On the road again

I am still in Bangkok. Honestly, it’s amazing how quickly adventures can morph into mundane daily life when you’re not looking. One minutes you’re all goggle-eyed gazing around like a newborn and taking every opportunity to expose your miserable, cave-dweller skin to the sunlight, and the next it’s just another Monday morning and you’re grizzling over the 14.54 minutes you have to spend outside sans aircon. And you don’t even notice that the moon is the wrong way around any more. Welcome to Taking Things For Granted 101.

BUT! Guess what! After many months – too many months – of being stationary, Enid’s Adventure Blog is going back on the road again. This time we’re off to that most recent of Zealands, The New Zealand (famously explored in gripping 3-part documentary series, The Lord Of The Rings). We’ll hang out with The Beard’s friends and family, hit up the north and south islands for beaches and shit, skate with NZ roller derby teams and checkout NZ skateparks, have goodfuntimes with adored lifepals and fellow adventurers, NicandRob, eat “fush und chups”, head out for long walks and generally be Going Around. It’s going to be good, people.

Yes, it will mean leaving beloved cat-bastard Mr Miaowgi with a friend for 2 months, but I count it as payback for all the times he’s bitten me in the face in the past. Little angel.

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So! Help a sister out, gang. What should we see, do, eat, stay or avoid? Any and all pro-tips welcome!

Today is a different day

Right then. January is underway. Quick, let’s CHANGE EVERYTHING. The way we eat, exercise, feel, think, be. CHANGE IT ALL! Immediately! From this moment forth, I shall have only positive thoughts and sunbeams shall shine from my face like an overweight white female Jesus. My CHANGEs shall be so complete that when thou lookest at me, there shall, from mine visage, emanate a soundtrack of sweet cherubs wordlessly ahhhhhhhhh-ing and butterflies shall flitter around me like a cliched simile.

What. The. Fuck?

We wait for January like Usain Bolt waits for the starter’s gun. IT’S OFF AND HERE WE GO SPEEDING ALONG CHANGING EVERYTHING ABOUT OUTSELVES, CH- CH- CH- CHAAA… Aaaaand I’m spent. Finished. Done.

Actually, it’s magnificently less dramatic than that. More like Usain Bolt cracking off the starting line, eyes on the prize, powering strides lengthy and strong and sure… only to get distracted by somebody in the crowd, a passing javelin, a speck of dust on the ground. Wouldn’t a smore be good right about now? He slows. Realises he has an itch. Wonders if he left anything back at the starting line. A jog now. Barely. Distracted by other things. Sees everyone else at the finish line. Now a stroll, casual-like. Not quite within the lines. Everyone else is done already, no point in killing ourselves. We’ve got as long as we like. Wonder what’s going on in that sandpit over there? Haphazard meandering, grass under feet, now, strayed way off-course. Where were we going, again? Stop still. Look around, spy the track in the distance – it’s a long way off. Blink. An unsteady step forwards. Hesitant. Does it matter? It’s fine here. Slowly sit down, eyeing the track, bemused. How did it get so far away? Shoulder meets soil, the smell of cut grass like a sleep potion. Eyelids lower. Next time, we think, Maybe next time.

That’s how we end up – asleep in the grass, far from the track, putting it off until the next time the gun fires. Not exactly full of that New Year cheer, is it?

We’re delusional. For most of us, change does not happen at the crack of the starter’s gun. There are no sudden revelations or immediate cessations of all our bad habits. True and lasting change is the work of a lifetime. Slow, repetitive, dull, largely immeasurable. It is a choice we make every day, and easier if every day we remind ourselves of the new choices we want to make. There is no real reason to wait until January. Unlearning racism and sexism takes self-awareness, personal responsibility, time and many failures. Want to do a photo-a-day project? Start now or start mid-May, it makes no difference. Missed a week in your new exercise regime? That’s OK. What about today?

