I often try to play up my independence and capability at life, but there are certainly times when I still feel like a quivering, gelatinous little boy at the prospect of adult responsibility. This is especially true if it entails taking care of myself in any capacity, and doing so in a foreign country, despite, you know, having actively lived in one for the last year and a half, is still high on that list. So when I touched down in China alone, without a guide or a terribly diverse arsenal of Mandarin at my disposal and a two hour route to my accommodation, I was slightly intimidated.
That my life of the last two months has consisted almost entirely of being on vacation has made it somewhat difficult to generate your regular supplement of verbiage. My feet are worn, leathery husks, my belly is full of the strange and the delicious, and my brain feels as though it was encased in a quivering, wriggly layer of jello, from which there is no safe passage. As always in these times, I instead bring you photos from my vacation: part bragging, part stalling, all filler! Roil in the joyousness of my time in Suzhou and Shanghai, and imagine yourself possessing my person through astral projection and time travel, and being there to explore the land with your/my own eyeballs.
Because of some lingering, weirdo aspects of Confucianism, directness is not well-valued in the Korean workplace. Generally, directness labels you as a rebel, a kind of leather-covered, slick-haired troublemaker drag racing and challenging the system. In Korea, the boss is held supreme, and his or her (but usually his) many and various capricious whims are to be carried out by virtue of the fact that they issued from the mouth of someone old. Trying to get your way when you are younger or subordinate puts you at odds against that system. But your way is really, really good, and how do you go about getting it?
We had been at Angkor Wat since sunrise. Bobby and I had seen light and clouds pour over the ancient structure, illuminating the landscape, soundtracked only to the natural chorus of birdsong. It was now 4 p.m., and we had eaten two meals in the shadow of centuries of history, walked amidst great carved stone faces, touched slabs of rock placed there hundreds of years before. It was beautiful, and stunning.
Also, it was hot, and we were out of water, and we had been walking and sight-seeing for nearly 12 hours. Neither of us wanted to say aloud that we were now kind of bored.
The bus had stopped, and we piled into the border control centre. A man collected all of our passports and handed them to the single border agent in a neat stack–he listlessly stamped them one by one. I walked to a baggage check manned by someone not looking at the screen, and then the final agent checking my visa had difficulty flipping the pages with one hand while the other texted. Eventually, feeling certain there was a visa in there somewhere, he waved me onward into Vietnam. Continue reading
Marching onwards in this vacation-palooza I’ve got going, here is the second photoglut from January. After blasting through the major sights of Cambodia, we turned our sights on southern Vietnam. One bus, a hilarious lax border control and a stamped visa later, we were on Vietnamese soil, looking for our first bowl of food. We arrived just in time for Lunar New Year, to watch Saigon go from the bewildering, swarming, traffic-horror dimension to that of a quiet mini-city, ruled only by ghosts and the occasional tangerine tree. Vietnam: let’s look at it!
Our bus out of Siem Reap was a sort of giant mini-van, lodged with many seats, all Cambodian-sized. This is to say: tiny. I am not a tall man, and even I sat mostly with my kneecaps braced against the seat in front of me. The road was long and meandering, though beautiful and serene which allowed us to space out and enjoy, interrupted only by the incredibly regular and lengthy phonecalls taken by every Cambodian on the bus (the folks we rode with were popular, some of them getting calls roughly once every four minutes for the six hour bus ride). The sun set, the roads darkened, and we could no longer see the cows lolling parallel to our path, but in a few hours, we were in the capital of Phnom Penh.
The morning was cold, but we were leaving our coats in Bobby’s apartment, because we had no desire to carry them through out sunny, temperate southern Asia. Our jog to the subway was mercifully brief, and after a long subway ride, we came to Incheon’s eternally and bewilderingly efficient airport. Within a few hours, we were in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Through the magic of wireless internet and scheduling posts for later dates, this blog has been magically spinning out my glorious bon mots for the last two weeks. The last two weeks while I was off gallivanting in south Asia! Oh, the trickery, oh the deceit. I will certainly have a bevy of words for you to ingest and roil about in within the next week or so, but for now, my brain feels as chapped and sun-worn as my hide. I am barely capable of human speech, let alone thousands of little symbols representing human speech. Instead, I bring you, like your doddering old great great third cousin, photographs from my vacation. Bask!