travels.02-4

Travels.04

Erin’s oh-four destinations:

International –Thailand, Mexico, Belize

National – Portland, OR

Travel Blog: Mexico and Belize

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Sunday, December 19, 2004Greetings from Belize

Healthy People, Small Cemetery!

They Had Conch shells

Well, I have arrived on the tiny island of Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize, where I will spend Christmas and the holidays. It is a very, very small place, full of Rastafari and bongo drums and golf cart taxis. Very beautiful and laid back. Getting here was somewhat arduous… I left Cozumel on the ferry at 800 yesterday morning and didn’t get to the island till this morning cause I missed the last ferry last night and had to stay in Belize city. It was really yucky and kind of scary… On the bus to Belize, I sat next to this drunk rastafarian man (or, rather, he sat next to me) and he was sort of interesting, but smelled like a day’s worth of cheap beer and so I just kind of turned away from him and dozed. On the bus, I met a few other gringos… two Quebecoise girls and an American guy. When we got to Belize city at 900 last night, they all came up to me expectantly, asking where they should go, as if I would know… So we got a taxi and had some trouble finding lodging that late on a saturday. Eventually, we ended up in a quiet guest house in the suburbs, “Three Sisters Guest House”, which felt kind of like staying at someone’s aunts house. It was nice and very safe, though, so I slept well. I have been wandering around the island all day and really like it here. There is tye dye and dread locks as far as the eye can see… I ate eggs and beans for breakfast. The local beer, Beliken, tastes suspiciously like saltwater. Not much else to say…

More soon.
Erin
posted by Erin at 1:12 PM 0 comments
Friday, December 03, 2004 – Semi amusing musings
Just a quick note on Friday night, cause its my buddy charlie’s birthday and I’m heading out… When I walk into downtown every day, I pass this really huge, ugly rooster that is tied to a rope in someone’s yard. And I think he has a crush on me cause every time I walk by, he puffs his feathers out really huge and fans his tail. It looks completely ridiculous. You wouldn’t believe how huge this one tiny rooster can get…

One other sort of amusing thing… today in my 4-5 year old class, we were talking about moms and dads and one kid pointed at another girl and said, ‘tu papa es muy gordo’, meaning, ‘your dad is really fat’. And then he laughed wickedly. It was so mean but it just completely caught me off guard and I started laughing. I tried to hide it, but I can’t help it when kids say stuff like that. They cannot even comprehend the concept of tact. Its great.
posted by Erin at 6:57 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 – The Speed of Thought
I have been busy….

Last weekend I took off to Merida with my friend Brian and we had such a blast. Merida is a bigger city on the Yucatan Peninsula that has a heavy Italian influence, meaning there are outdoor cafes and grassy squares and crazy architechture everywhere. It was almost easy to forget I was in Mexico sometimes, but we spent some time at the outdoor and indoor bazaar markets and this was a crash back to reality. It felt really authentic, much more than Cozumel. I liked this, but it was also a bit shocking after these two months of rest and peace on my quiet little island. Some real poor parts and lots of beggars, Traffic everywhere, lots of noise, people all wanting money from you. I bought some great souvenirs and a really nice backpack for about 12 dollars. Oh yeah, and a watch that broke literally two minutes after I purchased it. We went back to return it and the shop had mysteriously closed. Interesting… I still can’t figure out how they got the watch to work for those two minutes, though. Maybe just a battery with a tiny bit of juice. I was annoyed, but when we got back to Cozumel Brian bought me a much nicer watch. I think he was just afraid of seeing me throw a tantrum when he changed the battery and it still didnt tick. Just kiddin… I loved Merida and got some awesome pictures, which I have uploaded to a website that is still in construction. I promise pics every time I write, but I swear, soon… Brian headed back to the states yesterday and now life is calming down a bit. I have committed myself to learning Spanish and am studying an hour a day. People are saying I’m improving, which is cool. I think I should pick it up much more quickly with a little effort. I feel pretty good.

I am thinking, now, Belize for Christmas. The tiny island of Caye Caulker, to be specific. It is supposed to be fun and relaxed and I just mainly want to take it easy and chill on a beach in a hammock. I have 2 weeks for Christmas starting the 18th. It should be a nice time of solitude, just me on my own since mom can’t make it out. I am looking forward to the quiet, though.

In other news, the rumor is that my apartment is almost finished. I think they are going to give me the little one ontop of the bigger one, since the bigger one is nowhere near done and I was told I’d get the key this week. I don’t care how big or small it is, it will just be great to have my own place and get out of Mary Carmen’s hair. It really is a small place for two messy girls.

What else… The weather is still warm and I have been dreaming of home. Plans for travel around central America next summer are starting to materialize. And after that…. who knows. I thought maybe it would be cool to go teach in Indonesia somewhere, but the big bucks are still in, ugh, Korea. We will see. I miss you all.

Sunday, November 21, 2004 – Thoughts from Playa
It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and i am hanging out in Playa Del Carmen, near Cancun, with my friend brian. This weekend, we went to the beautiful, secluded beach of Tulum and stayed in a thatched bungalow hut. It reminded me of thailand. The floor of the room was sand and there was no electricity. The beach was incredible, very blue, warm water and just a few backpackers around. Friday night, trying to be cool, I swallowed the better part of a very hot chili pepper whole and ended up with awful cramps in my stomach. I couldn’t figure out why for a little while… we were sitting there at dinner just having a ball and suddenly it hurt like crazy. So Saturday was a bit uncomfortable, but I was able to ignore it and have fun anyways. I visited my first Mayan Ruin and it was very cool. i took pictures and will post them soon. last night, we met up with my roommate, mary carmen, for her birthday and just had a blast in Playa Del Carmen. Now we are pooped out and just being lazy, doing a little shopping. It has been real nice to get off the island and see some new stuff. I think I need to venture out more. Something in bed last night bit the heck out of my legs and they itch like crazy. There are probably 25 bites on my legs… Thats all, really. Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving. Write me!
posted by Erin at 1:11 PM 0 comments

November 14, 2004 – Top Five Reasons…
Well, owing to the influx of tourists on a near constant basis and the very nearly comparable to home prices, I sometimes start to forget that I am, indeed, in another country. It is incredible here, but things are certainly not the same as in Oregon, So just in case I start to get too lazy or forgetful, I have composed the following list;

Top Ten Reminders That I Am, Indeed, In Mexico (in no particular order of relevance);

1. Tonight at the restaurant/bar where I usually hang out in the evenings, a few employees began a massive welding project to fix the accordion door that shuts the place off at night. I was sitting literally five feet away with my dinnner and beer, with no protective eye gear (luckily, someone warned me that if I watched the welding flame I would go blind or I’d probably be in bad shape now) and they just started firing away at the thing. Owing to the massive gales of wind that have been sweeping the island the past week, all these showers of spark and flame were flying towards me and burning my arms for about an hour. No one really seemed to think of it as a big deal but I kept imagining what would have happenned were this stunt pulled in Oregon. No way!!!

2. The other day a friend warned me that when it rains, it is all too common for sea snakes to come up the plumbing pipes and end up floating around in the toilet bowl or just plain slithering out. Ugh!!! I am certainly much more vigilant when I use the bathroom, now!!

3. The entire seafront road of the island is currently under construction. Just as in Europe and Southeast Asia, I find the casual disregard people show for construction zones to be hilarious and refreshing. Take here for example; tractors are dumping loads of concrete all over the place, loose bricks are flying from the tops of soon to be dismantled buildings, the sidewalks look as if some 9.0 richtor scale disaster has upended them, and little old ladies are just strolling through. The other day, I came across a construction site that was completely obstructing my way into town. But instead of taking a detour, I decided to go native and just sort of started hopping across the broken cement. Eventually, I came to a huge precipice where the ocean had risen up, creating a two-foot wide channel of rushing water. And sure as heck, two friendly construction workers showed up out of nowhere to usher me across. Very nice.

4. My roomate has informed me that it is not necessary to refrigerate eggs or milk. This may very well be the case, but I am sticking to my guns on this one…

5. The other day one of my afternoon classes was interruped first by the arrival of a huge, nasty cockroach (which one of my students promptly smashed and then threw at me) and then this gigantic spider with the longest legs I’ve ever seen and pinchers big as a crab´s which skittered under the tables and caused quite the uproar. So I sent one student out to ask the principal for bug spray. She came back explaining that the principal didn’t want me to kill the spider (fair enough) and that I should just ‘catch it and put it outside’. Long story short, I made one of the students do it and everything turned out ok.

I am really enjoying myself here, in spite of the sarcasm that this top five list might entail. It is cool to exist outside of the comfort zone for a while. That is, if you do it intelligently. Cozumel is full of wonderful people and I am starting to make some good friends. Cold showers aren’t so bad when you get used to them. The weather has cooled down to the seventies and I am much enjoying this eternal summer. I hadn’t realized how miserable wet socks were until I lived a season without them…

Ok all you troublemakers. I’ve got to get home. Write me soon.

Hasta Luego,
Erin
posted by Erin at 6:43 PM 1 comments
Wednesday, November 03, 2004 – Overdue Update
ooops… its been awhile again. Time seems to be shifting into warp gear these days and its all I can do to keep up and in touch. So sorry everyone whom I haven’t written back in ten lifetimes.

School is still going well, although I really am not super fond of a couple of my classes. I think cause its a Montessori school the kids are used to being more independent. A few of them just get up and wander around all the time which is really distracting. One little boy strips on a weekly basis as well, which is funny but sets the other kids off so much that nothing usually gets done on those days.

It was day of the dead on monday and all of the kids brought offerings. It was very cool– they set up a huge altar with photos and flowers and fresh fruit. I took pictures but am having trouble uploading them. Hopefully soon, even though I always say that. My Halloween was pretty subdued– I hung out with this American sea captain/skydiver that I met and we just watched the festivities in the town square and ate ice cream.

