Apr 292013
 

I’m sitting on a plush red sofa that spans the long 3rd-floor window into the central atrium of Dartmouth’s newest academic building, the Black Family Visual Arts Center. Across the negative space and one floor below me, a student is hammering away at a final paper in a fishbowl, a trinity of glass walls surrounding the workspace I think belongs to the Film and Media Studies department. The brightness and hyper-visibility of the Black-Vac, as at least one student calls it, are new phenomena among the abundant brick and sheltering verdure of Dartmouth’s campus. But more than feeling foreign to Hanover, I’m struck by how alien the building feels to me personally. A few minutes ago, as I ducked in to see the new Lowe Auditorium, I found myself wondering how I’d answer if someone approached with a trite, “May I help you?” Certainly it wasn’t a problem to be there, but I realized I didn’t know how I’d identify myself. 6 months ago I’d say I was an admissions officer, just exploring the space. But a former admissions officer? That’d be weird. Yet answering only that I was an alum, back visiting, would completely ignore the 3 years I spent in the Upper Valley post-graduation, maybe the most important period in my life. In either case, I can’t escape the fact that I’m just a guest, a visitor in an unfamiliar building in the place that I still call home.

I’m standing behind the makeshift bar at Fox Run, tending to guests at our “Thriftshop” party, held half in honor of me being home, half in consequence of me-being-home-so-I-can-bartend, a practice which I claim with deliberate conceit “makes” parties, and the House as usual has gone along with it because here I am mixing “Purple Draanks” and “Cold-ass Honkeys” (repurposed White Russians) while people serve themselves from a bowl of “Your Grandpa’s Punch” and everyone seems to be generally having a good time. As was often the case at Fox Run parties, there are a few people here I haven’t met before. Now one thing that makes meeting people at Fox Run different is that instead of “who (among the people who live here) do you know?” being the default question, unknowns ask “So, do you (also) live here?” because, let’s face it, the odds are good that you do. But this particular evening, I’m not prepared for such a line of questioning. More specifically, I’m not prepared to refer to my living here in the past tense. “I, uh, well, this week I do!” But even to me that sounds a bit desperate. Gotta face the facts. “I didfortwoyears! but no, now I… all right, so this is still my legal address, because I haven’t had another home, and… well your drink’s ready, so here you go enjoy the party!”

I’ve collapsed into a chair, one of the few we haven’t moved to make space for the dance floor in the living room. Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You out of My Head” from 2001 is playing, but the nostalgia sweeping over me is from a more recent era. In a rare moment, everyone who’s at the party is dancing at the same time, and I’ve paused to commit the scene to memory. There’s Mackey, dancing on a couch, and Olivier, still wearing the ridiculous fez and earrings he picked up from the thrift store this morning; Pat’s in hot pink, inexplicably running around in circles, and as usual there’s Rory, in the middle of it all.

A few days ago, I found out I was admitted to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) for a 2-year master’s program. When I’d applied back in January, I assumed I’d be in China when the decision arrived. I figured if I liked how things were going in Beijing, I’d defer school for a year; if not, I’d stay for a few months and travel a bit more before moving to D.C. Now I’m here, with a broken collarbone, about to begin a 4-week visa application process, and it feels as if this entire week has been conspiring to remind me of how much community I had here, and how much I miss it. Am I really prepared to make my way through a long bureaucratic process in order to move to the most polluted city in the world for a job I’m still not convinced is a great fit for me, and stay there just long enough to forge relationships that will hurt to leave? Because I could just wait a bit longer for my collarbone to heal, kick around South America for two months, cycle through France for the summer, move to D.C., and stay there for a while.

*   *   *

I’m at the post office, holding my diploma and a letter from Dartmouth’s HR in a poster tube, ready to go to Beijing and prove my status as a “foreign expert.” In the end, I realized my decision wasn’t between one thing and another, but rather one or both, and I can’t quite imagine yet a time in my life when I won’t choose both.

