travel

wake up, sleepyhead! notes and tips from my nearly-european adventure

If there’s anything in the world that can rouse a sleepy soul, it’s grabbing coffee to go (preferably hazelnut) and exploring a new city.

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I want to learn how to do latte art one day!

SUNZAPPED I’m finding it necessary these boiling days to remember cooler temperatures, and today, Central Asia comes to mind.

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Last winter, a dear friend and I vacationed in a melting pot city between Europe and Asia, and its weather was like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale.

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One midnight, I woke to a chill in the room. The clock was blinking. Just outside the window, snow tumbled down in magnificent lace to cover the city’s tropical trees. How odd and beautiful against the pink sky. That’s when I knew this was one of my new favorite places.

TRAVEL In case you’re thinking of a wintertime trek around a Eurasian megatown, I thought I’d share a few observations & tips—from one blogger to another 😉

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  1. Power

    As an American, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve taken power (and WiFi!) for granted. As they say, you never know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

    Traveling? Invest in a converter so you don’t destroy your devices—in ANY country.

    My friend and I got caught in a sleet storm while on our way to a “book corridor.” We dashed there, soaking wet, and with our phones lighting the way, clung to one another giggling as we entered the dark alley… Soon, the book stall owners lit candles. We even found the new Harry Potter play, two copies!

    The only certainty of travel (and life as a whole) is that few things are certain!

  2. Attire

    Clothes just need to cover you, right?!

    My rule of thumb is: as long as it isn’t culturally appropriative, wear what the locals wear.

    In Thailand for example, I avoid the beachy, underclad look of most tourists and favor long pants, sleeves, and muted tones, particularly in the wake of the King’s passing.

    IMG_1472Becoming the “gray man” in Europe means wearing black. Lots of it. (I’m kidding but not really.) While I was there, I wore my hooded coat, neutral long sleeve tops, and matching scarves. Other necessary investments: SOLID WALKING SHOES, an umbrella, lined leggings, socks socks and more socks.

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  3. the “SIGHTS”

    For a stress-free restorative time abroad:

    See only what you want to see.

    Our shared loves are church & spirituality; art & books; and coffee (and cats–though my friend would never admit it). So my friend and I went to places that corresponded to those interests. I also indulged myself in graffiti, collecting artifacts along the way…IMG_1375IMG_1485IMG_0950IMG_1046

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    IMG_1358IMG_0949IMG_1384IMG_0966IMG_1323IMG_1038IMG_1219IMG_1339Too often I’ve heard stories of folks abroad sightseeing all day and gleaning little joy from their experiences. In my book, that’s not meaningful—or fun either! So look for the little things you love and spend your time on those instead.

  4. Chill

    If you’re an introvert like me, it’s important to try to balance your time out with time in. My friend, though outgoing, loves to dialogue about a good story, so we spent our evenings indoors with cookies and a list of classic movies that one or the other of us had not seen. E.g., Pearl Harbor (me), Moulin Rouge (her)Titanic (me), Pride and Prejudice (her)… When we were out during the day and needed a break, we read aloud from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The other coffee shop folks thought we were weird, but we had the time of our lives.

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    The button is from Walter’s Cafe, which is styled after the show Breaking Bad (and looks like a laboratory).

  5. and last but not least….

    Caffeinated sustenance

Know thyself. This last one may not apply to all, but for my friend and me, coffee breaks were vital to keeping our energies up while we bustled about in the pouring rain or sleet or snow. When we had had too much caffeine, we opted for sahlep with cinnamon. (Ohmygoodnessgracious, TRY IT.)

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Unlike manic vacations in the past, I returned home rejuvenated. The usual symptom is an overwhelming need to scribble ideas. I had been so creatively “dehydrated” before then! So–if we may stretch the metaphor–this week away was just what the doctor ordered.

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Speaking of dehydration, keep a lookout for my next post, another coffee-and-travel highlight… Hey there, Nepal!

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travel

lanna finds

Wednesday brings you another coffee post from the north of Thailand.

