Riled Up in Dhamma Park Zen

Soundtrack: Chinese Bamboo Flute with Nature Sounds (just listen... and breathe.)

Today I was a grown up.

Really, I was. I had emailed this woman, Venetia several months ago about working with her nonprofit- being her consultant. That's what I want to do some day- consult nonprofits on how to be better, I figure why not practice now, right? There are so many people in the world who want to do good, who have such great passion and innovative ideas to fix the world's problems. Problem is, they don't know how. In fact, many nonprofit leaders are so wrapped up their crusade to make a change that they pummel through those who should be benefiting or waste money given by those moved to donate because of their leader's zeal.

I want to empower people with the passion for change to know how nonprofits should work. How they Could be great if only leaders are on top of things. They aren't only interested in the bottom line like most companies, and rarely should they be just random handouts. Nonprofits straddle a funny line between business and charity and quite frankly most people suck and the balance. That's where I come in.

So I went to the Dhamma Park today (cue up soundtrack) and sat in an open air patio surrounded by sculpture and art dedicated to simple principles: peace, tranquility, and the innate ability of every person to be creative. It was stunning to sit and just feel good.

Venetia is this 78 year old British woman who came to Thailand almost 30 years ago and fell in love with these principles. She married a Thai artist (quite talented, the both of them) and little by little established this park just an hour south of Chiang Mai where people can come and learn how to relax, understand themselves and encourage their artistic selves. Sounds hippie fantastic, I know. I was so enthralled with her as she spoke of how people today are so disconnected, materialistic and really have no idea what their own lives are all about. Problem is, their organization is falling to pieces. No money, no new projects, deteriorating lots of things.

So we had a little throw down and I got all riled up about what we can do to get us back on track (us?) and by the time I got back to Chiang Mai I was all wound up and needed a nice facial/foot massage to relax (cue music again). Pure ZEN.


In action

Listening to: David Guetta ft. Estelle- One Love Please watch this video

The song itself is not super my style and I'm not sure what this David guy is even doing in the song (not singing that's for sure - driving?), but on the night Lisa and I got to Chiang Mai, after we had dinked around the city a bit before Dr. Page and crew arrived (at the wonderful hour of 1:00am), we ended up glued to the TV. What an invention really. We were hypnotized by poorly dubbed movies, repetitive news crises (Holy Haiti, when did that happen?!) and crap music videos. I won't detail the effect of the video on Lisa and I, but watch the video and understand (the homeless guy is my favorite).

It's been rejuvenating to be back in Thailand. I wasn't too excited when I found out that our first Saturday with the crew I got suddenly designated tour guide (only because I don't have any idea where I am in Chiang Mai or what there is to do here) but it turned out just fine. We wandered around for a bit (an easy fall back) and I explained a bit about Buddhist culture and religion on the way to the church. Sister O'Neill (a sister I taught at the MTC) screamed when she saw me. I love her and she's kicking butt now, which helps me feel like I didn't fail the missionaries when I taught there. I had arranged to meet with Sister Nisarat, one of my favorite sisters who served with me, and she helped fill the afternoon with Actually cool activities like a trip up the mountain to view points and temples with dancers (all at the Thai price!).
Pre-health meeting
Since then, the days have been full of public health meetings during the day (Fascinating, especially considering the current US debate and that Thailand has universal health coverage. What a mess, either way, I say.) Today we went to a hospital where we commandeered the attention of one of the two doctors on staff while a score or more patients waited, uncomfortable in the waiting area. This same hospital offers traditional Thai massage and acupuncture as part of its healthcare options. I'm so excited that Seretta is learning acupuncture. I think it's awesome.
The nights have been painfully (in a John Mellencamp sort of way) filled with shopping. A walking market (for knick knacks), the famous Sunday night market (for souvenirs), the University market (for clothes) and likely more to come. The three girls who came for the research project have been buying up a storm and thrashing our budget to bits. My souvenir bag is growing and I'm still happy with all my purchases. Morgan, Maria, and Becca were uncomfortably shy when I first met them last Fall but are getting progressively fun and giggly as the days go by. I think we might play One Love tonight and get a party started :)
We're so cute, right?


