Independence and Serendipity in 2013

Well, I suppose I can’t let my international new year celebration pass by without a nod.

It was a lot of fun. I met a lot of people, and found myself in a lot of new environments. Midnight itself, I spent alone in a sea of people, to which a thickly accented Australian retorted, “Then that’s how you’ll spend your year, strong and independent!”

I would be remiss if I did not mention the bit of serendipity I was blessed with. Amongst the hustle and bustle of hundreds of people, I turned to introduced myself to the nearest stranger. Upon hearing my hometown in Alaska, he asked me if I happened to know..my best friend! What?! Of all the countries, cities, bars, and all the people I could have talked to, the universe connected me with a familiar face far from home. It was a New Years gift!

Cheers and happy new year to all you out there! It was a strange and magical night here In Chiang Mai.

A Train Through The Country

I feel now very qualified to describe the Thai countryside in detail, having sat at this train window for the last 11 hours.

Just outside the lush city of Bangkok, we passed through what could only be described as slums. Houses built out of solely corregated metal, overrunning with trash and various other debris. Possibly the most mentionable sight would be these same rudimentary dwellings that had new cars parked in the front. Are they company cars, or were the vehicles simply a priority over a standard home? It didn’t seem feasible to hop off the speeding train and ask, so perhaps I’ll never know.

Further on, many farmlands. A few herds of ox. A few people bathing in the river. Many people waiting for our train to pass through what was likely their only main road. A group of children waving enthusiastically. And one man wielding a rifle over his shoulder, waving with as much vigor and joy as the children.

And then after a few naps, two books, and some good conversation….we were there. Chiang Mai! After dismounting our iron steed, we easily located a red truck that would come to be a very familiar sight. The ride is a combination of a public bus and a taxi. He picked up what we assumed was a full load from the train station, all with separate destinations, but then continued to accept new passengers until several people were merely hanging off the back of the truck. Eventually our time came to load off, and we found ourselves at the door of our home for the next 6 nights.

And that, my friends, will have to be continued!

Goodbye Bangkok

It was a hectic few days in Bangkok; the normally busy city was completely crowded out by the New Years vacation crowd.

At night, nearly every table in the huge plethora of open air bars and restaurants was occupied, each ringing with the orchestra of a thousand accents and languages. The massage salons stay open until well past midnight, packing the sidewalk in front of their shop with wicker lawn chairs and grateful clients.

Vendors walk from table to table with trinkets, lighters, bracelets, flowers, sunglasses…and do not easily take no for answer. However, much to my relief, the majority of stationary shop owners did not share this hard hustling mentality, and allowed us to browse their wares graciously and uninterrupted. I picked up a cloth tote bag (much more comfortable and convenient than my backpack), a leather bracelet, and one of many varieties of screen printed tanktops, perfect for the muggy weather. Even my lightest items of clothing can’t compare.

All in all, the first few days in Thailand have been a whirlwind, and I find myself very grateful to be boarding a train out of town today. We are headed on a 10 hour ride to Chiang Mai, which will likely be nearly as crowded as Bangkok due to the holiday, but has been described as a little cheaper and less….Bangkoky. I anticipate that after all these crazy cities, our time spent in peaceful Laos will be a welcomed reprieve.

image

The Next Chapter

Hello fellow humans!

I apologize for my absence, but I was forced to abandon you for lack of inspiration.

However, I now find myself sitting in a crowded outdoor bar in Bangkok at 3am, and predictably, filled with things to share.

It is muggy. It took about 24 hours in the air, not including layovers, to get here from Alaska. The smells mingle from enticing to putred, all forcing themselves into your nose as unceremoniously as the pedestrians push past you on the sidewalk.

Withstanding all that, I’m already in love. As if it needed any persuasion, my wanderlust has reached a point of no return.

This trip is the definition of manifestation. It began with a desire to spend more time with my dad. In our imaginations, it thrived into an international trip, and many long months of savings later, it transformed into a hard earned view of the Bangkok air strip.

