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Posts Tagged ‘rhythmsoflife’

In Washington there are new, shiny apartment buildings going up in neighborhoods that haven’t enjoyed growth for decades. That isn’t to say that they enjoy this particular brand of development; the influx of wealthy young professionals into black, working class communities is always a bumpy transition. In every glass-walled, terraced condo building that opens, a row of restaurant and shopping chains sprouts up in the street-level storefronts, like invasive mushrooms popping up between the roots of a non-native tree transplanted into a forest.

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I wrote this over a year ago. It had been 14 days since I was in Asia, and it sums up many of my thoughts about this whole over-arching experience.

Asia is gone to me, snuffed out in a way I anticipated but didn’t fully acknowledge. And I feel a sense of loss. I miss having no preconceived notion of what I will find around the next corner. I miss the signs of life that are unavoidable on the street, in every window. I miss the interactivity that comes from being a curiosity.

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My leg is furiously shaking in an Elvis like manner and my left finger tips dig into the rock while my right hand frantically grabs for anything that can work as my next hold. Panic is written all over this desperate scene. I am half way up a 30m sea-cliff climb and about 1.5 meters above my last safety. If I can’t figure out my next move I will fall at least three meters, with rope drag probably five.

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Lao-lao trekking

Arriving in the first village on our Laos trek, we enter animal theater. The livestock is in continuous motion, each actor antagonizing the next. Pigs, dogs and chickens chase each other from trough to trough and fight for anything vaguely edible in the dust. With disbelief, we learn that there is no specific customary latrine place in this village — the animals eagerly consume all human waste wherever it falls with sickening zeal.

Drinking alcohol is central to our glimpse of life in the village. Upon our arrival in mid-afternoon, we are shuffled into a hut to share lao-lao shots poured out of a plastic jug, labeled “engine oil.” It goes around and around the circle, and the bug-eyed host keeps pouring. Our guide purchases a fifth of the clear, strong spirit and proceeds to dole it out until his bottle is empty as well. (more…)

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We have much catching up to do! Check out our freshly updated travel map, and read on to hear about the adventures we’ve been having.

We cross the border into Laos on a longboat. As we wait for visas, an immediate paradox for communism in today’s world: lowest fees are charged for entry of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cubans, but all must pay in USD.

Leaving Thailand, standing on the launch pad for Laos.

The Lao border town of Huay Xai is quiet and comfortable. We relax on the guesthouse roof watching candle-driven paper lanterns drift into the heavens from a nearby hilltop wat (temple). Music and a DJ’s voice blare. There is some kind of Sunday night party going on. We are welcome, the guesthouse proprietor tells us. Just climb the steps up the hill; the full moon party is happening to raise funds for the monastery. (more…)

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The Buddha teaches us to be kind to one another and to help each other,” explains Mr. Thint Lwyn Tu Tu, our tour guide at Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon. “Good for the other person, it also helps us become less selfish!”

Before we leave for Myanmar, we are told that the Burmese are the friendliest people on earth. A high reputation to live up to, and, I must admit, I am skeptical – until I meet the lollipop boy, Mr. Thint Lwyn Tu Tu, Mrs. Sivakami and countless other people. They teach me a little about the concept of Nirvana and allow me to experience a bit of this heaven on earth. (more…)

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We’ve returned from Myanmar/Burma, and we’re excited to catch you up on our travels! Check out “Our Route” to see where we’ve been.

Burma greets me with a pervasive sense of palpable decay, from the crumbling sidewalks revealing open sewers to the tattered bank notes that remain in circulation, held together by tape and staples. A building that I would place in the 1970s, green paint faded to a splotchy turquoise, plaster peeling and pockmarked, bears its birth year engraved high on its facade: 1995. The climate and the elements conspire with human neglect to fade all things human-made into a static, sleepy gray. Against this backdrop, it is easy to imagine the surreal and absurd struggles of power and its pathologies; it is only a small stretch to see the ghostly residues of manias past and present drift across this lifescape. (more…)

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