"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."

"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."- Sir Thomas More's Utopia

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I sometimes write nonsensical stories.

Image: A sketch I once sketched.

I can't seem to find my mini hard drive with all of my awesome photos. Big bummer. Still working on a few posts about my travels and recent discoveries, but I can't post them without the damn pictures which are saved on my damn mini hard drive which is still damn missing. Hope it turns up soon or else I might have to revert to emotional eating again. And maybe break out in hives while I'm at it. In the meantime, y'all will have to make do with my uber-OCD-someone's-obviously-got-muchas-problemas sketch. I think I was trying to make a codex but then realized there were 26 letters in the alphabet, but, of course, the grid I made had already been set and I had to complete the series or else bad things might happen, like the rapture might actually be true. Or, knock on wood, Betty White might croak.

Anywho, just in case y'all were wondering, I'm still wandering the world, being a starving artist. Here's an excerpt of another story I've been working on. I think it's pretty awesome. I hope you concur, because then that would mean that I am a swell writer.


The Family

I stood at a corner of a tiny town that I had come to know quite intimately the past week, waiting for my ride. Contrary to the idea of the nomad life as romanticized by the likes of Jack Kerouac, living on the road isn't all adventure and self-discovery. In fact, most of it is simply picking up and moving. After a while, carrying what life you can fit into a duffel bag is less an adventure, and more tediously tiring monotony. Perhaps, adventure is reserved for literature and cinema.

I was completely broke. I didn't even have two cents to rub against each other, so they say. And so I finally caved in after I had exhausted my network of friends within the tri-state area, and I called my distant uncle and asked for a bed.

In the shadow cast by a gas station, he drove up in his run down old jalopy of a car. It was a black, beat up Lincoln Towncar. It looked like one of those old gypsy cabs that no one would ever dare get in for fear of smelling like cheap whores and shame. It was my only option at this point, so I drew in a deep breath and hopped in, hugging my duffel bag to my chest.

He wasn't really a distant uncle in terms of degrees of relation, rather, he was as an uncle I felt distant from. Mostly because he rarely spoke at all. In addition to his proclivities for silence, I haven't seen him in years so we awkwardly shook hands and inquired on what each has been up to. We exchanged the normal pleasantries, asking about each's family, each's dog. We discussed the weather as my skin stuck to the fake leather of his car. There was a heat wave these past few days, he said. I know, I said, as I felt my pores ooze last night's cheap whiskey into the unbelievably humid night air. At least I'm detoxing, I tried to justify the ungodly heat in my head.

By the time we got to his house it was late. Everyone was asleep so I was greeted only by his overeager dog, a pit bull puppy with a propensity to urinate where he stood. Uncle showed me to a spare room with a bed. The room was tiny, more a closet than a bedroom, but it had a bed. Ah, a bed. I had the sudden urge to pray, kneeling beside the bed like I used to as a child, hands pressed together and eyes shut earnestly. I thought about it for a moment, trying to count the years that have passed since I last sent a prayer into the vast unknown, until I finally decided against it. I hadn't slept in a proper bed in months, so I was glad and I fell asleep as quickly as I hit the mattress.

This house is the last front to this war we've been yanked into, Cousin said.

Whatever happened to a simple good morning? I didn't feel like discussing politics that early in the morning so I didn't look up from my bowl of cereal, only barely nodding in acknowledgment of his presence.

I'm sure you've heard about our relatives who disappeared, Cousin continued, unable to let the topic go. They just disappeared out of thin air and no one knows how or why, but everyone suspects each other.

My ears pricked up, wait, this isn't politics. This is about our family, the family that I had neglected all of these years. Finally, the evil of this family has reached its brink, and now it was beginning to self-destruct as they fed on each other's misery like cannibals of a sicker kind.

My pops hates talking about it, Cousin said as Uncle walked into the kitchen to grab something to eat before heading out to one of his two jobs. Pops thinks it's bad to talk about it because it will only get worse.

