Hypocrite’s mirror and honesty’s necessity

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I apologize for the select few of my readers who’ve been bitching and moaning for another post.  If I had a valid excuse, I’d be feeding it to you.  The only thing that I can come up with, is that I’ve had a drought of actual introspection.  That’s not to say that I’ve been without inspiration.  I got plenty of that, scattered about, waiting for me to make sense of it.

The dose of reality this time comes from my roommate and best friend (same person)

Let’s roll it back a few months…like when I arrived in Asia, with sights set high of blazing through our TESOL training (teaching certification), and getting a job right away in Thailand.

Several blog posts of mine make reference to doing what you want, and taking big steps; getting out of your own comfort zone, for the sake of personal growth.  I make statements to the effect of “live in the moment” and “don’t chase the dollar”.

A month or so after being certified, I received a job at a government prep school in northern Bangkok.  I arrive on the first day of work after an hour and a half commute through the streets of this monsoon-seasoned metropolis.  After receiving all the materials I’d be using for the school year, I panicked, like a runaway bride or groom on their big day.  Deer in headlights, frozen, I manage to find a way out; just barely.  Minutes before signing a year or two contract, I explain to the principal that I can’t commit to the job for reasons of transportation.  It would be 2 1/2-3 hours every day, and I explained that it just doesn’t work for me.

While it was a quite a legitimate excuse (at least for me), it was purely of convenience.  The fact remained, that I was just not ready.  I came into Asia, guns blazing, expecting to take on whatever I came to encounter with an adaptability and perseverance that I’ve always claimed to have.  So you’re wondering how the Kool-Aid tasted on the way down?  Acidic and corrosive, to be quite honest.  For another month, I made excuses for myself as to why I wasn’t hitting the ground running finding a job, trying to come up with something that jived with the reality I’d reconstructed.  During this time, I clung to all that I knew, and have for the last 4 years: poker.  I played 80 hour weeks, drowning myself in the convoluted logic that I was somehow being productive.  The biggest problem was that poker was going so well that I focused on this magical number of earnings that I wanted to achieve that would allow me to coast for the rest of the year.  I put everything on the back burner.  I wasn’t job-hunting.  I wasn’t exploring the city, eating new foods, and living the life that I told Abby we’d be living when we moved here.

So why did I have such a long blog-writing hiatus?  In a word, capital S “Shame”.  I had let down the person who means the most to me in the world, and more importantly; myself.  Abby sat me down one day, and in a manner of speaking, asked me what I was doing here in Thailand?  That if I wanted to stay and just play poker, she’d ride out 2013 and book a flight back home.  “I came to Thailand with my best friend because I wanted to experience life abroad and the adventure of teaching together with you.  I want to come home from work and have us share stories of our days teaching, and right now, I just don’t feel that connection or desire to share that part of my life with you.  As it stands, you’re not holding up your end of the bargain and if this is how it’s going to be, I want out”  Having lost the respect from the one I wanted to respect me the most, and who I respected the most, is something that still shakes me to this day.

I distinctly remember immediately saying “thank you” for telling me that.  “I didn’t come to Thailand so that I could go teach every day while you sit on the couch playing poker in your pj’s,” she added.  I’m not saying that playing poker is bad or that someone cannot pursue a meaningful life doing this.  The issue was that it wasn’t the reason why I came to Thailand for.  I had sold out.  In retrospect, I realized that Abby saved me from myself.  I’m not quite sure how I lucked out by landing her in my life, but I’ll chalk it up to winning the lottery if I really have to.

I simply needed someone to lay me out, and hold me to the same standard that I expect of myself.  Before the conversation, I had intentions of amping up the job search towards the end of 2013.  While she feared my sudden burst of confidence was simply a reaction of appeasement, I made sure she knew that it was indeed very genuine, and that I was very thankful that she had the courage to rock the boat in aims of holding me accountable to myself.

