travel

that time i didn’t die in nepal

Hailing as far back as the days when we shared a bedroom and I threatened the your-side-my-side thing with tape, my sister and I have often been¬†at odds. It’s in our natures. When she walks into a room, there is light, color, and the ambition to think highly of everything. Openness. I walk in with arms folded.

Nepal pried my arms open with a crow bar. Mostly, it hurt, and I didn’t like it. But now, with this post at least…and like many other seekers before me who have wound their way around this place… I shall try to open my mind again to this beautiful dusty country.

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My words will be few as the most I can recall of that country are what these pictures hold: monkeys, mountains, dogs, dire illness, and as I said, dust. Oh and Downton Abbey on binge, since there was little else to do between bathroom breaks. But perhaps the pictures are worth enough themselves.

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Stunning peaks

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Henna night with new friends

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Lolz….guess which one I am…

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Poinsettias? They were everywhere!

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Chicken guards outside the bathroom

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Food poisoning strikes! featuring the overnight room at the international clinic and a bottle of saline

Tip 1:

Don’t eat chicken skin.

Apparently, bacteria galore… You could die. (My friend and I ate questionable soup.)

Tip 2:

Drink water.

Even if you throw it back up. Dehydration via IV is not fun.

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Snow patches on the side of the mountain

After biking for four and half hours up into the mountains, we found a misty ledge of snow. It was so foggy and cold, it reminded me of London in the winter. On the way back, I started to lose feeling in my toes. Living in Thailand makes you forget what cold weather is like… We each slept under three heavy blankets that night.

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My sister still has a few things to teach me…but given the choice, I think I would go back. Give this rugged place another chance ūüėČ Why not?

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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 ūüėČ

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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 ūüôā Playlist below for any other fantasy writers out there. Happy creating!

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on writing

how to write (when you don’t want to)

If anyone has a case of the post-NaNoWriMo blues, it’s this girl.

The beauty of the collective writing madness that is November and National Novel Writing Month is just that: it’s community. Writing in general is a lonely art. (But aren’t all arts?) And when there are a million and one other people doing the exact same thing–sitting in front of a screen or piece of paper with a caffeinated beverage and a general longing to be anyplace else–you suddenly get enthusiastic about your goal. It’s not just me. It’s all of us. And we can do this thing together.

Then it’s over and you’re still only halfway through. In some cases,¬†by this point your story has built up enough momentum that you’re naturally lured back to finishing it. In others, not so much. With my novel, I’ve tackled a walloping beast of a thing: several perspectives and tightly woven narratives and too much to be anywhere near halfway by 50K. And now it’s December and perhaps there are a few gluttons for punishment still out there trudging along when the 50K has been long over…

…but¬†where are they, and why aren’t we all crying in a Starbucks together?

All I can say is: Do not give up, my friends.

If you’re in need of a friendly push,¬†here are five ideas:

1. Make a new goal.

Want to be finished before your Christmas vacation? Make an Excel chart and map your way to success. And by success, I mean, specific goals. The company I work for abides by the SMART acronym when it comes to setting team or personal goals. All such aspirations must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

E.g., by December 26, 2016, I will write 35,000 more words on my current NaNo novel and finish the story (even if that means adding “flesh to the skeleton” later).

Be a professional about it, and stand by your personal deadlines. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT lie. To your accountability buddies. To your SMART goals. To yourself. Why? Then even you will stop believing when you say you mean it (cue theme song to your favorite Netflix television show).

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Don’t be a jaded self-sabotaging artist.

Nifty knacks for your writer’s toolkit: for thirty-minute focused word sprints,¬†Write or Die¬†and for ambient zen writing mood music,¬†Noisli

2. Exercise.

I was a Psych major in my undergraduate years at Liberty University–and also a Biblical Studies minor, which made for a fascinating combination of truths tossed at me at any given time. One truth, however, that I stand by in both worlds is that the body was not made for Sabbath but the Sabbath for the body. Which translated means: you’re not a machine. You cannot, between work, leisure, and hobbies, sit for hours at a time hooked up to electronic devices and expect to not feel depressed and/or anxious and/or angry, whatever means you take out your pent-up energies on the world. Go do something. Change the scenery. As pleasant and relaxing a sight as this can be…

img_0007¬†…you were made to move and experience new and different and even weird sensations.

