Tuesday Travel Photo

After a week of wedding preparations and maid of honor duties, I wish I were going along on the honeymoon to Greece and Rome. I’m still in Pittsburgh, but this week my travel heart is vicariously living through the bridal couple!!

Hoping to get back on the blogging track this week!

Tuesday Travel Photo

Not sure how I missed out on this given I was living in Asia for two years. Yes, that’s a forty-foot inflatable rubber ducky floating in Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong. This came to my attention because this duck will floating in Pittsburgh in just a few months as part of the International Festival of Firsts. I think I’d want to be anywhere where there’s a 40 foot plaything is drifting along the river for this week’s TTP.

For more about the floating duck coming to Pittsburgh, check this out.

Friday Five

Five Things I Didn’t Realize Would Be So Awesome About America

Clever Wordplay
Puns. Wit. Sarcasm. Emphasis. Double entendres. Adjectives. Where have you been for the last two years? It took a few weeks for me to get all of these as the flew past my ESL teacher senses, but now that I have I find myself giggling at random moments about things I heard that are tickling my brain. Or thinking of new ones on my run. Because that’s not creepy to see someone running on the road chuckling to themselves.

Calling People Out
Especially while utilizing said clever wordplay. And realizing that not only are my verbal capabilities coming back, but they’re able to correct another person’s. Unless I totally misread the situation and end up falling on my face, ‘breaking’ my own in an attempt to do so with someone else’s. Awkward.

Getting the Whole Picture
And being able to ask questions if maybe I don’t totally have it the first go around. I eventually stopped asking many questions in Thailand because I either wouldn’t get an actual answer or there would be a lot more to the situation than what I was being told. With a little thing called ‘being surrounded by native English speakers,’ I’m almost overwhelmed by the amount of information I get on a daily basis without putting in nearly the same amount of effort as with Thai. Half-awesome, half-TMI.

Nearby Friends
To visit most of my friends in Thailand, it required the scary task of walking out the front door, getting a ride 30 km away to the nearest town, and then however many more buses and hours of Thailand required before even seeing the face of that glorious one you spent all this time to get to… and all you wanted to do was lay down afterwards. Outside of my best friend living states away, it continually amazes me to throw spur of the moment plans together with new work friends and having a crazy thing called, a social life. Sometimes, I even go out after dark.

Going Out to Eat
I guess I sort of knew this was going to be amazing, but maybe not the depth of how spectacular it is to glance, go back over, read more in-depth the pages and pages of menu options waiting to be devoured. Seriously, everything I eat bursts onto my tongue with flavors I long missed in Thailand. Especially fruit and veggies with seasoning. Granny Smith apples and strawberries never have tasted so good.

Tuesday Travel Photo

After this holiday weekend and reflecting on the sacrifices of others so I’m able to live my life how I see fit, I’m brought in memory to this place. I started to learn and truly understand this lesson when I was fifteen and went to Normandy, France. Stunningly beautiful and most of all, haunting.

Thank you.

Transitions.

Sixty-Four. That’s how many days I’ve been back in the US of A. It feels like 2013 has been such a whirlwind of a year so far and it’s only just starting to slow down, bit by bit. It’s so weird to think how much time I spent counting down my time in Peace Corps, but when it came to actually packing and saying goodbye to my people, it seemed like the rug was pulled out from under me.

Before I left Thailand, life was jam-packed with goodbye dinners and activities (like lots and lots of shopping). After getting over a moderate amount of jet lag (it was the opposite of the last time I came back from Asia when all I did was sleep, I had trouble staying asleep for more than a few hours at a time), playing tourist with my family and eating, eating, and more eating crammed my days. Ten pounds worth. When I was in the airport in Bangkok, I didn’t want to leave, leaping into the unknown of America. Looking over the past two months though, I feel mostly an intense joy/happiness to be in the world, to be where I am, with the people I’m with and as most Peace Corps Volunteers can tell you, that’s kind of a rare feeling in your service.