At the moment, I’m gainfully employed at Andrew Biggs Academy.  I work English camps, and will be teaching corporate English to companies in Bangkok.  I had my first couple camps early December, and they were incredible.  I am very thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given by them, and for the push that my best friend provided me.

“So what can I take from your screw up?”

How about this?  You know your brother or sister that keeps talking about going back to school, but drowns himself/herself in prime time TV shows and 47 fantasy teams instead? The friend who wants to quit their job and find one that makes them happier?  The friend who has an abusive spouse, that you choose to ignore addressing?

FUCKING say something!!!  Speak up and be heard!  Pardon the language; it’s for emphasis and shock value.  Anything I can do to make you think about this post for 2 more seconds than you already had to.

But seriously, you have a voice and you have an influence.  If you don’t speak up in the best interests of your friend, family member, coworker, your relationship with them isn’t worth a damn.  These disconnected connections are all around us.  Fortunately, we all have the tools to splice these frayed wires.

Friendship without honesty is a facade, and only helps you pass the time.  You might be moving; but it’s in circles, as the merry goes round.

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Timmy Tries to Teach to Thai

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Ashamed it’s been so long since I’ve written; proving that The Bahamas is a time warp.  That’s where I’ve spent the last year, living with my best friend and his Bahamian girlfriend, trying to make some good poker money and save up for my next adventure.  Not quite even knowing what it would entail, I figured South America to be next on the docket.  

Shortly, before my most recent post (December), I had the privilege of reconnecting with a girl in one of the most unbelievable ways.  Because of 10+ variables that decided to shift, Abby and I fatefully ran into each other in Minneapolis’s famous SkyWay.  She, on her way to work, and me, on my way to breakfast with my brother.  

I had gone to college with her and we actually graduated right next to each other from the U of M – Twin Cities.  A month into seeing this girl, she expresses a desire to teach English abroad in Thailand.  BINK!!! “That’s my next adventure!” I realize.  So from early February, after deciding that we wanted to commit, we’ve been getting all our ducks in a row.  Abby quit her respected position at a well-paying law firm, moved out 4 months later, sold her things, transferred her lease, and relinquished her beloved cat, Guthrie (aka “Gu3”), to her mother.  Along with a host of other affairs she get straightened out, she made the leap.  Remember this, as all of the things I write and share about our adventures, it started with her “leap”.

While you might feel that this is background information, it’s really leading to my punch line:  This girl’s amazing.  For those who’ve dabbled in my blog, I make countless references and urges to my readers to analyze their life and see if what you’re doing in life is what you REALLY want out of life.  Of those, several express interest in traveling the world as well.  Many people make comments to the effect of, “you’re so lucky,” “I wish I could travel the world,” to “I don’t have the money to do it,” or “what about my car?”  

One thing that I’ve come to find out is that these reactions often mask a deeper fear; that of the unknown, or indeterminable future.  I’ll help illustrate.

“you’re so lucky” – the only lucky element I’ve had is choosing online poker as a means of income.  It forced me out of the country and, more or less, resulted in nomadic tendencies (visa restrictions, weather concerns, etc.)

“I wish I could travel the world” – I’m not going to flat out say, “You can!” It just may not be in the cards, so to speak.  But if you want to, it’s possible to find a way.  Your fate might be predetermined, in your mind, but it’s more a function of seized opportunities and series of reactions.

“I don’t have the money” – No one is asking you to pony up the money today.  Set up a financial plan or budget to allow you enough money for flight(s), accommodations, food.  A lot of people don’t realize that you can travel on a budget that is smaller than the one you currently have (ie  meals in Thailand are 80 cents, rent 200 or hostels less than 10/night).

“What about my car?” – There are several options for you, if this is the case.  You can sell it (what you lose on the investment, you’ll gain in independence and freedom, gas money, parking, maintenance.  Trust me, it’ll save you money).  Perhaps end your lease early or transfer it to someone (there are resources online where you can pay someone a certain amount to legally continue your lease, absolving you of further responsibility to it.  It’s funny how much a car can enslave a human being.  I’ve been car-free for 3 years now, and rarely find myself upset about my loss of transportation independence.

