Monthly Archives: September 2011

Nepal: Raw Notes, Slightly Filtered

Right around the time I stopped being a PhD student and started yelling at dayplanners, I also decided, since I seemed to be on some kind of roll anyway, that it would be a good idea to go to Nepal.  Specifically, to go to Nepal to trek (which I learned meant “hiking but MORE”) in Nepal.

Why?  WHY?!

Accident, impulse and circumstance.  My friend, Ernie, had done it the previous year…right around the time I was in India, where I had unwittingly signed up for a Buddhist pilgrimage.  With my Mother.

Yeah.

Ernie’s tales of ADVENTURE made me jealous, and they made me reflect on my own adventure with Mom as she lectured me on my poor life choices over cold vegetarian meals under the hot, punishing, unforgiving Indian sun.

Great dharma, big drama.

"That's quite something isn't it, Mom?" "You know, it not too late for you go to dental school. Or get married."

Yeah.

So, on a whim, I decided not only to emulate Ernie, but to out-do him.  Rather than an 8-day trek, as Ernie had done, I decided to trek the Annapurna Circuit, a 21 day MONSTER trek, nestled in all manner of ups and downs in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas.

Yeah.

Yet, there was also another, perhaps more pressing reason I decided to chose a seemingly random and outrageous task just to see it through.

There is a certain prestige that comes with first, saying you’ll do something crazy (or at least out of character) and, second, actually doing it.  I wanted that.  More to the point, I wanted that evolutionary leap that came after the fact: to gain that miraculous power that allowed one to shut others up and out by sheer dint of having accomplished impossible or unlikely things.

Given my self-imposed fecklessness, Nepal seemed a good a place as any to cultivate this awesome power.  So I went, survived (after a fashion) and came home.  That was six months ago.

Since I returned from Nepal, I’ve tried, really tried, to put my experiences into nice, articulate FABULOUS words.  I have failed LOTS at that.

Luckily, I keep a travel journal whenever I go wherever, and I noticed as I perused my entries that some of my writings of The Trek were pretty funny on their own.

So there.

Below are my actual, real notes of my first official day trekking, given to you in their entirety because they capture so well my special eloquence during my trek, both at the time and even now, despite the benefit of retrospect.

If I WERE a doctor, even a D.D.S, I'm sure my handwriting would be a prized and adored.

I need to learn how to write good.

Enjoy?

March 20th, 2011

WHY?!

Slept really well last night despite weird dreams involving Zap Brannigan.

I have no idea.

The trek today STARTED well, but by the end, I’m pretty sure I died a couple of times only to be cruelly brought back to life so I can finish what I started.  It’s my damned backpack – I need to unload some stuff because at the steep, going up parts especially it felt like I was carrying a safe full of gold.  Made of gold.

Also, I have discovered over the last few days but especially today that the human body is disgusting.  You don’t have to go outside where it’s “dirty” or to do dirty things, it seems we are built to be super gross.

You don’t have to do anything before you’re hair starts getting limp and grimy, you ears fill with wax, your nose fills with, uh, fill, your skin gets slick and blotchy, your teeth get fuzzy, and your nethers…you get grosser.

Also, you’ll smell.  People smell.  I smell.

Anyway, we followed a river gorge, saw and walked among terraced rice fields, entered, briefly, a subtropical forest (I have the bug bites to prove it), past a majestic (read: tall) waterfall (where we stopped to have lunch; delicious potato and veg curry for me), followed and were followed by some goats (complete with baby goats!), and took the long way, which was, ironically the easy way (not so very steep) to our final stop today, Jagat.

We’re staying at a place called the Eco Home.  There’s a cyber café across the street that I think has Guitar Hero.  Go figure.

"Anyone want to battle out 'Carry on my Wayward Son'?  Anybody...?"

A Cyber Space

Ernie was right: the first day is a killer.  I was huffing and at points and had to take numerous rests.  All that “training” on the elliptical seems so futile now…

It’s funny the things that pop into your head when you’re trying, through sheer will, to see an impossible task to the end.  For a good 40 minutes the words to the “Chicken Boo” cartoon would just not go away:

“You wear a disguise to look like human guys, but you’re not a man, you’re a chicken boo.”

Very quickly, it seemed, I went from sheer awe to the glorious views around me to sheer awe that putting one foot in front of the other could be so fucking hard.

Like, the hardest thing ever.

Purified water – with iodine tables – is disgusting. But I was so hot and out of breath and sweaty that I gulped it down like it was the fountain of youth.

Poor Porter Hem.  While the others from last night’s dwellings raced ahead of us – even with our head start – we had to trudge along at Cindy Pace.  He was really good about it, though.  He’s good at what he does, which as a porter, boils down to putting up with people and carrying their stuff.

At dinner, I met a retired Korean man who is on his fifth visit/trek to Nepal.  He did the Jonsom trek but got altitude sickness and had to turn back, and on this trip, his first attempt of the A.C., he made it to Manang and had to turn back.

Still, I’ve never met someone as happy as he was with what he did accomplish – with no regrets on “what could have been”.  His advice?  Trekking is not a race; there are lots of people who see it was a challenge to be conquered as hard and fast as possible and they miss the point.

