Phuket, Pt. IV

Let’s start in an honest place: I had to look up what the Roman numeral for four was, just to make sure.

Phuket seems so far away now, because it was. As mentioned in my last post, I am embarrassingly slow, but we made it. The last day was quite open in terms of activities. I woke up and immediately wanted to eat breakfast, so I set off on my own. Breaking the roti streak, I went to the Gallery Cafe. It’s about as trendy and Western as it sounds, but that was alright with me. They had a vegetarian English-style breakfast. Sold. They also had a lovely little outdoor seating area where I could sit, read, and ponder life. 

Andre met me at the cafe a little later on, and we decided to simply stroll around town. There was a small Chinese temple that was still on the list of places to see. It is nestled fairly deep into its own alleyway in the middle of Old Town. As you stroll down towards the temple, there is graffiti all along the walls, as well as a more modern memorial of some sort, perhaps for donors. No other visitors were there (probably because it was a Tuesday morning) so it was even more quiet than usual, save the dull sounds of a radio in the back. Despite its size, it did pack quite a punch in terms of textiles and shrines.

Miracles happen: shortly thereafter, we stumbled upon a used bookshop with a plethora of books in English. Both of us spent a good amount of time wandering around, soaking it in. There’s a used bookshop in every neighborhood in Chicago, and I miss them. Even if I don’t buy any books, there’s something really pleasant about wandering around the aisles, seeing how the owner has intricately and dangerously stacked the books. Categorization is interesting as well.

From there, it was a regular art show. Old Town is filled with street art. Wandering around is already a critical part of exploring Thailand, and discovering little nooks filled with paintings made it all the more worthwhile.

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It was a simple last day, but that was perfectly fine with me. It gave me a chance to really see Old Town, outside of the slightly kitschy central area. To reiterate, this place is suspiciously charming. Now that I’ve lived in Thailand for a few minutes I can more easily spot the more subtle tourist traps. Although not all of them are bad. When I go back to Phuket in October, I will certainly be staying in Old Town again. They got me.

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Music On Repeat

Yes, I’m still working on Part IV for Phuket. You should know: I am a generally slow person. I am a slow eater, slow drinker, slow to get up in the mornings, slow to make decisions, and obviously a slow writer. The only time I am not slow is when walking, which I have discovered essentially whenever I leave America.

Anyway, here’s some music that I’m listening to lately to distract you from my sloth-like self. As Krieger would say on Archer: “SMOKE BOMB!”

“For Marlon” by Soko

I heard this song for the first time in a meditative trinket shop in Austin, Texas. Shortly thereafter, I bought what is now one of my favorite books, Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa. I can only handle so much Soko, particularly this album, in one sitting. Her lyrics are simple but raw and it feels a bit like picking a scab after a while. I don’t know why, but this song and her voice make me feel warm and cool simultaneously; it makes me feel crisp and safe. It really does; I’m not just coming up with random adjectives. It’s weird. Should I stop talking?

“Self Control” by Frank Ocean

I’m fairly late to the Frank Ocean party, but I’ve been falling in love with him over the past several weeks or so. This song feels so intimate. Very good for evening porch sits with a gin & tonic (that you sip on for like, two hours, if you want the immersive Maureen experience – please refer to paragraph one).

“You Can Have it All” by Yo La Tengo

For sad personal reasons, it’s been really hard for me to listen to Yo La Tengo for a couple of years now. I’m just starting to dip my toe back in, and the water is fine so far. The strings from 2:23 onwards make me want to sway back and forth endlessly.

Okay, thus far all of this music has been sappy and romantic. I will change pace to show diversity.

“Glendale Junkyard” by GØGGS

Hey Ty Segall! This song is great to work out to and/or feel synthetically enraged. What, no one else needs to feel an extreme emotion to motivate themselves to exercise? I either need drag-queen-worthy club music or hardcore/punk. AKA I need to feel sexy or mad. This song also makes me want to go here again.

“Four Cypresses” by Grizzly Bear

GRIZZLY BEAR IS BACK AND I AM SO HAPPY. This is from their new album, released just a few days ago! Go listen to it!

