Sunday, March 27, 2011

TMI or Need To Know? Random Musings

I'm "injured" right now in that a deep bone bruise or possibly a stress fracture in my right heel has led to my taking two weeks off from martial arts except for a few kendo things I've done from a kneeling position. The only exercise I'm supposed to be doing is swimming. I'd forgotten what a good workout swimming can be. Or perhaps I repressed it since swimming is also possibly the most boring exercise imaginable, especially if you're trying to keep track of how many laps you've swum and can't indulge in a stream of consciousness.

Since I'm not doing martial arts much right now, I don't have to be taking off and putting on the two necklaces I wear for sentimental reasons. One is a 50 kronur Icelandic coin. On the front is a shore crab, fitting in that my astrological sign is Cancer. The back,which is the same on all Icelandic coins, has tiny pictures of the four guardian spirits of Iceland. I am not sure why I do it, but I wear the coin with the back's guardian spirits facing out and the shore crab against my skin. The other necklace is the one my father wore and removed only when absolutely necessary as when he was having an MRI exam. It's his gold baby ring, which he never knew existed until his mother sent it to him many years after he'd grown up and left home. Since it obviously wouldn't fit any of his adult fingers, he put it on a gold chain. When I touch it, which is often, putting my fingers on the ring puts my palm over my heart, which I think is fitting since that's where I carry lots of my memories of my dad.

Younger son turns 21 in less than a week, followed by the husband's turning 60 four days after that. I'm trying not to let these two milestones make me feel old. It is sobering, though, to realize that I've lived more than half the life I will have were "old age" to be my eventual cause of death. I don't feel as if I'm 54, though I'm not sure what 54 should feel like. I've been told that I don't look 54, though again I'm not sure what 54 should look like. I admit that there are times when I observe the teen and twenty-somethings with whom I do martial arts and feel not only the aches of a 54-year-old body but also the experiences of a 54-year-old life. There is a wisdom to being older that I did not recognize before I arrived here.

The last good night's sleep I had, "good" in that it was deep enough and long enough and I woke up incredibly refreshed, was aboard a junk in Halong Bay, Vietnam. The rocking of the boat and the gentle slapping of the water on the hull were like a lullaby. Earlier this year, there was a night-time fire on one of the Halong Bay tourist junks, and several Americans were among the fatalities. News reports said that they did not awaken in time to escape before the boat sank. Had this been our boat on our night aboard, I would like to think that I would have been one of the survivors, but I honestly doubt it. I guess it is possible to sleep too well.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lusting to Wander

Now, more than any other season, I almost inhale the urge to travel along with each breath of spring air. I see the condensation trail of a plane in the sky and my thoughts race. Where is it going? What awaits its passengers when they arrive? Will they deplane to explore a new culture or landscape? Or are they business travelers on just another business trip who won't really look at all that is around them? If I were on that plane, where would I wake up tomorrow? The sight of two or more con trails in the sky just multiplies the process. Which one would be best? Which one is going to a more exciting destination? I don't know why, but spring amplifies my wanderlust more than any other season.

A year from now, the plan is to be in Hue, Vietnam again. To prepare for this, one of my New Year's resolutions was to learn as much Vietnamese as I could. Unfortunately, I'm not doing as well at this resolution as I am at many of the others. On any given morning, I think that I'll put in a half hour or an hour at the end of my work time and then, in the afternoon, realize that I've shut down my laptop, at which point it's all too easy to think, "I'll do better tomorrow. Right now, my mind needs a break." And when I do remember to load the software (I'm using Byki), the fear exists that while my Vietnamese-to-English answers are valid, my English-to-Vietnamese ones might not be. Vietnamese is a tonal language, and it's impossible for me to tell if my tones match those emanating from the software's audio files. In other words, it's easy to make excuses for not doing it on my own.

Remembering and acting on a shower thought (a random neural firing while one's body is covered in warm soapy water, usually wiped from memory as one's towel wipes the droplets), I recently used my search engine friend Google to look for Vietnamese language classes available in, where else, Vietnam. As the sons say, I rolled twenties. Hue University, at which the husband will again be teaching, offers such classes. They're of varying length and cost the princely (for Vietnam) sum of $5 per hour. I've asked the husband to inquire of his Hue contacts about the classes and whether it would be possible for me to enroll. It would be ideal if the language classes might be at the same time (morning or afternoon) that the husband is teaching. This would leave some time in which to play tourist, with the possibility of doing that together when he's not preparing for his class and I'm not studying for mine.

Our last visit to Hue was followed by some touring in Vietnam, a visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and some time in the Netherlands and Norway. We'd like to cap next year's visit by following the yellow brick road to Oz. I have friends on both the east and west coasts of Australia, inspiring the plan to fly from Vietnam to Perth to visit my friends in that area. From Perth, we'd like to stop to visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) and possibly Alice Springs. From there, it would be nice to go to Melbourne to visit my friend there. Then, instead of last year's homeward flight across the Atlantic Ocean, we'd fly home across the Pacific. We won't be circumnavigating the globe, but I will then be able to say that I've traveled "around the world" albeit by combining trips. Besides adding 1 to the number of continents I will have been in, I'll be able to say I've been in the Southern Hemisphere. I don't travel for the numbers, but it's nice to keep track of one's expanding horizons.

In the meantime, I shall keep breathing the clean, fresh spring air of Central Virginia, while traveling in my mind. Cue Carly Simon's singing "Anticipation" and fade out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Boy Becomes a Man

I have a running gag with several friends about the imaginary pool boy we share. He appears at each of our houses as needed for entertainment. Given that we live in British Columbia, Illinois, and Virginia, the pool boy travels a lot. The friend in British Columbia actually found "Grow Your Own Cabana Boy" toys. ("He cleans. He goes home on the weekend. He's Built ... and by the way ... he's straight.") A cabana boy is not a pool boy, but it's probably the closest we can do. You may remember these toys from your childhood days or those of your children. Here are the INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE from the package back:

Place your grow toy in a large container of room temperature water. Your grow toy may take up to 10 days to grow completely. Watch how it changes as it transforms up to 600% its size. Remove from water and it will slowly shrink as it dries. Your toy can be grown again and again.

Those are the large-print instructions. There are also some small-print ones:

The larger the container of water the better your toy will grow. The growth is calculated as a total increase in mass and volume. As your tow grows it may distort in shape. This is part of the fun and will correct when fully grown. The slimy, icky texture is normal and harmless. Your toy may take up to 10 days to grow completely. As the toy grows the paint fades. Darker color will restore when toy is shrunk back to its original size.

Here's where we started back at the beginning of February. Cabana Boy was about an inch and a half tall. He took to water like a fish. When offered the chance, he jumped right in.
I brought him up for air and clean water periodically. In the interest of science, I also measured him from time to time. After three days ... A week after that ... After six more days ... Eight days after that ... And eight more ... At the same time, when compared to the original packaging ... I have no photographic evidence to present, but he is shrinking a bit more quickly than he grew. He is also experiencing some of the same contortions shown in the photos above.

In conclusion, was he built? Heck, yes! Did he clean? Unfortunately, no. Is he really straight? That's for me to know, and you to find out by getting your own Cabana Boy.