on a couch that's actually comfortable.  Up until the point that I fall asleep that is.  And if I start to watch a movie, that's exactly what will happen.  Oh, I'll promise my husband that this time it'll be different and I'll see the whole thing so he doesn't have to explain the parts I missed.  But, I'm a huge liar, apparently.

You know what's worse than sitting for long periods of time?  Standing for long periods of time.  Which I did this past week when I had to fulfill my mandatory volunteer hours working at the concession stand for my daughter's basketball team.  Which was combined with by far, my most substantial discomfort, social interaction.  So, I was slinging hot dogs and nachos with a woman I'd never met before trying to make small talk (which I abhor) trying to steer clear of controversial subjects.  Which these days, is pretty much everything.  Also, the elephant in the room is the one chair provided for the two of us.  And all I know, is I'm not going to be the selfish asshole who sits my ass in the chair.  Then the standoff began: we both stood for hours.  I leaned on the counter to get some relief for my sore back.  Checked on the snowfall out the window or the scoreboard during lulls to walk it off.

I admit, I finally did use the chair, standing behind it placing my arms on the back to stretch out like a cat.  But, hell if I was sitting in that thing.  Besides, I would've only been comfortable for 30 seconds, until I opened my damn mouth complaining about the lack of ethnic diversity in my neighborhood here in Conservativille.  Opening the door to a whole conversation on politics.  Again.  Oh Marie, shut up!  Why can't you talk about things like the weather?  But, that's only going to come back the environment.  Which, of course, is a whole other political topic.

So, that night, I went home, got in my pj's, snuggled up on the couch with my Restless Leg Syndrome and fell asleep there.  Again.  In the most comfortable of discomfort zones.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Laundry List

My life is filled with lots of things.  Nagging, whining, arguing, complaining, disappointment and laundry.  Lots and lots of dirty laundry.  Doing the laundry itself, I don't mind too much.  I mean it's not as though I have to trek down to a mountain stream with homemade lye soap and spend the whole afternoon beating it on a rock while contracting pneumonia or anything.  But, it's all the things surrounding getting clothes into the washing machine and out of the dryer that are a huge pain in the ass.

The only place you won't find clothes in my house is the hamper.  

I could actually start hiding Christmas presents in the kids' hamper.  Or my chocolate stash.  It is probably the safest and the cleanest place in my entire house.  Even though I nag my kids incessantly about picking up their clothes to put them in there.  And I know I shouldn't pick up their clothes for them and wash them.  I know I should simply step over their disgusting smelly socks and make them responsible for doing their own laundry.  Oh, trust me, I have tried tough love!  But, I just can't do it.  For the sake of my sanity and the environment, I must run, at least, a full load of laundry every day.  But, I refuse to be a slave to my kids, which is why I draw the line at checking for personal items in pants pockets.

Which is why I have washed wallets, pens, pencils, paperclips, notes, wrappers (sometimes empty, sometimes not) and money. It's like I've started my own money laundering business.  I've washed dollar bills, sometimes even quarters and dimes, but mostly pennies. Where does it come from?  I mean who even uses cash anymore?  Do they still accept it at stores?  Especially pennies.  Really, I don't think you can even use the phrase penny for your thoughts anymore.  Cause with inflation I think it's at least a quarter, but even more realistically, probably a dollar.  Plus, are you sure you really want to know what someone else is thinking?  In these divisive times?  Probably not.  I know I'd pay some people at least $10 to keep their thoughts to themselves. 

But, I digress.  Once I've pocketed the money, then I fold the laundry.  Carefully trying to determine whose socks are whose and then stacking each kid's clothes in neat piles on the kitchen table for them to take up to their room and put it away.  With the expectation that it will be done in time for the table to be set for dinner.  Now, we do this every day and it's pretty damn straightforward.  How hard can it be?  And yet, I still have to nag them to move their clothes so I can serve them a dinner they'll hate and complain about. With the long laundry list of annoying things my kids do (or don't, rather), I should have earned a doctorate in nagging at this point.  And when they do finally take their clothes upstairs, one of them consistently drops them on the dog fur laden carpet on the floor in his bedroom.

