Friday, December 31, 2010
Or, perhaps Bing Crosby's Mele Kalikimaka would be more appropriate.
Mom saved my sanity by coming to Thailand for Christmas. We stayed in an insanely swanky hotel, then took a TAXI more than two hours south to an island.
Who have we become?! We have become those people who use the word "winter" as a verb. We are people who critique massages because we get so many of them. We are the kind of people who become stressed about decisions like "Should I swim in the ocean or in the pool?" "Shall I snooze under the shade of a palm tree or work on my tan on the beach?"
We left a few days early because we were becoming everything we ever hated.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Mom has been keeping her own documents on the events so far on the trip. I'll let her tell it.
Molly and I are on the beach – she’s singing Christmas Carols while Pat and Abby are bemoaning the winter I miss. Christmas trees don’t look the same when they aren’t real. Note to self- no more fake trees at Christmas – you were right Pat (revel in those words). A real Christmas tree is the luxury that comes from bearing a roaring winter.
Now, the story of the motorcycle. Molly nearly killed us and saved our lives in about a minute’s time. Molly will recount this is her own voice but here goes.
After much soul searching I agree to go on a Molly guided motorcycle tour of the Island (it’s only 6 miles long and 3 miles wide). She looks confident in her aviators and backpack and I just trust in her. The sales person – not so confident giving us a look and making sure we know how bad the road is. But he escorts us to the road and Molly gives the bike a try and just as I recall the concern about sand as traction for a bike she crashes into a car – it takes all of a minute.
The 7 in me is elated that we aren’t about a mile down the road. Today we boarded a taxi to see another part of the island but first we got a good look at the “road” of the motorcycle story – what the guy was actually trying to tell us was that as inexperienced motorcyclists there was to friggin way we would survive that trip on the bike. The road was horrific, pocked doesn’t begin to describe it nor does pot hole or chuck hole how about crevasses in the road. I guess someone had an eye on us because that had disaster written all over it. I’m glad we didn’t know it at the time.
So that's her version of the story. I will come back with a defense as soon as I have one.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Yes, it's that time of the year again to reminisce on the past 365 days. Because I have no patience for writing about myself at length, and no one has the patience to read it, I'll comb through this past year in a brief timeline. (It has pictures so you won't get bored!)
1. New Years Eve 2009. Decorating the apartment for the huge blowout party. Isaac singing acapella. Sock hop at Hotel Frank.
2. New Years Day 2010. Waking up with half of my friends passed out on my floor. Chamapgne bottles everywhere. Breakfast at the diner. Brief encounter with a gal I hadn't seen since high school.
3. January 4. Decided on a whim to drive to Chicago with Niemann. Then decided on a whim to drive from Chicago to New Orleans in a blizzard with Richeff, Quin and Ed. Best. Road trip. Ever. Ricky's driving skills saved our lives. And Elvis saved our sanity.
3. Last semester of college. Editor in chief of the paper. Nervous about my last few newspapers. Decided not to go to grad school.
4. Mom's car accident. Her beautiful bug destroyed. RIP.
5. George got married. I was there. In a dress. And makeup. Got drunk with his parents. The cops came because we were partying too hard. Holla.
6. I finished the last issue of the Creightonian. And around this time came up with the crazy idea to turn the Men in Black series into a book (which is still on the way).
7. I graduated. And I survived Fr. Harmless' History of the Christian Church. And I decided to continue my education or look for a job. I thin it was around this time when Fr. Doll first ran into me eating pizza in the newsroom and said something to the effect of, "Are going to get a job when you graduate? Have you ever been to Bangkok?" I didn't pay attention and went on eating my pizza. I mean, where is Bangkok anyway?!
8. I went on a 4,000 mile road trip with mom. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Niagra Falls. Cape Cod. Broadway. D.C.
9. Route 66. Ricky Cheffer, other than being my best friend, is a road warrior. He wrote his final history paper about Route 66 and then saw it for himself. Missouri to California by highway. We camped in a lightning storm. Dicovered a new love for Will Rogers and the state of Oklahoma. Cadillac Ranch. Hiked around the Grand Canyon. Lost a few dollars in Vegas.
10. Drove the Pacific Coast highway. Ate my very first oyster. Couchsurfed. Pagan Solstice Party in Oregon. Seattle.
11. Canada. I hate you.
12. Somehow, Ricky and I wound up in Alaska. We farmed. Well, sort of. We hauled wood, mostly to be used in the hot tub. We drank a good deal of Alaskan beer, lived in a tree house, met Towanda and met my very favorite pagans.