Lanna Welcomes You

Often, you will see this phrase around the city. The region, the Land of a Million Rice Fields, used to be known as the Lanna Kingdom, and the language varies a bit from Central Thai. For instance, instead of greeting a friend or stranger with Sawatdee ka!, the locals may say Sawatdee jao!. 

Perhaps what I find the greatest difference is the “look” of Lanna from the south of Thailand. Up here, everything seems rustic. Or as they say, “lao” — the equivalent to an American calling something “hick” (I get the feeling the term may be a slur against one of our neighboring countries?). Think less the gaudy gold of the Bangkok province and more thatch roofs, muted jewel tones, wooden wats…

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Yes, I staged this #hipstergeneration

This last year, northern Thailand has provided excellent visual material for my current project and Camp NaNoWriMo novel, The Jungle Kingdom. Though I am only halfway through the draft, I can already say that this has been my most rewarding writing experience since college. The serious intelligence of graduate school tends to bias you against children’s fiction.

When we live in a world of genocide and epidemics, perhaps there are richer, maturer subjects to tackle.

However, I am learning — if it’s possible for your own brain-child to teach you anything — that we can struggle with death and dark choices even in children’s stories. (See J. K. Rowling for love as sacrifice and C. S. Lewis for alternate creation stories & what is free will?). Check my progress out here if you’re curious — or if you’re also creating this month and need a writing buddy!

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Yay for friends who will take you to neat coffee shops and leave you alone to write!

At the height of the water festival, my friend Erin and I escaped to Tanita Coffee House in the nearby mountains to create for a few hours. What a quaint place! If you’re wanting to work in a natural, breezy environment with Internet and delicious coffee, look no further. There’s even an art gallery for inspiration breaks and a local crafts shop (spend all the money!).

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Utterly off topic, but on the way there, Erin tore the car across four lanes of traffic so we could snap pics of this.

I usually prefer weird characters or funny political statements, but this tag was a sparkly rainbow thing, and glitter and I have been best friends since fifth grade. Besides, we risked our lives for it. I’ve heard that increases fondness.

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Channeling our inner Asian and snapping moody pics

 

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Well, I’m off to boost my word count 🙂 Playlist below for any other fantasy writers out there. Happy creating!

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travel

hua hin hello

By now, I may accurately say that I’ve had a coffee each place my feet have touched the earth (and also where they haven’t, though I would not recommend airplane java except under dire circumstances).

Welcome to Hua Hin.

This beachy coffee experience featured a blended ice mocha… Usually, I’m more of a latte or Americano gal, but this morning, I could not find any of the usual coffee shops near our hostel. On a whim (and on the edge of a headache that shames me into admitting how coffee-spoiled I am), I tried a little bamboo beverage shack. In case you ever come to Thailand, be sure to order less sugar. They tend to make drinks sweet!

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…also: hello, hot season!

In case you’re wondering if I live by the ocean (sadly, I don’t!), my friends and I went south for a few days. It’s been so muggy in the mountains, and even with the water festival, cooling down is a minute-to-minute task, around which your entire day revolves. So we hit the beach.

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The breeze was amazing after the stagnant hot!

Also, actually being at the beach made me remember one of the first things I had to get used to living here: how Thai scenery, anywhere in the country, tricks you into thinking there is a beach nearby. To my untrained eyes, even the freshwater-fed jungles of the north look like there should be a saltwater bay, preferably with mermaids, within a five-minute walk. So it was refreshing both mentally and physically to truly be on the water this week!

My favorite experience of the week was biking along the shore and around the island, in which we had a few near brushes with death — it appears that a lack of respect for bicyclists is a multicultural phenomenon — and laughed our heads off staging accidents in front of hilarious signs.

all hail the bikers…

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We found a crazy ombre dragon lizard!

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We even biked around a rice paddy or two.