 

I’ll forever say, “there’s always a solution.”  It may not be easy, but there’s always another way to look at or approach life’s decisions.  You don’t have to drop everything at this very moment, and book a one-way flight to Rio.  These preparations, as I’ve said, have been in the works for 6 months.  

So I sit here, in a hotel room in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, getting ready for a 4-week teacher training program; proud, because a.) I am spending a year in Asia with one of my best friends and most influential people I’ve met, and b.) I have definitive proof that for these past few years, I haven’t been blowing smoke up your ass.  If you want to find a way to make something happen, spare yourself the pity party and/or excuses, and make it happen.  You have more control over your life than you think.

Until then, do yourself a favor, and find a way to buy a one-way ticket somewhere.  A passport, VISA, and internet can get you anywhere and anything you’ll end up needing.  And remember, you’ll never encounter a situation that merits the type of anxiety you may expect.

 

Xmas Anxiety

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I’m visiting home in Minneapolis, and watching the 10 o’clock news.  The 2nd story tonight is about a family of a single mother, and her son’s death that had occurred one year prior (around the time of Christmas).  The young child had been shot by an errant bullet (all bullets aimed at people are errant, in my opinion) as he was climbing up the stairs of his house to take cover after hearing shots fired in his neighborhood.  Anyways, the WCCO Channel 4 news team visited the family, bearing gifts (ranging from a new bed to pajamas to kitchen utensils).  The pure delight that these children and this mother have immediately strikes a chord with me.  All these things that they were thrilled to receive were everyday things, things they actually need, not think that they need.  Their Eden was living in their home with basic necessities with the people they cared about.  I can’t tell you how big a piece of shit I feel like (even worse than when Sarah McLachlan’s PETA commercials air) , as I’m watching this on a big screen TV.  God, I suck.  I’m so jealous of their utter joy and appreciation.

So with Christmas story gets me on the topic of holiday shopping.  Here’s the thing:  Gift cards expire, get lost or forgotten.  Toys eventually get pushed aside for the latest and greatest, clothes get worn once or twice before being ushered to that hidden nook in the closet that nobody dares visit.  And sooner or later, shit just takes of SPAAACCCEEEE!

In the words of my good friend, Sir Edmund Berg, “Shit just takes up space, and people need to buy bigger houses so that they can make room for all their Beanie Babies.”  For the last 1 1/2 years (Poker’s Black Friday, when it became illegal (rendering us as renegade professional gamblers) to play online poker in the U.S. on April 15, 2011), my friend Ed and I have been living out of one suitcase each.  Our travels have taken us to many different places; some stays semi-permanent (6 months in Vancouver) and some stays very temporary (a week or so in Italy).  It dawned on us that we were happier than ever, more liberated than ever, and more unstressed than ever (Ed often says he’s “too blessed to be stressed,” in response to “how are you?”).  This may come as a surprise to some (as it did for me), because I had expected that having more things would help me cope with living away from all things familiar for so long.  However, something became abundantly clear to us, and holds steadfast to our core still, and it is that people don’t need “things”.  People think they need things, but quite disillusioned they are.  At no point did I wish I had that one other favorite shirt, or another pair of shoes.  I’ll always say that a human’s great ability is to adapt.  When without, we can make do with what we have.  And when that’s not enough, we have the aptitude to improvise.  The human race is quite the impressive assembly of curious creatures; ones who will sadly never know their untapped potential.