Down in the Delta of the Irawaddy River

Listening to: Strawberry (Rice Paddy) Field Forever: Ben Harper version from I Am Sam. To fully understand the road conditions outside the city, periodically while listening, jump into one of those anti-gravity prep units NASA uses to prepare your body for space. If you don't have one lying about, have someone strap you into a pulsing massage chair (the ones that jab at your spine and arguably to more harm than good) and thrown you down a flight of stairs.
Apparently we're VIPs and we didn't know it. The Merkley's day trip (which I thought would be an hour tops) turns out to be a donation ceremony and celebratory lunch 5 hours outside the city. Turns out the CARE Int'l contacts we had set up an elaborate excursion requiring 3+ staff and 12+ hours of car travel by car and boat.

To the Merkleys: Sure, I'll personally hand a disabled person a prosthetic leg that will change his life forever (only if I can cry while I'm at it) Sure, I'll applaud you with 100 others when you stand stable for the first time in your life and you shake my hand in gratitude as if I had something to do with it.
To CARE: Of course I'm qualified to have a discussion and review of Cyclone Nargis recovery with 30 community leaders and and impromptu hour or more of open questions (multiple times) and give my approval on water sanitation and agriculture projects in 4 cities. Of course, this is just what I expected... Thanks for fanning me while I eat in the middle of your community center, sir, could you please tell everyone they don't need to wait? Yes I'll put your request for more funds for a school and new bridge to share with the next village over in my final report?
Did I mention that tourists aren't allowed to come here? We had to get special permission from the big guys.
I am so amazed at what people can do with very few resources. Maybe I'll move here instead. On second though, it's so hot, I'm chewing gum feverishly to keep my pulse from stopping.
Busting down the Irawaddy River to a village (by boat. I feel like Moses)- I can't believe I've been traveling for over two weeks now. Then again, I cannot believe I have over two months left. I hope I don't burn out. I've tried to set it up so that with each destination there is a semi-home base- wehre we're not staying in a hostel but with a family or in ahome of some sort. Hotel and early mornings get old and tiring. But man, is this amazing.
This was his cell phone. Seriously. Kept it in his backpack and it worked EVERYWHERE


Bus from Inle to Yangon

Listen to: Iron Cross

Hello bus. Hello local Burmese rock band doing a remake of Tequila Sunrise and It Must Be Love (in Burmese!). East Washington (around the Gorge) turned into massive cliffs and full mountains. Winding down the Shan Mountains at sunset was beautiful and terrifying. Thank you to (tmi alert) whatever I ate that messed with my bowels and such a bumpy time in my life. I can now say that I have gone where many females have never before, places that require agility and wilderness savvy and unmatched bravery.

No more buses, please.

Inle Lake

Listen to:
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding (on repeat please)
Who Says by John Mayer (the feel of the song, not so much the 'I do whatever I want' lyrics)

I was most excited for Inle Lake (I <3>

We wandered around Naungshwe, the cheap backpacker town, until we thought we'd seen it all (ghetto fabulous museum and myster flour on noodles) and started walking due east, by a seamstress' recommendation of a cave and monastery "20 minutes walk." Our guest house said maybe 30. We put on the good sheos and headed east. Turns out 30 minutes was almost half way- we walked and walked and walked- no singing- passing the outskirts of town we didnt' know existed, government offices I wanted to egg, a lot of kids on their way home from school and then! a dirt road. Onward we went, hoping for the best despite lies of close proximity.