I can't wait until they all leave home
 and bring their laundry home to mom when they visit.  
The day they appreciate me.  

Monday, January 23, 2017


Now that I'm in my late forties and riddled with aches and pains, I find I need more recovery time.  Not only from working out, but from life in general. As much as I don't want to admit it, I'm slowing down a bit. I'd say I'm doing it to savor the moment, but I'm not. Not purposely anyway.  I'm doing it to survive. You can't help but listen to your body at this age because it's shouting at you with a megaphone.  "You're too old for this shit!"  Also, you really know you're old when you learn to enjoy life's simple pleasures: a good night's sleep and taking a really satisfying shit.

Last Friday night I went out with friends. I know, I was shocked too. Because there's nothing I like more on a Friday night than to have a quiet pajama party on my couch while watching the latest horror flick. Namely, Frontline or a Black Mirror episode. Which inevitably turns into a slumber party when I fall asleep on the couch before 10pm.  Because I know how to party! Anyhow, Friday night was different.  I had a nice meal, went to listen to a friend's band play at a bar and drank too much wine as evidenced by the fact that I danced at a bar in front of real live people. Until midnight.  I didn't even know I could stay up until midnight anymore. Because regardless of what time I go to bed, my achy body won't allow me sleep past 6:30am. So, the next day is spent in recovery mode.  Honestly, probably the next two days.

Then there are my workouts on the pole. I've been pole dancing for four and a half years now.  And I've only gotten more obsessed with it as time goes on. I watch other dancers' videos and wonder why I can't do what they do. Never mind that most of the dancers I watch are people who are 20 years younger than me, who don't have the distraction of kids, but do have more time and disposable income to go to classes, expositions, competitions and buy impossibly high heels to dance in that I would somehow impale myself with. I'm calling them suicide shoes. It's definitely safest and more cost effective for me to continue to dance barefoot. But, the toll it takes on my body is cost enough.  My body might look 20 years younger than it is, but at the end of the day, I feel all 47 years.  I'm constantly sore and exhausted, and complaining about how sore and exhausted I am.  I spend far more time recovering from dancing than I do actually dancing.  Also,  I buy the big bottle of ibuprofen at Costco.

But, by far, the most difficult recovery is from regrets. Like, I regret that I kinda ditched new friends when old friends unexpectedly showed up at the music venue on Friday night.  I regret I didn't start stretching to increase my flexibility years ago or I'd be able to do so much more on the pole. I'm talking almost double the tricks I can do now.  And then there's the Women's March over the weekend, which I didn't attend.  I thought it was only happening in D.C.  And since I have kids to nag, drive all over town, remind to do their homework and cook meals they'll hate for, I didn't give attending a second thought. And then I regretted it. I regretted it so hard! Not only standing up for women, but for the rights of all Americans that are threatened, by making my voice heard in peaceful protest.  Unfortunately, regret doesn't rectify or change anything. That's when I first heard about the petition calling for Trump to release his tax returns and recovered (at least in part) by signing it.

If you feel the President should disclose his financial interests and potential conflicts of interest to the American people he serves, you can sign the petition here and make your voice heard. Let's put the truth out there so we can begin our recovery from this divisive election as a nation.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Fifth Element

I have four kids named after the four elements: Water, Air, Fire and Earth.  (Those aren't my kids' actual names, just the inspiration for them.)   Recently, when I was at the library, I came across the book The Five Elements: an ancient Chinese classification system for personality types. Not only do I love to delve into the introspective, but I'm also curious, so I had to know if my kids would fit their element.  So, I'd have validation that I'd named them correctly. Except, I can already see a problem with this ancient Chinese wisdom; there is no Air.  How are you supposed to breathe without air?  They've gone and replaced Air with Wood.  I guess, when you think about it, trees release oxygen. So, let me try to keep an open mind.

Woods are fearless, strong, logical, bold, independent, confident, unapologetic and nothing upsets them more than injustice.  Which describes my oldest exactly.  Seriously, he goes on and on about injustices all the time.  And do you know how many injustices there are in the world? A LOT!