One of my favorite no-screen activities (unless I’m taking photos) is to find street art. Now that I’m in a biggish city in Southeast Asia, there is no shortage of #commonartists to look for:

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a downtown Chiang Mai find… Dude harnessing the geo-bird looks similar to these gremlins:

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…and more finds from all over my city…

This one is in front of the Deaf school.

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…a surprise sea of lush plantage¬†in a cement jungle. You’re allowed to wear cute shoes when you go for a thirty minute walk.

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That last one translates to “no parking.”

Let this be our motto. NO PARKING. Keep it real and keep it moving, my sedentary sentence-slayers.

3. Pull a few all-dayers.

In total contradiction to my last statement, I will vouch for what I call “all-dayers.” Need a motivation boost like no other? Dedicate a WHOLE DAY–with snack breaks, of course–to your novel. Binge-write and see what wild things happen. I find that, when I do this (like when I was on my visa run in the Land of Malls!), I get way more invested in my characters because I’ve spent more “real time” in their world.

* All-nighters also work, but if you have a full-time job, it’s a smart and recalibrating move in the long-term to use that one day off a week for writing (and not ______ [whatever else you like to do]). ¬†It’s you telling yourself, “My novel is important enough for my actual time.” Give it a try!

4. Set up a reward system.

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During October of this year, two of my friends and I decided to get ourselves out of an exercise slump and create a competition. We each put 300 baht (the equivalent of $8 = two movies / a pedicure / a fancy farang meal) in a jar and agreed to the following terms: you have to exercise every day for the next 30 days for at least 30 minutes. If you fall behind, you have to work out an additional hour to catch up those lost 30 minutes. Whoever reached the 30 day mark with all days caught up either got their money back (if all 3 girls won), could split the money with the other winner (if 2 girls won), or won ALL the money (if they were the only survivor). Then we all told each other what we would do with the money if we made it to the end (I, personally, wanted a pair of green earrings). What do you think happened? We all won! And not only that, we all got back on a regular workout routine. Perhaps it was not as frequent as every day, but our bodies felt it when we were not moving. The habit stuck.

Say ‘no’ now for a bigger ‘yes’ later.

You can promise yourself rewards for each benchmark you meet. Not everyone has money to spare, so you don’t have to do anything extravagant. But even if it’s something as small as ice cream, practice a little self-control and deny yourself until you reach that word goal. It’s amazing how motivated we can get for small things–and how much more we can appreciate those small things when they’re finally deserved! I mean, when I finally got myself¬†those $3 green earrings, I felt like an absolute champ.

5. Tell people!

That’s what social media is all about, am I right? ūüėČ It’s one thing when you’re like: “Hi I’m doing this.” And another when your friends are like “Hi you’re doing this right? Where’s your stuff/can I READ IT.” every five minutes (e.g., all my awesome BFFFLs, who check up on my creative ventures). I can’t wait for the day that I can hand a complete printed draft of this mess to a friendly and willing victim.

Make your news known.

And on that note, I will be sticking by 80K words by December 26, thanks. Yell at me otherwise ūüėČ

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on writing

I says to myself, “Self!” | an open letter to writers, WriMos, and other creative self-doubters

Dear Self,

So you have a story idea. Maybe even a good story idea.

You have scrawled ideas in cheap notebooks, collected scattered thoughts in Word, and begun an Official Outline, which–you hope–you will follow like the Code of the Elves for the next month. You’ve prepared yourself in every physical way — gathered inspiration¬†— forged anti-music-whiplash playlists.

So… resistance.

You know it will happen. When you set yourself up for anything epic, it’s asking¬†for a fight. Mostly from yourself.

Any or all of these thoughts may occur to you while leveling up, eyeball to eyeball, with Your Monster.

You can’t write a novel. You have a full-time job!

You can’t write a novel.¬†You can’t even finish ________.

You can’t write a novel. You have to clean…everything.

You can’t write THIS novel. You won’t do it justice.

So I’m writing this ahead of time, for you to come back to when your old friend Fear and/or his best pal Laziness come knock on your door. Because they will.