Not that it’s all bad. I keep telling people when they ask about being a PCV, I’m glad I did it, but I’m glad I’m done. I’m proud to be in this small group of people known as RPCVs and grateful for meeting and making my Thai friends. But damn, life is freaking amazing here. All food tastes better. Flowers seem brighter. Hot showers any time of the day! (I cannot possibly over-exaggerate how incredibly happy this fact still makes me) Seeing the occasional motorcycle go by makes me giggle. So many clothes options to try on and outfit myself with. Real grocery stores with aisle upon aisle of so many different kinds of foods! That one was a real mindblower. And that shadow on the floor isn’t a mouse, scorpion, or cockroach… it’s a piece of fuzz!

The best and worst thing about coming back to the US is working. Ready to relieve the pressure of an entire village watching my every move and judging me for it, I decided to apply at a restaurant near my house for a server position as a low-key part-time job. Much to my surprise, I was  actually hired a lot faster than I anticipated and started before my brother’s one month home leave was done. I truly like most of the people I work with and enjoy the variety that comes with each day of serving. It’s forcing me to get out and interact with people and making me see ways I’ve changed that I never realized. Thailand really taught me the value of IRBing (how do you like that old school vocab?) and showing some heart juice worthy kindness to people.

There are two main things I do not like about being back in the American workforce. One is the amount of time you have to devote to making money. I would get pissed when teachers blew off school to sit around and chat or do ‘important paperwork,’ but  a lot of ‘work time’ didn’t actually feel like work after two years in the system. Now it’s mostly work and a few flashes of play. I’m not driving myself to the brink of craziness like I was doing to myself before Peace Corps with 12 hour work days, but this five-day a week with mostly nonstop working stuff is getting tiring. Doesn’t anyone want to stop for a kanome break? Where are the tea shops on motorcycles? Between work and working out (see runner life), I’m having trouble keeping up with this blog and enjoying things outside of work. Like having a social life. Compared to life in PC, I feel like I have almost no time in my day to sit around, stare at ceilings, think for hours at a time, start insane craft projects, and read a book in a day. It got incredibly lonely at times, but I miss the large amounts of me-time I was afforded on a daily basis.

The other thing is being confronted, sometimes on a daily basis, with the bad parts about America and its people. Why don’t we smile more? How can we waste so much obscenely delicious food? (It would make so many PCVs so very, very happy to even take leftovers). Why aren’t we kinder to people? Why do we get mad at people/things that had nothing to do with the reason we’re mad? And most importantly, why don’t we tip better? : )

I suppose that’s the biggest transition of coming back to the US, learning how to deal with it as a real place with good and bad parts. During PC service, there were sometimes only a glimmer of good times and we would use America as this mirage and chant the mantra of x more months, x more months. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is pretty grand during this transitionary time.

Runner Life.

“Man, do runners love running. They love everything about running. They especially like talking about running. After running, talking about running is the #1 thing runners seem to like. Also, is it just me or are runners crazily cultish about their running? Like, if they find out you’re a fellow runner, there is nothing you could do to sever the relationship. You could murder an elderly man and the only reaction would be, “See you at Red Coyote this weekend!” In summary: though very clearly insane, runners are sort of adorable and infectious in how enthusiastic they are.”

via JustRun via The Lost Ogle

Remember a little blog post called The Road? This is your update. I was concerned being only on week 2 of Couch to 5k when I took off to Bangkok to pick up my Mom. Turns out, running while traveling can be pretty freaking awesome. The constant change of scenery and overzealous enthusiasm for life led to a constant renewed energy for my hobby. I never got bored because there was always a new route to explore and things to take my attention away from the fact that my mind and body were still getting re-used to the idea of running again.

First of all, the Couch to 5K program. In a word, impressively-doable. The short intervals were easy to keep me in gear, but enough of a challenge that I felt the improvement (ie pain) each week. There was only one week that I needed to scale back and do a repeat of a run, but it was my own fault (running in Thai heat late morning without breakfast and being properly hydrated, not a good idea) not the program’s. It helped that you only run three days a week and are encouraged to take off days/rests when you feel is necessary.

