Saturday, April 4, 2009


One year ago I was packing all the stuff I could fit in my backpack, I was so frightened of the idea to have to walk miles while carrying it, the year ahead of me looked quite challenging in that aspect.

I remember that when it all began, we went to Mexico. My legs were shaking uncontrollably from the effort to stand with 45lb of extra weight at the airport while waiting for my mom to pick us up. At the next morning my legs and heaps hurt so bad I had to take pain killers.

Once the real trip began I suffered from the same pain for a while. My neck and shoulders were feeling the challenge too, every time I'd try to lift it by myself I'd fail and ended up asking David to help me, sometimes when I put it on while siting he would even have to pull me up because I could not stand by myself.

Honestly, I never thought I would see the day on which I could put it on without David, a wall, or a chair.

When we checked into our flight from Bangkok airport I realized that my backpack was never that much lighter, nevertheless I could lift it up with one arm and put it on, one day I even carried David's backpack at the same time as mine.

Yesterday I finally unpacked it, but now I am not quite sure if it is freedom or concern what I feel. Finally I don't experience regular leg pain, but I have come to understand that everything I own is not in only one luggage bag anymore. This means that if we don't like it wherever we settle, we can't just check out and take the next plane to some place else.

This is our new start. No more waiting hours in bus terminals or endless train journeys. No more curious stares and clueless faces caused by our words. David often refers to our comeback as "going back to the real world", but is this truly it?? Where a chicken sandwich costs 8 dollars, and a bottle of water $2?

I am sitting next to a kitchen with a fridge full of food, a big part of it will go bad before someone can eat it all, poor people are not siting on the streets waiting for some good hearten tourist to give away uneaten food, not even dogs eat left overs in this "real word".

Teenagers walk around shopping malls socializing, 14 year old girls wear so much make up that they look like junkie hookers skinny, tiny, and underdeveloped thanks to their addictions. Unlike the kids working for a bit of food at the other side of the world, teenagers don't know that this "real world" could very easily disappear. What seems unlikely to disappear is the world on which little 3 year old babies walk around touristic sites collecting plastic bottles to sell and help support their family, the world on which being skinny means to be poor instead of pretty, where young girls date old western guys hoping to have a better life.

I love America without a doubt, I missed it as much as I loved going away from it...but it scares me to imagine how fragile this dream could be. It is very easy to get used to fire places, cozy clean and comfy beds, fresh and healthy food, people that understand and care, but it is so hard to forget about all this being away.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The wonders of the rain in Vietnam

The sky has been cloudy for the last week or so. Now we are on a train going from Danang to Natrung in Central Vietnam; the rain places drops of water on the window adding a sober and cold look to the country that we’ve come to know as the greenest and wettest so far.

Our train started its journey 2 and a half hours ago, the small difference in price between soft sleeper and a soft seat has given us the opportunity to afford the lu
xury of laying down and reading almost every time. The room consists of 4 sleeping berths with old thin mattresses covered by a white blanket and a stinky pillow. The walls are made of plastic and washed out green colored.

The train appears to be old, perhaps amongst the first trains that were built right after the war was over and with an attempt from the government to draw tourism towards the country.

Through the window I’ve tried to find traces of the war, nothing seems to appear, it is like the whole landscape has forgotten the violence it witnessed as if it was washed down by the rain. Most people seem hopeful and happy; they have a beautiful country that has given them some of the most fertile land any other nation could dream of.

Walking through the local markets you can see the broadest variety of spices, fruits, meats, sweets, and vegetables, the good and bad smells mix in the air and “hellos” follow us as we tour the shops. Every where you see there are big amounts of each item, dragon fruit, passion fruit, tangerines, oranges, bananas, every kind of spice and of course different varieties for every type of fruit and vegetable.

In Hoi Ann no one's business was closed by the inundation of the town, on the contrary, this meant an opportunity for the boat stores to get closer to tourists and offer either their products or services, locals lift their goods on their shoulders and set to walk through the 2 feet deep water.

For a while we were afraid we wouldn’t find it so easy to get along with locals, unfortunately some other tourists have given Vietnam a bad reputation for offering poor services and unfriendly attitudes; nevertheless we have found everything but bad disposition from them, people are always willing to help in any way they can and offer a smile to break the language barrier that sometimes separates us.

So far, our trip
through this beautiful country has been cheaper than China in every way, mostly because we were fortunate to visit during low season, which is renown for strong monsoons. I won’t deny that I am happy to take advantage of the great picture opportunities that the water has created, roads filled side to side with locals on their bikes wearing colorful plastic ponchos, traditional hats that work as umbrellas, and even danger seekers juggling with an umbrella in one hand and their hand on the bike handle.

Cars are scarce in this part of the world, it is the first time we see bicycles being the main method of short distance transportation carrying more than 1 person at a time, as well as motorbikes sometimes holding as many as 6 persons on them.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Staring party: China

Now that we are far from China, my memories start dispersing into a overall picture that is not exactly what China really is. Like so many other people, we were not appreciative of the spitting, nose picking, and staring; however, China is way more than a dirty and polluted country. Nevertheless, as usual, I have an urge to express my complaints. To begin with, let me start off with the staring issue: If I happened to find a magic lamp with a genius and had 3 wishes, one of them would be “I wish Asians to stop staring”. The truth is that even though they mean nothing bad by it, it can create some of the most awkward and uncomfortable situations ever. They stare while you are talking, while you are sitting, standing, lifting your backpack, walking, eating, sleeping, reading, they just won’t stop. A lot of westerners like to read as a pastime, Asians instead of reading stare! They talk about you while doing it, they laugh, and even take close up pictures without even asking.

One afternoon while we were visiting the Tianamen Square in Beijing, a woman pushed her terrified kid towards us, she didn’t intend to make any sort of request, she just shove her kid in our arms and started taking pictures of the screaming child while laughing out loud. It is until you visit this country when you realize that you are part of a minority in the world. They don’t mind being close to each other, looking over your shoulder to analyze your laptop, ipod, book, notebook, or anything personal that you could be holding on your hands. They push their way everywhere, at the beginning it seemed quite difficult to understand their chaos, until one day I decided to act like them. I started by pushing my way around without no one being bothered; in one occasion, and old woman tried to push her way ahead of me between David and I, but I was in no position to loose my husband in such a crowd so I pushed her away, in great confusion the woman stopped and looked at me with one of the most confused looks I’ve ever seen. The subway is the worse, one day an old man ran into the car throwing himself against my backpack and pushing me around, in response I opposed some resistance and again I received that puzzling look not only from the old man, but from all the people in the subway car. Passing to more positive aspects of their culture, I must say that they are mostly very nice people willing to help and amazingly curious.

I can’t even recount how many times a Chinese person who spoke English approached us while
we were having trouble communicating. Young people seem to be forgetting the importance of their culture, but at the same time appear to be more appreciative of values that the western world would consider essential; I don’t exactly view this as something positive, nevertheless is good to see that they are not so eager to exploit natural resources as much as their elders. Most tourist towns have a great charm, the same charm that gets a bit obstructed by the innumerable amount of souvenir shops and travel agencies. Several walled cities still preserve their original walls and architecture. In fact, we were told that hundreds of years ago, Beijing was a walled city just like many of the enchanting small towns we visited such as Pingyao and X’ian. It was almost impossible for us to get out of the beaten track in order to find more traditional Chinese environments, cities with multiple story buildings grow amongst the rice fields, new brick walls extend along the train rails, every single living being is tasted to feed their millions, eyes look forward to explore any opportunity for businesses.