It was around week five of Alaska when I got an interesting email from Fr. Doll. A year with some organization called JRS. It would entail me going to Rome and then wherever they wanted me to go for a year. Sure. I was failing at farming. I guess I have to suck it up and realize I may be more cut out for writing and designing, planted in front of a computer rather than trying to tame the Alaskan wilderness.
13. We took a 6-hour ferry ride to Skagway that will forever be etched in my mind... the parts that I can remember anyway. Since my parents and a few SJs read this, I can only say that I shave my friends' heads and played a good deal of blackjack.
14. We left Alaska and had a nail-biting experience with Canadian border police. Apparently they don't mind us bringing in a machete, knives, throwing stars, fireworks, booze and God knows what else into their country. But a small thing of pepper spray made us terrorists. I hate Canada.
15. I made it to U.S. soil. Got to know Richeff very well in cramped quarters couchsurfing in Montana.
16. Left for Rome. Met Seamus. Saw Ignatius' bedroom.
17. Now I am in Bangkok. I have new best friends. And a new love for Chang. I love it here. I love JRS. I can't believe I get to write the stories I get to write, met the people I have and seen the things I've seen.
This year was bananas. God bless it. And if I haven't said it enough, thank God he nudged me in the opposite direction of grad school.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I want a hot dog like you wouldn't believe. Bangkok doesn't know anything about good hot dogs. They are served in won tons or with mayo. An abomination, really.
What I want is an Eisenberg kosher hot dog from the movie theater in Council Bluffs. I want it to come in a little foil pouch, bun and dog warmed perfectly, slathered with ketchup and mustard. Dad can add jalepenos to his, even if I secretly object.
I want to snarf down the dog during the previews and munch on M&M's during the movie. Preferably a horror movie.
That's the problem with Bangkok. No hot dogs or good scary movies... and no one to see them with. If you have never met him, you should know that my dad is the ultimate person to see a horror movie with. He'll appreciate every gory detail, every plot point and he'll explain all the parts I missed because I had my eyes closed.
So I guess I'm feeling a little homesick tonight. Maybe it's the fact that I've been sick all day and I have no one to take care of me. Maybe it's that there's no snow. I just know that if I were home, Dad would see any movie with me, and mom would scold us for enjoying the gratuitous violence. Maybe we could even talk mom into making us hot dogs on the stove. Grilled with love and topped off with melted cheese. Perhaps I shouldn't be listening to this song.
I guess more than hot dogs, I miss my mom and dad... but a hot dog sounds pretty good right now too.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
So, I am on my first trip outside Bangkok, to the border town of Mae hong son to visit a refugee camp here. I am assisting in writing a story about JRS's education program.
A short flight. A tiny plane. An adventerous landing. All in all, a great introduction to Mae hong son, a Northern border town where JRS has been involved in refugee camps for over 20 years.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I realized, with the help of my new partner in crime, that every ounce of media I consumed as a child (made vastly in the 1980s) was completely inappropriate for children.
Consider, if you will, the case study of Pee Wee's Playhouse. It could be confused with a bad acid trip or a seizure, or both.
The Labrynth was sexually implicit material between a much older David Bowie and a teenage Jennifer Connolly, and -- I am pretty sure -- some puppets.
Anything Sid and Marty Croft made (H.R. Pufinstuf, the Bugaloos) was completely drug induced.
You may think I am condemning this stuff. But, hey, I turned out OK. So I completely support it. Besides, Dora the Explorer is turning the next generation into a bunch of wimps.
In conclusion, God bless Yo Gabba Gabba for being a voice of reason, or unreason for kids these days. Below are some pretty messed up videos that shaped my child hood... except the ones with Brittish accents. Those were not a part of my childhood because I am from America where we don't believe in England.
Friday, December 3, 2010
I won't bore you with the details but it involved JRS, Creighton, newspapers, bubble gum, Ginger Cove and me. Throughout the dream, I would comb my fingers through my hair, wondering why it was still long. Didn't I shave it off? Or was that just a dream? Or am I just dreaming now?
Essentially what the dream boiled down to was what the hell I am doing with my future, a question I refuse to spend any time with in my waking hours.
In my regular life, I would laugh it off with a few beers. But, in this beer-less Bizzaro world, perhaps I should spend a few of my sober days pondering the question.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I, on the other hand, grew my hair out -- didn't wash it for a few months -- and got a new tattoo.
It was right around month three of the oily, dredding do that I got a bit of a talking to from my parents, friends and professors about the "real world." I washed my hair, cut out a few snarls, bought my very first brassiere and was ready to take on the world as some sort of an adult.
