Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Winding Down in China...and a Trip to Pattaya

Lotus pond at sunset. (One of Dave's masterpieces.)
Life continues here in China through that different set of eyes I grow when I know something is temporary.

Of course, everything is temporary.

But what I mean is this: I've decided not to renew my contract. We'll be leaving China in less than 2 months.

My gaze lingers a little bit longer on the lotus pond, on the grandpa doing tai chi, on the kids playing basketball, on the innumerable cute babies and glowing pregnant women. Have I mentioned there's a baby boom here?
Nanning at night
And the things that bother me are easier to let go. The occasional cockroach. The water leaking through the wall in the guest room. Not being able to access certain websites because my VPN's not working. The way a "simple" trip to the bank inevitably takes an hour, or two. Soon...not my problem!

In the larger scheme, those things don't really matter anyway. Nomadic life constantly schools me. It reminds me what matters most. For example:

Friends from China, Singapore, Russia, the U.S. and England.
People. And by that, I mean love.

It's incredible to think about how less than a year ago, I didn't even know these people were walking the Earth. And now we've shared many wonderful experiences, such as Dave's surprise birthday party. Paul and Mike played guitars. Daria, keyboard. Ricky, flute. And I debuted on ukulele, playing "Heart of Gold" while Tina (our Chinese "daughter") and her friend (my yoga student) Jennifer did a dance.

One of Dave's most treasured relationships here is with Lee, the 11-year-old he tutors twice a week.

Lee is whip-smart. He wants to go to university in America. Dave's pretty sure their relationship will continue. Of course that's how we feel about Tina, too. When I told her we were leaving, she broke out into tears. And then I did. It's going to be rough saying goodbye in July, but I will make sure it's more like "until we meet again." Because we will. I want to bring her to Mexico to visit us when she graduates. And if she gets married, I don't care where we are or what we are doing, we will be at her wedding.

Eating Korean food (bibimbop) in China, one of our favorite restaurants near campus.
One of our goals in coming to China was to explore S.E. Asia. Ten months in, and we've been fortunate to experience CambodiaVietnamThailand and Malaysia.  My holidays and the incredibly cheap Air Asia flights have made it possible. Our most recent trip was to Pattaya, Thailand. We'd been warned about Pattaya's sleaze factor. However, Dave did the research and discovered an area just outside the main part of Pattaya called Jomtien, which turned out to be perfect for us.

Heaven = a foot massage on the beach.
Our hotel was in a gay area, which felt comfortable and fun. I loved the flamboyant greeting we received from a front desk clerk as we walked in.
One of the two pools at Agate Boutique Hotel that has rooms at about 35 bucks a night.
At the beach, we chatted with some guys from England who come regularly to Jomtien. I also noticed a young Russian couple; one of the guys had this tattoo on his chest: "Only God can judge me." Especially poignant given what has been happening to queer people in Chechnya.

We spent time wandering around Jomtien's charming streets, happening across some great finds, like Sketchbook Art Café...
...and street carts selling all kinds of treats.

fruit cart
We love Thai food. And like most of S.E. Asia, the tropical fruit is amazing. Dave went crazy for the pad see ew, a dish of thick noodles, veggies and a savory sauce. However, after all this time in China, I'm a bit noodled-and-riced out. Which was why I was thrilled by the many choices of relatively inexpensive and delicious Western food in Jomtien. I ate Caesar salads galore and vanilla soft-serves in waffle cones. We also found a place that made amazing meat and fruit pies.
 
Walking Street before things really get going.
One evening we ventured into downtown Pattaya. To get there, we braved a hop-on taxi: a truck where people pile onto bench seats in the truck-bed or hang off the back as overflow, which was what Dave had to do. Every time the truck jerked to a stop, I thought he might go flying off. Fortunately, he has a strong grip.

We spent a few hours moseying up and down infamous Walking Street, which is a raucous array of crazy sights and sounds. It's like Vegas on acid, without the overt gambling. We passed mostly bars, restaurants, bar girls, a few people in wild costumes, and the occasional guy trying to get us to see a Ping-Pong-vagina show. We'd heard there was some good live music on the strip, but at 8:30 p.m., no bands were yet playing. And we were ready to go back to the relative peace and quiet of Jomtien.
 
Dave dove the Hardeep WWII wreck.
One day we took a diving and snorkel tour to the Samae San islands, about 45 minutes south of Pattaya. The experience affirmed and intensified my love for Thailand.


snorkeling
Speaking of which...in September, I will be co-hosting a writing retreat on Koh Phangan. It's an incredible place, and that's no hyperbole. Neither is our title: Write Your Story in Paradise. I know "paradise" is a well-worn phrase, but The Sanctuary resort where we are holding the event fits the bill, in my humble opinion. The experience promises to be transformational. If you'd like to join us, check out our Facebook page.

In the meantime, I will do my best to relish our remaining time in China. We may have a lot of plans ahead of us, but this moment is where it's at. It's all we really have.

teaching yoga in China
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