In honor of Valentine’s Day: A Love Story

Runner Up To Bangkok

 

            Airport lines do two things. Organize people and confine their emotions: happiness, anxiety, fear, freedom, it’s all there, at the back of the check-in line, at the front of the security line, somewhere hidden. They hide in check out lines, at customs control, waiting to be outpoured, waiting to escape the strict grips of the airport. People are doing two things in airports. Running from something or chasing. Me, I was chasing someone. But first I had to endure the security line and then finding my terminal. I placed my items in a bin, carefully unloaded my pockets, and walked through the security scanner with confidence. I collected my items and walked forward, gripping my passport tightly with sweaty palms. I followed the arrows, making one right, and stepping carefully on to a moving platform that moved much slower than the people walking past me. Terminal D. I stepped off and found my seat. Relieved. I sat quietly, counting down the seconds until I would board the plane and leave this country behind for a few days. I didn’t dare go to the bathroom or step outside of my comfort zone in Terminal D in fear of being left behind. I watched parents ignore their children, the elderly doze off, a group of graduate students prepare for their research abroad, and a tour group of about five couples, complete with matching T-shirts and all of the necessary travel essentials.  

 

            I was 21 years old. I had never traveled by myself before. But here I was, alone. I thought I might be the girl at the airport with the anxiety, the nervous look on her face that had no clue where to go, running to Terminal D. But I wasn’t, I was quite calm and quite successful in finding that terminal. I wasn’t nervous. My face was reserved as I held back feelings of excitement. I wanted to explode in a fury of emotions: I wanted to revel in my glorious expectations, I wanted to dismiss my doubts, but instead I sat there emotionless. I desperately wanted to be that tourist group, laughing, taking stupid pictures, being normal, talking about what they would do on Ko Phi Phi island. I wanted to flush my anxiousness away.

 

But let me tell you, it’s hard to unleash everything when you’re completely alone. So I left my camera in my bag and flipped through magazines.

            “Now boarding…”

            That’s all I needed to hear. I stood up, passport still clutched between claw-like fingers and I crossed onto the plane with all those other chasers and runners. I was flying to Bangkok to meet my best friend who had decided to live in Asia for four months.

 

            The second my plane landed everything was a blur. I was no longer observing the people walking through security scanners or sitting in their appropriate terminals. Intercom speakers and advertisements in a language that I had never seen before overwhelmed me. I lost sight of everyone and most of the signs. Instead I focused intently on the directions I had been given through an email.

 

“Walk through customs until you find the escalator and take it to the basement. Find the Dunkin’ Donuts.”

 

 I met him in the basement in front of a train station. For 18 hours I could hardly contain my excitement, yet the second I saw him I couldn’t help but stare. No words came to me. I barely moved my arms upward to embrace the hug that was being thrown upon me. I hadn’t seen him in 2.5 months and all I could think to say was “How are you?” In retrospect that was a dumb question. I had certainly used forms of technology to stay in touch with him during the past few weeks. And I can say quite confidently that I knew exactly how he was doing. 

 

Following the hug came silence and then another hug. To be honest the entire train ride maintained this similar pattern. Staring out the window, staring at each other, an occasional hug, and an exchange of some meaningless words. Scott looked like a different person. Much skinnier since the last time I had seen him. These moments in the train seemed surreal and, as we watched fields of grass mixed with patches of dirt take shape out of the window, I forgot that we were best friends in love.

 

            I’d like to call it jetlag. But I think it would be more accurately described as self-pity. I bottled up all that excitement, for some reason unwilling to share my explosive feelings with my best friend. This was the person that I had wanted to share these feelings with more than anything. But this was also the person who decided to leave me behind for a few months to trek through mountains, ride elephants, hang out on gorgeous beaches, and (what I would soon find out) eat some of the best food in the world. In that first hour that I stepped into his new world, I couldn’t quite find my place.