Problem #1 | You have a full-time job!

You’ve been out with people¬†all day long. You’ve been focused utterly on another plane of existence, usually a non-creative one. You might have even worked out this morning.

Your body is tired and so is your brain. But you still have words to spin like gold out of the weary straw of your being. 1,6667 words to be exact.

Is this impossible? No.

It only feels that way.

Solution(s) to Problem #1 | Do what you have to do to stay inspired (e.g., working) and to stay on task (e.g., working).

  1. Take out your contacts. Dry eyes don’t help.
  2. Move to another spot in the house.
  3. Disconnect from the internet and get your housemate to change the password.
  4. Promise yourself snacks if you write for one hour.
  5. Run around the room, flailing your arms.
  6. 2-minute planks if you get on Facebook.
  7. COFFEE. You can sleep December 1.

Problem #2¬†|¬†You can’t even finish __________.

What’s the bigger problem here? Time management, yes. But also, that thing that kills your motivation: creative slumps, discouragement, that plain old “but I don’t feeeeeeel¬†like writing.”

Well, first of all, go watch this video.

Secondly, you realize that, if you dissect the circumstantial and the things outside your control, there’s still quite a bit of you-power in there. You just don’t wanna.

Solution(s) to Problem #2 | Get your mind in the right place.

  1. But you do wanna. Your feelings are lying to you (per usual) because Fear uses such dirty tactics as peer pressure on his friends.
  2. This is too important to NOT write.
  3. Will you remember what you “liked” or “pinned”¬†instead of writing? Um, I bet you no. ¬†Will you remember that you used this time wisely and produced a functioning draft? Yes.

….and now to address your not-so-closet OCD self.

Problem #3 | But you have to clean EVERYTHING.

For many people, this love of clean surfaces and dust-free zones is a lifestyle.

But who among the rest of us¬†looks at Netflix and thinks,¬†But if only I could clean¬†right now….?

You’re not just looking at a blank page. You’re looking at a gymnasium¬†of mental effort,¬†and you’re the Hercules¬†working the machines.

Solutions to Problem #3 | Prioritize.

  1. The house can get clean in time for Christmas. It helps if your housemate is naturally messy too (love you, Erin).
  2. Stick your laziness in the back and leave it there to die.

Problem #4 |¬†You won’t do it justice

This hits where it hurts. It questions the very heart of what you are doing. Wonderful story idea? Beautiful lively characters? Compelling needs that breathe on the page? Great! But not you. Maybe someone else with an MFA or less influence from white people, but not you.

You can’t do this.

Solution to Problem #4 | Let’s rethink for a sec…

  1. In reference to people, Donald Miller writes, ‚ÄúWhen you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.‚ÄĚ This so readily applies to your written people. Or your written words! It.will.not.be.perfect. So erase that expectation.
  2. Okay, so it’s MORE than just a fear of imperfection. You think you’re not qualified? I get that. It’s all right to feel that way: unqualified because you don’t¬†know¬†enough, because you’ve not¬†experienced¬†enough, because you’re not¬†fantastic¬†enough. Here’s the thing: it’s true. But the beauty of the system is A) this is a work of fiction B) the longer you live, the more you know C) no one else is qualified enough either.
  3. You would have to be magic to have lived all the sorts of lives you hope to depict in your novel. But you’re imaginative, which is it’s own kind of magic. So let the realist go eat his un-sugary cereal someplace else, kapish?
  4. And where things clunk about or fall through the cracks, we have this fab fruity spritz called revision that you sorta spray all over your work after you’re done and¬†voila!¬†JK it’s SO HARD. But it would be hard even if you knew what you were talking about, so…

Any other problems you may have, it’s likely you’ve been sitting in one place for too long. Go for a walk.

For realsies, though. Give yourself the freedom to be wrong and goodness, to have¬†fun.¬†Address your creative anxieties like an adult; look them in the eye and say, “Limit commentary until December please.” Because if you know yourself at all, you won’t be capable of reasoning with them on four hours of sleep. They’ll start to make sense. They’ll start to fiddle with the dials and, OH NO,¬†edit. So don’t.

I’m so glad we’ve had this talk.

Now get back to it.

Love,

Dori

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