The temperature is getting down to a chilly sixty something degrees in the evening. brrr!! Ok, ok, I’m being mean, now. I am finally getting a tan although I got a little burnt riding mopeds this weekend. I saw some of the ruins on the island and hung out at a very cool rasta bar down south at the lower tip of the island. Very windy and littered with stray dogs. The weeks are passing quickly and I’m starting to think about Christmas plans. Maybe Belize, though I’m also considering the pacific coast of Mexico. Any reccomendations?

Gotta go, I’m three minutes from passing the hour mark at this internet cafe. WRite me eveyone!! photos soon, I promise.

Thursday, October 14, 2004 – Thursday night on the island
Hey everyone…

Its a thursday night in Cozumel, which means, mostly, that I am excited cause its almost the weekend. The weeks seem to pass faster and faster. Some days are good and others are hard. This week, the kids have really been pushing my limits and it is very tiring. Plus I can’t seem to get to sleep before midnight, which leaves me pretty tired in the morning.
The weather is cooling off, which is nice cause it gives me more energy to do stuff in the afternoon. The cold showers are a bit less enjoyable, though. Tonight I spent a while in a bar talking to this American guy who served in the Gulf War. Very interesting, but a little unsettling. He still seemed so traumatized by it and it really made me think about everything that’s going on now. No matter what your personal political view is, I hope everyone is voting cause it seems especially important this year. Ive gone several times trying to get an absentee ballot but the consulate is always closed so I’m not sure how I’ll sort it out.
I am making more friends and my spanish is getting a little better every day. When I walk through town now, at least, I have a few friends that I stop and say hi to. And every morning when I go to class there is the same giant iguana sitting ontop of this one wall staring at me. I think he likes me.
Ive been here five weeks and that seems so unreal. I think the time here will past quite fast. This is both good and bad, so Im trying to stay in the moment. Otherwise, nothing much to report. I go home a new way at night so the stray dogs don’t attack me. I like my roommate. I am living on sandwiches and cereal and corona. I want someone to come visit, soon!!!!
Ok, that’s all for now. Hope you all are behaving yourselves….

Monday, October 18, 2004
– continental communique

So yeah…. I got a new tattoo!! On Saturday, I walked in the pissing ass rain to the tattoo shop and Wicho and I spent the day together. He tattooed me and then, gulp, we kissed a little bit. It was weird. I hadn´t planned to do anything of the sort, but it was raining outside and were all by ourselves in this cozy little shop and I guess getting a tattoo is sort of a trust thing, so it felt intimate in a way. Then he was putting ointment on my back and, well, you know…. But I stopped it pretty quick and asked him to be straight with me. He says that he can’t offer me much more than moments like that (big surprise) and that it’s basically my decision. So I told him maybe we can be friends…. It is so weird. But I know now where I stand and so its ok. I realize that he is just the kind of person who can do stuff like that and not get attached. I am working my way there, but I think I need to just lay low for awhile. I saw him at random this evening on my way home from the bar and it felt a bit awkward…. Maybe cause I was tipsy or something. But anyhow, my tattoo is really beautiful. It’s a wheel of dharma on my back, below the tattoo on my neck. It hurts a lot right now but Wicho says this is normal. And it was cheap!! only 40 bucks. Otherwise, nothing much too special. Time is passing quickly and I’m trying to figure out where to spend Christmas break. Any ideas? Take it easy and write me, please!! I get no emails…
posted by Erin @ 5:39 PM 2 comments
Wednesday, October 13, 2004 – Slightly Unhinged

Hey Everyone… Just thought Í’d write a quick hello seeing as I made these blogs and I never seem to find the time to post anything…. So, Sunday. It was weird, let’s say… I went to the pier in the afternoon and hung out at a semi over priced tourist spot. I drank Coronas and ate a chicken sandwich, then gave in and went to see my tattoo artist friend. I wasn’t going to, but, well, you know how it goes. So I went up there and I felt super nervous and kind of dumb cause I walked in and the only person I saw in there was this British guy (obviously the owner) and I didn’t even know my boy’s name so I just stood there a minute, like, uhhhhh, and then he walked out from the back room where I’m guessing by the red of his eyes that he was smokin. So long story short, we ended up talking for a few hours, more really great conversation under the guise of me looking for ideas for a new tattoo. I’m getting one here cause they’re cheap and I think it would be cool to have a friend tattoo me. Sort of a trust thing, I think. So I found out his name is Wicho, apparently a common nickname for Luis. I think he was glad to see me, but I felt really awkward and sort of subdued. Anyways, I decided to make my exit while things were still going really well and the conversation was lively. I don’t want to seem desperate, now do I? So I took off, skipping the usual kiss on the cheek goodbye that everyone around here does. So on my way home I ran into my roommate and some of her friends at the pizzeria where they always hang out and I ended up staying there quite awhile. Mary Carmen’s sort of boyfriend, Hugo, heard from here that I smoke and so he offered to get me the hookup, but it was really sketchy cause he didn’t want anyone else to know, including her. He kept typing secret messages into his cell phone and showing them to me. So I took off with him on his motorcycle to see about the whole thing and I was afraid it looked really bad, but Mary Carmen didn’t seem to care and I would never date him anyways, so whatever. We ended up hanging out at the apartment of Ryan, the south african guy I’d met a few weeks ago, and then, when he couldn’t get anything, at the apartment of Rosie, this crazy mexican-american girl. They did white stuff all night and I’m proud to say I only said yes to 2 rounds. It was good, but I worked the next day so I took it easy, just drank beers and smoked cigarettes.

Well, that’s all for now. I can’t wait for the weekend and more sketchy times…
posted by Erin @ 2:00 PM 1 comments
Saturday, October 09, 2004 – Love gone awry

Ok, sorry It’s been forever, I’ve been real busy and working takes up most of my energy.

So I’ve been here three weeks and I’m feeling pretty good. It is really hot but finally starting to cool off a bit and this makes it easier to move around. I hang out in the town square every night, usually, meeting random people and drinking coronas. Last night was Friday and it was, well, interesting….

So I went out around ten with Mary Carmen. We went to the pizzeria where she likes to hang out and it was ok, but everyone was chattering away in Spanish so I got bored and decided to head out on my own. First I went to Viva Mexico, this touristy bar with loud music and dancing. There were tons of Americans there in some sort of group but no one talked to me and I felt kind of awkward and bored so I left and went down to the pier. Afterwards, I decided to check out the Hard Rock Cafe, even though I think places like that are kind of lame, cause I heard there was a good live band playing there on Friday nights. I got there, ordered a beer, and then was told they were closing. Nice. So i figured the night was a bust and decided to walk home. On my way, I noticed this really hot guy with dreads and a beard using a payphone. He smiled at me and I kept walking, figuring that was that. Lo and behold, a few minutes later he was riding his bike next to me and asking the time. We started chatting and he invited me to come smoke a joint with him. I was kind of sketchy about it cause I didn’t know him, but he was so cute (he reminded me so much of a Mexican version of Krisjna, really hippieish and kind of a stoner). So we went to the Tattoo parlor where he works and smoked bowls and listened to music. It was so intimate– all the lights were off and we got really stoned and talked for hours about everything you could think of. He has travelled, so we have that in common, and he’s really intelligent and interested in metaphysical stuff. I was really excited cause we were hitting if off so well and I haven’t met anyone I was really attracted to the whole time I’ve been here. He is 32, which is kind of old, but I think we were really on the same level so I didn’t care. So anyways, afterwards, we went back outside and walked along together until the locations of our respective houses forced us to part ways. And then he started acting weird and just basically said, ‘ok, Ill see you around’. I think I must have given him a weird look cause he ended up telling me that he really likes me and is attracted to me but he has a girlfriend. Needless to say I was disappointed. So we just kind of stood there looking at each other in this weird way for a minute or two, and then he hugged me. He wanted to kiss me but I didn’t see the point so I just gave him a quick peck on the lips and said goodbye. I was so disappointed, just wondering why I had to meet him at all if it was just going to be more nothing. So I felt pretty low walking home and then these stray dogs chased me and tried to bite me which was scary and I couldn’t get to my house cause they were blocking the way. I ended up having to take a taxi two blocks!! Suck. So I don’t know what’s up. Mary Carmen says maybe they will break up, but I’m not going to sit around waiting for that. I’m sure I’ll see him around, but I don’t know if I’ll come visit him at the tattoo shop like he wants. Whats the point? I guess to get smoked out…. So boo. That sucks. And we never even exchanged names!! So weird, but it just felt like we knew each other already and neither of us thought of it. That’s all for now. Any advice, girls?

posted by Erin @ 1:42 PM
Saturday, October 09, 2004Greetings from the Pier
Happy Saturday, everyone!! I am glad for the weekend, as usual. Today I am wandering around the town checking stuff out and so I thought I’d post a hello. Things are going well, I am adjusting to my new life here and getting into a routine. The principal told me she is very happy with my work so far and likes my enthusiasm. I still have some trouble controlling some of the kids, but it’s coming along. It is also still very hot but I am told that cooler weather is on the way. It’s certainly been raining a lot. Decenber and January are supposed to be the most temperate.

There are tons of tourists out today but it’s kind of fun to people watch.

Last night when I was walking home from the bar these mean stray dogs chased me and tried to bite me. It was really scary and horrible and culminated with every dog in a one mile radius howling wildly at me. I couldn’t figure out what to do cause they wouldn’t let me past them to get to my house, so I ended up running for it and taking a taxi the remaining two blocks. The guy ripped me off on the fare but I was glad to be intact. I guess there have been a lot of problems with the dogs around here but no one does anything about it.