@ Ed Droste: be my friend, please. That’d be super cool. Thanks.

Music On Repeat

I have this tendency to murder songs that I love by listening to them so much they essentially become attached to my brain. Music is my saving grace and a balm for life so I consider it a healthy thing. Here are my most recent victims.

“Time Trap” by Built to Spill

I’ve become a fan of Built to Spill over the recent years. They make me feel like I was a teen in the early 90s, which is something I’ve always wanted to be but obviously impossible. The slow build in the beginning of the song is so juicy. Ya girl loves layering.

“House of the Rising Sun” by alt-J

I know they are jerky for hipsters but I love alt-J. I first listened to this song on a ferry ride to Koh Phangan a couple of weeks ago. 0:53 – 1:34, looking out at the glistening water, sun starting to set behind a green mountain, and hearing the crescendo and decrescendo of those strings – something struck a chord (no pun intended). I’ll never forget it.

“Pretty Things” by Big Thief

A poignant love song that seems full of emptiness, if you get what I mean. Maybe not. This is the perfect starting song for what turned out to be a wonderful second album from this band. Check them out if you haven’t yet. The solo, acoustic version of “Masterpiece” makes me swoon every time.

“Happy Djong” by Twelve Point Buck

I was lurking on American surfer Dane Reynold’s Instagram and found a video with a clip from the beginning of a song that I could not get out of my head. I Shazamed it so hard. I believe those were the two most millennial sentences I have ever typed. Turns out Twelve Point Buck is an Australian band. If you’re into lo-fi surfer rock then you will definitely like them. I didn’t know I was into that genre but apparently I am so maybe you should just try them anyway. They’re still pretty unknown so I couldn’t find a YouTube video of just the song, but I found this surfing video – appropriate – that features it in the first half. That’ll do.

“Fly Tonight (feat. Frankmusik)” by RuPaul

The most unusual of my obsessions lately as it is a drag club banger, but I unabashedly declare my love for this song. It is the one that plays at the end of each episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race in Seasons 6 & 7 (and maybe beyond but I don’t know yet DON’T SPOIL IT) after RuPaul says “Let the music play!” I cannot wait for when this song plays at a party and I cannot help but overdramatically lip sync, or should I say…for my life?

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“Shook Ones Pt. II” by Mobb Deep

Recent sad events have revived my love of this song. RIP Prodigy 😦

Changes

Wow. So many things have changed in my life since I last posted here. The biggest and most pivotal change, though? I’m moving to Thailand in 25 days. There’s no better time for a blog revival, I suppose. A theme that I’m hoping to apply not only here but also in my actual life is more honesty and trust.

I wish I could say that I was super excited. Everyone keeps asking me if I am. The truth is I’m very scared. This is the first time I’ve independently moved anywhere outside of Chicago. Thailand is an adventure I’ve been dreaming of for most of my life. That is thrilling. However, a thick fog is just starting to burn off from the past year and a half of my life. I went through a gut-wrenching breakup. My uncle committed suicide. I finally had to take my depression by the horns, but not without having a complete mental breakdown first. I have been bruised, bloodied, and broken-hearted, but the experience has been nothing short of transformative. I feel as though I have nothing left to lose now.

Cheryl Strayed’s writing got me through a lot of my darkest days. This quote in particular keeps echoing in my mind:

“Hello, fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.”

Alright, then. Let’s do this thing.

Te Echo De Menos

Translation: I miss you.

It was three years ago this week that I embarked on what would become the best adventure of my life to date: living and studying in Madrid, Spain. I met some of the best people in my life while I was there. I also learned a lot about myself, independence, and traveling. Though I’m not going to be one of those study abroad people (“I’m so cultured now!”), I really do think that this trip changed me for the better. I’m feeling nostalgic, so I’d love to share some of my photos and relive the memories.