 

We stepped off the train into the middle of Bangkok. Immediately, the tips of my hair began to take shape, curling right and left, the word ‘frizzy’ had reached its full potential. Scott causally ignored this oppressive heat and humidity. It absolutely throttled me. Suddenly I was being pushed and nudged back into reality. There were people everywhere; jumping on and off the train, catching the BTS a few steps away, scanning their tickets, and ordering freshly squeezed orange juice on the side of the road “to go”. In Bangkok, “to go” does not mean a recyclable paper cup, instead it means a plastic bag looking somewhat dusty, tightly knotted at the top, with a large straw sticking out.

 

And this was my first impression of the city that Scott had fallen unquestionably in love with. I stood helplessly outside of the train trying to balance a back pack, two rollers, my new metro ticket, and of course my passport (once again covered in sweat). For a few seconds I had lost my personal tour guide amongst the crowd of bystanders circling me on the platform. I found him a few steps ahead of me fearlessly fighting through the crowd and relentlessly haggling a taxi driver to lower their fare. I watched him negotiating as if he was a local, as if he had lived here his whole life. I hardly recognized this new confidence and suddenly I was inferior to Bangkok.

 

I knew exactly what it meant to be a foreigner and Scott no longer did. He had moved on and left me behind to try and catch up. Bangkok had stolen his heart. He had every inch of her memorized, from every street food vendor to every BTS stop. He was mesmerized by her energy, her willingness to never sleep, and her vibrant colors that leapt off a backdrop of silver high-rise buildings and cement streets. I followed behind him, exhausted, beaten down by the heat, trying to keep up with his newfound energy, as he dragged me around the city to his favorite sit down lunch stop.

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Our first lunch together in Asia felt like a first date all over again. I was nervous and giddy and often times calculating my next question. And nothing about Bangkok or Scott felt real until he made me eat fluffy catfish.

 

            I scoured the menu for several minutes. The last meal I ate was confined to four little paper walls and handed out on the plane as our “complimentary” meal. At this point, I was starved and making a decision was not an option. I looked up desperately. My eyes were begging for help. I hardly understood half of the words that sat in front of me.

 

            “Try the fluffy catfish. It’s a sort of salad. I know you’ll love it”.

And there he was with that reassured confidence once again, as if he had lived here his whole life. I sat there defensively. Fluffy catfish? First of all, I have never willfully ordered a salad at a restaurant in my life. All of those shriveled up green leaves bore me. Second, I haven’t shared a meal with you in weeks, how could you possibly know what I like. And the word “fluffy” and “catfish” combined certainly did not convince me.

 

            With little hesitation, the waitress had come and gone and my order had been placed. A fluffy catfish salad and a side of fried rice.  My first thought was that I’m going to starve. I’ve been flying across the world and my welcome meal is lettuce and rice.

 

The salad sat in front of me. To my surprise, I could only find about four pieces of lettuce in a shade of pale green. Instead thin shaved slices of unripe mango filled my bowl to the brim, along with the occasional purple onion and bits of red chili to add some color. Sitting on top, staring me straight in the eye was fluffy catfish. It looked crunchy, a faded out brown, speckled with black dots, it laid lifelessly on top resembling nothing of a fish. I expected some sort of marshmallow fluff that showed the possibility of melting in your mouth. With this array of pale greens topped with a light brown substance and sprinkled with the smallest bits of color, I couldn’t quite find the excitement in this dish, or that fluffy attraction. But the second these flavors mix together, the salad is brought to life; a tart green mango, a spicy red chili sauce, a crunch of cashew, and of course a fluffy catfish. I am preoccupied as I chew, tasting every flavor, thinking of nothing else. The term “fluffy” is clearly defined because it does exactly what you had hoped it to do. The crunchy exterior was just a façade to play with your mind because it doesn’t crunch at all; it melts… like a marshmallow.