Also: you can only go at your own pace.

Which brings me back to Ernie: the first day is a killer, but it gets better after.

Stop and smell the rhododendrons.

The grandeur of simple Things.

And don’t forget to take in the view.

How about that?

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Listen, Tiny Woman!

I made an incredible and terrifying discovery last night as I was channel surfing.

My television set is, in a very literal sense, a prison.

And I am its Reluctant Warden.

There is a tiny woman trapped in my TV.

And once you see, you cannot not see.

SEE??

Every time I press the “MUTE” button she appears, unrepentant.  Demanding.

What’s keeping her there?

  • Something inherent?
  • Something ordained?
  • Something arbitrary?
  • Something excessive?
  • Ennui?

I don’t know.  I don’t fucking know.

I DO know that every time I turn off the sound on my TV, there she is, valiantly trying to get my attention.  Trying to get me to FOCUS.

But her erratic flashing on the screen amounts to little more than a trying disruption that, ironically, actually, and utterly underscores the absence of the sounds of the Things that I am watching at that moment rather than the fact that, yes, I can see you now in your ongoing plight, Tiny Woman.

Sensible bites!  Eat like you have a secret.

One/Mmm

"Make sure you get my good side."

Two/Chicken

Three/Wings

Tiny Woman, I am a creature of habit and for that I am sorry.

I want to help you.

I cannot help you.

Tiny Woman!  Do you have to be so…insistent?  I’ve got other things on my mind, you know – IMPORTANT THINGS

That's what my life's always been about.

Priorities.

…and I’ll get to you if and when I get the chance.

Things can’t be that bad, after all.  Maybe if you’d stop making such a fuss you’d see that.  Nothing’s perfect, after all.  At least you’re not on a TV in, like, Afghanistan or something.

Tiny Woman!  Don’t you understand that Two and A Half Men is on?  Do you know how many CSI’s they have now?  There are housewives being desperate EVERYWHERE and I just can’t turn away from that, O.K.?

Tiny Woman, they are making omelettes with 12 full eggs now!  There are cake-offs and top models!  Toddlers in tiaras!  Idols being made!!!

I tell you this, Tiny Woman: it won’t get any better than this.

It really can’t.

Oh god.

TURN IT OFF, TURN HER OFF, TURN IT OFF, TURN HER OFF, TURN IT OFF.

Oh my God.

I just want my life back.

Time to turn up the sound!

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Babies, Not Babies

I have a fondness for babies the way most people have a fondness for damp cabbage.

Don’t misunderstand me in a burst of self-indulgent judgement or transposed indignation.

It’s not that I don’t like babies.

My perception of babies is merely different from that of other people.

I was once on a 20+ hour flight full of these. It was so horrific, I'm sure there's a part of me that's still there.

In conclusion, M-E-H.

But I believe I have found the PERFECT solution.

I have begun associating “babies” with the most positive thing that comes to my mind when the thought of babies arises: “not babies”.

Logic therefore dictates that they only way for me to enjoy your baby is to transform it to not baby.  Ergo, not babies are babies are not babies babies.

I’m having my cake and eating it too.

And it’s your baby.

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Lady, You Were Right in The Wrong Way

It was the 2008 national election, and we were foolish enough to attend the Canadian equivalent of a “town hall” debate on the outskirts of our hometown, which in Canadian terms meant the heart of our riding (that is to say, assnowhere).

I think it was in a barn somewhere.  There were trees and fields.

Eh, EH?? In Canada, that is a real, complete full word. It's in the preamble of our constitution right next to the clause about all that poutine.

In here...somewhere.

The campaign had taken on an unusually hostile tone.  The leading candidate wasn’t exactly known for his enlightened attitude towards, for example, “the women”, “the gays” or “that Pro-Choice stuff” and surprisingly (remember this is CANADIAN politics we’re talking about here), people showed up to tell him that he was being quite “The Ass”…and/or used the anticipated hype of the protest to demonize him in backhanded support of their own candidate.

Surprise though there was, the people who turned up to protest his remarks, his policies, his worth as a human man were easily outnumbered by the candidate’s own contingent of fervent supporters.  I saw the whites of lots of eyes and frothing at the mouths of many.

What can I say?  They wanted it more.

My younger sister and a few of her friends were among the protesters.  I was going into a degree in political science and felt obligated, somehow, to tag along. Together, skewed the demographics of the night by being in our 20’s and slightly (2 out of seven of us) non-white.

A Word About My Sister: although she cares about Things, she expresses this through a flair for the dramatic and a devotion to the outrageous that I will never be able to match, even in my Best of Times.  Add in a picket sign (big letters; lots of glitter), a wanton disregard for her own personal safety, and a directive to aggravate, and you’ve got yourself a real show.

She was on fire that night, shouting down naysayers, dancing on the top of our rented van, flipping off grown men twice her size who thought that by screaming in her face, they would succeed in their efforts to “shut that bitch up”.