Uncle simply shook his head, clearly disapproving.

Uncle spoke very little, but when he did, his words were always tender in a very calculated sort of way. It was as if within the innermost depths of his soul there stood a single flower. I imagined the flower of his soul stood lonely and frail, protected only by his silence, bending slightly in the great winds of such a vast expanse. It was such an incredibly beautiful flower that I wanted to call it a name that mirrored its wonder even if only in name but my awe would not allow it.

Has Auntie left for work already? I asked in an attempt to change the subject. Auntie was the complete opposite of Uncle. She was brash like crashing waves against the hull of a ship, beating it into subordination while carrying it all at once. They complemented each other well.

Uncle gave a quick nod right before walking out the door in a rush. I couldn't tell if that was a yes, Auntie had already left for work, or if he chose to ignore my question and the nod was a goodbye. Maybe it was both.

Cousin did not want to drop the subject. No one really knows what's going on. The whole thing is a fucking shit show. We used to have three houses on this block, filled with cousins and uncles and aunts. Now, it's just us. Just this house.

I didn't know what to say so I just shrugged my shoulders in response and stepped outside to light a cigarette. Cousin followed me, insisting on discussing the matter, bumming a cigarette off of me. I wanted to refuse. I wanted to tell him that living on the road might be cheap, but only to those with jobs. I wanted to remind him that I no longer earned an hourly wage. I wanted to remind him that cigarettes, with the increasingly skyrocketing taxes on them, have become like gold and diamonds to my eyes. I wanted to tell him of how I cried when American Express cancelled my card. But then I remembered that I was sleeping in his house and eating his food.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Travel advisories are pretty useful.

This may sound silly, but it might be a good idea to check if a country you are about to visit is at war or not. Monsoon season is about to start in the Pacific tropics right now, but nothing makes torrential downpours more unbearable than bullets and bombs. Real talk.

If you've been following the news, the increased violence in the world might not be new to you, but this index puts all the numbers together. Here are a few of the staggering key findings:

    The world is less peaceful for the third straight year due to the following:
    • An increased threat of terrorist attacks in 29 nations
    • A greater likelihood of violent demonstrations in 33 countries
    • Arab Spring unrest heralds biggest ever change in rankings, Libya tumbles 83 spots
    • Somalia displaces Iraq as world’s least peaceful nation
    • Violence cost the global economy more than $8.12 trillion in 2010

    Mind-bottling, right? Want more? Well, i've always been one to oblige, so here's a nifty little video outlining the metrics used for the Global Peace Index.

    So next time you start planning a trip, while looking up the weather forcasts, don't forget to consult the Global Peace Index Map as well. It just might save you a lot of grief, and maybe even a limb or two.

    Happy travels!

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Wanderlust Wednesday [4]

    For this Wanderlust Wednesday, I am very excited to introduce Krys Simon, one of the most beautiful people you will ever meet. Beauty that doesn't just run skin deep but one that emanates from the depths of her soul, manifesting itself in everything she touches with her talented hands. I cannot praise her enough for all of the amazing things she has done and continue to do. I hope you enjoy her stories as much as I do!

    Name - Krys Simon

    Site - www.kryssimon.com, www.superlaughter.yelp.com, www.kryssimonsays.blogspot.com

    Occupation - Professor Associate at California State University (East Bay), while selectively freelancing in web design and iPhone/iPad app development.

    Birthplace - Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. 100% Filipina, 100% Sucka Free.

    Current Location - California girl, still in love with the bay…

    (Golden Gate Bridge, California)

    Trips Made - US (Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, DC, Virginia, Florida, Hawaii), Canada (Montreal and Quebec City), Mexico (Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Guadalajara), Philippines Islands (Pampanga, Baguio, San Fernando, Luzon, Angeles, Quezon City, Manila, Boracay), Brazil (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and some area in the Amazon), Peru (LIma and Callao), Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne), Italy (Florence and San Gimignano), China (Hong Kong and Macau)

    (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

    Trips on the List - Heading out to Berlin soon and will probably venture out around Europe during my stay. Shortly afterwards, I plan on visiting a good friend in Beijing and will probably venture out as well (hopefully I'll get to rendezvous with my long lost cousin along the way). I'm also currently applying to several humanities grants for our research thesis project on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which will fund our backpacking trip around India.

