Postponing Phnom Penh.

I fully intended to get home from Cambodia, pack up my bags, turn around and take a job as a journalist in Phnom Penh and live out my dream of working as a reporter in a third world country with shitty infrastructure.

Except that I didn’t. A couple nights after I got back, I went out to visit some friends and I was asked, “Hey, do you want a job?”
Uh… Yes? Yes. It’s summer, and my work is going to take hiatus, whatcha got?
And the next day, I just so happened to become employed.

Cambodia was already starting to feel a long ways away, and also… it was monsoon season. And I did nearly die by crocodile*, so maybe I could just put that move off for a bit… And really, postponing lifelong dreams? Nothing new to me.

So I’ve been lulled back into Chiang Mai. Something I was very intent on not doing.
But it’s not so bad, good friends, great weather, pretty scenery—and I live up the road from the best Caesar salad in the city. An important thing, I assure you.

Not so horrible.
*And the death by crocodile? It was stuffed.
Torrential downpour, laptop, dirt road that instantly turned into a mudslide, and there was me, stupidly running for cover when I slipped and slide my way straight into the jaws of.. yeah… stuffed crocodile. Smooth, I know. Because my middle name should be Grace, and I’m all kinds of awkward.


Another Buddhist Holiday and a Visa Run.

Taking a visa run to the Burmese border tomorrow. Again.
Ask me how excited I am. I dare you.
There’s a joke somewhere about how much visa runs are loathed by expats.
Every 15 days like clockwork, if you’re not smart enough, or just too lazy to be bothered to go to Laos, you have to get yourself on a bus and sit for ten or twelve hours to the border and back just to get your updated stamps so you don’t get thrown in jail/deported or have to pay a 20,000 Baht fine (which is the cap out here in Thailand on overstays, but it’s nothing to look forward to).

I recommend, if you’re coming to Thailand, to go for the work visa. Or a business visa. Or maybe just be Thai to begin with, because this country, while it loves its tourists, doesn’t really want you to stay so long. And most people who settle down here just want to stay, because Thailand? It’s an extremely pleasant place to live.

So there’s the visa runs. Twice a month. Rain or shine or Dengue Fever be damned.
They come up just as frequently as all the surprise Buddhist holidays—of which there’s another one happening today, though I couldn’t tell you for what.

The upside on visas over Buddhist holidays though? You know when you have to get yourself to the border. The holidays? They always come as a nasty surprise. “Oh, hello! Sorry, it’s a  holiday.. No alcohol is sold and most restaurants will be closed, good luck eating anything other than 7-11 food.”

What’s my name again??

So I’ve run into a bit of a dilemma over here in SE Asia.
Who knew?! A dilemma!
Actually, a dilemma implies that there is a solution somewhere in the problem. I’m not sure this has one—aside from moving away and starting over. Again.

I have a massive pet peeve against being called Candy. It’s unavoidable here. I’ve begun offering it up as a name variant in an “I’m sorry, I know my name is ridiculous, here, just think of chocolate.” sort of way.

Yes. Yes, okay. Cringe.

Unfortunately, “Can-dis” proves to be surprisingly difficult. Don’t ask me how. I’ve gotten Candy, Candeece, Caaandi, Condi, Conny, Cannnndeeeeece. Caneeee. Cadee, Cassie, Cali, Katie, and Catrine.  Or “Girl in Number Four!”  and the simplest:  “Hey, California!”

Just “dis”, actually. It’s just dis.

In a fit one night, after leaving China and getting on the plane, and getting off the plane, and being Candy for a few days, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“What’s your name?”

And so the problem was born, unknowingly.
Because I did not realize three things:
1. I now lived in a very small town.
2. I was going to start spending a lot of time with this handsome stranger.
3. He knew everyone. And made all the introductions.

Mix vodka and stir.
Fast forward three months.

I am now, depending on whom you speak to: Jo, Josie, Candis, Candy, Andi, Angi, Jean—there’s no end. It’s a headache and a half trying to remember who I am to what people, and introductions get a bit hazy along the way.

I think my personality is splitting.
Don’t even ask about the confusion when new friendships get to the point of “Add me on Facebook!”

Condo Hunting, Day One…

This afternoon, I headed out of my guest house to stretch my legs and grab a smoothie, and to see who was out and about on the soi. Turns out, today was a break in the intense heat*, so the answer to “who is around today?” was: everyone and their favorite lady-boy.

I say that last part with love and affection—I’d say instead, “everyone and their mother”, but you know what? Our mothers are not here. The lady-boys are.

I made the terrible mistake of telling my friends that “today I swear I am going condo hunting. And to the pharmacy. And looking into getting a motorbike. And writing 10 articles. And… and… and….and look what I did to my foot last night, never let me drive again.”

Unfortunately, much to the loathing of my laziness, I have recently made a friend who is more of a “stop talking about it and just get things done” kind of person. Which meant my day quickly went from idealistic dreaming to “oh, really? You’re going to do all these things? Get on the bike. Let’s go.”

Four hours, a sushi break and cramped leg muscles later, I have seven or eight condo business cards in my wallet and have a better idea of what I’m looking for. I also looked at motorbikes which was fun.