Back in January 2011, Ed and I took a U-HAUL truck from Wisconsin and Minnesota, respectively, to the sunny skies of San Diego.  It was a short stay of 4 months (we stayed there until Black Friday), and now all of my possessions rest on the musty cement floor of a storage facility off of the I-5.  Now say someone calls me and tells me that everything in that unit was burnt to the ground, or became the exploits of the cast of “Storage Wars,” I could honestly care less.  I don’t say this to sound noble, selfless or insightful, because honestly, I’m far from any of those, I assure you.  At no point, did I wish I had the home stereo or my beloved TiVo that was left behind.  I’m sharing this to illustrate a point, and one that cannot be stressed enough; that if you can live with less, and it affects you in no way adversely, why wouldn’t you?  I’ve been down both roads (consumerism and minimalism), and can definitely say that possessions stunt our creativity, cloud our judgment, and absolutely cripple our relationships.  They lead to fear, anxiety, insatiable avarice and greed, and here’s the big kicker; ultimately dissatisfaction (google “Barry Schwartz’s TED talk on the ‘Paradox of choice'”).

This is no lead-in to a diatribe about “going green,” global footprint, charity, the “fiscal cliff” (still don’t know/care what that is) or anything like that; merely catharsis, really.  Like I said earlier, I’m far from noble.  What you do decide to do with your own money is your prerogative (couldn’t wait to use that word.), but it’s just some food for thought, as the holiday season has reared its head.  Although, I will add that it’s quite puzzling how continuing talks of deficits in no way curbs the amount of insane holiday spending that goes on (you’ve seen the crazy shoppers footage).

If you hated the last 5 minutes of Full House episodes, then click back to Facebook, because here’s the take-home part.  How many hugs have you given your brother/sister or mom/dad lately?  When’s the last time you told your friends that you treasure and love them.  Or give a stranger a smile as you pass?  We’re not so disconnected from the community we see around us.  We have more things in common than we don’t.  I feel sometimes that presents tend to shift the focus from the relationship to the object itself (and how it somehow improves the recipient’s life), and in doing so, sullies that very special connection that we mean to celebrate.  The only thing that matters to me is you.  If you’re reading this, you matter, and no gift you give me will ever improve or affect how I see you.  So just take a breath, and share a moment with me.

Nike 101

The catchy slogan for Nike not only prods customers into buying their merchandise; it provokes action where there was once hesitation.

As most may know, I have started my adventure around the world, and am now in Porto, Portugal, with my friends, Ben and Ed.  The sparked idea of world travel that we had over a year ago has finally come to fruition, and with that, comes a desire to adopt a fearless attitude that is more succinct with the idea of conquering the world.

So with that, I give you:  JUST DO IT!

Anyone who has spent more than 5 hours with me, knows that I have the dietary intake of that similar to a child.  A girl I dated, after taking a look inside my refrigerator, said “Hawaiian Punch, chocolate milk, frozen pizzas, Gogurt?!?  You have the dream fridge of a 5th grade boy!”  The anecdote, while seemingly superfluous, illustrates the point that I do not branch out, in terms of culinary curiosity.  I’m an extremely picky eater.  The slightest detail of a particular food can repulse at any moment; whether it’s texture, smell, form, or appearance.  It’s not something I enjoy or am proud of, and at times, can be socially crippling.

That is why, once I arrived in Porto with Ben on Dec 30th, I told him that I want to be challenged.  When faced with an unfamiliar or uncomfortable opportunity, I will say “Just Do It!”  Since then, I’m proud to say that I have eaten codfish, or Bacalhau (common Portuguese meal), calamari, francescinha sandwich, hard-boiled eggs, and drank coffee.

Today, we encountered a situation at a shopping center in Porto.  We were having dinner in the food court, as was a group of Portuguese female cohorts (yes, cohorts.  I know, but I like the word).  Much like a junior high school cafeteria, looks were stolen/exchanged.  Can’t speak for the nervous giggles, but it’s certainly possible one party may have done it (not pointing fingers).  The inevitable fate was that, even though there was an obvious mutual desire to initiate conversation, neither made the move.

It’s only after arriving back home did I feel like a complete toolbag.  What’s to be afraid of?  The behavior is completely incongruous with the fact that I’m traveling the world with the intent of going out of my comfort zone.  Just Do It!  Spark up a conversation!  Make a fool of yourself attempting to speak Portuguese.

