So Australia only lasted as long as my money did, which wasn’t very long. Dani and I spent enough time there to make some good friends,
reunite with some old ones,
master pizza making and hospital-corner bed making (ha! just kidding. never quite got the hang of that…),
and drain our bank accounts by ridding Target Country of its sorely under-stocked shelves.
Being in western culture again was refreshing, albeit at times a bit annoying (I could understand everything everyone was saying…blech). There were lots of things about Australia that I wish Americans would adopt; the laid-back, CLEAN, and healthy lifestyle (workers play frisbee and ping-pong out in open courtyards during lunch hour, I could come home from the bar without smelling like a swamp monster steeped in carcinogens, and enough gyms on every corner to shame me in to taking the stairs instead of the escalator), the deadly combo of drinking and dog betting-Go Pedro!- and “ello birdy!”, “no worries, mate.” Unfortunately, I just really hated that a happy-hour meal cost $22.50 and supporting my mascara addiction set me back a steep $18. Although I’m sure my credit card company hated that a bit more.
After saying goodbye to our Ibis family, EARL, Dani Jo, and the ghost in the girl’s bathroom, I went on to spend some time in Malaysia and Cambodia.Going to Malaysia felt kind of scary, as it’s been a while since I’ve done any traveling without my curly-haired accomplice. But my fear was quickly quelled when I rediscovered after the first day just how much I love spending my days feeling half petrified, half liberated. I’m alone in a city where I don’t know anyone or anything and can’t speak the language and just in general I feel really young and stupid… but by the end of the day the smile that’s on my face is impossible to wipe off for those exact same reasons.
For the record, a good way to rid me of that smile is to shove an arm full of red bite marks in my face in the middle of the night with the reasonable request, “Hey, can I sleep with you? I have bed bugs.” Oh god please no no no.“Yeah, sure, here take my pillow.” Yup, that sure swapped my smile for a few dozen silent tears real fast.
All bed bugs aside, Malaysia was great. Being there reminded me that above anything, home is really just a feeling. As it just so happens, I feel quite at home in most shopping malls, and coincidentally, Kuala Lumpur ranks 4th best shopping city in the world. So, yeah, that was fun. A big city, lots of streets to explore and strangers to befriend (well….friends who’d later turn on me by using my bed as a refuge from mini-blood suckers. Rude.).
From Malaysia, I went on to Cambodia, where I fell in love with everyone and everything.(If it seems like I fall in love a lot, it’s because I do. Every single day, with a city or creepy cabbie or a street vendor, or a song or a food or a story, and I am still trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. My brother would call this “soft core,” but as EARL would politely say, “you’re not sensitive, just emotional.”) Either way, I loved it and never wanted to leave. The people were intimidatingly sweet, the cities tried so hard despite all the recent set backs, and there were so many places to visit and opportunities to get to know local people. I kept prolonging leaving because it just made me so happy to be there. That my guest house had a pool,a $2 breakfast buffet, and free shuttle service to Pub Street didn’t dull my impression much, either.
After Cambodia (where on my last day at the guest house, the waitress braided my hair as I ate breakfast and patted my shoulder with a smile, “Now you don’t have hair like crazy horse.”) , I returned home to the whiskey washed streets of Bangkok for a long over due reunion with the people and the city that I love most of all.
After leaving our mark one last time on that town (if you’re in the area, look for it! It’s in blue ink, on a table at Reggae Bar on Khao San), Dani Jo, Glenn and I made our first ever overnight train trip to Laos. We went primarily to prevent ourselves from becoming fugitives and illegal aliens, so aside from a gorgeous sunset out the train window, an evening drinking and debating with a million + weirdos in the tin-can of a dining hall, a stolen Iphone, and a reprimand from several Thai conductors, it was a quiet trip. And while the Laos people we met rivaled the Cambodians for being the “cutest, tiniest, sweetest people in the world,” my mathematically challenged brain just could not deal with having to calculate the cost of dinner in THOUSANDS of kips. Bring me a calculator and take me back to Bangkok, please!
Since Laos, I’ve just been biding my time at a friend’s apartment- devouring books, Revenge episodes, and som tum like crazy- until my next adventure on the 15th. In one week, I am going to Oslo to be a nanny (au pair if you’re feeling fancy, or babysitter if you’re feeling stingy) and am so so excited. After a year of constant sweat and smiles, I finally feel ready to let go of Asia. I put up a fight for a while there… I didn’t want to leave this place. I learned so much, loved so much and didn’t know it was possible to feel both full and light at the same time. It’ll be scary to leave, but just give me a whiskey bucket, I think I’ll be okay….
Now that I’m finished teaching, I’m looking forward to going somewhere completely new and having a purpose again, even if that purpose is just to clean a house and change a few diapers. Oddly, I’m hoping Norway will be icier in more than one way and can toughen me up a bit before I go home with my mushy heart all gooey and ‘soft-core’ mak mak. Either way, it will be nice to have responsibilities, a wardrobe, and a cool breeze again. It has been far too long. To bring along the rice cooker, or not to bring along the rice cooker?… that is the question.