I'm online trying to coerce the guesthouse computer to upload my pictures. Being a sillyhead, I put the latest batch of pictures onto the hard drive of this computer and then elected to delete the originals from my card, before realizing that for some technical reason unknown to me, this computer will not download the Flickr uploader. Hmmph. So I'm attempting to upload the pictures directly onto the website, an achingly slow process I've only tried once before (and now return to only because of necessity). Outside there is a couple fighting in a Germanic sounding tongue. Harsh!
While I wait for my pictures to travel through the wires and across the universe (where is the Flickr site, dimensionally speaking?), I will pass time by writing about my daily adventures. It's so great having Lauren here, not only for the chance it gives me to hang out with a new person and gives Kenny a chance to do some stuff by himself, but for the femaleness of the company-- yay, girls! We've been making up for lost time by hitting the markets hard: sampling banana chips, basil cashews, dried kiwis, pretty shiny things to bring home to other girls (or boys who want Thai silk purses and scarves).
I did a sort of naughty thing. I sold two books to a used bookstore, but technically the books weren't mine to begin with, they were left behind by other travellers. I can't decide if this is bad. But I don't really think so. I don't feel bad. And now many more people will have the chance to read them than could before, when one (Jane Eyre) was stuck under a pile of mouldering Thai newspapers and dusty Dutch magazines and the other (A Pedant Cooks, or something) wedged in between for-rent guidebooks on a guesthouse shelf. And now I have 150 Baht, or about $4. It would be naughty, I think, if I turned this into a way to make money on the road, but really I set out to just trade them in for another book to read. But then the nice lady at the used book store (who was listening to an Iris DeMent CD, funnily enough) said, "would you like the cash now?" and the only possible answer to that question, when one has just been discussing with one's travel partner the unfortunate fact of one's dwindling budget, is heck yes.
So we're in Chiang Mai, a town which apparently is famous for all kinds of handicrafts. In fact I realize now that a good portion of the handicrafts I see in the markets in Saigon are actually from here, and a heck of a lot more affordable here, plus they look so nice in their natural setting... so I blew my budget just a little bit (honestly), and I made wise decisions, and I bought more for friends and family than I did for myself, and I don't really feel that bad about it. Especially considering my natural proclivity to ooh and ahh and drool over the Thai color schemes and design elements. Not to mention the size of this market. It's a phenomenon. So vast, so packed, so well lit (it's on one very long cobblestony street-- which we happen to live on-- at night, so all the yellow lamps and buttery shadows only serve to make the colors and textures that much more delicious), I'm surprised I didn't fall down in a state of worship and pledge myself into a lifelong commitment of living exactly here, on this corner, next to the handwoven shawls. Seriously, it was a feat. What I ended up with: half a dozen handbags in various glowing Thai colors to give out to older (mom-aged) lady friends; a gorgeous, comfy pair of clogs for me; a dozen pairs of carved coconut earrings for friends; one especially gorgeous pair of silvery earrings for Julia; a pair of twisty silver earrings for myself; and lots of pictures of the rest of the available loot (which are still trying to upload, by them way!) to serve as inspiration of a cheaper variety. I can look at them and remember how good it felt to be surrounded by so much handmade beauty. The market also had several food villages, which drew Kenny's attention, each spread out in the courtyards surrounding the wats (temples). We ate spicy noodles, coconut curries with fried pork balls, and of course the star of each street meal: deep fried bananas (oh dear god, they are so good). Then we waddled on, letting the hum of the dozens of languages exclaiming over rare finds carry us home.
I researched shipping costs today and if you don't mind using an actual ship and waiting for a few months, it's not too grossly unaffordable to send a package home. I'm not really considering this, but there are just so many things here that so many people that I know would love. Now that I'm at the age where I really like my parents again, and plus so many of my friends are at the settling down point, I find myself fingering things like carved wall hangings, silk bedspreads, tall paper lamps, and the like. The markets have SO many souvenirs, and only about half of them are small enough to take up a corner of my backpack. I can't carry around a big thing. It's so sad. I think what I'll do is just save up like crazy and at some point in the next ten years or so, come back here and shop like crazy, then go home again. I don't know; my head is spinning. I'm saving money and waiting till lunch to buy some food (it's almost time).
Good, the twelve pictures that I started this uploading batch with are now almost done. Too bad I have about a hundred to go. Internet is less than a dollar per hour, but still... my pictures are stuck on this computer! I wonder if I can put things back on to a memory card?
My mission today is to stay under budget, and I think this has to mean avoiding the markets. Maybe I'll take that new 150 Baht and buy a book, settle myself down at a table somewhere, order a 10 Baht banana shake, and read away the afternoon. Yeah.
Oh yeah! Exciting thing! On Tuesday night Kenny and I are going to spend the night being Buddhists-in-training. A wat very near our guesthouse offers a free overnight course introducing foreigners to the basics of Samatha Kammathana (concentration meditation) and Vipassana Kammathana (insight meditation), The schedule goes like this:
2:15pm Assemble at Wat Suan Dok
2:30pm Introduction to Buddhism and Meditation
4:00pm Departure for Training Center
5:00pm Free time, tea and snacks
6:30pm Evening chanting and Meditation
5:00am Morning gong
5:30am Morning chanting, yoga meditation, insight meditation practice
7:00am Alms offering and breakfast
8:30am Discussion on Buddhism and Meditation practice
9:30am Meditation practice
10:40pm Meditation practice
11:30 Offer food to monks and lunch
12:30 Group photo
1:30pm Return to Wat Suan Dok
So, that's a lot of meditation. I wonder if I'll be able to do it? It sounds like an amazing opportunity just to see what it's like to meditate for that long, because in the presence of monks I'm pretty sure I won't let myself get up and wander around like when I occasionally tried to meditate on my own in the past. In any case, it's only about 24 hours, and mostly free. The only concern is that it hurts Kenny's ankles to sit cross-legged on the floor. Hopefully they'll have a chair or some cushions he can use, or he's going to be pretty miserable.
Okay, I'm going to devote myself to the wrestling of my pictures now. Grrr.