Waters take their time, flourish in clutter, like rituals, symbols, traditions and they live inside their own heads, marching to the beat of their own drummer.  This is dead on for my second oldest.  He marches right on stepping over the clutter, completely oblivious of what is going on right in front of him. And I do mean completely.

Earths make everyone feel loved. They're devoted, compassionate, easygoing, friendly, kind and put others first.  This is my third child to a T.  She's a far better mother than I am and she's not even a mother yet.

Fires are the life of the party: energetic, carefree, playful, funny, impulsive and live in the moment.  This girl is on fire!  This girl is on fire! She's walking on fire!  (Are you singing that Alicia Keys song yet?) Oh. My. God.  We're four for four!

But, what is the fifth element and how does it tie in?  

Metal is the last of all the elements and represents endings. Metals are loners with high standards who value substance.  They're practical and don't like to discuss feelings. Because feelings of sadness, regrets, challenges, and the emotions of others can be too overwhelming for them. Because of this, they can come off as aloof and indifferent. Although, Metals are very kind, they just don't like gossip or small talk and prefer interaction one-on-one as opposed to groups. They seek spiritual connections with people and a higher purpose; thus, are often humanitarians. Metals tend to be serious-minded, but have a dry, sophisticated wit.  They work methodically and are perfectionists. When they become displeased and/or hurt they become withdrawn and detached.   

 Wait, this sounds like me. 
Exactly like me.

So, I forced my husband to listen to my summarization of the Metal personality.  Because when I read something I find interesting, I need to analyze it and share it. It's for his own good really. As are the documentaries and Frontline episodes I force him to watch. I'm altruistic like that. Not controlling or annoying.  Altruistic, I said.

After indulging me, yet again, he said something to the effect of...You had me at doesn't like to discuss feelings.

And perhaps the clincher:  "When Metals get stressed, they get stuck in a loop of doing more and more of what is already not working, which is apparent to everyone but them."   It's confirmed...

I'm the fifth element!  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Jet Lag, Food & Toilets

There are three things that are intricately linked and take on a vitally important role when you travel: jet lag, food and toilets.  Traveling for over 24 hours straight, half way around the world, crossing 10 time zones does weird things to your body.  First, you're more cranky than you've ever been in your life because you're more exhausted than you've ever been in your life.  Second, you get waves of nausea and in the absence of sleep, because it's difficult to get sustained sleep on a plane, train, boat or cab ride from hell, the only other way to treat feeling like you're going to spontaneously empty your stomach, is by eating.  Which is great for me, because I love eating.  I'll eat just about anything, which in retrospect, has come back to haunt me many, many times.

After subsisting on subpar airplane food, finally, we'd arrived in Vietnam for breakfast and our first taste of real Vietnamese food.  Probably the most well-known Vietnamese dish, pho (pronounced fa, as in fa la la).  Beef with rice noodles and veggies served separately to add in.  (I didn't take a picture after I put the leafy greens in because even after a full nights sleep, because I was still exhausted and also voraciously hungry.)  Also, yes, this was breakfast.  Many Asian countries don't have separate and distinct breakfast foods.

However, they do have coffee.  Not Starbucks, although there is at least one 'Bucks in Ho Chi Minh City.  We never saw it or McDonald's or any other American (or European) chain, which was so refreshing.  Like we'd traveled back in time or something.  Vietnamese coffee consists of slow filtered  coffee that's sweetened with condensed milk.  Yes, that stuff you use for baking.  Did the French colonialists bring over cans of the stuff to make seven layer bars for their Christmas cookie exchange and unintentionally start this condensed milk coffee craze?  Not likely. But, how did this tradition start?  I have absolutely no idea.

But, I do know, I ate a lot of rice.  Because I made a lot of assumptions.  Like when I ordered coconut chicken that it would come with vegetables that were more substantial than garnishes.  I was starting to worry.  I was eating mass amounts of food, but I hadn't pooped in days.  A girl's gotta poop, you know.

At least most meals were served with fruit afterward; nature's Metamucil.  Although this dragon fruit (which tastes like a pear with the consistency and seeds like a kiwi) wasn't enough to do the job. Drastic measures had to be taken.