This is far too much leadup for this caliber of story- I'll get down to facts. After an hour of alking we hit the mountain where a score of young monks (aged 8-16 probably) were on the hill in red, moving big rocks from the hillside. Hmm, okay? Up the stairs was aloverly little pagoda and a man carving a huge plaster or stone pagoda fish (for good luck?). One of the little monks (very cute but in no way endearing) led us down a windy path a bunch of stairs and someone's backyard to a creepy but awesome cave with a bunch of Buddhist reics and a roped-off staircase that led down into the dark. The boy motioned for us to take a picture down the abyss. Haych no, little boy. I know enough about Buddhist ghosts to know that pictures in places like this are a bad idea. Our walk back was pleasant and we had a pitiful pancake dinner and amazing kettle corn (and Star Cola as a night cap). The 45 minute longboat (motor canoe) ride down to the lake was FREEZING. We (2 of us) in our chairs with lifejacks (I used mine as acusion, because really), the Burmese (at least 5 per boat, but up to 20) coming to and from markets on the floor (probably more comfortable), along with 500 pounds of produce, of course).
We popped out of the canal to the most picturesque silouette of a traditional fisherman. Hello photo-op! Too bad our camera is out of batteries! We float on by and realize it's a boy and a girl - probably 9 years old- posing for boats. Cute. Our keen (chain smoking) boat driver was good at slowing down at picture-perfect moments, or any time we lifted the camera for a shot. He was also good at bringing us to all sorts of palces we didn't want to go - like a fancy lunch after we already ate a big pile of local unknown something (we think maybe tofu - or maybe deep friend fat, and some reddish sauce). Neighborhoods of stilted homes make sense now - some on man-made mud islands (with tiled singking frames to prove it) some just straight out of the water. Tons are decorate like high end beach houses- paste or bold painted slats, chain-hung signs. Fields of tomatoes, onions and a few rice paddys line the lake (floating gardens, literally)- waterways make for easy (easy?) harvesting. The lake is anything but pristing but loks only a few feet dep. In places it was pure glass.
I kept thinking- I could live here. I could. Maybe have my kids do a study aboroad one year some day. Perectly quain and these kids know how to work! I swear everywhere we go teenage boys (or younger!) are waiting tables, digging mud out of 'water roads' to rebuild islands, lifting rocks ath the monastery work camp- even the punked out ones (few but hilarious in their longyis) were working hard. But still breathing while they're doing, like everyone else in town but busy (but somehow still lazy) tourists. I just love laid back life like this. And if it weren't for the helicopter-decibal motors on the back of some of the longboats, this is just how I picture heaven.


Mustache Brothers

Still processing/preparing a moving statement about/against the Burmese government. I can say it's the best expense I made. And I got a rad shirt!


Listen to:
Through the Wire by Kanye West (a little bit frantic, but a somehow Kanye chill)
I need a Hero by Bonnie Tyler (only at sunset)

I was worried that Mandalay wouldn't be worth it (sounds like a reoccuring skeptical theme, I'm just noticing). It was at least an $80 excursion outside the other two big tourist sites in Burma but we went, mostly to see the Mustache Brothers (more later). We had asked a couple tourists along the way advice on thing to do because we really had no idea. The report on Mandalay was always something like 'it's not a charming city. At all. But go..." Great advice/warning that the city sucks.
The most charming part of the city: A giant (yet empty of anything but trees) palace or government building with a huge moat around itWe scammed U Bain Bridge (great name) on the way from the airport. It's something like the longest stilt bridge in the world. I wasn't sure how long that would have to be (or if any other bridge is competing for the title). It took a good 25 mintue to walk across0 though sissy pants Lisa and I weren't exactly hurrying (nor walking a normal pace) acros rickety slats with a somewhat large space in between. Couples and cliques from Mandalay's many universities giggled along the way and gondola-looking boats parked along trashy shores for a lake view of the bridge (no thanks).
Just the beginning
My favorite thing to do in a new city is just walk. So we walked (also because we didn't know what else to do). For hours, eating from street vendors, checking out local shops, commuicatinw ith the neighborhood peeps (which mostly meant smiling, saying hello and being laughed at). Come evening time we headed to the sunset hotspot (we apparently can't get enough of these) - Mandalay Hill. Hello death march! We though it would be a couple hundred steps of to the lookout point (stupid, stupid, stupid). It was, a fine view. But another set of stairs hid in the corner. Another level, another fakeout, another set of stairs. Kill me now, I don't even like sunsets or this stupid city or traveling or being hydrated or anything besides getting this climb over with. We should have listened the first time someone warned, 'you're too late' before the sunset had even begun. Turns out the actual top was over 980 steps up- we made it just as a blood red sun was falling behind the pollution cloud. A way more massive city than I'd realized, Mandal sprawled in all directions and looked peaceful at dust. A couple laps around the observation deck/worship edifice we booked it down so we would spend the least about of dark time possible in the maze.
Tri-shaw riding with the nicest man in town

I probably should not post picture with my face like this
Fun fact about Burma: It used to be a British colonial state and so cars would drive on the left side of the road, steering wheel on the right. One day a decade or so ago, the government decided to flip a giant bird to the Brits by switching back over to the right. Overnight. No change in steering wheel means a giant blind spot. The result is that most streets without medians really have no lanes to speak of. One big free for all lane where vehicles swerve with little regard to their placement on the road.
And usually jam-packed with people



Soundtrack (listen to this while reading to live the scene): Carla Bruni Quelqu'un m'a dit (slow and pleasant, and French)