Well I should go, I’m hungry. If any of you out there still want to come and visit, send me an email. I’m trying to coordinate stuff.
ciao.
posted by Erin at 1:55 PM 0 comments
Sunday, October 03, 2004 – Lazy Sunday
Hey everyone.
Its sunday afternoon and I am sitting in an airconditioned internet cafe near the town square. Sundays are very kicked back around here, everyone just sort of sitting around near the water. There are a couple of cruise ships in the port and so the touts are out in full swing. They all want you to buy diamonds and sarongs and get really mad if you ignore them. It has been raining a lot the past couple of days and so the streets near my place are flooded again. Its really gross and annoying, but all that rain keeps things really green and beautiful. Tomorrow is the start of my third week teaching. I am looking forward to it, but Im finding it hard to control the kids. I try to make my lessons interesting but I have no idea what Im doing so its a bit of a crapshoot. Im looking forward to Christmas vacation!!
Ive been watching a lot of tv which is very unusual for me. Its just that when Im sitting around in the evening and Mary Carmen is gone, the place feels too quiet and I get lonely, so I watch these terrible shows like Gilmore Girls and Seventh Heaven. They say watching TV from home is a good way to fight culture shock and I have to agree. Plus I try to look at the Spanish subtitles so I dont feel like what Im doing is a total waste.
Ive been eating a lot of sandwiches and spaghetti. The food is relatively expensive here and so Im trying to eat cheaply. Last weekend I ordered two whiskey and cokes at a bar and they were TEN DOLLARS each!! I think the waiter tricked me and gave me top shelf liquor. Which was rude cause I am so obviously a bottom shelf kind of girl.
I miss everyone from home and will try to post pictures soon.
take it easy
Er

Thursday, September 30, 2004 – Uhhhhh
Just a quick post. Parent teacher conferences are tonight. ugh, I am nervous. And ready for the weekend and some fun. My roommate is going out of town till sunday, though, so Im going to have to go out and make some new friends tomorrow night. I dont mind, cause I know a lot of the people who work at Senor Frogs, but still its sort of lame. I did meet this really nice South African guy and his Chilean girlfriend last weekend, though, and I might see what they are up to.
I really want to go travelling somewhere over Christmas break, but I havent decided where. Natalie might come visit. I get paid tomorrow. Ok this is really random and I guess I actually dont have anything to say… Later.
posted by Erin at 2:50 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, September 29, 2004 – Incoherent Mumblings
Hey everyone! Well, my second week is half over and Im desperate for some rest. Teaching is quite the challenge but I manage to enjoy myself for the most part. Ive spent the week sort of wandering around the town, trying to gain some bearing. The place is very polarized– the pier is lined with diamond stores and perfumeries and Mcdonalds and all that other export garbage but if you get just a couple of blocks in, the story changes entirely. Its just really amazing to me how people come to see a new place but really just want to feel like they never left home. Im no exception, either. Sometimes when Im walking around in the afternoons, I get inexplicably jealous of the tourists venturing out of their cruise ships. It all looks so easy. But before I sound depressing, I will say that Im picking up a little bit of spanish. I can understand a heck of a lot more than I can say but its coming, little by little. (poco a poco) I miss home a bit but the culture shock isnt too bad. I think if I hadnt been to Thailand and Laos it would be a whole lot worse. Cold showers and that whole lot are old hat by now.

The other day it just started dumping down raining and within like 10 minutes there was 6 inches of water covering everything. The streets were flooded and I had to hike up my skirt and wade through a river of muddy gray water. Afterwards, all kinds of weird exotic reptiles were wandering around, including these two fat frogs and a giant iguana. I have some photos but I dont know when Ill be able to post them. I am so busy with school that priorities are elsewhere.

Well, take it easy. Emails are always nice.

Erbear
posted by Erin at 7:42 AM 0 comments
Friday, September 24, 2004 – buenas tardes!
Hey everyone!!

Well, its Friday and my first week teaching is officially over. It was a mixed bag, but minorly disastrous as far as first weeks at teaching jobs in Mexico go, I suppose. The kids are mainly sweet, but there are a few devils that do their best to distract all the others. I do feel a bit overwhelmed, but I think its because Ive been sort of trying all week to figure out who goes where, who knows what, and how best to relay information. Ive gotten that glazey, blank stare from a roomful of faces more than once. The little ones come up to me and start chattering away in Spanish and I just kind of nod and smile. There are a lot of American and British kids here, so its not as if no one speaks my language, though.

Cozumel is hot, hot, hot and the mosquitos remain brutal. I couldnt stop scratching my feet and they both got really swollen and infected so now Im on antibiotics. Im so glad its friday and I have a day or two to relax…. I havent spent much time in the town but tonight Mary Carmen, Paola, Siddhartha and I are going dancing and Senor Frogs. The town has just a few dance clubs and Im excited to check them out.

I watch a lot of spanish tv, mostly Spanish MTV (mary carmens favorite) and the occasional maudlin spanish soap opera. TV really is an excellent way to learn a language. If I watch programs in English, I just read the subtitles and Im learning all kinds of words. My vocabulary is still less than basic, but in a few weeks I think it will be better.

Well I have to go. I miss everyone a lot and will write again soon when there is more to report.
posted by Erin at 1:30 PM 0 comments
Monday, September 20, 2004 – Scattered Thoughts

hey everyone!! Sorry I couldnt write sooner, I have been insanely busy getting my new life together. Heres a summary: (oh yeah, and sorry about the poor punctuation, I cant figure this keyboard out)

I almost missed my plane to Cozumel after spending eight hours in that dumb airport. dont ask. I touched down in Cozumel around eight friday night and immediately began sweating profusely and then was attacked by a swarm of mosquitos that havent left me alone since. Ha ha. Really, it is beautiful here and I love it. Its just strange to be in a tropical climate again, what with all the iguanas and cockroaches and cold showers and stuff. Cozumel reminds me a lot of Laos or the poorer parts of Thailand, actually. The alleys are filled with hungry dogs and shirtless men, the people are really laid back and tanned, many of the neighborhoods are quite poor, and, just as in Thailand, no matter how poor a family is, they have a TV. It is touristy, definitely, but once you go like a hundred feet into the island, things change a bit. It is not dirt cheap, but certainly cheaper than at home. The beaches are incredible, the bluest water youve ever seen and its colder than the ocean in Thailand, which is nice. The people I live and teach with are very kind as well, though none of them speak english except for one. Im getting a crash course in Spanish, and hopefully Ill pick it up relatively quickly. its either that or be left out of 99.5% of the conversations that go on around here. My apartment isnt built yet and so Im sharing a studio with a mexican girl, mary carmen. She is very sweet but its strange to be in such a confined space with someone who wasnt even told she was sharing her place until three days before I arrived. she sleeps in a hammock in the kitchen and I sleep in the bed. crazy!

The kids are very sweet and curious about me. Today was my first day of class, but I just observed. Aside from a few bad apples, they are well behaved and very eager to learn English. It is a montessori school, and reminds me a lot of my Waldorf kids, Sedge, Bryony and Willow. Everyone is very creative and independent.

What else…. It is hot. Ants are everywhere. Ive been eating nothing but quesadillas cause I havent had time to run to the store, which I better do now cause it looks like rain again. It sort of pours down every other day or so. I got a minor sunburn, but its better. I miss everyone. Yesterday I saw an iguana wandering around in the garden. Like a foot long. Weird.

Oh yeah, and you cant flush toilet paper, just like in Thailand. The things you take for granted….

Hope everyone is well. Email me!! Ive gotten like two letters since I got here. Ill try to post pictures when I get access to a faster computer.

Take it easy,

Erin
posted by Erin at 4:21 PM 1 comments


Friday, September 17, 2004
– Marooned in Mexico City
Hey everyone. Well, Im trapped at the mexico city airport. I decided I was too tired and poor to head out into the city for my eight hour layover and so Ive just been wandering around the place looking for something to do. There aint much. Plus I cant figure out how to work the punctuation keys on this keyboard. Im sort of grumpy just because I got one hour of sleep on the flight here and am super exhausted. Add to this that there are no seats in this whole freakin airport so I cant even sit down. I went into the ticketing area of the airline I got my own ticket from and tried to sleep on one these comfortable couches they have there but they got mad and kicked me out. This one guy at a desk was making these wild hand motions as if he was throwing me out and then some security guard came over and started yelling at me in spanish. Like I was a vagabond. It annoyed me because they are the ones who gave me an eight hour layover at an airport with no seats and then they get mad when I try to sit on the only couches that exist. ugh. I didnt make a scene, though. Just left and ended up here in this internet cafe. I did have my first sort of Mexican meal: enchiladas and a corona. I am very eager to get moving on to cozumel and start settling in. No one is bothering me, luckily, in fact people are pretty friendly, but I feel awkward and really bored. I see this as the necessary but really unexciting part of my trip and I want it to be done.
I miss everyone already and hope to get some emails soon. Sorry that I couldnt call several of you last night before leaving as I promised. I was just too distracted.
Well anyways, Ill end here. Next stop, Cozumel.
posted by Erin at 10:24 AM 0 comments
Thursday, September 16, 2004T Minus Twelve
Hey. Well its Thursday morning and I’m taking off in about twelve hours. I’m almost done packing but I still feel a bit scattered. I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to say goodbye to everyone I would like to, so if you don’t hear from me before I go, don’t feel bad. I have most of my teaching materials together but I think all the books i’ve bought will make my bag insanely heavy.

Jeez, this is a really boring entry. Perhaps, if there is internet there, I’ll write from the Mexico City airport where I have an eight hour layover. Fun.

Later,
Erin
posted by Erin at 10:06 AM 0 comments

Sunday, September 12, 2004 – On The Road Again
Hello everyone. As anyone who is reading this probably already knows, I am headed off to teach English in Cozumel for nine months. I don’t know how much access I’ll have to internet while I’m living on the island, but I’m assuming it won’t be too difficult to get something posted up for the folks back home every once in awhile. And if I really get my act together, then I might even be posting photos and stuff like that.