I’m at my desk at Taiyue Suites in Beijing, my first night here, about to hit ‘publish’ on something I wrote more a little more than a month ago. My deferral deposit is in. Tomorrow I’ll look at apartments. Work starts Thursday. Here goes…

 Posted by on April 29, 2013 at 11:33 am
Apr 082013
 

I already posted some pictures from Burma under Favorite Photos, but after developing a bunch more for Facebook, I decided I should make use of my Flickr Pro account and upload them there. It’s all a little tedious to do on the MacBook Air, but at least now my non-Facebook friends can see these.

 Posted by on April 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm
Apr 082013
 

One of the last, and best, classes I took at Dartmouth was called War and Peace in the Modern Age. Though taught in the government department by an expert on nuclear weapons, it turned out to be one of the closest things to a comparative literature course that I took in my four years of undergrad. Nearly all of the course readings were first-person accounts of warfare, often in novel form. Here’s a bit of what the syllabus had to say about the assigned works: 

The readings are generally personal accounts that I assign to convey to you – to the extent possible – first-hand descriptions of what war is like. The biographical accounts of what took place in several wars are designed to help you develop a mental picture of war as a process conducted, for the most part, by people your own age. I hope the readings give you a sense of war through the eyes of 20-year olds.

Still, after reading My War Gone by, I Miss it So (which devoted fans of The Wander Years [hi mom and dad] will remember as the book that inspired me to go to Bosnia – you can read about that here) about halfway through the term, I started to wonder why it was important for anyone to have that “sense of war,” not necessarily as future policy makers, or writers, or military officers – not even as voters – but rather, simply as human beings. Of what value is it truly to expose ourselves to the frontiers of the human condition? I felt doing so was important to me, but could I make that case universally? Over the past four years, I’ve had a handful of “eureka” moments when the case for the “direct experience,” the exposure of our selves to the limits of humanity, has been abundantly clear. But the logic tends to slip away as quickly as it arrives, and I’m left again with nothing more than my personal conviction, the conviction that this exposure helps define what it means to be alive, and that finding this definition is one of life’s greatest goals. Recently, a dear friend gifted to me an out-of-print collection of some of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s essays and news dispatches. Besides writing The Little Prince, Monsieur de Saint-Exupéry spent time as a war reporter, covering among other things the Spanish Civil War for a handful of French newspapers. More than just answering the question of whether The Little Prince was an isolated incident of genius, his reports from the Spanish fronts bring us closer to understanding the significance of human consciousness:

Human events display two faces, one of drama and the other of indifference. Everything changes according as the event concerns the individual or the species. In its migrations, in its imperious impulses, the species forgets its dead. This, perhaps, explains the unperturbed faces of these peasants. One feels that they have no special taste for horror; yet they will come back from that clump of trees on the one hand content to have administered their kind of justice, and on the other hand quite indifferent to the fate of the girl who stumbled against the root of the tree of death, who was caught by death’s harpoon as she fled, and who now lies in the wood, her mouth filled with blood.

Here I touch the inescapable contradiction I shall never be able to resolve. For man’s greatness does not reside merely in the destiny of the species: each individual is an empire. When a mine caves in and closes over the head of a single miner, the life of the community is suspended.

His comrades, their women, their children, gather in anguish at the entrance to the mine, while below them the rescue party scratch with their picks at the bowels of the earth. What are they after? Are they consciously saving one unit of society? Are they freeing a human being as one might free a horse, after computing the work he is still capable of doing? Ten other miners may be killed in the attempted rescue: what inept cost accounting! Of course, it is not a matter of saving one ant out of a colony of ants! They are rescuing a consciousness, an empire whose significance is incommensurable with anything else.

Inside the narrow skull of the miner pinned beneath the fallen timber, there lives a world. Parents, friends, a home, the hot soup of evening, songs sung on fast days, loving kindness and anger, perhaps even a social consciousness and a great universal love, inhabit that skull. By what are we to measure the value of a man? His ancestor once drew a reindeer on the wall of a cave; and two hundred thousand years later that gesture still radiates. It stirs us, prolongs itself in us. Man’s gestures are an eternal spring. Though we die for it, we shall bring up that miner from his shaft. Solitary he may be, universal he surely is.