We will be spending the next 33 days in SE Asia; staying here in Bangkok for just a few days, then on to Chiang Mai, Laos, and back down through Thailand until we reach the Southern beaches for a bit of r&r. Along the way, my bucket list includes Elephant trekking, and the half moon beach party in Ko Phagnan.

So I humbly request your audience once again as I muddle my way through another adventure. I promise to misspell Thai words, share my cultural findings and fumblings, and grow.

Yours truly,
Runaway Rose

image

Having a Beer Lao off the infamous Kao Son road.

Small Celebrations with Big Heart

I was hoping my day of patriotism would include some camping, but both my and Mr. Rose’s work schedule prevented such a plan. Now, I’m glad, because it allowed me to opportunity to enjoy another year of the Ester Parade.

Ester is the town outside of Fairbanks where I grew up. It consists of a post office, a bar, and a cast of characters. “Miners and hippies,” as some extremists might deduce.

Our parade is free to all, and is made up largely of young children on bikes. We have the typical fire engines, a few politicians, and the rest is filled in by the aforementioned zany town residents. It meanders down a dirt road to our community park, ending in a potluck and a lot of reminiscing.

Miss Piggy! Its her 7th year in the parade, and she seems to enjoy the attention.

Super Grover! Another member of the “Occupy Sesame Street” float

Oh how I would love a little home with a patio such as this…

Calypso Farms, throwing beets instead of candy. My kind of float!

Strumming in the park.

AMURRICA!

 

The Ester Parade isn’t big or terribly exciting, but I never regret going. Its a gentle annual reminder of the wonderful place I came from.  At work later in the night, I was watching the giant NYC celebration broadcast, and was very content with my little celebration here in Ester, AK.

That Which Gives Light

I began this post with the intention of sharing a single picture, the one below. I took this picture in the Temple at Burning Man last year. It was meant to be centered on the written words, but I kind of like the accidental composition created by my disposable camera.

After sharing this one picture, I felt I had to go on! The Temple is the only art installment in Black Rock City (the temporary city of Burning Man) as reliable as the Man himself.

Throughout the week, Burners visit the temple to leave a piece of themselves. You’ll see memorials, statements of personal strength, notes of apologies and forgiveness, general messages of beauty to the world, shrines….anything that means something to someone. I can vouch from observation and experience that it is 100% impossible to enter this place without being deeply touched and almost inevitably crying. Amidst an oft party-heavy atmosphere, the Temple is a place of quietness and sanctuary, of recharging, of letting go, of accepting the past year and the one to come.

If you look down into the core of the Temple from the balconies above, you’ll see this sight:

The air is often thick with incenses, the dull ring of gongs and chimes vibrates through you. It all sounds cliche, but in the moment, cliche doesn’t mean anything.

The Man burns on Friday, and is a raucous event, eventually disintegrating into a primitive style party with drum circles, fire dancing, and cheering crowds.  The Temple burns on Sunday, the last day of the event, and is a deeply spiritual experience. Picture a completely silent crowd of 60,000 people in the middle of the desert, to the backdrop of a monstrous roaring fire;  this is probably the only place you’ll ever find that.

As it burns, it takes with it the pain of those who walked its paths and climbed its stairs. It burns away the angry words some wrote, and the sad ones left by others, and fills us with its heat and strength. If you don’t believe me, go sometime. I’m not over-stating the effect it leaves. Its the culmination of a life changing week; now it is time to drive home and try to take with us the lessons we’ve learned here.

Oh, The Places You’ll Burn

I’ve been thinking about Burning Man a lot today. Its only two months away now, which is going to fly by. For those that aren’t familiar with this event, I’d recommend this video. Its become a bit overplayed with the Burning community, but if you’ve never seen it or been there, its a pretty good way to start. Some attribute the release of this particular video with the skyrocketing ticket sales of this year.

I’d like to write more later, but for now I’ll leave it at that.