Today is Sunday. I leave Thursday night– just bought my ticket for what really seemed to me to be an exorbinant amount of money– 850.00 The school will reimburse me 600 of that, though. I have too much to do before I take off. Packing alone seems like such a daunting task.
Guess that’ s all for now.

-Erinber

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Travels.03

Erin’s oh-three destinations:

International – France, Ireland, Spain, Netherlands (a few times over, ha!), Germany, Italy, Thailand, Laos.

National – McMinnville, Or; Portland, Or.

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Travel Blog: Thailand

Saturday, January 17, 2004
Hey all…
Guess this is my last email from SE Asia. I made it safely back to Thailand about a week back and have spent the past six days relaxing on a beach in the south, on the island of Ko Chang. It’s been real nice, just takin it easy with Krisjna and some insane swedish guys we met, Jonas and Hank. We went on a two day boat cruise, visited some waterfalls, swam in the ocean, ate pad thai, etc, etc. Just the normal relaxing stuff. Now we’re back in Bangkok after a day long ride in a stuffy, overcrowded minivan. It’s almost three in the morning and we spent the evening drinking beer and chatting with a guy we met from Washington DC. I come home in about 2 days time… how crazy is that? Only problem is my airline is trying to give me this crap about how I can’t get on the plane without a ticket (it was stolen along with everything else) unless I repurchase with a credit card, which is all fine and good except the cards were stolen as well and now the airline claims they cannot help me. It’s ok, tho, I have my dad working on it and he’ll probably get something done. Otherwise, maybe I have to stay here forever!!! I wouldn’t mind so much, but I miss everyone and so I’m hoping everything works out. Anyways, that’s all for now. I’ll see everyone soon!!!!
Posted by: Erin / 11:52 AM

Monday, January 05, 2004
heeeeey…..
Ok. I’m still stuck in Laos. Vientiene, to be exact. Trying to deal with all the baloney that comes along with getting your stuff stolen. The beaurocracy here is something of a vaccum… things go in but they never come back out and if they do, it is three days later and with the wrong stamp besides… I finally got my hands on a new, temporary passport today and am guarding it with my life. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a visa tomorrow and take the night bus back to Bangkok. I’m ready to get to a country with a bit more infrastructure!!!

Laos has been a beautiful country but I don’t know if I’ll come back for awhile… What with the two week long stomach ache and everything that followed, I think I’ll stick to Thailand. I have vague plans, though, to travel to Cambodia for the end of my trip and see Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building and one of the wonders of the world. My Belgian Friend, Krisjna, is heading that way and I’m considering doing the same. Otherwise, its down to the beaches to relax. I need a vacation from my vacation!!

New Years was a blast, hanging out down by the Mekong River till the sun rose, then catching the 6:30 AM bus for a nine hour trip to Vientiene. It was intense, but I arrived in one piece.

Ok thats all. Take care.
Posted by: Erin / 1:39 AM

Sunday, December 28, 2003
hey everyone. Well I’m back from the jungle of Laos. Sort of. Krisjna and I have arrived in Luang Prahbong after an arduous several days. We’ve been travelling through small towns with little to no electricity, squat toilets, cold showers and very rustic food and accomodations. Things were going well until we arrived in Mong Noi and ran into some bad luck. Christmas eve we went out for a few beers and returned early to the bungalows to get to sleep (around midnight) and sometime between then and Christmas morning, we got robbed blind. They took our daypacks with everything in them, including my wallet, identification, atm cards, passport, plane ticket, 600 dollars of travellers checks, camera, journal, film, a bunch of cash and tons of sentimentally valuable items. It was shockign to say the least. And things only got weirder. There was one policeman in the town, a really tiny old guy who was wearing an eighties warm up suit and couldn’t speak english. We found a translator and tried to do a report, but they wouldn’t write one because the crime was too “weird”, whatever that means. So all these Lao guys just sort of wandered around looking at the bungalow and smoking cigars and accomplished nothing. We were left without a cent, but I met a friendly British guy who let us 1000 baht immediately, which is about twenty dollars. We’ve been living on it ever since, its so cheap here. So anyways, Christmas was a massive bust and we sat around all day just fuming and trying to sort the whole thing out. Sengdala, the guesthouse owner, claimed the police were coming from the city but after three days we decided he was lying. We talked to some other travelers and it turns out there is a town theif and no one will turn him in. We finally gave up on getting out stuff back, even though sengdala kept saying mysterious things about our passports “returning” soon. And then when we checked otu this morning he slapped us with a 22 dollar bill. I told him sorry, we weren’t paying and he was not happy. I also told him that if he wanted the bill paid, he could go ask the theif, whoever he is, for the money. Then we took off for a 6 hour ride in the back of a pickup truck which got us here. there were at least thirty people crammed in there, plus the roof was piled about five feet high with bags of rice and luggage. Nice scenery, though. NOw we have to cancel all our stuff and try to find a way to get a little cash. We’ll probably make it to an embassy in a few days and take it from there. So, sorry I didn’t call anyone on Christmas. I spent seven hours travelling to the next town over to call home and then the phone wasn’t even working. Man, its been a stressful week. But things are looking up now that were back in civilization. Tonight, I have my first hot shower in over a week!! Jeez, theres so much more to say but I don’t have the time. Hope you all are well and enjoyed the festivities wherever you are/were. Oh yeah, and a quick hello to anyone new who might be reading this. I hear the address got out. heh.
Posted by: Erin / 4:10 AM

Thursday, December 18, 2003
Hey everyone!! Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, I’ve been quite busy. The past week has been a crazy time. Krishna, Loady and I had a blast riding our motorbikes all around northern thailand, checking out the scenery…. We even got up at five one morning and hiked to a cave to watch the bats fly back in at sunrise. Very intense, but I was so tired and cold that I fell asleep on a bench and missed most of the thing. ooops. We’ve also visited some amazing waterfalls and a beautiful hot spring in Pai. I love northern Thailand!! We stayed in Mae Hong Son and Sappong for a few days and then rode back into Pai. We hung out a bit with our Thai friend, Sky (yeah, its funny… Sky the Thai lives in Pai) at the outdoor bar he has just opened up and had fun playing with his puppy, Dave. Two days ago, we caught a public bus back to Chiang mai and the ride was arduous!! We got stuck with the back seat, which was broken and at this terrible angle which made it impossible to move without getting catapulted into the aisle. Not so bad, except that the door was also broken so there was some worry of falling out. Plus the icy wind blowing in for the whole four hour ideal… But we arrived back here safe and sound and returned to the Lannah Guest house where we’d met originally. I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, so Krishna took me to the doctor and I got some meds. I hope they help. Today, we took a Thai cooking class and I now know how to make pad thai, two kinds of curry, spring rolls, sticky rice with mango, and sour and spicy prawn soup. It was a blast. We’re planning to head out to Laos tomorrow. It wasn’t on my itinerary but its supposed to be absolutely gorgeous so I’m heading along for the ride. We’ll spend Christmas and New Year’s there.

Well I gotta go. More updates soon and I miss you all!!
Posted by: Erin / 3:13 AM
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Hey everyone!!! I’m still in Northern Thailand. I’ve been takin it pretty easy with Krishna and Lode, just drinking beer and meeting lots of people. I got a mild case of food poisoning the other day. blah. We’ve spent the past two days making our way from Pai to Mae Hong Son by motorcycle. It was quite a trek, but I saw so much beautiful scenery. I also went caving today in a bamboo raft. I think I’ll be heading off to Laos with Krishna and Lode pretty soon here. Life is good. DOn’t have time to write much. Hope you all are well…
Posted by: Erin / 5:59 AM
Friday, December 05, 2003
Hey everyone. well I’m writing from the tiny Northern town of Pai. Way up in the jungle, about a four hour drive from Chiang Mai. I took the trip with two Belgian guys I met in the Lannah Guest House lounge in Chiang Mai, Krishna and Loady. We started drinking whiskey yesterday afternoon and the next thing I knew I was checked out and headed out of town in a very overcrowded minivan. They are cool, things are well. We’ve spent most of the day drinking whiskey and playing jenga. Not super adventurous, I know. We also went swimming and hung out ontop of a big, dusty hill with a Thai guy that they know, Skai. He just opened a cabana up there and its pretty relaxed– campfires and lots of alchy. A Thai woman told me today that I look like a toy and am very lovely. aww…. Today is the King’s birthday so most all of the bars are closed tonight, but we’re going to hike back up to Skai’s in the hopes of more interesting things. I’ll be around here another few days at least. There are some beautiful waterfalls and hot springs up in the mountains. We’re talking about renting motorbikes tomorrow… Ok, this is severely disjointed. We just sparked a J so I’m a bit out of sorts. Anyways, take care and write me soon…
Posted by: Erin / 7:50 AM
Monday, December 01, 2003
I have just returned from my three day trek into the wilds of Thailand. I must say, I didn’t realize how strenuous it would be. Saturday morning the twelve of us caught a ride out to the trailhead in the back of an old, failing pickup truck. It’s a very common mode of transportation here: they just put two rows of benches in the cab and you climb in and hold on. It took over two hours to get to the edge of the jungle, but we had fun chatting and getting to know each other. The group included two Dutch girls, three Brits, a whole bunch of Canadians and a couple of Aussies. Plus me, the American. First we went on an hour long elephant ride, which was insanely uncomfortable but very funny, cause my elephant had super bad gas and the guy behind me was on a baby elephant tied to mine’s tail. You can fill in the rest of the story. Afterwards, we took a three hour hike up to our first camping spot. It was entirely uphill through dense undergrowth and very exhausting. We spent that night in a bamboo hut at the edge of a Hill Tribe village. The view was amazing and I got lots of pictures. We got our ganj on all night long, but I don’t know how good the stuff was cause I didn’t feel much aside from sleepy. Yesterday, we got up early, hiked all morning uphill again and came eventually to a beautiful waterfall. We ate lunch there, then hiked two more hours to the second waterfall, where we camped again and swam for awhile. Very idyllic. My converse were pitifully inadequate and I ended up with a sprained ankle and tons of bruises and blisters. I was mostly successful at ignoring it but you all know how low my pain tolerance is. Last night we hung out with another hill tribe and had more ganja. The kids were very cute. It was kind of depressing, though, cause they were obviously used to foreigners coming there and giving them stuff. One of them even started rooting through my purse when I wasn’t looking. Another wanted me to give her my tongue ring. I had stickers to give the kids everywhere we went, but stopped cause they would all maul me and start fighting and screaming. Its terrible that their way of life is being corrupted and I felt like I was contributing to that enough by my very presence. Plus its strange to watch them eat the leftovers from your plate when you’ve finished. Anyways, we had a fire last night and listed to our tour guide’s crazy stories a while. Both nights accomodations were, shall we say, rustic, but that was part of the fun. It got very cold, however, and I shivered myself to sleep. It is also impossible to sleep past six in the jungle. I think this is partly owing to the fact that a whole bunch of roosters, puppies and cats lived underneath our hut and made quite a squabble, tearing at each others’ throats for scraps of food. Today we hiked more, then white water rafted down a river for awhile. Next, we rode a bamboo raft awhile and then headed back home. Were all very dirty and tan and exhausted, but planning on heading out tonight regardless. MY ankle is sore, but not so bad now that I’m off it a bit. I think I’ll be staying in Chiang Mai a few more days, then I’ll head further up into the foothills of the Himalayas.
Posted by: Erin / 2:48 AM

Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Hey guys
well I’m in chiang mai now, which is the second largest city in thailand and way up north. I had to take a 13 hour night train here, which wasn’t so hot compared to the night trains in Europe. It was even first class, and was way nastier than any economy class night train I’ve ever seen. Right when I set my stuff down in the compartment, I saw a cockroach scurrying away. I was really freaked out but tried to ignore it. Of course, I kept waking up every few minutes and checking to see if it was on my face or something. And sure enough, at around three in the morning, I saw it crawling on my pillow. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much after that. Mostly just tossed and turned and waited for the sun to rise. We passed through some beautiful country, though, lots of little villages. On the way out of Bangkok, the train passed these massive rows of shanties, just tin and nails, many without walls. It was weird, cause the train was zooming by literally two feet from where these people live. I could see them in their shacks, watching tv and eating. (For some reason, everyone has a tv and cell phone, even people who are basically homeless.)

I’m travelling on my own again in, which is cool, but a bit of an adjustment. I’m staying at this really funny guesthouse. The room is sort of ghetto, but at two bucks a night I can’t complain. I just keep reminding myself of all the stuff I can buy at the end of my trip if I save money. The owner is a woman (?) named Julie who has a really foul mouth and lots of funny stories. I signed up for a trek the guest house does that goes up into the villages, through waterfalls, etc. There is also an elephant ride. Julie says we can smoke the ganj with the hill tribe folk if we want. hmmm…..

I’ve been running into some really annoying backpackers that just get on my nerves. You know, the worldlier than thou type who act like they are so cool… Oh yeah, and did i mention I got a Thai massage for three dollars yesterday? hee hee

Catch ya
Erin
Posted by: Erin / 8:55 PM
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Howdy
Guess I haven’t written in awhile… Things are still going well. Today I went to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kao to see a crapload of temples, Buddha statues and lotus ponds. The highlight of the day was the Emerald Buddha, one of the most famous idols in the whole country. He was really tiny and positioned very high up in a huge temple. Its kind of funny- he even has different outfits that the palace officials dress him in depending on the season.

The weather is hot and getting hotter but my room has a/c so I do ok. The only downer this week has been discovering that an army of red ants invaded all my toiletries. I don’t know what to do so I’m just trying to smash every one I see. Not very Buddhist of me, but I can’t handle it. I’ll probably stay in town another day or two and then head off to somewhere quieter. There is a three day trek up to Ayuthayya that only costs about thirty bucks so i might do that. You ride elephants and jump in waterfalls and stuff like that.

I’ve heard some nightmare food poisoning stories from fellow travellers, but my gut is holding up well. So far. (crosses fingers.) The only bad craziness was too much mekong whiskey a few nights back. I don’t really remember what happened, but my friends tell me its probably better. Nothing too scandalous, just a lot of foolishness and stumbling around. Last night I went to a bar shaped like an egg. Very modern and unusual.

Well I gotta go. I’ll write again soon.
Posted by: Erin / 12:29 AM
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Hey everyone
Well I’m back in Bangkok after my three day vacay down south on the island of Ko Chang. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, very tropical and wild and undeveloped. Being here in the city is a bit of a shock after all that quiet and relaxation, but I like it here a lot so I’m adjusting. Let’s see….
My bag is too small, which means I have to buy a new one off one of the shady street vendors. They have North Face and all those other nice brands, but I’m pretty sure they’re fake. I’m being attacked by mosquitos. Last night a dodgy cab driver tried to rip off me and some friends for a ride back to Khao San Road. We followed his route on the map and he took us as far in the opposite direction as possible, made three U-Turns and went through a tollbooth (guess who had to fork over the 40 baht?) before we jumped out of the cab in Sukhumvit and found a new one. You gotta watch yourself around here. I think its because there are so many gullible and confused tourists everywhere. Although I’ve hardly seen any Americans. I’ve been hanging out with an Aussie and two Brits. They’re good company, but no one is too happy with Americans these days so I sometimes end up a sounding board for their frustrations…
I ate a fried worm last night. It wasn’t too bad. If I get brave enough, I’ll try a fried cockroach next. When in Rome, right?
It’s funny how you take some basic things for granted, just assuming that things are done everywhere as they are in your country. Here, the construction workers wear flip flops and no helmets and people just walk under the scaffolding. They’re tearing up a sidewalk just outside this internet cafe, but of course its not closed. So everyone is stumbling and tripping over these giant slabs of cement, trying to get wherever. Plus, everyone rides motorcycles and no one wears helmets. It is very common to see an entire family squished onto the back of a tiny moped, the dad driving, the mom holding several babies and some little toddler hanging off the back. I’m suspending my judgement, though. Things are just done differently here.

I saw a sex show in Pat Pong last night. Very disturbing but amusing at the same time. I’m taking it easy on the partying so far….

That’s all for now. Hope you all are well and write me sometime soon.
Posted by: Erin / 9:18 PM
Monday, November 17, 2003
I’m writing from the beautiful island paradise of Ko Chang. It really is unbelievably beautiful. I’m staying in a bungalow on the beach for about 6 dollars a night. I’ve been living on curry and pad thai and getting lots of exercise. It is very hot here but the ocean keeps me cool. It feels like bathwater and is very blue.

I’ll be here another few days and then I’ll either go back up to Bangkok or perhaps to another island. Beach life is so relaxing…
Posted by: Erin / 9:37 PM
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Hey everyone. Just a quick note– I’m leaving Bangkok and heading down south to the beautiful island of Ko Chang. I need a break from the confusion and pollution for a few days. Don’t know if they’ll have internet, so it might be a bit before I write again.

Some cool stuff I did:

ate fried grasshoppers yesterday. Crunchy but insubstantial.
Rode in two Tuk Tuks. Scary but interesting

Hope you all are well!
Posted by: Erin / 8:02 PM
Friday, November 14, 2003
Mornin all. Although I guess its still yesterday evening for you guys. It’s 9:30 am here and hot as hades. I’m heading off to do a walking tour of Bangkok’s most famous temples. Last night was interesting. I wandered around Khao San Road awhile and watched all the drunk tourists acting like asses. Drank some Heineken. And bought the coolest pair of plaid hippie pants for seven bucks. I could have talked her down, but they were so cheap I didn’t bother. Eeew. I’m in an internet cafe right underneath the airconditioner, which is dripping all over my arm. Well, wish me luck, I’m about to ride a Tuk Tuk into the center of town. In case you don’t know, Tuk Tuk’s are these weird three wheeled taxi things, sort of like motorized rickshaws. The drivers can be pretty sketchy, so I’ve got my angry eyes on. (Ha ha Ryann).
See ya.
Posted by: Erin / 6:29 PM
It is so damned humid here! Ugh. Tonight I’m supposed to meet up with some Americans I was emailing with back in the states, we’ll see how that goes. It’s hard to coordinate meeting places here cause half the streets don’t have signs and the other half are in Thai or transliterated into indecipherable English.

Today I rode a river taxi up and down the Chao Praya river to see a bit more of the city. I got a little lost and ended up wandering down a bunch of alleys. The poverty here is really something I wasn’t expecting. Hundreds and hundreds of tin and string shacks line the river, places you wouldn’t be caught dead and people spend their lives there. I’m trying not to be too shocked or condescending, but it’s hard. One humorous/frightening thing I saw on the river taxi: A man was standing outside of his shack with a bucket on a string and was bathing himself with the river water, which was brown and smelled like a toilet. The Willamette looks like a freakin hot tub compared to this.

I had a coconut shake and a cheese sandwich today. Very exciting.

I should go. I have to pee and I need to buy some more bottled water. Hope you all are behaving your naughty selves…
Posted by: Erin / 12:59 AM
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Well day two of my trip has been much more successful so far, although its only ten in the morning. I’m all out of it cause I’ve been up since six. I was woken at three thirty in the morning by drunk people mistaking my room for their own and trying to open my door with their key for about ten minutes. I couldn’t get back to sleep after that and got up at six. A freakin miracle for me!! The first thing I did this morning was find a new place to stay. I am now at the Baan Saabi Guest House and it is so much nicer. My other room was very nasty and kind of creepy, plus the window looked out onto a cement wall. My new room is more expensive (10 dollars)but this includes private bathroom, toilet paper (lacking at the Peachy guest house) towels and sheets (also conspicuously absent) air conditioning and a slightly superior view. Plus theres a huge bar and common area so I don’t feel so isolated. Oh yeah, and I ate a delicious chicken curry for a dollar.