Addendum: The more I learn about it, the more I realize how significant an event the Spanish Civil War was, despite the prevalent narrative about very little happening in the world between the World Wars. At the very least, it inspired some great literature and art, including Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. And while I’ve never been a student of art history, Guernica is one of the first paintings I can remember learning about.

Addendum: On the subject of war reporting broadening our understanding of humanity and all its definitions, I can’t help but to include this passage from Anthony Loyd’s My War Gone by, I Miss it So: 

As darkness fell a young woman staggered weeping up the street and collapsed into the arms of those sheltering behind the Swedes. Friends managed somehow to extract the story of what had happened to her – the rape – and told the Swedes that her paralyzed father still lay in the apartment block. We went with a Swedish patrol to find him, carrying him back to the other Muslims for his final night of life. The idea of some things is enough to jam your mind, let alone seeing the reality. If you read about it in the newspaper you may not feel it, you may fall for the empty sterility of the phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ without ever understanding what it really was: persuasion through terror. After the war had finished one of the columnists who wrote about Bosnia without ever having been there offered the opinion that ‘ethnic cleansing’ was a good idea as it led to the definition of peaceful borders similar to those between Britain and Scotland. He seemed very pleased with this comparison. Perhaps if he had his youngest child raped beside his death bed, he would have a different view.

 Posted by on April 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm
Mar 292013
 

When I was a student at Dartmouth, recruiting and admitting first-generation college students (which Dartmouth defines as students whose parents do not hold 4-year degrees) was an institutional priority. Our president at the time, Jim Wright, had been the first in his own family to attend college, and he recognized the barriers first-gen students face in gaining entrance to any college, let alone the nation’s elite institutions. With the extra effort and attention paid by the admissions office, these students made up about 13% of each class in the latter years of Wright’s tenure. When he retired and was succeeded by President Jim Yong Kim, the first-gen population fell to around 9% of the class. It was a tragedy.

I’ve always had a difficult time articulating my collegiate search and experience as a first-generation student at Dartmouth, one of the world’s top universities. But in an op-ed published today in the New York Times (online yesterday), Claire Vaye Watkins eloquently gives voice to the process in which rural poor students select – or don’t select – the colleges they attend. I went to Dartmouth because it came back as the top match on Princeton Review’s “Counselor-o-Matic” (now defunct, it seems, though there are numerous similar tools available), and because my sister had a friend who went there. When I interviewed for an internship at the admissions office my junior year, and again when I interviewed for the assistant director position, I conveyed my excitement to have the opportunity to recruit students like me – a notoriously difficult population to reach. But then President Wright retired, and, well…

Anyway, a couple things stand out from this article. The first is that Watkins was able to attend the University of Nevada, Reno on a state-sponsored scholarship. Even though she started there just 8 years ago, the financial access poor students have to higher education has dropped precipitously since then. To wit, Arizona has cut higher education funding an inflation-adjusted 50.4% compared to FY 2008. New Hampshire (live free or die) is next at 49.9%. Watkins’ home state of Nevada has reduced funding 31.2% over that period; in fact, 36 states have decreased funding more than 20%, and only two states, Wyoming and North Dakota, have increased funding since 2008 (all according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). Meanwhile, Paul Ryan wants to freeze Pell Grants, an incredibly important resource for poor students, at their current level for the next ten years.

The other thing I want to point out is a reader comment that, though I didn’t grow up in rural Appalachia, perfectly captured one of my reactions to this article, and something I’ve known for a long time:

As someone who grew up in rural Appalachia and hit the lottery by getting into the Ivy League, where I soon realized I was the “token” rural kid and felt incredibly isolated and misunderstood by my prep-school colleagues, I’ve been waiting years for someone to write a column like this, though never expected it would be done so well. Thank you for raising awareness about something that every American rural teenager already knows, but no one in NYC or any other large metropolitan era seems to have ever considered: Geography is destiny.