Committing a travel sin while we were sightseeing in a touristy city, we stopped for lunch at a cafe owned by a Brit that serves up fresh salads and juices.  I felt like a traitor, but it had to be done. Luckily, it did the trick.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled Vietnamese cuisine.

The second most famous Vietnamese dish; spring rolls.  Meat (and/or tofu) rolled up with veggies in a thin sheet of rice paper with a sauce for dipping.  In theory, this is a great dish.  In reality, most of that roll is going to end up in your lap and not in your mouth, because rolling a spring roll must be an ancient art form taught from a very young age.  Because I am incapable of using this delicate rice paper as an efficient vehicle to get its contents in my mouth.  Also, I don't have a photo of it after I rolled it up because I couldn't figure out how to hold the roll in one hand and take a picture with the other.  And again I was S-T-A-R-V-I-N-G because we had just hiked miles through the muddy jungle and spelunked through caves.  So, when lunch is sprawled out on a tarp I sat my ass down, criss-cross applesauce and dug into the communal ingredients with my hands I rinsed off in the stream and stuffed my face.  Before relieving myself in the facilities, a nearby tree, before making the long trek back.

Back in town we feasted on fried rolls filled with mystery meat.  Was it dog?  Which, yes, they do actually eat in Vietnam.  Who knows?

I think this was pork, but it could've been cat.

Mussels really aren't my favorite.  But, I'm here and so are they, so sure, why not?

I think I had one of the fried shrimp, because the kids ate them all.

Pork kabobs with figs and a spicy sauce.  This was probably my favorite.

Fried pancake with pork and shrimp loaded with grease.  I feel like I'm going to regret this later.  And 20 minutes later when we were in the cramped market place and I was cramping up, I did.  Where o' where could I regret this though?  Like right now!  Little known fact: a lot of travel time is spent going in search of a toilet.  And not knowing if you will find one in time.

This is where I was, when the situation became dire and I ran off (literally) to find a toilet or at least a deserted alleyway.  And I was at a point where I didn't care which, when I came across one.  Stopping to pay the attendant for the use of the squat potty, but not sticking around to get the change I was owed.  I never calculated how much it cost me to make a deposit in that hole in the ground, but it saved me my dignity.  So really, who cares?  Totally worth it.

That's almost the end of our gastronomic journey.  Almost.  Until we ate on a boat, which we don't have a good track record with. I offer up our food boat experience in Thailand a couple years ago as proof.  (Click the link at your own risk.)   Anyway, our lunch was cooked for us by a chef on our very own tour boat.  The spread was huge, consisting mainly of seafood caught in the local fishing villages.  Where the fisherman live on houseboats with toilets that are like the above squat potty, except that the waste isn't collected, it goes directly back into the bay with a plop.  Of course, I wasn't thinking about that at lunchtime.  At lunchtime I was thinking, no one's eating the shrimp, the chef that I'll never see again in my lifetime might feel slighted.  Never mind that they aren't deveined.      And that I'm really only eating them out of my own self-assigned guilt and obligation over the matter.

And that's how I got an intestinal parasite and the rest of my family was spared.  Right before we began our 48-hour journey home.  Luckily, my husband recognized the signs: severe abdominal cramps, nausea and/or diarrhea with frequent burps that taste like sulfur.  He found a pharmacy and I started on antibiotics right before we got on the plane.  My husband knew I felt horrible because I had no appetite whatsoever and wasn't eating anything.  Which did melt off the vacation pounds I'd gained, so while it was miserable, it did end up being kinda win-win in the end.

And by the time we'd reached Taiwan,  24 hours of travel in, I was hungry and ready to take risk again. Would my parasite like apple pie and coffee for breakfast?  I was eating for two after all. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Made in Vietnam.
I knew it was coming.  And I didn't want to talk about it anymore.  I was sick of talking about it, thinking about it and waking up in a panic in the middle of the night because I'm worried sick about it.  It was one of the realities I went on vacation to avoid, if only for two weeks, before the reality set in.  Before the most volatile, least qualified president elect with the most conflicts of interest and least laudable character becomes president of the most powerful and influential nation in the entire world.