Today I’m going to go to the embassy to get a visa and hopefully see some temples and stuff. Plus I’m really craving ice cream for some reason, so I’ll probably give into that.

So all is well. There are monks everywhere. It smells like a sewer. And this place is overrun with hippies!! But its all rather charming in its own way.

Ok, gotta go. More later.
Posted by: Erin / 7:42 PM
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
hey kids!! Well I’m here safe and sound. Bangkok is far and away the craziest thing I’ve ever seen!! Very noisy and polluted. And everything is super cheap. Outside the internet cafe some guy is selling underwear for 15 cents a pair! Kind of gross, but I thought I’d mention it anyways. Oh man this is probably totally incoherent. I’m sort of in a daze right now. Plus I am in bad need of a shower. I’ll write more later.
Posted by: Erin / 11:37 PM
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Nine days and counting. I think this last week is going to be pretty hectic, what with saying goodbye to friends and finishing up all the last minute junk that I haven’t gotten around to. I need traveler’s checks. And talcum powder. And batteries and film. I need to choose the 30 CD’s I can’t live without and say goodbye to the rest of my collection. I’ve decided not to make a reservation for Bangkok. I don’t want to get stuck losing my deposit if I reserve a place that turns out to be totally nasty. It’s amazing how normal and nice a place can look in a small photograph. I remember I reserved a room at the “BA hostel” in Amsterdam before going there for a weekend last November. It looked clean and bright. It turned out to be the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen. I had 60 year old men sleeping in my dorm room and you had to go up this super disgusting dark staircase just to get to it. And ddon’t even get me started on the bathroom. When I returned to the city a few months later, the building had been condemned and was being torn down cause it was unstable. Nice. So this time I think I’m just gonna catch a cab to Khao San Road and see what I see. I have some names. Ok I’m rambling. Sorry.
Posted by: Erin / 4:44 PM

 

March 2003

Today, I threw away my French deodorant. I could make some sort of joke about the infamous French propensity for stink, but I won’t. I pulled off the cap and found its plastic skeleton peeking out from under a thin layer of remaining white. I raked it against my underarm then chucked it into the garbage can.

I can still remember the day I bought the deodorant. It was a rainy evening in November, and I’d stopped into the Monoprix on my way home from class to buy a few things. The grocery store was always quite the experience. Sensory overload—all sorts of foreign brands. It was the same situation, in reverse; after several months in Europe, my American toiletries and candies were running low, then out.

The last traces of my life there are slowly disappearing. Bags of French candy I’d brought home reduced to wrappers in the wastebasket, empty wine bottles that sit lined up on my windowsill, labels yellowed and peeling at the edges. An empty toothpaste tube, a diminishing can of beeswax. Once just a week or two after my return, I came upon my little sister in our bathroom, puzzling over the toothpaste tube. And there was a moment, before she’d seen my reflection in the mirror, when she had the strangest look on her face. I watched her lips moving soundlessly as she tried to decipher the very foreign words. Dentrifice. I know she was thinking about me, wondering what it would be to live in a place with everything was different. Strange. I’d caught her looking at me with the same curious expression several times since I’d been back.

Those first days in Paris read like some bizarre dream. I’d seen Paris for the first time at the age of sixteen. I fell in love. I returned at eighteen and vowed that I would someday live there, although the idea seemed so distant and frightening that I didn’t know if I’d ever do it. So stepping off the plane, knowing that I wouldn’t be returning home for half a year felt very strange. It felt like magic.

The initiation packet said. But I think I was unprepared for the reality of living in a foreign country. The daily-ness of it, the way it all becomes routine, even the pointed ark of the Eiffel Tower against a setting sky, the hours studying in cafés, the buzzing drone of French around me.

It was a long, difficult semester. Most days, I dreamed of places back home, and tried to imagine what it would mean to return. To drive my car again down 82nd avenue, where I knew all the stores and everything was easy. To walk through the park behind my house and feel, finally, at ease. At home. It was always too far removed from the reality of my life there in France and the imagining left me with a sense of insurmountable distance. Sometimes I feared my family wouldn’t even recognize me when I stepped off the plane in Portland.

Three percent of young Americans study abroad. The night I got home, the airport was big and empty and deserted. When I passed through the security check, my mom was waiting, in tears. Me, home. Rolling down the window and sticking my head far out into the wind whipping past, at sixty miles an hour. The air was clean and wet and in a way that made me ache. The sounds of my mother’s laughter, tinkling in my ears just before the opened window sucked them out and scattered them irretrievably. I Smelled life there, a life that moved both in front of and behind me, pushing me towards itself as we sped along the highway that led to home.

February 2003

In a dream I saw myself swimming in a deep, green sea, briny and full of bubbles. It was summer. I was very, very young. Then later that year I found myself at the edge of the same, green water in waking life. The Adriatic sea. Corfu, Greece. I was drunk and smoking a cigarette, stumbling naked far, far out into the water, holding the hand of someone I did not know well. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, except that it seemed so strange, the way the ocean from my dreams appeared there in my iris, cloudy and shifting. And I asked myself then if perhaps that moment was the dream and the moment months before was when it really happened. Am I asleep right now? Will I wake up when I lay down in bed tonight and close my eyes? What is the difference at all?

HOW CAN I BE SURE?

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Travels.02

Erin’s oh-two destinations:

International –England, Wales, France, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium

National – Portland, OR; McMinnville, OR

_____________________________________________________________________

Winter 2002

BERLIN

Today, in a Mcdonald’s bathroom, a girl tried to give me a handful of change. Like I was homeless or something. I think I’ve been avoiding mirrors, but what I saw there was impossible to ignore. Me, sallow and wan in my gray handkerchief, my backpack huge and filthy on my shoulders.  I don’t know who was more embarrassed.

AMSTERDAM

The poet becomes a seer through a long, immense and reasoned derangement of all the senses. All shapes of love, suffering, madness. He searches only himself, he exhausts all poisons in himself, to keep only the quintessences.

-A Ginsberg

To all of you who have ever felt unprepared—lost and stumbling through the dark, ruddy streets of strange places; all of you who have ever felt beat—a deep, wet cough and a pile of dirty clothes the only medals you have to show for weeks of weary travel across gray, wintertime Europe. All of you who have ever felt sick or full with the memory of every dirty, pygmy-eyed face passed in the hungry streets; all of you who have ever felt tired, ready. All of you who have longed for some certain subtle sense of being fully alive, I am here to say hold on. Cause when its too late at night in a city you do not know well, when they’ve got you cornered and every way out is a dead end of too much drink or drug or sex or concrete, when you grow nauseated with the heavy odor of your own, reckless, junkyard stink, when you don’t want to write or walk or think, when you can no longer talk or read, then I will move alongside you, holding you up.

No one holds me up here, today. Amsterdam, two days after Christmas. Bronchitis and eyeballs that ache, can’t focus or roll. It hits you one day that there will be no one but no one to catch you if you sprint headlong into that long, dead-lock fall, no one to feed you, to pick up your drunk ass up off the midnight street and carry you off to bed. No. I don’t know you, I won’t know you, but if I could offer you just one thing, it would be my own weary backbone. An arm to hold you up, a spine to carry the weight of your body, so deadened and dumb with the lead weight of too many gone away truths. Today, there is no one.

Hit it hard and pass off to the left.

I see you all before me, so young and fucked up and full of joy, and it makes me want to scream—THIS IS IT. You will never feel more alive than you do right at this moment, this screaming, shining moment, in all its reckless, mundane glory. You will never be more alive, my friend, and this it what I am here to tell you.

*Do you ever wonder about the people you’ve almost met? Somehow, by some trick of fate or destiny or whatever and ever the fuck you want to call it, somehow, somehow, you sat in the third row of the bus instead of the second, and you missed meeting your soulmate. You didn’t go to that party, you turned left instead or right down the grocery aisle and you missed them. I think of them often, these phantoms, stumbling about the world, unknown, missed. I think of how they never think of me, and the ways in which I might have helped or hurt them. Somehow, somehow, it makes me feel alone. *

Is the water high or low? I realize as I ask myself this that I do not give a shit.

THE CONTENTS OF MY BACKPACK

Journal, broken pen, coverless copy of On The Road, rolling papers, rolling tobacco, two valium pills, two pot muffins, gloves, camera, two rolls of film, frog gummy candies, four sacs of weed, three wooden weed grinders, strawberry chapstick, glasses, torn map of Amsterdam, hackey sac with Communist star on it, one pack of Gauloise Light cigarettes, wallet, photo album, hostel keys

 12-28-02 4:58 PM Saturday | Amsterdam

I’m sitting in a Laundromat in the gay district of Amsterdam waiting for my clothes to dry. Feeling a bit ill and weary. I’ve have a fun, crazy week here but I sense very strongly that its time to move on—I see it when I look in the mirror, all gray and yellow about the eyes and mouth, jeans falling off my suddenly bony hips. My dreadlocks are filthy and formless and only add to my forlorn appearance. I’m wasting away, or fading. Tomorrow, I catch a flight to Belfast.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

It is dusk in Amsterdam, winter. I am sitting with Robert on a bench in Vondel Park watching the sun disappear behind a grove of ancient elm trees. Robert.