I welcome any reactions you might have to this post or Watkins’ article.

Addendum 

Dartmouth’s admitted group this year includes 11% first-generation students, and 68% of admitted students qualify for financial aid with an average scholarship of $40,000. Still, rural poor kids are being left behind on a national scale.

 Posted by on March 29, 2013 at 5:59 pm
Feb 202013
 

Part 2 of my skiing misadventure in Bansko.

I shouldn’t even have been out there – my legs were too tired. That’s what I’ve been telling myself all day today. I’d started skiing an hour before the morning lesson started, and instead of resting during lunch, I took another turn on run 5, about 2000 vertical feet that took me 25 minutes to descend. I was gassed, and I thought about skipping the afternoon lesson. I couldn’t bring myself to just go home, though, and I told myself our descent down run 10 would be my last. But I didn’t complete that turn because my legs were tired, and I didn’t fall right because I was lazy. Just a few minutes earlier, Nasko had made some comment about skiing being the only way down the mountain. Donna and I joked about a few alternatives. 30 minutes later I was on the back of a snowmobile, wincing with every bump as we made our way down the mountain. We stopped briefly to fill out some paperwork (for the insurance), and then, after a flurry of activity that began an hour earlier with a loud crunch and involved at least a dozen people, I was ushered onto the gondola, and I was alone.

Well, not completely alone. There was also a Bulgarian couple in the 8-person carriage, and a young British woman sitting across from me. I must have looked to be in pretty rough shape but I guess she couldn’t see the sling I was in, because about halfway through the ride she asked if I was ok, and her eyes went wide and she put her hand to her mouth when I told her id just broken my collarbone. “Oh! I thought you just had motion sickness from the gondola!” That would make sense – I’d been closing my eyes every time the cabin shook as we went by a tower.

I never got her name, but this young woman (I think she was around 20) was a huge help. She chatted with me all the way down the mountain, and then carried my skis when we reached the terminal. We took the elevator down to the medical center, and there was Georgie.

Georgie works for Pirin 2000, my ski school, and, well, it’s difficult to write about how caring he was yesterday. “John,” he greeted me, with the look of a concerned parent, or even an elementary school teacher, “what happened?” I just looked at him and gave him a one-shoulder shrug. “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.”

Like David had on the mountain, Georgie walked me through everything that was going to happen. He helped me fill out the paperwork, took my gloves, helmet and goggles, and told me after I took a taxi to my hotel I should call him and he’d come with my things and trade me my shoes for the ski boots. He also said Pirin would reimburse me for the four days of rentals and lessons I wouldn’t use. I’d say that I’ve rarely been so impressed by a company’s customer service, but in this case I hardly felt like a customer, and their care didn’t feel like a “service.” After a few minutes, Georgie want back to the office and I waited to see the doctor.

Dr. Nicolai was a large man, and smelled of cigarettes, but even though we only exchanged a few words, I was confident he and his team knew what they were doing. After all, collarbone fractures aren’t that unusual. We got my coat and shirt off and snapped the X-Ray. So far, so good. I watched as the image loaded onto the computer, and I continued watching as Dr. Nicolai did a double take and said, “Humph.” Apparently, “humph” is Bulgarian for “Aw shit that doesn’t look too good.”

Uh-oh.

“Is it serious,” I asked. “Can you treat it here?”

He might have hesitated for a second, or I might have imagined it, before slowly turning back to me and saying, “…Nnyes.” He had me put my hands on my hips (“Put hands on hips. Stand still like soldier!”) and started to wrap my shoulders. The edges of my vision darkened, and by the end I was conscious that my legs were shaking.

But that was it. The nurse helped me put my coat back on – I skipped the shirt, figuring I wouldn’t be able to take it off later. Meanwhile, I’d asked if they could send me a copy of the X-Ray, and the technician brought me a burned CD. A burned CD? Is that still a thing? I took some shots of the monitor with my iPhone on my way out. Dr. Nicolai left me with a script for some painkillers.