There I was in Vietnam, an ambassador to all things American in a communist country, when the Vietnamese tour guide asked the inevitable. Please note, these are the abbreviated and sanitized version of my reply.

What do you think of Trump?   Here we go.  I don't like him and I didn't vote for him.

Why not?  He seems like he's doing a good job so far, our tour guide adds.  Obama is still the president until January 20th, which is why things haven't changed, yet.  And as of right now, Trump is doing a good job of stocking his cabinet with sketchy characters who appear likely to not only threaten, but completely trample, existing civil liberties and rape the environment.  Also, Trump is a despicable human being.

But he's such a good business man!  That's debatable.  First of all, he got a head start on business with a $1 million handout from his daddy in the 70's.  In the 80's he owed his daddy and his daddy's companies $14 million from bad business decisions.  If it wasn't for his nepotistic safety net, he would have been out of business.  Plus, I doubt if the people Trump employed over the years who didn't get paid for their work would say he's a good businessman either.  Sure, he's made a lot of money, but I don't agree that that alone makes anyone a good businessman.  How you get things done matters.  And so does contributing to the betterment of society by paying your fair share in taxes, which he doesn't do either.  Especially when you're a billionaire, because that adds up to a lot of betterment to society.  In addition, being a good businessman doesn't necessarily make for a good politician.  After all, you have to serve all the people in the entire country, not just those that you like because they contribute to your own personal wealth.  ALL OF THEM. Even if they have a disability or are a different race, gender, religion or sexual orientation from you.  He's publicly ridiculed all of these groups of people, which constitutes the majority of Americans.

But lots of people must've voted for him because he won.  Just because America is a democracy doesn't mean people aren't apathetic and don't vote.  Over half of the population didn't get off their lazy asses to get to the polls, or even use a convenient mail-in ballot to vote from the comfort and privacy of their own homes, to exercise their right to vote.  Instead, they flushed the opportunity to help choose our next leader right down the toilet.  So, Trump got elected by a measly 19% of all  Americans.  N-I-N-E-T-E-E-N percent, I said!  And we had more than 10 candidates representing different political parties with vastly different views of the world to choose from.  Which is probably shocking to you, living in a communist country with only one political party, where you don't even have the privilege of voting directly for your own Prime Minister.  Because, I know it's shocking to me and it's my own countrymen we're talking about.

I think he's ok for Vietnam though.  I don't agree.  I don't think he's ok for Vietnam or the rest of the free world for that matter.  With the exception of maybe Russia, but only because Putin's deluded too.  But, I'm getting off topic here. Trump wants to bring back jobs to America. Jobs that got sent overseas to places like Vietnam by businessmen like him in the first place.  In order to make products for less cost with cheap sweatshop labor.  So people like Trump, whose ties are made in Vietnam for his very own clothing line, could sell those products for a huge profit. But, now that he's going to be president, and because he's a huge hypocrite, he wants to take those factory jobs from the Vietnamese and give them back to Americans, most of whom don't even want these kinds of excruciatingly labor intensive jobs.  At the same time, he'd like to raise the minimum wage for workers here in America which is great.  Except that products made by Americans with higher labor costs added in to the cost of products will make lots of products unaffordable to lots of Americans.  Especially, when he repeals Obamacare and makes medical care more unaffordable and gives more tax cuts to the rich, making the poor even poorer.  And trickle down economics won't solve anything, just like it didn't when Reagan was President.  But, don't worry, in the end, he's going to screw far more Americans than Vietnamese.

There you have it.
You've been Trumped.