And a side note to myself/any other PCVs thinking about how weird the locals will find you for running… they already think you’re crazy. It might as well be for something that’s good for you. My Thais were surprisingly chill about my running. Mostly a lot of encouraging thumbs up and ‘strong, strong’ comments as they passed me on their motorbikes. I’m pretty convinced the people on The Road were a different species of Thai as no one, not once, called me farang or gawked annoyingly. Which only made me wish I had discovered Road and the people occupying it earlier in my service.

A side note from the side note is how amazing it was to run before the rest of the tourists come out from their hotels and to see a city come to life like a regular citizen of such a place. Even if you’re not running, I would definitely encourage travelers to get up at least once at the crack of dawn to experience a new place this way, like the locals do. One of the most memorable parts of my visit in Chiang Rai was running by a little old Thai granny doing aerobics in her front yard and her telling me how ‘strong’ I was. I invited her along for the rest of my run and her booming laughter had me smiling until well after I finished exercising.

Ok, one more side note and I’ll get back on track. The blog track that is. Running while traveling has to be one of the coolest things. Ever. Over a two-week period, I was running in the fields of Isaan, the streets of Chiang Rai, the mountains in Ban Rai, and the beach in Cha Am. Each time it felt like there was a completely different personality to the run. It was almost like getting to know a fascinating new person at various parties. You might run a little slower getting to know one another at first, but the renewed vigor you feel at the end makes it seem well worth the effort.

I was so amazed and proud of myself for actually finishing C25K in Thailand that I decided to jump into the next step of a 10k with Suz’s 5K to 10K. I liked my C25K electronic/club music, but Suz keeps you motivated with 90s hip-hop/R&B classics like Big Poppa, Baby Got Back, and Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It. There were times this program felt a little inconsistent in the jumps of intervals you were supposed to run week to week, but it did help me get to running a full hour. At this point, I was starting to get a little obsessive, running every other day, and like most new converts to running, took things a little harder than I probably should have. It started with my first bad cold in nearly two years time, then after pulling a hip muscle slipping on some wet concrete and the following severe lower back pain, I fell out of shape a bit as my time in Thailand was coming to a close.

With so much to do before I left and the subsequent transition time in America with family and friends and things to do almost every day, it wasn’t hard to lose my lungs. Well, the cold weather didn’t help either. I was struggling with a puny fifteen minute limp along session on the treadmill and was not happy about it.

Luckily the weather has steadily improved and so have my running times. And there are also these wonderful things called apps and real roads that help me figure out how far I’ve been running and what my mile pace, things I couldn’t quite take advantage of when I was on the dirt roads cutting through rice fields. I’ve been nerding out a bit over it. Enough so to dedicate an entire post to talking about how much I’m enjoying running again.

I don’t know how or why, but running has become a constant in my life as I make my way through segueing myself back to life in America. It’s become a time of meditative reflection that I never look forward to until I’m knee-deep in things and realize how necessary it is for my sanity. Maybe it’s an addiction to the endorphins, but I totally understand and nod enthusiastically at the above quote. It’s amazing the people you connect with when you’re out and about exercising in the world. Maybe even yourself?

With the Pittsburgh marathon a few weeks ago, I saw many former classmates and friends have been taking the plunge into long distance running. I’m hoping to join a race sometime in the fall, fingers crossed for a half marathon! For now, I’ll keep lacing up and taking in the scenery in this Runner Life.

Tuesday Travel Photo

Chattahoochee river walk… that’s a mouthful. With the recent cold snap moving through Pittsburgh and big brother taking a new ladyfriend out there, my travel toes wouldn’t mind dipping in for a stroll along this beautiful Columbus, Georgia river walk.

P.S. TIckets have been bought for one of my American Friday Five places! Travel bug is getting its groove on.