Category Archives: Travel

This Post Brought To You By The Color Orange

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One of my favorite things I encountered in Thailand was the color that I will call ‘Monk Orange’. I am not a fan of the color orange in general. I typical do not wear it. It’s not a color I have decorated with in my home. It does exist in my garden, however.

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I understand that monks are revered in Buddhist cultures and a high level of respect is due to them. I accept this. They have devoted their lives to the teachings of the Buddha and the enlightened path. This warrants respect, as far as I’m concerned. For this reason, I would try not to show disrespect by staring, gawking, or any other actions that would ultimately have made me out to look foolish. But, that orange… What an attention grabber! I think I probably need to give a little background into my personal life. I have a clothing design degree. I appreciate fabrics, textures, color. Just looking at the way the monks wrap the garments is fascinating to me. The way it drapes is beautiful. I’m sure they have no idea what it is I’m staring at and God forbid (pun intended) that I can’t control myself and attempt to touch the fabric, something I do everywhere I go.  It’s habit, instinctual for me to reach out and want to experience the hand of a fabric. (I did NOT do this to any monk.  Just want to clear that up.)

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Everyplace I visit I tend to bring something back, a decorating idea, a design concept, not necessarily things. Morocco has inspired a stenciled/tiled back stairway with a large punched metal hanging lamp. I’ve been slowly recreating Italy on my patio with my grape arbor and container figs, olives, and Meyer lemon. I’m not really sure what Thailand’s contribution will be in my home, but I have a feeling this color will show up somewhere.

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Travel Theme – Street Markets

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I am participating in my first challenge with this post. Very exciting for me… anyway, this travel theme comes from Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack. http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/05/25/street-markets/

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I’ve been to a lot of street markets in a lot of places, but it wasn’t really difficult to narrow down my pick.  I chose to feature a street market in Thailand. After all, it is the most recent trip. I went to this market as part of a full day tour visiting Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle. It was one of the last stops before our long drive back to Chiang Mai. So many of the street markets I’ve been to have left memories of the numerous stalls, colors, smells, the sounds, the chaos. This market was no different in that sense, but it had more to offer than that.

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I have many memories of this market, but two stand out far above all the rest. The first was how close to the Burmese border we were. I had the unexpected pleasure of ‘stepping foot’ in Laos at the Golden Triangle. I don’t know that I would count it as having ‘traveled to Laos’, but I can say that I’ve been there. Here, at this market, I could see the border gate to Burma from where the van dropped us off. I’ll admit I briefly entertained the notion of making a run for the border to be able say that I’ve been to Burma, too. The thought was quickly squelched when the realization of any conversation would require me to explain why I was so adamantly running toward a country in such political disarray and with so many human rights issues.  I decided to let that one go for now.

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The second memory I have of this market is the time spent with a couple of people I met on the tour. We shopped together choosing new sunglasses for Jack, a very cool guy from Perth, Australia. He is one of the most interesting teenagers I’ve ever met. He was traveling with his grandmother. A fascinating woman that kept wandering off leaving us to wonder what items had caught her eye now.  This market didn’t stand out to me in any extraordinary way.  The company I kept did. It was spending the day with my two new friends that made this a truly memorable street market.

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Here and Now

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I was immersed in Buddhism during the trip to Thailand. I am not a religious person, per se. I believe in a greater power, a light, not sure I go for the guy in a white robe, but to each his own. I can’t explain it, so I’m certainly not going to try to dispute it. I didn’t go in with much knowledge on Buddhism and I’ve only gained a tiny bit more in my travels. One of the things that perplexed me was that Buddhists pray. It was my belief that the enlightened path is a journey one must take on one’s own. So, what’s the point in praying to Buddha? Technically, he can’t help you. I would like to think that a Buddhist prayer is more substantial than ‘I want to win the lottery’. But, then, I would also like to think that of Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc… Frequently not the case, however.

As I visited different wats, I was surprised at how many different ways there are to pray to Buddha. So much ritual, tradition. I was a little nervous at the first wat I entered. I certainly didn’t want to do anything ‘wrong’, offend anyone. I knew to take off my shoes and never point my feet toward an image of the Buddha. The basics, maybe, but important stuff. The next wat threw me, though. Wat Phan Tao, a small teak building was next on my self guided walking tour of the Old City, Chiang Mai. Immediately upon entering, a smiling, jolly man quickly approached me and handed me a bowl of coins. “for wishes.” He said, “you make wishes.” So confused. What do I do with the coins? Am I supposed to give him money for the coins? He just handed them to me, smiling and bounced away. Now what? I noticed the bowls all lined up and I got a flash of one of ‘The Amazing Race’ episodes. (!) A coin in each bowl…aaah, I get it! I did what was expected of me, but as I started dropping coins methodically into each bowl I couldn’t come up with something to wish for. It seemed so contradictory to what Buddhism was about to me. With each ‘plink, plink, plink’ of the coins in the bowls I was drawn deeper into the task… ‘plink, plink’, deeper into the moment, ‘plink’, into the present. There it is! So much of Buddhist prayer is meditation. It all made sense.  Wishes, prayers, affirmations, intentions, chants, whatever you want to call them, they are manifestations of present energy. What a wonderful lesson! It should be said, however, meditating over your scratch ticket does not guarantee a winner.