ADDENDUM:  This was not one isolated incident of being asked about Trump. We were asked several times by people of all different nationalities we encountered while traveling in Vietnam.  The whole world is talking about Trump and waiting to see what he'll do.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Maybe This is How I Die

The calm before the storm
(before we'd reached open water, when I was still thought it was fun.) 
There are moments in life when you stop to ponder your mortality.  And there are moments when you don't stop to ponder your mortality because your mortality is thrust upon you and you're too busy freaking out to stop and ponder.  We experienced a few of them in Vietnam.  From the cut on my foot that got infected walking through the mud and dirty streets in sandals, reminding me of the beginning of every episode of Monster Inside Me that I'd ever seen. To the little kayak excursion with my husband that turned into an open water paddle for our lives on the swells of the Gulf of Tonkin, which began cresting over and into the boat.  But, those weren't even the top two of our trip to Vietnam.  Although, the kayak experience comes in a close third and the intestinal parasite I contracted later in the trip ranks a very distant fourth.

Both of our near death experiences occurred in traffic.
And oddly, not on that 8 hour motorbike tour we took in the rain.

First, you need to understand traffic in Vietnam, where recently paved roads connecting the country helped to propel it into becoming a tourist destination.  Next, you need to realize that it's organized chaos.  Where you can commit a whole slew of traffic infractions if only you honk to warn other drivers you're coming up on their left.  Or their right.  Or right behind them.  If in doubt as to whether you need to honk or not, just honk anyway.  It safeguards you like an aspirin does to prevent blood clots (which is what we do for long flights.) 

Anyhow, it was on an early morning taxi ride on the way to the airport for a short flight from Na Trang to Da Nang before the sun came up, where I first questioned if this was how I die.  Our family of six was split between two cabs.  My husband, River and Ember in one.  Me, Sky and Jade in the other.  Sky, the only extrovert in our family, knows from our other travels to take front seat with the driver in case there is any chit chat to be had.  Which in this case there wasn't, because our driver didn't speak English.  The first half of the 50 minute ride from town to the airport was uneventful.

Then, the car started slowing down for no apparent reason.  And our driver pulled the car over, got out, opened the trunk and splashed water on his face.  Because he was falling asleep.  We formulated a plan.  We'd talk loudly in an effort to keep him awake and Sky was designated to be on high alert to take the wheel.  Thank god for my social anxiety and hiding in the back of the cab where I'm merely a lookout with a clear shot of the driver's eyes in the rear view mirror.  After much head bobbing from our driver, it happened; his eyes closed completely for a nanosecond.  And I barked my loudest bark and the driver's eyes thrust open. We had 10 more minutes until the airport and I've never been more religious in my life. Which is probably why we actually got to the airport, because I'm pretty sure Jesus took the wheel. But, that wasn't the worst maybe this is how I die moment.

The worst came on a three and a half hour van ride from Hue to the jungle of Phong Nha.  Our driver had a wicked, deep, throaty cough we thought might be from Tuberculosis.  But, who knew, it could also be SARS.  Then there was the seemingly random alarm that kept going off that the driver ignored.  What did it mean?  We found out later, it meant he was driving too fast. Which is no consolation when you're driving down the middle of a two lane road dodging one of countless mopeds overloaded with a family of four and two chickens riding on it.  That's when I saw headlights coming directly toward us from an oncoming truck passing a car.  This is definitely how we all die.  I didn't even have time or the inclination to bark.  Death seemed imminent.  There was nothing to do but succumb to it.  It was completely, eerily quiet when our driver hit the brakes and the truck somehow managed to nudge past the car it was passing before careening back into its own lane just in the nick of time.  

We'll live to see another adventure.
And ponder, maybe this is how I die, another day.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Monsoon Season

We arrived in Vietnam just in time for Monsoon season.  And everything we wanted to see and do was outside.  Hiking, waterfalls, spelunking caves, surfing waves and riding motor bikes.   Not to be deterred by my poor travel planning and lack of waterproof apparel, we forged on.  Through the mud.

Did I mention the motorbike ride was 8 hours long?
On the back of a motorbike?
In the rain?
With our luggage?

Even though we were provided with rain jackets, 8 hours of pelting rain on a bike still makes you wet.

Or that after we hiked through the jungle covered in mud, we swam inside the caves with bats flying over our heads?

And no, the water wasn't warm.  
Even though we were wet and cold a lot of the time, we still had fun.  But, what we didn't have was clean, dry laundry.   Because we pack light.  And in Vietnam, like most of Africa and some of Europe, they don't have dryers.  Which doesn't sound like a big deal.  Just hang the laundry up to dry, right?  But when the humidity is really high and the duration of your stay before you move on to the next destination is so short, your clothes never dry.  And forget your shoes.  Your shoes are a swamp.