And you know what? I was not grateful enough to my ex for handling all of the apartment living issues in China, and finding us such a beautiful home. I should’ve been kissing his feet and going “Oh, you glorious man, I never again will doubt you, you goddamn golden god, you.” Instead I was more like… “Really? Is it REALLY necessary to kick your shoes off IN the bed? We’re going to trip, fall down the stairs and break our necks.” Yes, everything about me had become a worried housewife. 

Luckily for me, my new friend also speaks Thai… and Mandarin… Lao… English… Taiwanese… French… Probably three or four more languages I don’t know about. Some days, I think he might be a secret agent. But regardless, he vroom vroomed me around the city and introduced me to one building after another, all well within my price range. And I loved… none of them.

There was one, but the building was called Hillcrest, and as a San Diegan, that one had a special place in my heart. As well as a desk, armoire, huge shower, and two balconies. But at 4700 Baht a month, it wasn’t love.

So in the end, I am back in my guesthouse trying to make a decision, and not coming up with any easy answers. To move out of the old city, I have to have a motorbike. To have a motorbike, I have to pay 13,000 Baht. To pay 13,000 Baht, I have to cringe at my summer slow season budget and find a local job. And to do all of that, I have to put off my dream of moving to Cambodia for just a bit longer.

So today I accomplished a lot, and nothing at all.

*when I say “break in the intense heat”, I mean it was one degree cooler than yesterday, and there were three drops less of sweat lost all afternoon in comparison to usual. It’s a measurable thing, I swear. 

Woke up this morning and discovered this on my facebook:

“Travel log day 155(ish), 3:26am: I just spent ten minutes discussing my day with a large cockroach in my bathroom, as though it was my cat. Spent my evening with friends debating (mostly) about the western education system. Wound up driving a motorbike through the (thank god) dead streets of Chiang Mai. Was surprised to come home with a foot gushing blood, and realized that my friend should have spent ten minutes screaming in fear, but did not. Brakes and feet are not the same thing. Nearly hit three parked cars. Do not want to admit this out loud. Motorbikes: not a Jet Ski or Jeep. All in all, today went well, though I should be both committed (HELLLLOOOO, Mr Cockroach!!!) and never allowed to drive on the wrong side of the road in Thailand, ever again. Would post photo, but cannot properly get all the blood and large cockroach antennas into the same frame.

Well. That did, in fact, happen. Let’s just ignore the obvious things like the time stamp, the fact that I mentioned debates with friends about the education system, that I was talking to cockroaches by the time I got home, and that (unmentioned) I was at a place called “Freedom Bar”, listening to good music and laughing all night with my favorite local bartender. Who happens to be a female and happens to be really good at girl talk and pouring while she does it. There was, in theory, no motorbike to be later involved. In fact, I fully intended on walking and/or being driven home.
When in Chiang Mai…

A few things I would like to note: sometimes, no matter what country you are in, things get dicey and a bit awkward, and you wonder exactly what you were thinking when your friend says “can you drive a motorcycle?”

I know what I was thinking:: I was thinking “Challenge. Accepted.”
At least there were not fireworks, rockets, or a large jump into the pitch black Caribbean involved.
Shame on me.

Back in Bangkok, Round Three; Day Four.

I’m holed up in a café called INTERNET.
This is actually the name of the café. Welcome to Bangkok, where they will spell out the obvious and lure in travelers until they’re all crammed into one tiny room with Wifi and no fans, desperate to reach the outside world. Screw the heat, we can Facebook. Please bring us overpriced bottles of water to pour over our heads.

I’m one of those people right now, crammed in next to a guy from Amsterdam, and our chairs are shoved so close together we can’t tell which of us is sweating, and which of us is just covered in the other person’s sweat.

Sexy. I know. The labeled “Whore Capital of the World”, and the most action I’ve seen in weeks can be boiled down to “attractive stranger sweating on me before we board a train and never speak again”. If this doesn’t make you want to leave your office job and head out across the world, I don’t know what will.

I did not eat scorpion on a stick this time around, though I swear that next time I’m in Bangkok, I will actually go through with it. It just needs to happen in my life, because M and I never got around to eating starfish on a stick, or fried seahorse on a stick in China like we meant to.

So scorpion on a stick will just have to be the answer.

Not now, not today, I’m too busy watching the clock and getting excited to spend my night on the train. But next time? I’m so eating that disgusting looking black scorpion on a stick or my family will never forgive me.
Oh, and the cabs here? Hot pink. Best cab color ever.


Back in Bangkok, Round Three; Day One

So I’m safely back from Cambodia; had a lovely time.

“Lovely” is not the right word.
I both admired and was appropriately terrified of China. It helped that I was all ridiculously in love and happy and each time we looked out the window, we’d ask each other “WHY ARE WE IN CHINA?!! WHERE IS MEXICO!?!” we’d just shut the curtains and hide.

As for Thailand… I like Thailand just fine. Enough to have settled down in Chiang Mai, make a handful of good friends, and absolutely adore my landlady and my neighbors.

But Cambodia?? Holy Jesus. I want to get spiritually bound to the country and jump off a cliff with it. Have its love children and explore temples and write for the next few years. I want to move to Phnom Penh and work as a journalist, laugh with tuk tuk drivers in the street, and probably settle down and never leave again. Adopt a kid and a cat and maybe a handful of really ugly chickens (seriously, I ‘ve never seen such ugly chickens). And I don’t even LIKE chickens.

THAT’S how I feel about Cambodia.
Maybe I shouldn’t move there. I might never come back to the states.