Namaste
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Can’t We All Just Get Along

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Recently, I have been frustrated in trying to get ‘my point’ across to someone. It seems that no matter how I phrase it, try to say it, it’s just not the way this person is receiving it. I’ve been complaining that he’s just stubborn and refuses to see things differently than what he wants to see and is only hearing what he wants to hear. I came across this parable as I was looking for ways to incorporate more of my recent travel to Thailand here. It screams Thailand with its elephant and Buddhism, but more importantly it has given me a new perspective to my issue.

THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT

Based on a story from the Buddhist Sutra

The people who lived in a small village were always arguing and fighting among each other about God and different religions. They could never agree to a common answer. So they came to the Buddha to find out what exactly God looks like.

The Buddha asked his disciples to get a large magnificent elephant and six blind men. He then brought the blind to the elephant and asked them to describe what an elephant looks like.

The first blind man touched the elephant’s leg and reported that it “looked” like a tree trunk.
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The second blind man touched the elephant’s stomach and said that the elephant was a wall.

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The third blind man touched the elephant ear and said that it was a fan.
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The fourth blind man touched the elephant’s tail and described the elephant as a piece of rope.
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The fifth blind man felt the elephant’s tusks and described it as a spear.
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And the sixth blind man rubbed the elephant’s snout and got very scared because he thought it was a snake.
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All of them got into a big argument about the “appearance” of an elephant.

The Buddha asked the citizens: “Each blind man had touched the elephant but each of them gives a different description of the animal. Which answer is right?”

“All of them are right,” was the reply.

“Why? Because everyone can only see one part of the elephant. They are not able to see the whole animal. The same applies to God and to religions. No one will see Him completely.”

By this parable, Buddha taught that we should respect all other religions and their beliefs.

Credit to: http://www.spiritual-education.org/blindmenelephants.pdf for the story synopsis

Take A Bow For The New Revolution

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I’ve been trying to acclimate back to reality. Actually, it doesn’t take that long (although the jet lag was rough). It’s the catching up after the time off that keeps me running.  I always schedule my days with overly ambitious activities in general, so after a vacation I’m doing double time.  I never really know what I’m going to come home to. There’s the typical stack of mail, bills, grocery store run, laundry, etc., etc. I’ll see your regular routine and raise you four cats. They stay in the house. I don’t board them.  I tried that once… once.  Let’s just say it didn’t go well.  So, now, they all stay in the house and I have wonderful people that will come and look after them, take in the mail, water the plants and such.  It seems the cats miss me when I go away. Or, that’s what I like to tell myself anyway.  It is probably the change in routine and relatively unfamiliar people coming in and out of the house that makes the cats act out while I’m gone.  Sometimes I’ll hear about the rug one cat may have ripped up, or made a mess on the floor, dumped their food and water bowls over in an appropriately named ‘hissy fit’.  This time, it was Clyde that was the most creative in his disapproval. Clyde is a small, five year old domestic shorthair.

ImageCute, right?  He weighs about ten pounds and is all muscle. This cat trashed my office in pure Keith Moon style as if it was a hotel room in the seventies.  He knocked things off shelves, papers strewn everywhere, broke a framed poster.  It has been a week and it’s still not organized.  Such a small cat, so much damage.  Boarding for the next vacation is back on the table…

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“I Shall Need To Sleep Three Weeks On End To Get Rested From The Rest I’ve Had” ~Thomas Mann

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“Jet lag?? Oh, no, I don’t get that. I’m just tired.” Ummm, forgive my ignorance, but isn’t that jet lag?? Thankfully, I’ve never said this. I was surprised I acclimated so quickly after arriving in Thailand, but I was warned. It’s the return that’s the killer. I think I understand this. Technically, it’s the same situation as the return, so really it should have the same effect, but it doesn’t. I know they say it has to do with the direction of travel, but I have a different theory. My assumption is there’s a psychological aspect to it. (I’m not a doctor, nor do I typically play one on tv or otherwise. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) There’s an adrenaline rush that pushes through you when you are away, exploring someplace new. No time to be tired. There’s so much excitement. But coming home… Now, that’s a different story. Very little excitement there, nothing new anyway. Certainly, nothing that can give the adrenalin rush of a new destination.
I can say that I’ve never had jet lag, but I’ve also never traveled so far away before. I enjoy a good afternoon nap… Who doesn’t? But at two pm when my head is bobbing like my neck is rubber and I can’t keep my eyes open, I’m thinking this isn’t normal. Sleeping fifteen hours with one waking interruption… Not normal. So, I give in to it. I have to. But, I’m wondering if I’m making it worse. Should I push through it and force myself to stay awake until ‘bedtime’? It’s just not possible. I take the melatonin that people have suggested, but falling asleep is not the problem. That, I think I’ve explained, comes pretty easily. So, what should I do? I think I’ll take a nap and contemplate the dilemma.