Things you don’t think about when you have a maid

I refrained from talking about hiring domestic help because, as an American, I see having a maid as a frivolous status symbol. As an expat living in Thailand, it is the norm. It took me a while to get over my reluctance to let in a stranger and hire a part-time maid. It took only one day of her working for me to be converted.

1. There will always be a clean towel on the rack when you step out of the shower.
2. Dishes do magically disappear from the sink and end up clean in the shelves.
3. Trash cans never overflow.
4. Walking barefoot at home is the norm because your feet stay clean.
5. Shower soap scum doesn’t exist.
6. Toilets never stain.
7. Fridge contents don’t turn into green science experiments.
8. You will never be left with a toilet roll that has only one square left.

It’s summertime!

I am moving.

I suddenly found myself hit with the same pangs of excitement, freedom, and unknown as I faced at the end of every academic year. As students, we knew the new year brings a lot of new changes, the summer a whole time of freedom. It felt like a lifetime ago.

I am leaving Asia, after an awesome three year stint and changing venues to Europe. Now that I have less than a month to separate and organize my excessive clutter, deal with movers, wrap up loose ends at work, scan and store my life documents in a single flash drive, finish my must-do-list, I’m feeling the crunch and the denial of leaving has finally absconded. I’m hopping excited about the next chapter of my life, but beginning to realise all I will miss.

The best part is I have a summer vacation. One month of absolute freedom. Mornings to sleep in with no alarm clocks to set. My home is leased out so I will be staying with my parents. A month has the potential of us driving each other up the wall since it’s been a while since we’ve lived under the same roof for that long a length of time.

I realised in my three years as an American abroad, to many locals, I represent the United States, both willingly and unwittingly. I then realised that compared to all the parts of the world, especially Southeast Asia I had the opportunity to visit, I have seen a pitifully small portion of my home country.

It’s time to remedy that. I will spend a chunk of my new-found free time to do a cross-country drive. I want to hit the national parks. I have come to appreciate how geologically diverse the United States is. And how incredibly well-maintained, preserved, and clean it is. Now, it’s time to visit the parks.

Readers: While you will see a change of locale in my future posts, I still have a huge backlog of Asia posts to send. Asia photos are always completely in the running for the weekly challenges. I do, however, appreciate any and all feedback to what you enjoy reading so I know what would be of interest.

Yangon: Schwedagon Pagoda

Yangon’s highlight is Myanmar’s holiest Buddhist site- Schwedagon Pagoda. According to local folklore, it is over 2500 years old. Not a tile looked that old, though. The temple has been maintained, built up and along, all these years. The main pagoda is enormous, rising  and reflecting above the nearby buildings. The n itself has expanded to include many smaller pagodas and shrines.

I went after dark, hoping to capitalize in night lighting while avoiding the heat at the same time. I was richly rewarded. The temple ground were still bustling with activity.

I assumed the place would be strung up with tacky Christmas lighting or stadium lights. Not the least. Street-lamp style posts were strategically placed and the reflection of the gold did the rest of the work.

I cannot imagine how jam packed it is in the morning hours if this was considered light traffic. Monks lounged around, socializing with one another and laypeople. Locals gathered in their prayer groups. Elders gossiped, probably having started since dawn. Pilgrims strolled their rounds, half praying half take photos with their cellphones.

For the first time since arriving to Yangon, I finally felt like there’s a place for peace and sanctuary. Despite, or because of, all the people milling around, there still was a subdued tone. It wasn’t quiet, not the least. But the hum of activity was unrushed, unhurried. Despite appearances of the people acting more social than devout, the reverence was in the air.


Jumping Monkeys and a Near Miss

We were hiking in Sitou Mountain, Taiwan. The mountain is beautifully manicured and asphalt laid. But animals are not advertised as a common sighting. So imagine our surprise when we found ourselves following not one but a pair of monkeys on our descent. They tolerated us for quite a length, walking along the electrical wire bundles above the path. When they tired of us, they jumped off to a tree. Monkey #2 wasn’t as graceful.. if you look carefully, you’re see it almost missed altogether. Made me wonder how often an occurrence monkey miscalculations are. I still chuckle every time I watch.