Robert is from Tasmania. I’ve never met anyone from Tasmania before, and somehow expected someone different. Wilder. Perhaps because of  the name of the place itself, what it hints at. Madness, mania. The loss of all control. I can certainly say that something is not quite right about him. At first glance, he appears normal enough, the penultimate portrait of a seasoned backpacker: tall, lanky and old looking, his long hair a tangled mess of dreadlocks that he claims he hasn’t washed in a year. He looks the way I imagined Jesus did when I was quite young; tired, clear eyes and a huge, wild beard, radiating peace and a charged sort of desperation. A patched up brown overcoat and shoes with holes in the toes.

We’ve come here because Robert wants to play with the dogs and children. And so we’ve seated ourselves on this bench in the dusty, green heart of Vondel Park and are watching the people pass.

Robert walks on after the children with a tender smile that is somehow quite frightening. Dutch mothers in pink and purple jogging suits see it, too, and pull their young close against them when we pass, suspended between judgments. Something is just not right.

Later on in the hostel, Robert starts to talk crazy. We are laying in the bar lounge on a sea of red and blue pillows, sharing a joint. Kids are all around us, chattering away in French, Spanish. Loading bongs and pulling hard on hand-rolled cigarettes. Everything feels so warm and easy here that I am on the verge of falling asleep. Robert is sitting perfectly still next to me. His voice is deadly calm when he looks at me with those wild eyes and says I don’t like these people. We need to leave this place immediately.

I think he is maybe joking, cause I’ve struggled all day to gauge the meaning behind most of what he says, the spaces between the weight of his words and the empty deadpan of his face, a set stone that rarely changes.

What? I ask. You’re stoned. And I don’t even think I could get up to pee, let alone leave the building.

I attempt a smile, but his face is stony and intense.

We need to hop on a plane to Ireland in the morning, Erin.

If it’s a joke, I’m not in on it.

Robert sits above me, cupping one hand against my forehead and the other on my stomach, gazing down at me with a look I can only describe as longing. I feel somehow as if he is baptizing me, and a subtle sort of energy radiates from his warm hands, running down my skull and through my belly. I don’t think I like it, but I’m too stoned to move.

We kiss awhile, but I’ve run out of words and am suddenly so tired that I can’t keep my eyes open.

At three in the morning, Robert jumps up suddenly and announces the he has to go to bed. I have a flight to catch at eight, he tells me, turns, and walks out of the bar. And that is it. No goodbye, no exchange of contact information. Nothing. Somehow I am relieved. But a frightened relief, a relief that in fact brings little. Like feeling the whoosh of a car as you step onto a sidewalk, so close that it knocks you off balance. A thousand pounds of glass and metal rushing by at forty miles an hour, inches behind you, rushing past across the place where you just were. you would have been dead. Paths that almost intersected, but somehow, didn’t. And you can’t feel relief because the danger was just too fucking close, because you don’t know how or why you escaped it, and this troubles you immeasurably. I’ll never know the real truth about Robert, or if Robert is even is real name. The more time that passes, the less I believe it is.

I think about Robert when I want to remember the feel of danger. On the airplane back to Oregon a few weeks after he and I met, I read about a serial murderer at large in Europe, some man who hops night trains, looking for young females traveling alone, then slits their throats as they sleep. A flash of Robert’s eyes spliced into the frames of my vision, blurring the words of the British newspaper I was holding. I looked out the tiny portal window at the unbroken blanket of cloud two hundred feet below. From up there, I could almost believe in the illusion of solidity that such a perspective creates. Almost, but not quite. Not quite, because there, festering in the back of my mind, was a picture of Robert at the first moment I saw him; curled in the corner of the hostel lounge, reading a tattered copy of The Tibetan Book of The Dead. I can still remember the way he looked up at me when I came to sit across from him; this soft, smirking smile that seemed to see straight down into me, into places I thought I’d hidden well. At that moment, I was absolutely certain of his divinity, his kindness and perfection. Later on, of course, I learned that I’d been wrong, and for reasons even I couldn’t quite name. Call it a hunch, as and

Sometimes you can’t trust what it is you think you see.

IRELAND

 

                        And she rolls her wheelbarrow

                        Through the streets broad and narrow

                        Singing cockles and mussels

                        Alive, Alive-ho!

                                                -Molly Malone

 

Through green, rolling Tralee, on a ferry to cross the river Shannon, to County Clare and up around the jagged, fog caught cliffs of Moher.

Fall 2002 | Jardin de Luxembourg | Paris, France

And she thought about her life as she watched the world move in its old, shaky circles—two guards of the jardin walking past in funny square harts, hands folded behind their backs.  Talking quietly. This is my life, she thought. This is my life. And a thousand memories of that life, of all it ever was and would become, rose up from the grass and gravel of the gardens like ghosts, like the memory of all those people she had lost to time or years or even death, like a nudging at all those people she had not yet me, some out there right at that moment, waiting for her, some not yet there at all; her unborn children, lovers she would find and touch with all the longing and passion of her entire beating heart, then leave or be left by, all still unknown. She thought of being very, very young, of the old brown house and the crab apple tree down by the bike path, of the couch where she’d had her first kiss, of preschool and the day so many years ago when her younger sister was born. Of her grandfather’s wheezing laughter, her mother’s smile. She thought of the home she’d left so very long ago, of returning there someday, of how she would be different, and the same. And she reached out to grasp each memory as it rose up, held it against the cold waning light of the Parisian sun in wintertime and watched it. My life, she said. This is my life. And she felt happy.

She watched a thousand possible futures play themselves out, plans and dreams she might or might never make, words and ideas she would one day say and think. She thought of growing old, of going to her parents’ funerals, of her own death, her own funeral. She thought of all the years already passed, measured them against the decade to come, and wondered at the surprising fact that she existed at all. And then she thought of that very moment, of sitting on a park bench in Paris at the age of 21, and what any of it might one day mean, many years later. She thought of the people who would read her thoughts, dug out from a trunk in a dusty attic, perhaps, or pulled from the shelf of some used book store. She imagined their faces, their eyes, the foreign complexity of their own lives, lives she would never know. And she wondered if they would ever think of here again, if they had ever been a young girl living in a strange place, if they had ever seen their whole lives spread out before them against the blue, perfect grid of the Parisian sky in wintertime.

My life, she thought. This is my life. And she was happy.

 

France

When I was twenty-one, I went to Europe.

It ends in Paris. Halfway through a gray, water-logged December. Picture it. Picture the Champs-Elysees all icy and dazzled with the ephemeral, infernal glow of 22,000 little gold Christmas lights. Evergreens spray-painted white, Au Champs and Carrefour and all the other huge department stores all stupid and gaudy with their greens and reds. People everywhere. It ends in Prague. Or Barcelona or Belfast or Budapest.

Don’t ask me how I got there, or why, or where from. When I was twenty-one, I went to Europe.

There was Pierre, a soft-spoken Quebecois boy with alabaster colored eyes and the unshakable conviction that he lived in a world out to get him. Pierre, prone to tears and sudden fits of irrational anger, a boy who once refused to speak to me for an hour after I made the mistake of calling him Canadian. One night at the end of a damp, Parisian August, Pierre and I stood on a terrasse in the Latin Quarter of Paris and kissed. We kissed in Rome, too, then had a fight and didn’t speak for years afterward.

They are always with you, the choices you’ve made. I’m starting in the middle of my story, cause it seems easier, you see, to let you guess about how it began, how I ended up here on a metro in Paris, alone. A half-smoked cigarette in my trouser pocket. A bad cough, and a lot of regrets. So many small and big choices got me to this moment. So fucking many mistakes. And they just won’t let you be, these things you chose to do or not do. They stay with you, heavy and unignorable, just like every pile of dogshit you’ve ever stepped in. A foul smell that follows you, unseen but impossible to dismiss until insight dawns and you’ve stopped short in the middle of some nameless rue, hands reached down to pull at the sole of your shoe, to confirm what you’ve already started to know. You’re in it, alright, ankle deep and to be sure, with no one to blame but your sorry, stinking self.

This is how I feel on the bad days in Europe, when the clouds roll in low and black and piss down all over me, soaking my one pair of shoes and matting my dreadlocks against my skull until I look like a drowned rat, or something equally beat and shiftless.  I feel I ought to add in as a side note that the dog shit in Europe is orange. Tiny, and misshapen, and orange, clinging like to the patterned grooves of my hiking boots, over and over.

And would you think it strange if I told you that I have made myself unhappy by trying too hard to find and hold onto joy? I ask myself, how is this possible? How can the pursuit of happiness lead to such soggy bogs of misery, shame? All I can say for myself, for my choices, is that they seemed right when I was making them. My body told me what to do, and I listened.

Other instances of dog shit: Stepping in it at Lisa’s host family’s house, then seeing the massive pile of poop, then taking a shit in Switzerland. I don’t know why. Perhaps it seems crude, or stupid, but . I suppose I could stretch the truth a bit and cook up some sweet, poetic symbol to guide you through this disjointed tale. The rivers of Europe, perhaps, the Seine, the blah blah blah. But in the end, poop seems to fit the bill. It’s squishy and smelly and impossible to ignore, but its real.

None of this is coherent. I guess.