320520_2444743873337_1802979977_n First off: food! Classic drinks and tapas. It’s customary to serve free “snacks” with drinks in Spain. This bar was “El Tigre”, and is more or less known as an expat bar – but it was a great place to start the night. And hey, we were expats, after all. They had the biggest, cheapest mojitos and sangria (see on the left). They were so sweet, you couldn’t place your straw on the bottom of the cup without sucking up a lump of sugar!

292052_2400898697235_1250303752_nMy friend (now a “bset frienf” – inside joke – more later) Katie overlooking Barcelona. I was lucky enough to go to Barcelona twice on my trip – once with my study abroad group, and once with my mom. I am behind this camera and struggling to breathe, as I had a terrible sinus infection at the time. I made it through the daytime, but could not get out of bed at night. So I missed out on some crazy evenings! But I did get to spend some time in my cozy hotel bed watching “Biutiful”. *sobs*

308970_2378377534220_963140575_nA photo I love of my friend and Madrid roommate, Colleen. I adore all of the colors from the candy stand. We were in beautiful Malaga, where the sun shines forever and the Andaluces are friendly. Colleen’s friend Maricarmen lives there, and her family graciously housed us for a couple of days.

293467_2378367013957_469933157_nHer family was very, very gracious, indeed. Look at all the food they gave us for dinner! Look at those shrimp! Manchego cheese! We were in heaven. I should also note that I gave up my pescatarianism while I was in Spain. Didn’t want to give my beloved Señora a hard time.

317699_2421037560694_1445086217_nAlthough there were nights where my pescatarianism fared just fine. This is a beautiful dinner my Señora prepared for us one night: spinach, bean, and calamari soup, Spanish tortilla, and sauteed mushrooms. We also often had “tinto de verano” with dinner, which is basically red wine soda and was my life nectar. I wish they sold it here!

321660_2444773194070_599974808_nThis is Toledo, which is not far from Madrid. It is a quintessential Spanish town – stony streets, tiled roofs, churches everywhere, and Spaniards waltzing around with their hands behind their backs. We did a day trip there, and it was one of my favorite side trips – we saw a few of the main sights, but mostly just wandered around. We ended the day at a small cafe on a random street with wine, beer, and tapas. It was perfect.

305400_2444761273772_1172239121_nThis is one of my top five favorite photos of the trip. This is on Puente de San Martín (San Martín Bridge), which provided breathtaking views of the Tagus River and surrounding landscape. And my friends are admiring it so.

406414_2891087191641_785946966_nMy friends and I also took a day to hike the Sierra de Guadarrama, a mountain range outside of Madrid. It was a grey, cloudy day, but it was surreal. Earlier we had eaten sandwiches by a creek, and my water bottle was full with water from the creek. At this moment we were listening to “Love Is All” by The Tallest Man on Earth and it almost brought me to tears.

390034_2576621930206_521298202_nNow we’re on the campus of the University of Salamanca in, you guessed it, Salamanca. We had a weekend trip there as well and were on a tour of the school, which is the third oldest in Europe (founded in 1134!). This is one of the artier photos that I took. I’m not even sure where this Dalmatian came from. I hope he got lots of pets that day.

389570_2877709697212_743335467_nMy mother came to visit during Thanksgiving week. She’d backpacked through Europe when she was my age, but she’d never been to Spain! We spent part of our afternoon strolling around Retiro, the largest park in Madrid. This is just outside the Palacio de Cristal, which is a glass castle of sorts. There’s an incredibly peaceful pond just outside of the palace, and we watched the ducks. We had also bought new hats and were very proud of them (mine was unfortunately later stolen off of my sleeping head on a bus from Manchester, England to London – the nerve!).

397663_2877714777339_942255138_nFor Thanksgiving Dinner, we dined the oldest restaurant in the WORLD, Botín! Of course, we had to get a souvenir pitcher of wine.

405631_2877719337453_1823509663_nAs I mentioned, we took a short trip to Barcelona, and perused the glory of La Boqueria – a huge market on La Rambla. It was so colorful and aromatic I could barely stand it. Not to mention the abundance of delicious fresh food. Makes you feel lucky.

