Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Traveling alone

I had plans for this year, and for this trip, and in a crucial respect, they're not panning out: I spend a majority of my time alone. I thought this would be a big group trip and we'd all move around Asia together, like DC Swatties and CYDC used to hit Wonderland as a pack. But no one's vacation schedules quite line up so I'm reading at most dinners again.

I'm starting to love it. I'm in Chiang Mai now, and I've been able to spend my 3 full days here precisely as I want to, which basically means zero time in museums. A) On Sunday I rented a bike and hoofed it to Doi Suthep about 10 miles outside the city and a mile up in elevation. It was a tough ride, but the temple and the view were beautiful and cruising down for 10 miles at a 10% gradient passing songthaews and motorcycles was among the most enjoyable and reckless half hours of my life. B) Yesterday I pretended to be a Gibbon by ziplining through the jungle and learning a grand total of zero about natural life, along with some British German and Australian tourists who were super nice. Everybody's nice in settings like that. C) Today I climbed the limestone surrounding the city, some 5as and a 6a before a different 6a was my downfall and we had to plan another route. It was just two climbing dudes and me in the whole site (it was raining on and off, which made things a bit tougher). What a great sport. It's so good to feel at ease in nature, like coming down from the middle path in the crum, running with the wolves. I would have been born well in a different century's hunting party.

Sure company would be nice sometimes, especially around 8:30 p.m. each night, when I feel the urge to inquire something like "excuse me good sir, which way to the bacchanal?" And would I rather have Dan here? Well yes, but that's always true. But there are big upsides to traveling alone. I've recently finished Twain's The Mysterious Stranger and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which were fun, Madame Bovary, which I really enjoyed up to the last 10 pages at which point it got all melodramatic in that way 19th century literature sometimes does, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which was often astoundingly beautiful but went on a few lengthy tangents that didn't do it for me. I just started Blood Meridian, which is hard to read in long sessions.

Perhaps I'll follow this up with a long post about how I'm going to try to make the most of my year here, facing the predicament of being productive in solitude, when no one knows or cares whether you waste the days away watching the Wire (which is mad good) or studying Thai or R. To me, it's high-stakes.

I also just got a letter from the foreign service for an in-person interview next February in D.C. and I am trying to decide on whether to say yes. The idea of a position is frightening. I honestly took the initial exam thinking I would fail but here I am, some rounds in. I'll meditate on it. Good thing then that I'm going to Angkor Wat in a week. First, Chiang Rai. I'm off to Burritos, the second time in 3 days. Forgive me but I've had a lot of Thai food these past few months.

No comments:

Post a Comment