 

He was right. I loved it. And almost simultaneously I exploded with all of those emotions that I had been unwilling to share. I soaked in all the glory of that single bite. And maybe I was runner up to this vibrant city, unable to compete with the complexity of its flavor. But I wasn’t alone and it was as simple as that. I spoke endlessly, rambling on about airports, catfish, Asia, every detail of my last 24 hours… as if we were best friends, in love.

 

Midterm season.

So word on the street is that it’s midterm season. For me this translates to midterm week.  Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…. three days left and I’m done. I’m supposed to be writing my essay due tomorrow but instead I’m blogging. I haven’t blogged since last April or May and now out of all the times to possibly blog I decide that at 4 in the morning, when I’m not even halfway through my essay, is the perfect time to blog. (AKA procrastination). But it’s not just procrastination. I’ve been thinking about how horrible this one week will be for the last two weeks and now it’s finally here. It really is just as horrible as I imagined but I certainly didn’t need to spend two weeks thinking about it to come up with this conclusion. So I’m writing to clear my mind, take a breather, and think about the things I’d like to do on Friday when this whirlwind of a week has passed. And of course it WILL pass, because they always do. 

1)Drink some tea in a pretty cup

2)Find pumpkin pie, or something pumpkin-y (I’ve completely neglected this pumpkin season)

3)Watch Parenthood and New Girl 

4)Sleep

5)Get dressed up, paint my nails, and find a good and very long dinner in DTLA

6)Post some pictures of my wakeboarding trip 

7)USC football game

8) Order Scott’s anniversary gift 

I encourage you all to take a moment to be selfish and make a list. Take time away from your busy schedule or thinking about your busy schedule and breathe. Because it will pass, as always. 

Good luck with midterm season! 

one very long post.

  

my spring break consisted of 2 weeks, 7 flights, a BTS card, and 4 countries. i was lucky enough to visit Scott just in time for his birthday. and i couldn’t have been more excited to hop on that flight on march 8th. 2 days later, i was at the Bangkok airport wandering down to dunkin’ donuts. i heard my name from across the basement floor and i couldn’t speak. i didn’t know what to say. and yet i had so much to say. it was a hug that i can’t forget. i had finally made it to Bangkok. i can’t seem to decide where this adventure starts and where it ends. does it start with a french class freshman year of high school? does it start at the airport or does it start with my first bangkok meal? i quickly learned that my favorite thing in bangkok was the culinary experience. this huge city is filled with restaurants. from one of the best burgers i’ve ever had to spicy pad thai or orange juice on the street, i was always surrounded by food. something that i certainly became accustomed too. i saw the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho, all of which are covered with intricate details and beautiful colors. the Grand Palace is perfectly described as is, grand, over the top, yet intentional, mesmerizing every onlooker with its taste for jewels. Wat Arun was quaint and calm. covered in tile; faded, chipped, broken. but with these imperfections, Wat Arun stands strong and the faded colors glow under the sun. it was a place of quiet. finally we stumbled upon Wat Pho. no longer a place of quiet as tour buses lined the streets and groups piled in to snap their picture with the reclining buddha. i was certainly one of those tourists! 

after plenty of good meals and fun Bangkok shopping, we made our way to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. a series of temples built in the early 12th century. absolutely incredible and absolutely indescribable. i can’t put into words how these temples make you feel, think, and appreciate. these temples are prideful as they bask under the beating sun and they yearn to be seen. our time here was short but necessary in every way.

quickly we caught the next flight into Luang Prabang, Laos. scott and i fell in love with this charming unesco world heritage site. 80 cent baguettes at every corner, bike rides from beginning to end of this little town, a night market boasting bright beautiful colors, and Laotian bbq. buildings with french windows, a lingering and mighty Mekong river, with picturesque mountains in the background. naughty novices jumping off rocks, children swimming down river, this town moved slowly and quietly with an 11:30 curfew. but this little town wasn’t the only thing Laos had to offer. we rode an elephant, whom I adored as she lingered behind eating everything in sight. to return home, scott and i ventured upon a 3 hour kayak ride down the river. conquering rapids, tired arms, and a beating sun we enjoyed jumping in the river and watching local families spearfish. in the night we strolled along the streets searching for Laotian dinners and my daily banana, nutella crepe stand. our last day in Laos. taking everything in. we climbed to the top of Kuang Si Falls, a three tier waterfall with a 50 m cascade. it was surreal. the water was a breathtaking, turquoise blue and you could hear the power of each fall. at the second tier, we were lucky enough to jump in for a swim. surrounded by gorgeous water and a water fall falling just inches in front of us we decided to swim under it. the force of the waterfall pushed us out quickly but it was 30 seconds under a waterfall that i’ll never forget.