Change happens one day at a time. Little by little. Choice by choice. Year by year. Sure, New Year is a great time to reaffirm the changes you’re making, or to check in and assess whether or not you’re going in the right direction. But, then again, so is EVERY day. And the individual days are really what matter. The habits you try to build on an individual day are important. It doesn’t matter if you spent the past 2 weeks stuffing yourself full of deep friend Mars bars and marshmallows, today is a different day. Today you can choose something different, and that’s one day you’ve succeeded. Mark it. Mark every success and discount the other days: they’re in the past; they can’t be changed; they do not affect your choices today. It’s like roulette*. The ball falls red twelve times in a row. What’s the liklihood that on throw 13, the ball falls red? It’s 50-50, baby. Having fallen red 12 times makes it neither more nor less likely that on throw 13 the ball will fall red. Every throw is 50-50 and every day is a new throw. Sure, the odds of 13 reds in a row are pretty damn high, but who’d place a bet on that unless the table were rigged? You place your bets one throw at a time; take your days that way too.

Today is a different day. My future is trying to remember this fact and trying to build better habits accordingly. Oh, I can assure you that I’ll forget all this or just straight-up neglect it many times, and I’ll feel guilty and I’ll feel like schlumping down on that grass and closing my eyes, just a bit, it’s so warm and comfy and I’m so tired… Hell yes. It will happen.

But that’s OK. The times I’m mindful of it, my successful days, they’re the ones that count. They are the days I help myself change.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Happy New Year, humans.

*Gambling is for chumps or pros only. Often both.

Loy-Loy-Loy Krathong

Instead of Bonfire night or Christmas day, Thailand has Loy Krathong.

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It’s a lunar festival celebrated annually on the night of the full moon (in the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, according to Wikipedia). I suppose you’d call it a water festival. People buy make these beautiful boats of folded flowers and banana leaves, stick a coin or note on it, light the candle and incense nested in the centre and float the whole shebang off into water with a prayer.

The government complex at the end of our road has a little lakelet so we wandered over to see what was going on. EVERYTHING was going on: market stalls, lights, music, a big, precarious carousel and an enormous old projector showing madcap Thai drama. People were everywhere and there were krathongs a-plenty.

Floating a krathong has a little, quiet slice of reverence that comes with it. You get the candle lit and the incense burning and wait your turn to step carefully to the edge of the water. You place your krathong in the shallows, gently, and give it a gentle push. You watch the breeze mess with the candle flame as it glides and dips. Then you watch it float away. There’s a moment of contemplation there, if you let it in.

But then it’s back to real life. Loud and raucous. TV camera out documenting the event. Food stalls everywhere. Clothes. Traditional Thai dress, dancing and – of course! – the old Loy Krathong song! Nothing like it.

Fury

I’m furious.

I’m furious because, if you’re a millionaire, “I accidentally fell and accidentally penetrated the potentially unconscious teenage girl on my sofa” is a legitimate and successful defense against a rape allegation. I jibber incoherently in my disgust and outrage.

I’m furious because the Independent’s internet campaign for donations to the Great Ormond Street Hospital – a British children’s hospital – features exclusively pictures of white children / families.

I’m furious because I’m SICK of Western tourists coming to Bangkok who seem to think it’s fine and dandy to support the sex trade and the exploitation and degradation of Thai, Laos, Cambodian and Burmese women. You think paying to watch a woman shove razor blades into her vagina is lolzfun entertainment? Would you pay to see that in your own country, or is it only OK because the women you’re watching don’t look like you?

I’m furious because of this RIDICULOUS image entitled 10 Things Guys Wish All Women Knew which showed up uninvited on my Pinterest feed and turned me into a spitting, lava-churning volcano of rage and bile.

Allow me to translate:

10 Bits Of Sexist Bullshit Massive Misogynists Wish All Women Believed

1) We are more comfortable talking AT you rather than WITH you. If you want an honest conversation then the problem is your neediness rather than our reticence.

2) We can’t be fucked to remember things. We expect you to do this for us. It’s far more convenient having another human being spend their mental energy updating us on our lives, rather than expending that energy ourselves.

3) We can’t be fucked to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Society doesn’t require us to multitask.

4) We do not think you are more important than this video game/ sports match / cooking programme. We want you to know how little we think of you so that you don’t waste our time by interrupting us. Our down time is SACRED and cannot be touched. Your downtime is a frivolous luxury and does not follow the same rules.

5) We don’t particularly mind whether or not you are unhappy, as long as you don’t display annoying outward signs of unhappiness and/or expect us to do anything about it.

6) If we ask you what is wrong, the only acceptable reply is “Nothing”, which means we can get back to our video game/ sports match / cooking programme and pretending to be oblivious to your hurt/irritation/anger etc so we don’t have to deal with it. It also means we can deny accountability in case you mistakenly expected us to display any interest whatsoever in what you had to say – “Well, you SAID nothing was wrong”.