Well, I am happy to report that I survived that and came to realize that it wasn't actually true. As it turns out, being myself is working out just as well.
So, I like foul language just as much as I did when I discovered it in fourth grade. I like short hair and I like beer. I also know how to write my way out of a paper bag, can take a photo in focus and hit a deadline. I think I can do all of those things hairless and happy and hold down a job.
Monday, November 22, 2010
As always, I learned something when I wasn't in the mood to learn anything.
When I am too tired, too hung over, too lazy, too hungry or whatever, I always try to tell myself that I never regret going to church. Last week was no different.
Fr. Peter, international director of JRS, was in town for one night and was nice enough to celebrate a small Mass for the staff. It was a long day, and Ollie and I had JRS stuff to do that night. My mind was not in the right place to pray or listen or open myself up.
But, God had other plans.
Fr. Peter was speaking about the Gospel and how Jesus wept for the fate of Israel. He saw the troubles His people faced in the coming years and the sin and the hurt and the pain. He loved these people so much that He cried for them.
I sat, thinking about this for days. Here is what I have come up with. See, I don't cry... or at least I try not to. I want to be the strong person. I want people to be able to cry on my shoulder, not the other way around. So the few things I have seen since I've been in Bangkok that have made me cry, I just give myself a few minutes and force myself to move on.
But, as it turns out, that isn't the right move. Like Jesus in the Gospel, I suppose I should allow myself to cry. Because it's through that expression that we can find compassion. So, if it's good enough for Jesus, I suppose it's good enough for me as well.
So, moral of the blog is this. Man up and cry.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
There are few words I can use to describe a night on the town with Ollie. Complete champion. Like Halloween in Bangkok, the Festival of Lights in Bangkok was an experience.
- Tuk tuk rides
- Tattoo shop for a consultation
- floating our "offerings" down the river
- Pheasant eggs
- Hair cut
We bought our "krathongs" complete with incense and a candle from a street vendor. I sprang for a yellow one, because I'm fancy. We stood in line with every other falang and had some gentleman put them into the water one by one. Very cool.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Nice try Bangkok, but making it look that perfect means you clearly don't get it.
So, to all you Omahans out there. Please don't inform me about the Griswold-esque decorations people have sloppily hanging from their homes. Don't remind me how white twinkling lights on shrubs look under a fresh blanket of snow. And please don't list the Christmas songs KGOR will be playing 24-hours straight after Thanksgiving. I don't want to hear about it.
Besides, I won't be around anyway. I'll be getting a massage or $1 meal or enjoying any number of the things Thailand actually does right... just not Christmas.
This is what a Christmas tree is supposed to look like, Bangkok. Notice how you have to cut off 30 percent just to fir into the house. You have to tie it to the window because it's so lopsided. It is about the same width as length. Christmas is meant to be just a little bit tragic...
Monday, November 15, 2010
As I look out over the sea of dirty clothes where my floor used to be, the Beastie Boys come ringing through my head. "Girls... all I really want is girls.... to do the dishes, to do the laundry, to clean up my room..."
Sorry, womankind, but at this point in time, I just need a woman around who will be disgusted with me when I am not smart enough to be disgusted with myself.
Anyone want to move to Bangkok?
Top three songs to explain my predicament:
1. Girls -- the Beastie Boys
** quote above
2. A Man Needs a Maid -- Neil Young (thanks for reminding me, Abby)
"I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid/ Find a place nearby for her to stay/ Just someone to keep my house clean/ Fix my meals and go away."
3. The Shape I'm In -- the Band
"Has anybody seen my lady/ this living alone will drive you crazy/ oh, you don't know/ the shape I'm in."
Sunday, November 14, 2010
For my 200th post, I'd like to write a few thoughts on my home. I have spent most of my life in protest of the things America represents and the things the American government does in our name with our money.
But something has been sticking in my brain over the weekend.
On Friday, I interviewed a Sri Lankan family for an in-depth I am working on. The parents, three daughters and aunt are recognized refugees seeking to be resettled.
When the 17-year-old daughter asked Oliver and me where we are from, I responded "America." she gave a smile and repeated what I said with excitement. I moved on to my first question and forgot about the moment, but I keep thinking about it.
I thought people stopped romanticizing the United States back in the Ellis Island days. I was puzzled to think this bright, young woman would think anything special about my country.
If I read the situation correctly, she may have some drastically exaggerated ideas about the US, but she may also have a point. Perhaps America really is to be admired. At least, in comparison to the region I now find myself.