Hot, sticky, and fantastic
I didn't quite know what to expect from Bagan. I've been lucky to see some pretty amazing ancient ruins and I mostly just hoped that these would not disappoint (if that's not a pathetic world weary traveler, I don't know what is). The ruins themselves are just great but what really sells them is the setting. Before we even set out for the day a creepy old man with Betel Nut (red, blood colored) teeth stains came up to our screened windwon "hello good morning..." until I noticed. 'uh. hellow. yes' (uh, awkward? yes a little) "you have horse?" "Uh, not yet." So we finished getting settled an boarded the best way to get around Bagan- hourse carriage. We clip clopped the miles from pagoda to chedi in no hurry at all. Everyone kept saying how many tourists there were ("It's the high season here!" but I think we literally saw about 50 people the whole day, in passing. For the most part we were entirely alone to explore the ruins. Hot, dusty and fantastic.

He looks terrifying and kind of was... especially all the Betel Nut spittle that stained my pants from sitting next to him
Of course, at every turn were trinkets and paintings. Some tempting, some ridiculous (i.e. an intricately designed laquerware motorcycle helmet) and randoms just walking around to practice their english. One stud muffin 13-year-old boy had currency from a good twenty countries (from Uzbekistan to Triniada and Tobago). None from the US (filthy stingy Americans) so we competed his deck as a tip for showing us around Ananda- the King of Bagan - 30+ foot tall Buddhas and a blinding gold pagoda (especially in afternoon sun). We topped off the day with a sparkling sunset and an overpriced inner at this loverly restaurant with a new French friend.

Day two, we rounded up the frenchies for Mt. Popa, a day trip out of central Bagan through surrounding countryside. Sidenote: I have a special weakness for urban poverty. I think it is often overlooked. People think that just because one lives in a city, they have access to the food, healthcare, housing and clean water there. Not true. It is often urbanites who lack the most, plus they deal with a host of other problems stemming from separation from family and lack of land. That being said, life outside the city just plain blows. Hot, long and heavy. It doesn't help when tourists drive by and you have to do a ridiculous song and dance about how you climb trees to get palm oil, distill it to makes wine and liquor and grind peanuts for hours to make a half cup of oil.

Giving in to the song and dance

The drive to Mt. Popa just depressed the heart out of me. I. am. a. bum. I can never complain about my life because no matter what goes wrong in my life, I will never have to carry hundreds of pounds of something on sticks over my shoulder tens of miles or more in blazing heat just to make enough for my family to survive.

Still depressed on top

Mt. Popa brought the wind back into me. A buddhist/local animist mix (a report deal they struck when the religions came to a clash) overlooking a fertile valley from a mountain 777 steps high. Quite the climb, rounda and round til the top. Unfortunately, there were monkeys all up the way - jumping loudly, ogling creepily and hissing/barring teeth at Lisa and one of the frenchies when a three day old dead baby looked under attack. Blech. I hate monkeys.

Frenchies and a monkey

The view was good, but beat by another killer sunset at a lonely temple near our new hostel and that was trumped yet again by a sunrise that makes all the world right again.
The highlight of my night was a trade- my mp3 player and a tube of lip gloss for some quality souvenirs I wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Looks like I have a little Mark Knudson in me :)

Asia Prince got my mp3 player- I got his paintings


Arrival in Yangon

Soundtrack, Listen to while you read: Yo Yo Ma Cello Suite No. 1 (because everything's a blur)