Sure, we could go to the market and buy all kinds of name brand clothes replacements. Because nearly every article of clothing is made in Vietnam. Quick, go to your closet and check the labels, I'll wait.  So, you can go get yourself a cheap bootleg North Face jacket made of inferior fabrics by underpaid, over worked, oppressed factory worker on every corner.  That's how Communism works.  But, taking time out to shop, means taking time from actually doing things and we already missed 3 days being stuck in Seattle due to weather.  

After a futile attempt to dry our clothes and shoes out with the blow dryer in the hotel room, we did the only thing left to do. We shoved the wet clothes in plastic bags and packed them to bring them to our next destination.  And while the underdeveloped world may lack a lot of the luxuries of the developed world, like clean air and water, there is no shortage of plastic bags. Thank god. But, do you know what happens to wet clothes in a contained plastic bag?  They have a stench more noxious than a bag of rotten potatoes!  And you know people only pack their favorite clothes to go on vacation.  As if it's fashion week or something.  I mean, it's not like you're going to run into someone you know or anything.    

What's my point?  Photos never do justice to a story.  In part because they're not scratch and sniff.  Also, because you can't hear the fighting because everyone's wet, cold, exhausted with jet lag and thus, at their worst.  And because you can never capture the essence of a place on film.  Which is why you need to travel there in the first place to experience it first hand.  Just maybe not during monsoon season. Also, my other point is...I'm the worst travel planner ever!  

Monday, January 2, 2017


"If the flight attendant asks, just tell her you're 18", I said.  He was only days away from that not being a lie.  And in my quick surveillance of the other passengers also seated in the emergency exit row, he was the most capable of actually being able to open the aircraft door and handle an emergency situation.

The morning started with whiteout conditions on the hour and a half drive to the airport, which turned into two and a half hours.  The weather caused the cancellation of half of the flights leaving the airport, but not ours.  Ours was merely delayed by 3 hours, meaning we'd miss our connections for Taipei and on to our destination of Ho Chi Minh City.  What we didn't realize is that meant we'd be stuck in Seattle for 3 days in an airline administrative quagmire.  Neither Expedia, nor United, nor Eva, would book us on a flight out of the most depressing city in the US.  Which, as you might imagine, was really depressing.  The free sub-par wine paired with gummy bears at Happy Hour at the Embassy Suites near the airport was no consolation.

Our days were spent on hold with one of three companies: one of which had fulfilled their basic obligation to get us to Seattle, one was headquartered in Taiwan and didn't have 24 hour customer service and one offered cheap tickets, counterbalanced by cut-rate customer service. When we finally get through to them, all three explained that they weren't the problem, it was the other guy.  Which is exactly what all the politicians we were watching on CNN in the hotel room were also doing, assigning blame instead of working toward solutions. The kids were astounded no one would help us.  But, none more than my oldest, the idealistic one. The one about to be christened by adulthood.

We spend most of our childhoods longing to be an adult.  Only to realize once we get there that adulthood really sucks.  Adulthood isn't freedom, it's responsibility.  It's nagging, deadlines, insurance, mortgage payments and taxes.  It's being in a dank hotel room in a cold city with luggage filled with warm weather clothes listening to shitty music on hold for an hour before explaining your entire predicament all over again to someone new who won't help you. Welcome to the age of maturity, where nothing happens unless you make it happen.  And even then it might not actually happen.

The only thing left to do was to check out of the hotel and go back to the airport ticket counter to get in someone's face to either intimidate them or get them to take pity on us.  It didn't matter which.  Both are proven tactics adults use for daily survival, just watch CNN for verification of this.  And add on our own personal success story as further confirmation.  Because that night (or rather the next morning at 1am) we were on a flight headed west.  And by the time we arrived in Vietnam, our oldest had turned 18 somewhere over the Pacific with no fanfare whatsoever.  Which, when I think about it, is the most befitting welcome to adulting.


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