I just can't think of why at the moment. All America has going for it my mind is that it's not here. I'll keep pondering.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
After spending the last few days interviewing some teenage refugee girls, I realize I completely took for granted that stereotypical, American, Bruce Springsteen kind of teenage experience I really had. Below are the top five things I appreciate after speaking to people who were robbed of the classic high school experience.
1. School dances. I was always the last resort for my friends who couldn't get real dates. We'd get all dressed up and hang out at school. No pressure. Just dong the twist and then leaving early to eat at Burger King in tuxes and dresses.
2. Getting well acquainted with the back seat of a Buick. What a dope I was. But at least I had the freedom to make stupid decisions that have now turned into hilarious stories.
3. Cruising. Man, when I got that first set of wheels -- the bright blue Mazda minivan -- I was on fire. We loaded all the guys in the back, eating Sonic Burgers and blasting Ray Charles, Ben Folds and Immortal Technique. And let's not forget driving through random alleys at all hours of the night, street racing in or slower-than-molasses POS's, and flipping that SUV into a ditch in Iowa.
4. Dating. What a tragedy. I wince to think of the people I was interested in back then. I was actually seen in public with some pretty interesting characters on my arm. But what is being a teenager without the train wreck of your first love?
5. The diner. Saturday mornings at the diner. Throw a few dimes in the juke box to hear Otis Redding or Buddy Holly over some eggs and a Coke (yes, Coke for breakfast. Get over it). There was nothing more liberating than hopping in the car, license still hot off the printer, and getting to go out to eat with the guys.
So yeah I was spoiled. And after reading over the list, my life seems way more like "American Graffiti " than I make it out to be. Perhaps that's what makes Omaha amazing.
All in all, I now have a new perspective on being a teenager and deep sincere gratitude for my memories. I know now that not every 18-year old girl gets to make those kinds of memories.
So my first story with JRS is up on the international site now. (READ IT HERE) Regrettably, the only thing I knew about Burma before I came here was a vague geographical understanding mixed with the latest Rambo movie. That's honest.
So I spent last weekend reading and watching as the people of Burma were forced to participate in a sham election, controlled by the military junta.
The day after the elections, around 20,000 people fled Burma after violence broke out. They crossed the river into Mae Sot, where JRS (and dozens of other NGOs) work in refugee camps.
I wrote the story and then rewrote it every time I got new information, waiting to get approval to publish it.
What was interesting to me was the fact that I am now covering news with a strict angle: JRS. I am no longer at a newspaper with minute to minute deadlines. I am no longer writing for a general audience and I have to write certain things in a certain way.
While it can feel frustrating, I'm interested in figuring it all out, like a puzzle. In the mean time, I think I should re-watch Rambo... bone up on my knowledge about Burma.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I knew I brought my favorite possession along with me for a reason.
Pete Seeger sent me a postcard. He knows better than I do. While his post card doesn't say much, I remember the letter I wrote to him. It was about how he inspires me to do good for others and work hard. He simply said "Stay well and keep on."
His post card sits next to Saint Francis' prayer in my apartment. So I shall. Keep on keepin' on. God will be with me, even if my only form of prayer these days is in the form of angry accusations.
My question is this. If poor people don't feel God's presence, then what is the point? Sure, God may be there. Sure, I can (attempt to) see God in poverty because I am privileged. But if no one in these situations feels God's presence any longer, then is God still there?
How long can one continue to believe that God will exalt the poor? I can believe it my whole life, because I have been given a free ride through life. I can believe that the poor are closest to God. I can feel close to God if I choose to walk with the poor. But what about each individual? Is God there for people who don't recognize God anymore? And, if so, how?
As always, my solution is a simple one. I am going to turn on some Van Morrison and eat a stack of Chips Ahoy. Perhaps God will self-reveal through chocolate chips.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I had to go to the doctor today. The cough I picked up in Rome (I bite my thumb at Rome) progressed into something a bit more disgusting. My coworkers politely suggested that I get medicine if not for me, for them.
So I rode sidesaddle on a motorcycle weaving through traffic, arrived at the hospital and proceeded to realize that I may be the most worthless traveler in the city.
Five solid observations from my day:
1. Instead of calling me Miss or Ma'am, the hospital staff referred to me as "madam." I think I like that better. Take not, America.
2. That feeling I get back home that people are laughing at me as I walk away is realized in it's full form here. Because they actually are laughing at me as I walk away. Every time. I am SORRY that I don't know my own weight in kilograms or my height in centimeters! I am 5 feet, 7 inches and 140 pounds. The way God intended. Because the American system of measurements, like God, is not based in logic.