I can't stop smiling. Sister Merkley picked us up from the airport (if there were an eHarmony pairing grandparents to grandkids, she'd be my match) and we went straight to church. There is something magical about the sacrament prayer in another language. I love to hear it, thinking that 2000+ years ago was the last supper and here we are in Myanmar year 2553 of the Buddha, blessing that same bread. I got to play the piano (at least for opening and closing, Kitty is practicing sacrament hymns for her upcoming mission to Pocatello, ID) and I am again thankful for Marsha Nielson's 4 years of efforts in teaching me. My children will learn enough to play piano in branches where they are needed.
The Merkley's on either side of me and the Smiths on the left. Love them!
I've never heard more zeal from a 30 member congregation before- mostly from a 60 year old woman, Sister Alice who smelled like cooked pasta and was one of the first members here in Burma. There's not Book of Mormon in Burmese- they're working on the hymns now but it's been a problem because the big bad church requires that they be doctrinally correct (weird, I know) and there's not words for things like 'Angel' in Burmese (it translates to something like a fairy. That's a problem). The branch president looks about 25 and his wife is seriously a babe. The 3 hours of church meetings were given in English and Burmese, impressive look at translation power in the country, but hard to listen to because I'm so tired from jet lag I can hardly concentrate. Lisa keeps poking me to stay awake.
Sister Alice on the left; Sister Janet on the right basically started it all for the church here by inviting everyone she knows to church (missionaries can't proselyte so there's not too many other options)
We spend the afternoon with the Merkleys, after a homey lunch of chicken casserole and papaya with lime. Richard Green, an eager branch member stops by to visit and tells me in his game show announcer voice and 100mph burmese accent about his ice business (''we distribute all sheps and sezes of ais. big ais, medium ais and small ais...'')
You can tell from my googly eyes how I feel about Richard Green
Monday was our Yangon party. The Merkleys took us to a monastery school where LDSC helped build new latrines. I feel like I'm so used to seeing poverty now that shanty homes and dusty markets don't even phase me. Is that bad? I hate being the white tourist behind windows of a nice (or not so nice in Burma's case) car as we look out like some odd reverse zoo. I want to get out when Sister Merkley gets out to buy bananas but I'm just too tired.
Twin monk girls. Two cute!

Off to one of Yangon's top Buddhist sites- a massive porcelain looking reclining Buddha - the eye alone is 5'8" wide and made of pure glass. They didn't have a factory equipped to make such a sacred eyeball so they built one for the job. It's apparently in shambles now but you can still go dig out blown glass from heaps in the adjacent jungle. The gift shop sells all the knick knacks you'd expect, some better ones. So begins the quest for souvenirs that don't suck. I'd like to get stuff I might actually use/display in my home someday. Hard to do without a home in mind.

Big Buddha, big Buddha, aww yeah, big Buddha big Buddha big Buddha

Late afternoon- off to Shwedagon Pagoda, so we could see it in the daylight and all lit up at night. It's quite an impressive site, complete with Asia's favorite color: gold. And Buddhas lit by blue and green casino lights of course. I'm pretty sure we were hit on by a group of monks but I'm too uncomfortable about the situation to go over the details enough to decide. I do know there was a cocky approach, lots of smiling and an email request at the end. Ahhh, weirded out.

Don't get the wrong idea. I am NOT touching that monk on the right.

Other pictures from Shwedagon/Yangon

Ringing the bell five times (Satu! Satu! Satu!)

All lit up at night

There are no ATMs in Burma so the missionaries had to bring all the money for their 2 year mission in CASH and exchange it here. Elder Merkley busted out their literally 2 ft. by 3 ft. brick of 1000chat bills (= about $1 each) and played banker for us. Result: wads of grubby, stinky, smelly, sticky, well-used for over 30 years cash we had to cart around with us (let's call us paranoid, and weighed down) for the rest of the trip.

You'll notice a lot of outfit repeats. This one's my favorite.



When I first told my dad I was going to Burma he got all serious (uncharacteristic of him) and said "Kami.... have you ever seen... Rambo 4?"
Uh, no dad. He then made me watch this.


Here's what Burma really looks like:

Too excited considering the early boarding

Just west of Thailand it's hot and humid, jungly in parts, fields in others. Word is: Green
Yangon is a sprawling city of 5.5 million, which you wouldn't guess from the few skyscrapers. The rest of the 45 million people live out in the country, some in cities like Mandalay, but mostly in villages

Led by: Than Shwe and his military buddies. Oppressing minorities and freedom of speech (and thought)

An innappropriate smile considering the atrocities this man has committed

They're saying: Mingalaba and Jesu timbare (hello and thank you), usually with a ridiculously wide (cheshire cat style, but not creepy) smile. They've got Thailand beat for smiles, easy.

They're wearing: Longyis (a sarong sewed together at the ends). Children and teachers wear green, women wear patterns, men wear checkered, with crisp white collared shirts if they're meaning business.

And Tanaka, all the ladies at least, and some little kids- ground up wet sandalwood that's "good for the skin" and protection from the sun

All Tanaka's up with our new fried Momu

They're eating: rice, noodles and fish. And betel nut. Compulsively. Almost all the men and many women. Gross.

Why I'm going: To see what's going on with development there. And because I can :)


I'm not even there yet...