The near future will bring about several societal, culinary and sociological challenges, and 2012 definitely promises to be a fun and adventurous year, but only if chances are taken and risks are made.

Deuces,

TimmyOx

“Give me WIFI, or give me death.” -Patrick Henry

Aside from libel, I find that I’m extremely guilty of an over-dependence of internet.

After a full week of no/spotty wifi at the place we’re staying at, the question came up.  Ben asks Ed, in all seriousness:

“Would you rather not have wifi, or have wifi and get punched in the face every morning?”

Ed pauses, confidently and definitively answers, “getting punched every morning,” sits back to mull it over, and possibly reconsider.  He takes and eats another scoop of almond peanut butter (organic, no doubt.  what a yuppie), and affirmed, reiterates, “Yeah, because you can’t do anything without internet.”

Obviously, our line of work is predicated on the stable supply of internet, but wifi seems to breathe life into us; even aside from our poker shenanigans.  Without wifi, as a foreigner, there’s no contact with the outside world, really.  We don’t know anyone in The Bahamas, we can’t call anyone (long distance rates obscene from U.S. cell phone) on the phone or through Skype.  We can’t find out valuable information like store or restaurant hours.  No email, Facebook, no music (we stream it), and, above all, no flow of money.

Our week without internet was the equivalent of purgatory.  We were just floating through the week w/o any sense of purpose or aim.  I felt like Gary Busey.  Sure, we’re here on vacation, but we’re here to work, primarily.  The Bahamas simply offered a change of scenery from the now gloomy Vancouver.

Here’s where I get uneasy about the implications of this newly realized kryptonite.  I have a serious problem with the fact that I rely on constant stimuli in order to feel at ease in life, ironically and counter-intuitively enough.  Obviously, this is a product of my A.D.D.-riddled mind.  Any given day, someone may witness me in my element; with the TV on (reruns of Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory or Steve Wilkos Show), music in my headphones, 8 browser tabs open, and 28 poker games going on. I know my situation is a bit extreme, but how many of us are guilty of an over-stimulation, simply for the sake of it (or as to somehow maintain the status quo of mental equilibrium)?

This could be way off, but perhaps it’s stimulus that denies us the possibility of realizing our solitude, and how uneasy it may cause us to feel.  Hell, we’re never really alone, are we?  With smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, IM; there’s always a party at your fingertips.

I realize all those venues are mediums by which we humans stay connected (as sociologically, we’re predestined to want), but the week from hell caused me to realize that sometimes, albeit hopefully infrequently for me, life can just….STOP!  Internet can be out, electricity can be out (which it was several times that week, due to faulty Bahamian electric grids), and people can just BE.  We can talk to each other; we can make jokes, and use our minds to find fun in the mundane, and enjoyably pass the time (without seeming like a type of lame activity parents would suggest to their kids to occupy their time while mommy takes a nap ——–>License Plate Game).

Now, obviously, internet is a absolute necessity for me, but now I think twice about some of the forces that rule my mind, life(style), so that when deprived of a luxury, I am still able to keep things in perspective and remain at peace with life as-is.

If we lose the ability to adapt, we lose the ability to be human.

This snowbird is off to the land of Ron Burgundy???

On Monday, we moved out of the condo.  Our landlord shows up to the apartment, and while this little middle-eastern fellow is extremely awkward to be around (he would always come in unannounced (a big landlord ‘no-no’), and sit and watch us playing poker), we felt an additional layer of unease.  As we wrap up the cleaning of the place and packing up of everything, he sits down with me at the dining room table, and plopped down a lease addendum (if you will).  It’s an unofficial document he drew up, explaining that we’ve had 3 people living in the condo, so 2 months x $400 (completely arbitrary amount) = $800 we do not get back from our security deposit of $2400.  While it was extremely shady that he did this (considering he knew that we were all living there, given his 10+ visits to sweat our games), we were backed into a corner that he felt pretty confidently that we were not able to defend against.  He knew that we were not citizens, and that since we were not on our home turf, he threatened the prospect of taking us to court over it.