finally, after a quick stop in Bangkok for some Terminal 21 pad thai, we made it to our last destination, Vietnam. we were fortunate enough to have scott’s uncle and his wife, who live in Vietnam, as our local guides for the next 4 days. our first stop was a Dalat, Vietnam. i hade finally been able to escape the heat. the weather here was fantastic and very cool. far different from a hot and humid Bangkok. we stayed in a majestic hotel created in the early 1900s overlooking the Xuan Huong Lake of Dalat. we played golf at a fun course in the middle of Dalat. a lush green course with my first caddie, i was able to double my last hole, and fail to break 80. despite my inability to finish strong it was a perfect golf day in Vietnam. the next day we woke up to pouring rain, which would not normally strike me as such a burden. but today we had signed up to trek through the Dalat forest to rappel down waterfalls and rain is the last thing I need to worry about. first I was scared to rappel, and then all of a sudden I was scared to jump in water. it was cold and rainy. I could only thing of three things as we drove up the mountain into the woods: it’s raining, i’m going to slip down the waterfall, and the water will be unbearably cold. but experience was the complete opposite. I recommend canyoning to anyone and everyone. it’s exhilarating and way less scary than I had imagined in my head. so this adventure starts as we get dropped off on the side of the rode. two guides, no signs in sight, and a small little trail down into a forest of incredibly tall trees. we strap on our helmets, lifejackets, and embark down the steep little trail. halfway down we get a 5 minute practice session and then continue on. the trek was fun, but as we begin to hear a waterfall, we know it’s only about to get better. so our first mission was to rappel down a cliff several feet away from a roaring and incredible waterfall. i made it down the cliff rappelling the whole way! I figured I could probably handle the rest of the day. next we found a small little waterfall that we got to slide down, shooting us in the river. continuing on we rappelled down a 75 foot waterfall, for me it was the highlight of the trek. the waterfall was huge, forceful, and gorgeous and I got to climb down it! being drenched by water the whole way down and trying my hardest not to slip, I made it to the bottom but not without slipping. we took a quick break to jump of a 12 foot cliff before we made it to our last waterfall, “the washing machine”. we rappelled down a waterfall as the water hits you and spins you around until you fall in the river. and this concluded our canyoning experience. it was an incredible day. that afternoon we drove 3 hours through the backside of Dalat until we reached Phan Thiet, Vietnam. we stayed at a quaint resort just a few steps from the beach. we had an amazing view of a quiet beach. this was the relaxing part of the trip. the next day, after a breakfast buffet with amazing croissants and fantastic passionfruit, we played golf at a course across from the hotel. not my best round but always a great way to start the day. the next day we caught a flight back into Bangkok. my last dinner in the city we went to a bar called “Iron Fairies”, for the second time this trip, to have a lovely meal with one of my new favorite burgers in this world.

it’s difficult to put into words and describe everything Southeast Asia has to offer. and I can’t even begin to describe how amazing my trip was. i am so blessed to have tasted the food I tasted, to have experienced so many incredible places, and to have shared lots of laughs and long dinners with someone I love. every part of our trip fell into place perfectly and I can’t wait to go back : )

see you soon. 

missing you.
missing you.
i heart Morley. and love you.

i heart Morley. and love you.

i can’t wait to explore this colorful world with you.

i can’t wait to explore this colorful world with you.

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