I just lost $40 in won taking my coat off in the security line from a day out in 23 degree Seoul, Korea and I'm pretty irate about it. I do flighty things like that somewhat frequently and it's really annoying.

Oh well, I'm indoors now (i.e. I can finally feel my feet again [3 pairs of socks have nothing on frozen streets and ice walkways]) and I'm just 4 hours from summer so I'm putting on a happy face and pretending I'm not so over layovers for just a minute. Free internet cafe here in at ICN so I can give you the play by play of my journet thus far. It includes 5 airports so far (1 to go) and an upwards of 25 hours of travel (time zone jumps prohibit my mind from doing the math necessary for an accurate count) so get ready, it's exciting...

11:00am (PST) A blessing from dad and his offer to use his digital DVD player. I kind of forget that I'm going anywhere
12:50pm (PST) I love SEA-TAC airport. I've said it before and I will again. Made in Washington store and Ivar's make my day. I'm too cheap to buy anything from either but they put a smile on my face

1:10pm (PST) Depart Seattle. I'm feeling indifferent. Where's my traveling high?

2:15pm (air) I'm crying. Margaret in 6C lost her husband a couple years ago. I wish I had someone to tear up about in my locket. Man I suck so much at sharing the gospel with Christians. How do you tell someone who believe they'll see their loved one again that they're missing something?

2:30pm (air) Northern California mountains are breathtaking. San Fran jumps my top three list of potential career locales

2:45pm (air) Approaching Oakland. Track Home Hell. Scratch that top three, I'll reconsider.
3:50pm (PST) the Oakland airport is useless. 8 bucks on a dry sandwich from and angry 60-year-old barmaid at 'the Taproom.' No other options but 'Peony Asian Food' or 'Oakland Tribune News' candybar stand. The girl behind me in the lounge sounds like Jackie Knudson on weed. The Peppermind chocolate Luna bar my mom forced me to buy is saving my life.

5:45pm (air) In the front row on the way to Phoenix. Got caught trying to hide my backpack under my legs so I don't have to store it up top. Boo. Sleep.

8:00pm (MST) I'm kicking myself for my poor planning for this nonprofit conference in Phoenix (the three extra airports was not originally part of the plan) and wasting my $8 on that sandwich in Oakland.

9:30pm (air) En Route to LA. Half of the flight is headed to the Alabama-Texas game tomorrow. Lots of red and burnt orange. A few seem to be trying to get the fight started up at 30,000 feet. Go longhorns...

9:45pm (air) Gerard and I are on round two of the in-flight crossword. I'm pretty sure he regrets bringing up corsswords as a conversation starter. He's not good and obviously hates this but he thinks I'm cute and continues. Yes Gerard, 63-across might be Sledge and no, I've never used that word before, but thanks for asking.

9:00pm (PST) I forgot I'm flying through LAX. 3 hours til I leave?! I'm wishing I called Heather to distract me, or had a phone to do so now

9:30pm (PST) Still walking to the international terminal. LAX, you have lame infrastructure.

11:20pm(PST) Mass chaos in security (it easily could have taken my 3 hours) and dismal choices for wandering. I plug in my portable DVD player to charge next to a Mexican cracking up watching the Daily Show on his Mac. A PhD student in mythology. Wants to start a nonprofit. He might hav emissed his flight talking to me, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I gave him my infor because my New Year's Resolution is to be a gorwnup (aka professional) and now I want to get me a business card made.
12:50pm (PST) Boarding my delayed Asiana Airlines flight. American flight attendants should go back to the old-style fitted suits of the 50's. Asians are still on it and it makes me like them more.

2:00am (air) I have to stay up for another couple hours to better adjust to jetlag. They say to get on the new time zone's schedule asap. I can't figure how to watch movies on my seat TV, just Korean dramas. I try to sneak peaks of my silent neighbor, watching UP! but don't ask him. I read instead.

Early morning (air) Turns out I'm an idiot. I watch Post Grad and wonder where I've seen the sexy Brazilian neighbor before. Alexis Bledel is not a good actress and Michael Keaton will always be Beetlejuice. Korean food is strange and I curse the dry sandwich again. More Luna bars to the rescue

Still early morning (air) I fast forward to my favorite parts of Time Traveler's Wife (mostly their wedding and when he dies) and take a few laps around the plane doing airplane calisthenics (sp??)