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Some days, I ache for home and the temperate forests of Kentucky, my bluegrass hills and mahogany horses and perfect paved roads. The gaudiness of this world — the overbright tropical flowers, the birds with excessive orange plumage and funny crimson-and-yellow spots on their chests, even the lizards with their wild iridescent tails, and the unknown jeweled foliage of the jungles… I resented it for a long time. I asked of life a simple white canvas, and it handed me a rainbow explosion. We so stubbornly want what we want, like children without the capacity to rightly value priceless artifacts. But it seems, finally, my soul has found rest in this tangled, brilliant world. It’s different, but it’s become a different I can love.

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Finally, in case you’re in need some beachy tunes to go with that coffee…

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on writing

10 NaNocessities: A Survival Guide

 

Hello, readers & Wrimos!

Welcome to the creative lair. NaNo-prep underway! img_9745-2img_9741-2img_9584-2img_9742-2

Flip flops, UV rays, palms, sunbrellas…perfect time of year for NaNoWriMo, amIright?! Actually, it’s confusing. Last time I did this, I was freezing in three layers of socks.

10 NaNocessities for Surviving the Month

So living in Asia and participating in NaNoWriMo… are the essentials any different? I have had to get a tad inventive being overseas for the first time, but maybe you have some equivalents where you are in the world!

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…on the other hand, these are rather Western options.

Try something everyday that scares you.

Well, here, that’s eating.

Some days, I’m adventurous, but other times, I just want something that I know won’t be punishment for my American taste buds. When I’m writing, for instance, candy I know vs. candy I don’t is crucial to whether or not I will stay on task.

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The financial pit of despair

The very FIRST thing I grabbed…

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  1. Electrolyte powder

… because dehydration is a thing here, and the sweating won’t stop for anyone, even if you have all the fans you own blowing on you (and blowing away your notes) while you write.

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2. Cookies

What is defined as “dessert” here is just kinda sad sometimes. But fortunately, there are THESE. They taste like Pop-tarts and cost only about 10 cents a package. I plan to pace myself, say, about 200 words before I can have just one. Cookie, not package.

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3. Tea

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to write when I don’t have something hot to drink right next to me. Here’s my favorite British tea (can I get an amen for Irish breakfast?!!). And then there’s that sour green tea for when I’m not allowed to have any more caffeine. Rue the day.

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4. Instant coffee

I know. An utter abomination. BUT somedays, it’s just too hot to boil water. And/or I’m too lazy to boil water and wait and clean the French press and get the coffee and pour it in and wait and … just no.

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5. Candy Rewards

Gummies, chocolate, this half a bag of candy corn that my Mom mailed me (it never stood a chance). If you’re consistent–or have someone hide the candy until you’ve earned it–this can really motivate you through a word sprint.

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6. More instant coffee

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7. Peppermint-y stuff

Nothing like forgetting to brush your teeth in the middle of a creative frenzy.

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8. Candles

These may be Buddhist altar sticks. It’s a fair bet. But I wanted more non-smelly candles for ambience. Looooove candles when I write.

9. Headphones

Try creating iTunes playlists or Noisli for ambient sound, if music distracts you. But I am a HUGE fan of headphones for tuning out distractions. We have some loud birds here. And wall geckos.

10. Power cord

….because we’ve all been somewhere and realized, MY COMPUTER IS ABOUT TO DIE. Or worse, it’s died on you? And you didn’t save your draft?

You have my condolences, poor friend.

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GREEN MANGO MY FAVORITE …snacks for myself today. To write this blog post. Food motivation is key, people.

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What is Jet even doing?

 

 

Bye ’til next time. Happy pre-writing!

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biovignette

new barista in the drive-through

“Hi, my name is Darryl, and you know what I get.”

They warned me about him.

I said, “Hi, my name is Elizabeth. I’m new. I don’t know what you get.”

He was dirty. The old truck was dirty, almost as old as he was. You know: man-of-the-soil dirty.

He didn’t answer me, only smiled like I was a small child and zoomed to the next window.

“Darryl!” I hollered and then sighed. Exasperation, in this job… it came as easy as breathing. Continue reading

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