Happy Thanksgiving 2014

As I wait for the turkey, I reflect on this year. It’s been a roller coaster one.

It has been a big year of change. I concluded my overseas life, at least for now, ending a six year stint. I loved every moment of it. It was one of my lifelong dreams and I’ve accomplished it. I look forward to going home. I miss it. As much great memories as I have living abroad, home is still home.

The move meant changes to my work. Changes to my life. I’m still not fully sure how the changes in my job are going to shake out to be. I decided to let things take its own course when I get back to work in January and not stress too much about it for the time being. It’s a strange feeling, that uncertainty. On the other hand, I’ve had my dream job for years. That’s an accomplishment most people can’t chase down their whole lives. I’ve been truly lucky.

This year has brought about what felt to me to be a greater share of life’s ups and downs. Marriage. Birth. Illness. Death. I’ve celebrated joyous occasions with friends. I mourn in loss of another.

I was diagnosed with PTSD. I lost track. Late last year or early this? Sometime in last winter, basically. I probably knew subconsciously but it was surreal to hear the diagnosis spoken aloud. On one hand, the brought about a resurgence of rage at everything around me. On the other, it was a relief that maybe I can start finding ways to organize, label, and bin this challenge I was now confronted with. I fall into the “wait and see” category for treatment. It’s hard when I’m suspended between moves right now. Routine, I find, is good for me. Ironic when a majority of my life has been the antithesis of routine.

It’s the little things that inspire and ground me. Moments that suddenly ignite excitement and joy. It was a dinner with a befriended Croatian family revitalized my blogging. I gained a new perfect travel partner when I least expected to find one. I found the perfect scent diffuser, coincidentally named Happy, for my home. A bouquet of flowers- when was I last given one? Getting a peck on the cheek from a friend’s daughter, my favorite three-year old girl, brought a smile to my face that lasted days.

Coming home means a new chapter of my life. And I’m finding in that new chapter, an appreciation for and an understanding of the little things. Holidays like Thanksgiving are perfect. I have the time to sit down and count my blessings. Sometimes, we all just need to be reminded.

 

IMG_0152

In Memoriam: Alex Meservey

I rarely mention names or post pictures of friends and family on this blog for their privacy. But this warrants a rule breaker.

A friend took his life this morning. A former Marine, a veteran, who continued to serve his country as a civilian, was son, brother, father, uncle, Marine brother, and friend. He left this message on Facebook for us to wake up to this morning.

Alex goodbye

He ended with a heart wrenching “My address is *************. The door is unlocked.”

I met Alex on a business trip in the Middle East years ago. I was traveling on my own, and he and his colleagues became my fast friends. Their company made what could have been a long lonely frustrating business trip into an adventure filled with laughter and great memories. He wouldn’t strike anyone as friend from appearance. His size intimidated. His scowling face made people balk. He could be unpleasantly and blunt. Underneath that gruff exterior though was a heart of gold, a fighter who would protect and defend those he cared about. It was a wonderful feeling belonging in that defended circle.

I don’t profess to be of the closest friends with him; yet, his death affected me profoundly. He has served for our country in so many ways, proudly. His suicide brings to the forefront of my mind the alarmingly high rates of suicide amongst vets. It hurts my head to think how all these men and women who put their lives on the line for us struggle to live back at in their own home. And it breaks my heart that we still don’t know how to help. These men and women whom our country trains to kill and to make sharp quick life-or-death decisions don’t know how to say one simple word: “help”.

So, now we owe it to them to say: “Please tell me how I can help” or “I am here to help you.”

I left this message for him in response to his post. I hope somewhere out there, he gets it.

Oh, Alex. My heart breaks to read your message to us. And there I was thinking when I sent your birthday wishes that I looked forward to catching up in a couple months. I wish you had just picked up the phone to call someone to help you at your low. I am so sad to hear you felt so alone when it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I hope you are finally at the peace you need and deserve. I wish your family and loved ones the strength to get through these difficult times. You’ve given so much of your life to service and protecting us and our country. Since we couldn’t help you in your time with us, now it is up to us to keep you from becoming a statistic by cherishing and honoring your life for the rest of ours.

Alex photo

(photo credit: unknown friend/family. Picked out from his Facebook profile. I thought it best represented people’s first impression!)

His Facebook page has been an out pour of emotion and messages from friends. Let this be a lesson to other people struggling with similar issues as an example that when they feel alone, the truth is the opposite.

For the rest of us, keep this within our reach for other friends who may need the help: Veteran Crisis Line ( 1-800-273-8255 ) is a resource that is available for our service members.

msg_1-bg_7_wide

 

Good bye, Alex. I wish you could have let us help because then I would have had a chance to say this: You got it backwards, you dumba$$. Dude, in order for us to have touched your life, you had to have touched ours, too. You are dearly missed already.

 

postscript: For those who knew Alex and wish to attend, a service will be held on Wednesday, 3 December, 2014. The service will be held at the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center in Columbia, MD  at 1:00 pm EST, with a reception/wake afterward at Sonoma’s in Columbia.

Oakland Mills Interfaith Center
5885 Robert Oliver Pl.
Columbia, MD 21045

Sonoma’s
Owen Brown Village Center
7284 Cradlerock Way
Columbia, MD 21045

Fundraising for Alex’s children:
http://www.gofundme.com/i0xbo8

Tales of the Wanderlust Daughter: Nice

I started this series last year. It was born from sharing some stories with my mother to show how I encounter so much kindness and care, especially as a lone female traveller.