Later morning (air) Slept for an hour, read a bunch, made unsuccessful conversation with the Korean and Chinese men on either side of me (I really do suck at being a member missionary. Bad.) and watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I love Paul Newman. New goal to watch all his movies in 2010. We're landing and I almost can't move.

7:00am (Korea time) I wander out of the gate and semi-stalk some tourist-looking folk who I overheard talking about their 12-hour layover before Bangkok (like mine) and rally up a group (aka awkwardly invite myself to several pairs' day trips) and we head out. It is 12 degrees outside and I am not dressed appropriately.

Time is irrelevant really. Just know that Seoul is a cool city, we got a free (but very long) guided tour at a palace (I think he talked slow just to taunt us- he was all bundled up, lucky old man), ate some better Korean food than the plane had, and meandered around a shopping district. I redeemed myself with member missionary points by straightening out some misconceptions about the church to Steve and Anna, my American-Asian tour friends. And now I'm back, recounting it all before my flight boards in 15 minutes. I've got a similar layover on my way home and I found a few places I'd like to go back and explore more, though with my $40 donated to the airport, I'm feeling like I've contributed enough to the Korean economy.
5 more hours and I'll run into Lisa's arms. On to Thailand!


Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?

I'm not a super Sex and the City Fan (unless it's dubbed in Italian apparently) but here's the best version of the song
What does this even mean? Turns out auld lang syne translates roughly to 'long, long ago' or 'in times past.' Okay. Still doesn't make a ton of sense. How did this oft-sung New Year's Eve ballad become the song of the new year. The only song of the new year, really.

Turns out the poet Robert Burns was writing about old acquaintances and the past. He inquired how we should deal with them. Forget them? Move on? It's a question I've been asking myself lately as my pile of old acquaintances are growing and my days of auld lang syne being mushed together.

This New Year's Eve was a perfect goodbye to Provo. I spent a good part of the day working, packing and hating that I haven't sold my contract yet. I wasn't going to celebrate really at all. Lay on my floor and loathe the world and 2009 better, right? (Maybe fake entertain too, Charlie Chaplin style.) I finally decided to take the offer of this guy from my freshman ward who I didn't know until 2 weeks ago when we met at the MTC for a party up Hobblecreek Canyon. So I readied and beautified and left my room in disarray. I spent some time with my sibling and their spouses (old acquaintances that can never be forgot, thank heavens) and spend the night meeting 50 new people that I'll never see again. Ever. Acquaintances in the loosest definition of the word.

In my six years off and on mixing and mingling in the Provo pot (and elsewhere in life), I have met SO many people. I've become friends with so many people. I've left so many people from wards, classes, and grocery store meetings with the understanding that I'll never see them again. Why even make these connections if they are inevitably going to disintegrate?

I don't have any real good groundbreaking answer to the question of why we make these relationships and how we should deal with parting with them except for that it's worth it. I'm glad for the girl I work with whose name I always forget but who I always have good conversation with after work meetings. I'm glad for that guy in my ward who I will never date but I always flirt with. I'm glad for my old roommates who I shared late nights and breakfasts with and not much else. I'm glad for boyfriends that just didn't work out. I'm glad for friends who knew me well enough to give me advice tailored for me. I'm glad for friends who started as acquaintances and now seem inseparable from my life.

So what do we do with these piles of old acquaintances? Robert Burns gives a hint, in the chorus of his poem:

For auld lang syne my dear For auld lang syne
We'll take a cup of kindness yet For auld lang syne.

Take that for what it's worth. Think about the past thoughtfully, make plans for the future, for old time's sake.

Happy New Year!
And goodbye Provo. It's been fun.


Christmas Cowgirls

My mom was pretty upset when it turned out I wasn't going home for Christmas. As much I'd love to have gone it just didn't make any sense. So it was, Christmas at the Dahls. Not only does my sister have a perfect country house and property, she has girls who understand Santa- an important ingredient for holiday fun. Festivities at Jake's family's house were great. 12 kids under the ages of 8 makes for a healthy Christmas chaos and ridiculous nativity reenactment.

The best, of course, was Christmas morning- Kaylee and Riley grinning like fools as they saw Santa's spoils under the tree. You ask Kaylee now what their favorite present was: PINK BOOTS!! Both girls got a pink cowgirl getup: boots, Wranglers, pink belt, shirt and hat. It doesn't get much cuter than that. And Santa came for me too :)

**Pictures and video to come**