Ben intervened before an argument between me and this lil guy got out of hand.  He negotiated it to $600, and we finally got the $1800-dollar check and got the hell out of there.  Compounded with the fact that we had several bottles of wine the night before to celebrate our final night with Ed, we were tired, moderately under-the-weather, and only wanted to get to the Ramada Inn so that we could take an afternoon nap.  As I mentioned, Ed is gone.  He headed back earlier in order to spend time with family and friends.  He has not been home since arriving in late June, so I’m sure they will be extremely happy to see the Muscle Milk’d teddy.

As for me and Ben, we decided to stay for another week, in order to earn some more money to help our travel fund.  The alternative would’ve been a two week stay in the U.S., which hurts because it’s a half-month of not working.  Instead, we’ll be departing this lovely country on Monday the 7th.  Ben to NYC, I reckon.

Last night, I was looking at flights, and found that it was actually cheaper ($500) to fly to San Diego, stay a few days, and fly to Minneapolis, than for a flight from Vancouver to Minneapolis ($600).  So the former is what I’ll be doing.  I told some friends that I would visit, so I’m making good on my promise.  I’ll be able to see my good friend, Lauren, and several others who I had the fortune of meeting while living there earlier this year for 5 months.  I contacted my next-door neighbor at the San Diego condo, and he says I can crash at his place.  What a nice guy!  For those of you that might remember some Facebook posts earlier this year, there was my favorite neighbor, June!  She’s the nice lady I used do puzzles with all the time.  She’s the one who recently sent me a package of 4 puzzles.  It’ll be great to see her again.  She was kind of like my adopted mother since I was 1500 miles from my own; always telling me to eat vegetables, and to get plenty of sunshine.

On the 12th, I will be headed home to Minneapolis for a couple days before going to the Bahamas for a month.

I’m gonna end this blog entry, cuz frankly, it sucks.  Even rereading it, I am disappointed.  It’s boring, and far too informative.  It’s probably because life is really boring right now.  The weather in Vancouver sucks.  It’s gloomy and 40-50 every day, so we’re cooped up in the hotel room for the majority of each day.  I’ve absolutely treasured my time in Vancouver.  I adore this city, but right now, I’m getting stir crazy, and would like John Candy it, and steer Wagons East and head home.

I promise the next one will be good.  If not, we’ll have a tribunal and vote on whether my blog privileges are to be revoked.

Interactive Blogging

So it’s Ed’s last night in Vancouver.  We went out for a family dinner @ Earl’s (steakhouse joint).  After several bottles of red wine, we started talking about our plans to document our travels.  We would like to create a domain name and brand it, so that we can create something special.  Our goal is to bring you guys along with us.  We realize that the opportunity we have is something that others can be a part of as well.  You want us to “run with the bulls?”  Well, we’ll do it!  Want us to pick up a girl using conversation Portuguese? Perfect, we’ll figure out a way to do that, too.  We want our adventure to be just as much an adventure for us as it is for you.  I hope that you readers are excited for what is to come.  Blogging will be taken to a whole different level, once we get a hold of the right tools.  We are talking daily updates; video clips galore and written accounts from the three diverse perspectives that we all offer.  The sky is the limits, y’all!

Our itinerary is very loose, and we are not tied to a particular schedule.  This means that we have the flexibility to pursue adventures that arise spontaneously.  So you’ve been to a particular region of Portugal, and want to share your experience with us?  Perfect!!!  Tell us all about it, and we’ll check it out.  The more we have talked about our travel plans, the more we realize that we are really an empty slate; tabula rasa.  Whatever we want to do, we’ll do.  The idea of working for a month straight, and skipping around the region for a couple weeks, and starting over in a different location has crossed our minds.  There will be an interesting evolution of planning that will happen in the next few weeks/months.  If any of you have suggestions, by all means, let us know.  Like I said before, this is just as much our adventure as your guys’.

TimmyOx