    I'd like to visit the family in Australia sometime next year and hit up New Zealand along the way. I hear the surf and the wildlife there are phenomenal! I've also been wanting to visit Alaska too and then continue island hopping around the Philippines. Next stop, Cebu!

    (Freshly "enhanced" Brazilian national monument, Sao Paulo)

    Featured trip - This was in 2007 during our stay in Brazil, my then-boyfriend and I had just spent a day traipsing around the favelas, sippin' on Guarana. After hitting up a dope ass Chemical Brothers show in Sao Paulo, on the drive back home, we were stopped by what looked like guerrilla terrorists with their rifles and all. Forced out of the car, they raided the shit out of us. I totally thought I was gonna get raped and was ready to die in attempts to judo kick their ass. But Dolfo seduced them in portuguese somehow, mentioning that we were coming back from a Chemical Brothers concert. Apparently, they were also CB fans and started choppin' it up like we were all homies. Pat on the back and an escort back home, we made it back to Dolfo's place safe and sound. The following morning, we take a plane ride to the Amazons to spend a few days at their private resort (his parents were head physicists at GE Brazil so they had hookups). That trip was pretty intense.

    (Masantol Elementary School, Pampanga)

    Teach, learn, share - "My culture gives me fire. My people give me strength. My words are a declaration of will. My work and my actions are a shout out to the world that no one is going to tell me what to do." Growing up female, first generation Filipino, and American, I've always understood how truly privileged I am of all this opportunity my family has worked so hard for, so that I don't have to live in a state of revolution they went through for me. Traveling alone is a simple reminder of that.

    Despite the poverty I've encountered during my travels, I've found the most kindness and generosity from the very people living in it, and I try to carry that with me back in the States. When I feel that I've lost touch with that humility and gratitude, drowning in my hipster pretentiousness and self-entitlement, it means that it's time to take another trip back home. I'll island hop and get those highs again, where everything shines with boundless potential, and i'll remember again never to take my life for granted.

    So I guess my tip to you all is… just fucking travel! I can only hope that it will broaden your mind and open the doors to self-awareness. As it should.

    (Fishball vendor, San Fernando)

    Worst food - I'm always down with street food. ALWAYS. Even if it means sitting on a toilet for a day. Don't be surprised to find me in some random street stall, hovering over a vat of hot oil, poking at all that fried deliciousness. But there was this one dish I had in Hong Kong that every local recommended, chou doufu or deep-fried stinky tofu. This fermented tofu dish was served with some kind of thick hoisin sauce that smelled like heaven. But after one bite, I thought something died in my mouth. It tasted so putrid!

    Pig blood? No problem. Under-developed duck eggs? Delicious. But stinky tofu? Hells no.

    (Financial District, Hong Kong)

    Do you have any tattoos? - My mother and father's first name are written above my wrist and their last names below my triceps (mother on right side and father on left side, respectively). "Hope" in hebrew is located on my right forearm, "Fear" in hebrew on my left forearm, and a large phonograph below it. Rodolfo's name is on my left wrist. "What nurtures you destroys you" in Latin is written along my left rib cage. An octopus (my sister/power animal) hovers along the bottom right side of my back and thigh. A couple of her tentacles are wrapped around a branch of cherry blossoms, which covers the left side of my back and shoulder. I have a yin yang behind my neck, 510 inside my lip, my birthdate behind my left thigh and a crying minotaur from Radiohead's Amnesiac album above it.

    Yeah, I've got a lot of tattoos but I've already made the decision to have my body covered eventually. There's no rush though, I've got my whole life to do so and I would love to tattoo and get tattooed during my travels soon.