7) Having successfully silenced you over weeks, months or years of ill-veiled disinterest in your emotional experiences, we also want you to know that you expect too much from us; you expect the impossible; you are UNJUST; WE are, in fact, the victims here. And, just so you know, this attitude is an attitude of LOVE, and you DO want to be loved, don’t you? Good. So be grateful.

8) We will make no effort to clean up our act. We are not the problem, you and your absurd idea about being in a mutually respectful, loving, supportive relationship are the problem.

9) We haven’t bothered to find out what you are interested in, but presumably it’s handbags. Because wombs carry thing and women are basically walking wombs. IT’S SCIENCE.

10) Stop talking. We are neither listening nor interested.

 

RAGE and DISGUST have led me to make another charity donation, this time to Rape Crisis (in response to #1 on my list of rage-inducers).

Take that, world.

December privilege

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December.

It’s a hard time for immigrant-me, far from home and in a country that doesn’t celebrate the holidays I find most meaningful.

The pangs of homesickness start on Bonfire Night. My skin misses the bitter night air; my ears, the woosh and pop of the fire, sparklers sizzling, the gunshot clap of firewords, the crackle of light in the sky followed by the ‘ooooohs’ and ‘aaaahhs’ of the crowd. I miss the smell of wood smoke, of spent fireworks, of onions from the burger vans. The boozy scorch of home-mulled wine in the throat and flashes of light skittering across the sky across the sky. I love the excitement, being wrapped up in warm clothes against the cold, the glow of the flames on the faces in the crowd.

And it kicks off the anticipation of Christmas. The train tickets get booked, cards get made or bought then written and forgotten, the bargain eye comes out on the prowl for deals on the edible Xmas essentials.

I love Christmas. I love twinkling lights, glinting tinsel, plump baubles dangling from the tree. I love spending a run of days mooching at home with the family, no work, just exchanging gifts, wearing paper hats and poor taste Xmas jumpers, arguing over Monopoly, dominating at Charades and stuffing down my stepdad’s delectable Xmas cooking. There is no other time in the year we dedicate so much time and effort to enjoying ourselves in every way possible: sights, smells, loving and feeling loved. No other time of year welcomes my terrible puns with such tipsy enthusiasm. Sure, the university canteen where I have lunch sometimes has had an xmas tree up since 1973, but refusing to take the tree down does NOT create the year-round festive cheer you might imagine.

It’s not the same for any of us, this year. I’ll be here in Bangkok, work as usual, teaching on Christmas day (to the surprise of some who might not connect the fact that Buddhist countries generally don’t shut down for Christian holidays). My mum and stepdad will be with J’s parents, staying in the hills of Northern Thailand with the Karen community J grew up in and with whom we spent Xmas last year. My sister and little brothers will be at my mum’s in Chester. My sister will cook (she makes a mean roast) and they’ll sleep and eat and drink and argue and laugh among themselves.

Writing all this, though, I am struck – how is it possible that I sometimes forget? – how absolutely and shockingly privileged I am. I think of the Christmasses I’ve adored and it’s breathtaking. I’ve always had shelter and safety. I’ve had family around me, and visited still more. I’ve had more food than a sensible person should eat, and gifts I wanted but didn’t need. I’ve been in an atmosphere of excitement and joy and had the security of those feelings extending from the past into the future. I’ve had the time and resources – the luxury – of dedicating myself to indulgence and enjoyment. I am extremely privileged.

I think of those people, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, whole countries, continents, who have none of this. People who are at home and unsafe, or who have no home, or who have but were forced to leave. I can’t help to call to mind, suddenly, Warsan Shire‘s explosively powerful and blade-sharp poem, Home. Read it. Read everything she’s written. The woman is a wordsmith.

I donated to Refuge this month, on a day I was feeling particularly pathetic and sorry for myself. Time to go again, methinks. I’ll be donating to UNHCR this time. I’ve the time, resources and inclination, and it is a good reminder of the absurdity of my self-pity, about how it mesmerizes you, dulls your brain into long swathes of selfish and self-serving thoughts and  behaviour. I am not how I feel, and how I feel is not me. I am more. I can do more. And I choose to.

[/self-pity]