10-9-02 3:24 PM Wednesday

Sometimes life seems so full of minor intrusions, all this noise and movement around me. It never stops. I’ve been here in this city long enough already to recognize the sound of the external becoming internal, a chaos that fills the hollow spaces of my skull…

Troubled look on a pale face flip between love and loss a bad version of a forgotten dance, too fast, feet are grabbing, hands kicking sore-hearted lovers in the back, carport airport sounds of traveling, father in the kitchen making breakfast, a power tie gives guts to the weak spirited, mother crying behind the door you’re not just anyone perhaps a poet or a plumber knock the pipes looking for a place that leaks, MTV makes my eyes hurt too full of grain sand rust and electric noise you’re tugging at the door I reach upwards flick the switch a welcome mat but no friends a church but no people God is good but Jesus saves, hard work hard luck a spine that gives you trouble, lumbar, lemon-lime tasting finger tips I’m fragile can’t take it or make it the crowd is getting angry, push, shove a foot slips out and trips your best intentions lonely and frantic gas stove highway freeway waking up with a bottle, mouth for hearing eye for tasting canned goods dry goods ration out the salt the last of the green beans, feed your head library, grocery, the blue bus home, man counting street lights good ideas brainstorming thunderstorming baby safe in bed a bathroom that needs cleaning the bills are on the counter messy pile of bleached white trees number letter, open the door and drape your coat over the loveseat television on children playing quietly I NEVER TOLD YOU HOW TO LIVE YOUR LIFE

Cause when I was twelve, I saw a woman come out of a movie theater bathroom with a long, soiled piece of toilet paper stuck to her shoe. I snickered and showed my sister. I didn’t know the woman, I didn’t feel any desire to excuse myself and discreetly point out the white and yellow nastiness that trailed and fanned after her, fluttering a few inches into the air with each right step. I wondered later, though, how she felt when she found it. Embarrassed? We laugh too often and too easily at the comical misfortunes of people around us; I think it’s important to stop once in a while and laugh long and fucking hard at yourself. And so that’s what I did.

9-28-02 12:42 PM Saturday | Paris

It’s the last Saturday of September. Paris, France. I am hung over and sitting on the tin roof of a high, high building, watching Deace and Auph prepare their bottles of spray paint. Ten feet in front of us is a tall concrete wall, graffitied over already. Soon, Deace and Auph will add another layer. The day is cool but sunny and the air feels cleaner than it has in months. Fall is coming, I know…

Deace starts to work his way across a low section of the wall with white paint. Auph is covering a tall area with the orange outline of what will become his piece. “A masterpiece,” he called it, laughed, just minutes ago as we three made our way down the spit gravel and train tracks of outer Paris, the dirty littered places you watch pass outside your train window and hope you’ll never have to go to. But its not so bad here, now, on the roof of this building. I feel low on account of other, harder things, but the refuse, the waste, the stretches of used-up, rusting spray cans don’t bother me. In front of me, the vague inner visions of Deace and Auph are materializing. Auph says he wants to do a wild-style piece. Deace is after free-form.

Deace achieved minor celebrity in Paris eight years back, after a prolific six months of tagging. His name was everywhere, marking up the rueside concrete. The cops accosted dozens of taggers, trying to find him, but he laid low and the excitement passed. He returned happily to obscurity, becoming again what he likes to call an inconnu, and has been tagging steadily ever since. Auph comes from California, an import, like me, dropped down here, somehow… When he was twenty, he and his crew worked their way down the Cali coast, tagging up everything and shooting footage on a hand-held camcorder in the hopes of making an underground documentary. The cops sent out a “Graffiti Task Force” and he landed in jail for several weeks. The story made the evening news three nights straight. Apuh just laughs when he tells me the story, says he’s been to jail ten times for similar reasons. He likes to laugh a lot, although he is still and serious at this moment, headphones on, eyes thick and far away as he starts to fill in the piece. Orange and a sickly, salmon red. He stops, steps back. Stands ridig a moment, thinking hard. Moves further away. Closer. Deace is working more slowly, deliberate. He steps without looking and stumbles over an empty can. On the street far below, noise rises. Old latin salsa beats coming through a half-blown speaker. The crackle of music. Shopkeepers calling out to each other in thick, Parigot grumbles…. Heh, bonjour Christian. Tu fais quoi la?

1 :40

Deace has completed the first stage of his piece—a long, rigid stretch of greens that fade into reds that fade into oranges that fade back to greens. Auph is bringing his red-green mass into focus with sharp, black lines, twisting over themselves, becoming arrow or square or hexagon. No one has spoken, will speak, for a while. Just the sounds of gravel under feet, the steady sigh of paint leaving the cans in a whistling wheeze, short, then longer. The rattle of the ball when the can is shaken. Auph looks frustrated, a bit unsure, but he keeps going. It is Deace who moves quick, now, confident. Way up high, a flock of city pigeons glides, then lands, one by one, across the ledges of a crumbled building. Batiment. Heat rises beneath me, off the tin roof in slow, deliberate waves. I feel tired, a bit dizzy from the paint fumes that float through our atmosphere, carried along in tiny, transparent puffs of neon green or gray-black.

2:30

Deace steps back and half laugh, half moans at the dark blue outline he’s just put around the start of his piece. It is so ugly, he cries, smiling but not. Que c’est moche! Auph laughs too. Says Don’t worry, man. Just clean it up and add some highlights. But Deace will not be comforted. He picks up orange and begins to erase the blue, the mistake. Stops, and asks me for a smoke. Lights it, blows out hard, smacks his thin lips. Then back to work, the finger of ash growing long in his left hand as he works. Forgotten.

2:44

Auph is out of black spray paint, way too soon. He steps over to Deace, asking advice. They speak in low, easy words, indiscernible even from ten feet away, where I am.

3:10

Deace and Auph are close to a finish. I think of it, two thoughts, plucked unripened from two minds, brought forth into an astonishing daylight. The midday sun is hotter, now, and the life on the rues below is picking up. Multiplying. Auph is trying to correct a mistake with the last of the black, but the remains of the can are thin and grow thinner. Deace steps back, smashing cans under his sneakers. Their shadows are long and emaciated, now, bouncing off the dry dead gravel like ghosts.

 

9-18-02 Wednesday 11:17 PM Paris, France

 

How do I begin to tell you this story? How do I begin? How do I how do I how do I begin?

 

“Seul dans la nuit de Paris, la ville et la vie étaient à lui dans le creux de sa main »

Alone in the night of Paris, the city, and life, was there in the palm of his hand                                                                                                        -René Fallet

Last night

Is a poem

I’ll never write

And you

Are every single

Blinding light

They say that once, many years back, Adolf Hitler was a painter. Watercolors. He loved the soft splash of blue or gray diluting across paper like a tiny river, moving, carrying with it the promise of beauty. Weeks, months, years he spent at his craft, creating dozens of tiny paintings. The Black Forest. Frau und Herr. Neander Hill. And then once day, he packed up all the miniature cardboard swatches into his knapsack and walked down the street. Strasse. There, he set his tiny works of art out in tiny, symmetrical rows and put up a sign: “Paintings 3 Marks”. And then he sat down to wait. Hours, Adolf waited. Then days. Then weeks. Many people passed by his paintings, but no one stopped. No one really even seemed to notice. He sat, he paced, he smoked. Asked himself, “How can It be?” His beauty, his heart, the labor of his very own hand, offered out to the world for three marks, and no one there to take it, to strain forward, to grab on. Adolf waited as long as he could, and then he gathered his beauty, his art, back up piece by piece with a white, ginger hand. Said nothing. And he put the swatches into the knapsack and tied it shut and lifted it gently over his shoulder. Stood awkward a moment, staring out across the strasse to the shopkeeper behind his counter, the short, sharp-jawed mother calling to her children in a deep Deutsch yell, the passers-by, the beggar sleeping in the gutter. And when there was nothing left to look at, he turned and went home. Defeated. There would be other ideas later, of new struggles and new labors offered to the world. There would be  a narrow, trim mustache and stiff, horrible hails and all of the callousness he could muster, later. But that day, none of it. Just a tear or two dripped down onto the dusty strasse and a shoulder made heavy with the weight of monumental rejection.

Now, I’m not saying any of what came after wasn’t terrible, wasn’t tragic. I’m not saying I understand. But what if one, just one person had stopped? What if just one person had dug out change from a trouser pocket and chosen a watercolor?

I just wonder, that’s all….

What are people made of? Salts and sugars and cells?

Summer 2002 | Rome, Italy

We are sitting in the sparse, dull comfort of the scrubgrass in some nameless Roman park, and Pierre is saying nothing. Watching nothing. I scoot up close against him, close enough to brush his arm with my own, close enough to rest my head on his sagging, tired shoulder, close enough to smell the soap he used this morning, no doubt some foreign brand I’ll never know. He does not react, and I wonder it if is what he wants, this interminable closeness, this touching, just barely. His scruffy face is pointed downward, and his eyes rest on a patch of the scrubgrass between his feet. And somehow, I am very sad, staring, too, at the yellowed, breaking blades that crackle beneath us like tinderwood. Old, tired, barely there, just like him and I. Worn. I open my mouth to say something, anything, but the sticky air catches in my throat and I realize I can think of nothing. So many words, things I need to tell him here, now, before it is too late, but they will not come. I have dreamed for weeks of this moment, of being somewhere, anywhere, next to him. Next to Pierre. And now that he is real, a living, breathing thing there next to me, I find that I have never felt quite so lonely, so blocked in all my life. Furstration rises up in me like panic, like the knowing that the minutes are slipping away from us, faster and faster, that soon we will have three hours left together, then two, the one. The panic itself rises, now, and I slip my arm around his waist, cause I know he will never do the same to me, even if he wants to. I can feel the spot at the small of his back where vertebrae push against the skin, where he is vulnerable. He feels so weak and fragile there under my opened palm that I want to weep. I don’t, lifting instead my face to his cheek and resting it there, afraid somehow. Then he is turning into me and we finally kiss, and it is soft and shy and desperate, until I’m becoming all hands and lips and scrubgrass, until in disintegrating into nothing at all, into Pierre, into the flat hot blue of the cloudless Roman sky, so many miles above. He pulls back first, as I know he will, and his blue-gray eyes reflect into mine a tinge of something unnamable, something sweet and so doomed. And I know it then, I see everything I will and will not become to him there in that glassy iris. I know that for all we’ve shared, the nights in Paris, the shitty wine, the cigarettes, the love and heavy sorrow; for all of it, I never once came within a million miles of his soul. And then the moment passes, and his eyes fall back to that same stupid patch of scrubgrass.

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