3. I like how all of my pills has the Pfizer logo printed on each. They must think that's what makes Americans well: swallowing a healthy dose of the free market system.
4. Motor taxis are my new favorite way to travel. My heart leaps into my throat like I am on a roller coaster. But, unlike a roller coaster where the danger is false, I probably could get killed on one of these. And isn't that better?
5. Every time I see a person on the street wearing one of those swine-flu srugical masks, I assume they have the plague and automatically resent them for existing in public. Then I had to wear one in the hospital. You'd think it would have reformed my opinion. But it didn't.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
This was not as fun as Jonathan Richman made it out to be. In fact, there was no dancing... just funny looks, bad music and all sorts of miscommunnication.
Perhaps starting off the night drinking with an ex-Jesuit is a sign of trouble. But that's how it began. I went out for a drink with two friends from work, where, after a few drinks we decided that we should make a dating website for ex-nuns and ex-priests. That is my million-dollar idea. Get on board.
Then my friend and I went down to some clubbing district where all the women looked... too hot for their own good. The kind of women who would never make eye contact with me.
We wandered down the street, slightly drunk and still in our work clothes against the hoards of sequined mini-dresses, up-dos and stilettos, until we found our bar. The women-only lesbian club.
I walked in and before I could try out some of my award-winning pickup lines, our waitress shuffled us over into a corner of the bar behind the DJ where we were seemingly quarantined from the rest of the women. Either because we were white, under-dressed or non-Thai speakers.
After wriggling our way back into the populace, our waitress came over and explained in broken English that another white woman just came into the bar, and sat her next to us. The poor French girl looked confused as to why she was forced over to our table, but the waitress looked very proud of her possible matchmaking skills.
Needless to say, we left early. Not that the Thia chick band attempt at "I Will Survive" went unappreciated. Sigh.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I ate a scorpion. I had my feet eaten by fish. I tried three kinds of Thai beer. All in all, not too shabby for a city that doesn't recognize the holiday.
I was nervous since I haven't met any Americans yet, that my Halloween would be a total bust. But luckily, Bangkok made a solid attempt at the holiday and the Australian and Brit I was with were troopers, considering we all had to work the next day.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
You wouldn't know by looking at this that it took me days and hours to complete this. I outlined Saint Peters when I was sitting in front of it my last day in town and decided that it was too much work to complete it. But, then I got to Bangkok and didn't have a TV or the Internet in my apartment, so there you have it.
Sophie and I listened to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel while in Rome. I think this quote from "Hazy Shade of Winter" fits well with our new missions.
I started drawing this on the train to Assisi. That's Saint Francis' Basilica in the right corner. My favorite place I visited in Italy.
Sophie told me that this one was kind of a sham, since I never actually had time to visit the Colosseum. I just drew this from a postcard. I apologize for the lie.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Ok, so I recently gave my list of top five moments in Italy. I wrote that with a full 24 hours left to go in Rome. I spoke too soon. My last day in Rome was certainly the best.
Perhaps Sophie's blog post about it was more eloquent, but I'll try to explain it from my point of view.
Fr. Peter Balleis, the international director of JRS, told Sophie and I that he was going to say Mass my last night in town in a chapel at the Church of Gesu, the church for the Jesuits in Rome. We went to the Church and met up with some others from the JRS staff, and the finance officers from the African regions who were also in town.
We entered a building beside the church, wandered up some stairs and came to an old wing of the building, which is where Jesuits live now. Fr. Peter told us that this room -- that we were standing in at the time -- was the room where Saint Ignatius (founder of the Jesuits and a personal hero) lived and died.
We were floored. We were in the presence of God just by standing in his room. We got to see his writings and his clothes (the first black robe).
Then we entered his bedroom, which had a sign saying that is was reserved for personal prayer. Peter told us that this bedroom was converted into a chapel and that is where we would be having Mass.
It was too much. We sat in a circle, listened to the readings about working with the poor and gave the Eucharist to one another rather than forming a line to the altar.
It was personal and communal. And while I continue to worry that I am not accepting God into the present moments of my life, I experienced God in that moment. I prayed for Sophie's grandmother, who was being buried that day, her aunt and the work of JRS. I asked Saints Ignatius and Francis Xavier and Fr. Pedro Arrupe to look over us as we traveled to new locations.
As I sit here, in my new office with JRS Asia Pacific in Bangkok, I hope they continue to look over me because I am going to need it. And while I feel blessed to have experienced God's presence at Mass in such a holy and personal place, I hope I can experience God walking with me outside Mass, down the streets of Bangkok, into refugee camps and detention centers, in my present and my future.