394824_2877740817990_1222163445_nThen we trekked back up the hill to visit Parque Güell, an artistic masterpiece of a park. This is a tile creation on the ceiling of an underpass. Incredible, isn’t it?

396056_2881825120095_2018336794_nThis. This is my group. These are my people. I can’t think for one second about this trip without being grateful for them. We were a tight-knit group from the get-go. We did everything together. I am still friends with every one of these people, and we still get together over tapas to remember our adventures together. They’re indispensable to me!

377005_2881857640908_966312389_nOh Madrid, how I miss thee.

Home Office Inspiration: An Update

I failed you all in that I did not take a picture of my table before it was finished. Maybe I have a stray photo of it in the background somewhere, but I don’t want to burden you with sub-par photography.

Anyways, here’s what I’ve done with my little office nook:

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Things that I changed:

  • There used to be a Lazy Susan where the catch-all box is. That Lazy Susan is now in my fridge as a little condiment merry-go-round (so helpful; would recommend). This little catch all is filled with my thank-you notes, stamps, envelopes, my camera, and my gold tacks for my inspiration board.
  • My gold four-leaf clover was originally up on my bookcase. I liked it here, though, as a setting for my jasmine tea candles. ~*serenity now*~
  • French press coffee. It’s where it’s at. It’s a little weekend treat for me.
  • So many things on this desk are Dollar Store finds: the gold tacks, the mason jar, the candy dish, and the Rolos in the candy dish. Everything else I already had in my house. Score!
  • Before, I used to use the entire table as a catch-all: random books, old receipts, scarves, sweaters, and dirty coffee cups were strewn about. I made a commitment to keeping the clutter out of this space. And you know what? It totally makes it more inviting. I now eat at this table more often than I eat in front of the TV, which was a prior bad habit of mine. Hoping this sticks!

I’ll show you my inspiration board as well. In due time! ‘Til then…

21 Day Challenge

Okay, so I have been doing a lot of blog-reading and not a lot of blog-writing over the past couple of weeks. The creative tank’s been a little dry, lately, but I can’t use that as an excuse, right? Just have to get out there and write, well, anything. Something.

One thing that has inspired me is the post “21 Days” from upperlyne & co. (I’m so obsessed with this blog! Whoops). I think that it might be good for me to try a little challenge of my own. Here goes nothin’:

  • Write something every day. Of course, work writing doesn’t count. I’d like to commit to writing something, be it a few thoughts of the day or a full blog post, every day of the week. I feel as though I’ve tried creating a regimented schedule for writing, but that’s almost more discouraging than a lack of creativity – you feel like something you love is a chore. However, I do think that I’m ignoring some inclinations because I’m afraid.
  • Study countries to teach English in. That’s right – I’m seriously considering teaching abroad next year! I love to travel, and I’m thinking about becoming a professor someday, so I think that this would be an “next step” for me. More on that later! I’ve already chosen South America – I want to invest in my Spanish skills. Right now my top contenders are Buenos Aires, Argentina, Santiago, Chile, and Lima, Peru. If you have experience in any of those countries, I’d love to hear about it!
  • Drink three bottles of water a day. I mean my refillable waterbottle, mind you (PSA: plastic waterbottles are a waste of resources! Don’t use them! Tap water is fine! Okay, I’m done). I’ve mildly committed to drinking more water daily, but I think that it will be helpful to have a number in mind. I am constantly feeling sluggish, have headaches, etc., and want to know if dehydration is really the reason.
  • Walk two mornings a week. It really clears my head, it’s good exercise, and I can stop at the Farmer’s market!
  • Only buy groceries on Sundays. I need to be more stern with myself in terms of buying food. I’m addicted to eating out and grocery shopping, and it eats away at most of my paycheck. I love food, though, so I’m thinking of this more as an opportunity to spend time in my kitchen and work on my cooking skills.

I’m keeping my motivation high by remembering that this is all about making me a better person, and as Juley says, being kinder to myself. I’ll check in on October 8 to update. Do you have any goals you’d like to push yourself towards?