I have seemed to rid of my writer’s block and wanted to revisit the memory lane with these stories. Furthermore, having recently experienced some bad, I needed to reassure myself and many travellers out there, that I had experienced the goodness of humanity and those far outnumber the evil.

============================

I’ve been traveling all my life.. my first flight taken when I was a mere three months old. Of course I wasn’t aware of it, but I have a sneaking suspicion my mother remembers it to great detail.

My first truly independent trips were taken a the end of college, when I set of on my version of the “Grand Tour,” designed under the auspices of an independent study abroad itinerary. Looking back, I realize now how naive I was. I was confident, armed with recently learned languages, in what would be a modernized Western Europe compared to the emerging Asian countries I grew up exposed to.

My first destination was a language school in Nice, where I did a home stay. My school mates were diverse, mostly students studying hospitality and travel and taking the summer to immerse and become fluent in French. It wasn’t a large university program that American kids tend to participate in groups together. I was one of three Americans in the whole school of about 50.

The students I bonded the most were an eclectic group: two Germans, an Austrian, one Colombian, one Mexican. Yes, they had their own languages they could communicate with one another. As true to any language program, we never spoke French to one another. The boys wanted to practise their English, calling it killing two birds with a stone in their language proficiency.

Our program scheduled went over the 4th of July. The boys insisted we go out to the beach, break open a bottle of wine to celebrate on my behalf. How can I turn them down?

We were sitting on the pebbly beach of Nice, enjoying the evening breeze when we heard commotion behind us. Standing up and scanning out of curiosity, the commotion approached us. A group of thugs in their mid-twenties were marching around with a pipes and sticks in their hands, demanding with tangible hostility at everyone “Les Américains? Où sont les Américains? You, from America??”

When they approached us, my friends formed an instinctive circle around me. I never could recall, in the darkness, whether the gang ever glanced at me. I am of Asian ethnicity, an advantage especially in that moment. One of the boys stepped up, quite literally, to answer the questions from the gang when they came us. The rest of the guys backed up, forcing me back behind them. But we all had accents in our French, and the ring leader of the gang kept challenging our guy, a Colombian.

After what felt like an eternity, the gang moved on, in search for victims. They weren’t mollified, just satisfied that we weren’t enough targets for them.

Looking back.. when I related that story in the pre- September 11th days, even shortly after, a lot of my American audience would get indignant and puff up and stated I should have yelled back in their face and been proud of my nationality. Arguing with those statements was futile. I learned that night what it meant to put my attitude and pride aside and to avoid trouble.

More importantly, I learned, even at our young ages from 18-22, my new found friends knew to look out for one another. We never knew what the gang was up to, but their menacing body language told us the threat was real enough to be taken seriously. I didn’t even have to say anything and I didn’t even have a chance to; the boys instinctively physically shielded me from the gang. That was the beginning of the program, less than 10 days in.. we were inseparable for the entire month.

================================

Other posts in this series:
Italy
South Dakota

An unexpected self-portrait

Regardless of whether you call yourself a photographer or not (I don’t), the usability of digital technology has made photography far more accessible to the common hoards than before. Looking at many tourist locales, the sight of masses of people trying to up one another on getting that awesome shot sometimes becomes the attraction in itself.

I recently hosted two friends who are just as photo-crazy. I found myself bemused in watching them, especially when their obsession is on taking photos of food. I would wait a good while after our meal is served for the ladies to finish their photographic frenzy.

It took only one meal to spot the opportunity. I turned them into my subjects. Enjoy the photo journal!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Thank you many times over to ellenita and Tingers for being such good sports with great senses of humour and for letting me post this up on my blog.

After watching them over several days it occurred to me… I probably look like that, too! They just were so amusing to watch especially since both of them do the same things, magnifying the effect.

Take your time

Yesterday was Thai Constitution Day, a local holiday. Figured I’d celebrate my time off, right? Instead, I had spent all afternoon yesterday in the ICU at a hospital.

I wasn’t the patient, fortunately. A friend was in an accident early this week. He was in surgery for all day earlier this week to patch up and reset his multiple broken bones all over his body. While not life threatening, his injuries are extensive and serious. They kept him in the ICU all week.

He was hit by a tuktuk when crossing the street. Fortunately, his date was a sensible girl with a good head on her shoulders. She got the police to write up an official report when they planned to dismiss it as a stupid farang incident. She called the hospital directly to pick him up. Then she managed to call one of us to report the accident.  He was extremely lucky in an unlucky way.

A freak accident that could have happened to anyone in broad daylight. I am reminded that, statistically, for all the crime and atrocities in the world, our biggest danger is the simple vehicle-related accident. It could happen in the Stop & Shop parking lot in Boston or it can happen in a Bangkok street. So next time, folks, look twice before crossing the street and don’t be in such a rush to get somewhere.

Getting what you pay for…

A recent conversation between a friend and a pharmacist in a country not to be named (it is not Thailand):

Friend: Do you have any cipro?
Pharmacist: Yes. Which would you want?
Friend: What?
Pharmacist: We have the Indian kind or the German one?
Friend: Oh. German, please.
Pharmacist: But the Indian is much cheaper.
Friend: I w.a.n.t t.h.e G.e.r.m.a.n v.e.r.s.i.o.n
Pharmacist: German very expensive!
Friend: That’s fine!!!