New Zealand, Los Angeles, New York, and Lots of Food

In today’s tight-lipped update, I’ll say that I’m still exhausted from weeks of hiking in New Zealand, eating in Los Angeles, and working in New York. Apparently I only travel to dual word places. Anyhow, I literally was on boats, buses, trains, planes, cars, and armadillos in the past 31 days. Minus the armadillos. I was only piggyback riding on one. It was full of so much food (the good food in LA, not NZ…puhlease), and some great hiking, and many stories. Did I mention I went to Cirque du Soleil, too? Well, I’ve got some tight deadlines but will post a few photos from this month’s adventures.

 

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Summer’s End, the Start of Fall, and Lots o’ Apples

When your friend schleps out from California to visit you, you best show that friend a good time. Luckily I had a string of five (5!) days in a row during which I felt great, so I was able to bring Vic (a full-time photographer) around some of my favorite little places in New York and Connecticut. While it was odd to feel so great (I’m currently dealing with a terrible and possibly chronic illness), it was odder yet to see professional-quality photos of myself. I’m not posting several of them here for your enjoyment. You can thank me anytime.
Among the spots visited: an abandoned apple orchard, Walkway over the Hudson, my favorite cave/stream/hiking path, a local airport, various grocery markets (I have a fascination with them), various creepy abandoned buildings, local farms, etc.

Here’s a fun shot – my friend Vic taking a photo of me photographing apples, me taking a photo of him photographing the apples, and the final photo.


Things cooked: Apple chutney, apple cake, breakfast burritos, Indian potato cakes, kale-bleu-shallot flatbread, Indian toast, furikake tofu, bananas foster, and much more. Needless to say, we were a bit heavier by the time my friend left upstate and NYC.

Then there were the photo experiments with off-camera flashes, light-jumping rope. Gosh do we sound geeky.

But my favorite shot of the week was probably this simple cornfield with a lone tree and the sky just right (below):

Except for the rampant Lyme-infested ticks, I love the outdoors here. Well, that’s a big exception, but let’s talk about that another time, shall we?

Enjoy a few of the photos from our mini adventures.

Photography from Thailand’s Secluded Mountains (Update Part 18)

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My last two weeks in Thailand were rife with incredible caves, rewarding teaching, fascinating hikes, and dreams of chewy, cheesy pizza. So much happened that it’s easier if you look at photos instead of falling asleep reading my endless rants. Just the ride down the mountain could have me blabbing for days on end, involving almost crashing, getting stuck in mud, being laughed at by locals, passing incredible waterfalls, surviving when we rode off the cliff (kidding–we only came close to doing so), marveling at the karst caves and jungle rivers, and so much more. So here, much like my Nepalese episode, are some photos from my last few days spent in the gorgeous mountains of Thailand. [click any photo to enlarge]

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It’s real

 

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Celebrating with my awesome fellow teachers. Well, the real ones who (sort of) work hard every day (of the workweek) and live in the mountains (except on weekends)

 

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That’s my rather large posterior on the right, rice farming. Well, I’m doing the rice farming, not my buttocks.

 

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One of my students–an old soul


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The most beautiful bug I’ve ever seen. Legendary for its good luck and something else I didn’t understand. And no, no editing program ever came into contact with this photo–these are its natural neon-like colors

 

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Another of my young students, happy as could be at 7AM

 

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My last shot taken while standing alone on the moutain road, waiting to be picked up by my friend. Goodbye, mountains

Thailand is for Taunters (Update Part 17)

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As you all know, I am quite the critical person. I am a tough judge when it comes to people, food, places—almost anything. But man, I have nothing on the people of Thailand: The Land of Smiles. During my many weeks there, especially those spent living in the secluded northern mountains with fellow teachers and Sanit’s family, was tough. Even though most knew no English, they still managed to memorize phrases or actions to notify me of my (multiple) wrongdoings. They railed on me no matter what I was doing, and the very second I did something correctly, I was ridiculed (with smiles, of course) for doing two more things wrong.

I put my spoon in my bowl wrong and offended people.

The sticky rice balls I rolled were not of the proper shape.

I wrung out my laundry wrong.

The rice I planted was not of the right depth.

I apparently offended someone because my buttocks was too high up in the air and pointed in her general direction while I was planting rice. Now I need to have policy-checking eyes on the back of my heinies, too? I can’t even farm right.

I made a mistake while hoeing the rubber saplings and left a ½”-wide, ¼”-deep cut. They somehow immediately found it and chastised me.

I ate things in the wrong order. Wait, how was I supposed to know that a bowl of a cut-up vegetable is dessert?

If I sat on the floor with my legs to the side, it was a time when I was supposed to sit cross-legged. When I sat with my legs crossed, I was scolded for not sitting with my legs to the side.

I put my boots in the wrong place and made a whole army of farmers shake their heads in disapproval.

I took the wriggling maggots out of the eggplant wrong.

I washed the edible thorn plant wrong. Though even when washed correctly, those thorns still hurt an awful lot while being swallowed.

I hit the kids wrong with my stick. No, I’m kidding on that one.

I know what you’re going to say: This is all they’ve ever done, so they’re good at it, and they’re not used to foreigners, so they’re not sure how to deal with me, and that this is my first time doing all these things, so of course I won’t be good at it. This is all true, but it sure doesn’t make me feel any better. In fact, in a really vindictive way, I almost wish some of these people could come to America just to realize how it feels to be corrected all the time. Wow, I’m a mean person. But that’s how you’d feel if you were here, too.

Then, as I’m sitting and trying not to express my true feelings, auntie comes walking in and starts pawing through my belongings. She finds everything endlessly fascinating. She unfolds almost every article of clothing to look at it, so once again I have to fold it back up and re-pack. Thanks, auntie. Oh well. I guess it uses up more time, time that would be spent with me getting criticized for washing mushrooms wrong, mopping wrong, or just, you know, living wrong.

It takes a lot to offend me and even more to make me feel dejected, but when you’re being criticized, talked about, and judged18 hours every day (even the method with which I entered and exited the mosquito net, for example, was wrong), it gets to you. They break you down. There’s no one to listen to you vent. You can’t explain the situation to anyone. Even now, you have no idea what it was like. Well, I asked for it, and they’re all good people—they’re not TRYING to break me down, after all. And really, the experience, scenery, wildlife, and everything else outweighed the fact that I cried myself to sleep every night. No, I didn’t do that.

Despite my massive sarcasm, honest feelings, and downright evil personality, I still can be counted on to write the truth. And Thailand is, honestly, still my favorite foreign country. Nepal is a close second, though. Aside from my near-vomituitous experiences with most of the food here, and the constant criticism, I really just absolutely love the countryside. I’ve been exploring backyard caves, slipping down muddy roads, hanging out in awkward situations, walking down random paths, and just loving what I get to see every day. The mountains here may be my favorite place I’ll ever go, and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep coming back for the rest of my life. With MREs, of course. 

Above: Mountain time

Below: Town time

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