After the debate concluded, a woman came out of the town hall, and with a few others watching – including her teenage children and husband – she took her turn at confronting my sister, who was holding a “I Support Gay Marriage” sign (GLITTER!!!).

“What do you know about marriage, anyway?” accused the lady, her brood and beau encircling her in a gloating human shield of her own domestic triumph(s).

Must be nice.

“I know that gay marriage is legal in Canada!   I know that people should be allowed to marry whomever they want.  I can marry whomever I want, if I want!  Also, you’re a twat for asking me that,” my sister snapped back.

“Look at you.  Look at you!  You don’t know what you want,” the lady scoffed with a smile and a wave of an arm towards my out-of-breath and disheveled sibling. She then looked in my direction by the town hall entrance and noticed my pin, which advertised my support for the same party as my sister.

I saw a glint in the lady’s’ eye as she tilted her head in predatory zeal, readying herself for the attack.  She unhinged her jaw and smiled W-I-D-E.  Pointing back and forth between us with one long, perfectly manicured finger she asked, in falsetto, and as if it was the cutesiest thing in the world, “Are you two sisters?”

I looked back at her and after a brief pause, quietly uttered:

“Why? Because we’re Asian?”

She blinked.

Everyone became silent.

No one moved.

***IT WAS MAGICAL***   

Wah, wah, waaaaaaaahhhhhh!

And this, I swear, was her eventual response, verbatim:

“DUH-Errrrrrrr… NO!  No, I didn’t mean…I mean…DUUUUUUH…DIRK. DIRK. DIRK-Y, DIRK. We were… Gays… Marriage…I…I…I have LOTS of Asian friends!”

“I know what you mean.  I have LOTS of white friends.  On the internet.”

She started sidling away from us, towards her car.  Her suddenly hushed-up husband – who had up until this point egged her on with a boisterous “YEAH, YEAH” here and there – helped by tugging her in that direction by the arm.  The kids wisely hung back in the shadows.

“Oh…HA, HA, HA!  Riiiiight.  You’re FUNNY!  Ummm.  Are you in school?”

Finding his voice again, Husband began muttering, “be quiet, stop talking” in her ear.  The kids and onlookers melted away into the darkness.

“She’s getting a Masters degree,” my sister replied for me, “A MASTERS.  Bitch-es!!!”

“That’s, uh, good!  GOODBYE!!!”

They got into their Range Rover and peeled out of the parking lot.  They may have left a kid behind in their haste.

YOU’RE STILL A TWAT!”

We went out for pizza.

It was delicious.

Thinking back on The Whole Thing, I don’t know what perturbs me more:

  • Me purposely asking a loaded question just to humiliate an annoying lady.
  • The fact that race was (officially) out of the repertoire of acceptable public speech that night, but homophobia and sexism got a pass.
  • The Lady’s apparent assumption that the two Asian people she saw at the debate were (therefore?) related.
  • The fact that we are related, and to my knowledge we were very likely the only two Asians there.  We were, certainly, among the few Asians there.
  • The fact that, despite being related and only one year apart in age, my sister and I look NOTHING alike (she is tall, dark-skinned and has a small frame while I am short, pale in complexion and rather stout).
  • The fact that the Lady was trying, it seems, to use our relationship as a means to infantilize us and, perhaps, to discredit our views (simple minds don’t think because they’re alike) in a place packed (stacked) with families madly supporting their own popular candidate.
  • The fact that there’s nothing inherently wrong with asking if two people are related.
  • The fact that I never said we weren’t sisters.

What happened that night?  What was accomplished?

Maybe there is no “winner” or “loser” here.  Maybe we just all got caught up in our own bullshit and irony collapsed in on itself and into pure farce.

Or maybe that lady should have checked her fucking tone.

YEAH.

Fuck it.  I won.

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Whitebre(a)d

English is not my first language.  Growing up, there were words that I misheard, mispronounced and, at times, misunderstood.  There were those who found my clumsy handling of words hilarious and I remembered that for later, mostly so I could bring it up in moments like now.

Feel good about yourself? 

Even today, despite both practice and time, there are a few words that remain tricky:

How do words word, anyway?We didn’t normally keep bread in the house, so this is what occasionally still comes to my mind:

I am nothing if not an ardent patriot.

Rather than this:

It's the slices that make the loaf.

Whenever I hear this:

“Whitebre(a)d”.

Years later, I learned from Stephen that one of his favourite childhood pastimes was to take a slice of whitebread (“It only works with whitebread!”) so that he could pinch off pieces of it to roll around between his thumb and forefinger.  He would then EAT the bread-ball and repeat the process until the slice of bread was gone.

Rolling up whitebread into bite-sized balls of whitebread.

He would clamour for it, as did a few of my friends when I asked all of my friends about this bizarre culinary phenomenon.

Being the experimental type when the stakes are low enough, I decided to try this whitebreadroll for myself.

I was utterly underwhelmed.

Rolls rolly rolled.

WHY is this delicious??

Then again, I’m the kind of girl who enjoys dried squid with chili sauce.

So maybe it’s all just a matter of taste.  You know, circumstances.

Get kraken.

Squid pro go!

So…maybe I was right all along, after all.

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