Rather than taking a cab, I walked the couple hundred yards to the Pirin 2000 office, where I was greeted by much attention. Georgie brought me inside and helped get my boots off. David was there, too. I showed him the X-ray and he said yeah, that was quite a bummer because usually this was a simple break. I had at least two bone fragments in my shoulder in addition to a nasty looking displacement. To be honest I didn’t really know what the break was supposed to look like, but… yeah, I guess this was bad. Meanwhile, Nesko was walking around looking almost distraught. “It happens,” he kept saying, I think for his own benefit as much as mine. But we both started to feel better when Georgie poured us shots of whiskey and I had my second dose of pain medicine of the day.

There were lots of little moments sitting in that office that I’m sure I’ll remember, but will breeze through here in the interest (too late, I fear) of brevity. After seeing the X-Ray, Georgie was ready to put me in a car to Sofia for surgery, but after calling Dr. Nicolai we made a plan for me to go in two days (tomorrow, now) for another X-ray and possible readjustment, and a referral to surgery if necessary. One of David’s girls was crying from a fall she’d taken herself but seemed to feel better (or forget she’d even fallen) when I showed her a picture of my X-ray. And Joe, the 8-year-old I met on the first day who’d told me all about Harry’s bar, conveyed his deepest sympathies. David gave me his email address and said I should be in touch if I need anything, and I promised the guys at Pirin I’d show up in a couple of days with a bottle of whiskey. “Hell,” I said, “my lift pass is good for another 4 days – maybe I’ll take the gondola up and hang out with you at the lodge.”

And then I walked to the pharmacy and back to my apartment, picking up a doner sandwich on the way. I suppose the story ends with me writing yesterday’s blog post. I can’t say I slept well last night and I’m not sure how exactly I’m going to prepare myself to go out in public tomorrow, but I’m in high spirits. I’ve already started a claim with my travel insurance company, and I think they’re going to be really helpful. And since I won’t know much until tomorrow’s visit to the doctor, I shouldn’t worry about what might happen. But whether I need surgery or they reset my collarbone here, it’s probably not going to be a great day, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the support coming from back home. So please keep those healing wishes coming, and I’ll post another update tomorrow. If you don’t hear from me, it’s probably because I’ve gone right to Sofia, but I’ll write again as soon as I can.

With love and thanks from Bansko,
John

P.S. I guess if there’s one good thing to come from this, it’s that I’ve learned that my natural response to pain is to laugh. I’m a little afraid tomorrow’s going to be a bit too funny for me though.

 Posted by on February 20, 2013 at 6:09 pm
Feb 192013
 

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“How many of these do you get a day?” I asked the Skidoo driver as we were about to start the trip down to the gondola, which would take me to the medical center at the base of the mountain.

“Since December fifteen… about 900.”

“Wow. And how many were Americans?”

He smiled as he started the motor.

“First.”

I’m not… entirely sure what happened. It had been snowing here for at least 36 straight hours, and on run 10, not far from the summit and at about 7000 feet, my ski caught while making a turn and all of a sudden there was a guy in front of me and naturally I didn’t want to hit him, but I guess I flipped over the back of his skis or something and 8 hours later I’m typing this with one hand and there’s nowhere I can position my left arm so that it doesn’t hurt.

It had been more than 20 years since I’d broken a bone, but as I landed on my head and left shoulder I heard an unambiguous crunching sound that surely will only grow more and more horrific in my memory. “John, are you all right?” asked the others in my lesson group, the same way we all had asked each other at least a dozen times over the past two days as we learned parallel skiing the only way you can: by falling a lot and trying not to do that same thing again.

I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but I wasn’t. “No,” I said, “I’m in trouble here.” And then, a second later, as my brain caught up to what had happened, “I think I broke my collarbone.” There were some expletives mixed in there but I’m not sure exactly where they fell, so use your imagination.

But from that moment on, and I suppose this is the reason I’m bothering to write a post about this as the drugs and pain in my shoulder are making a stupendous noise in my head while the wine has rendered everything (but the pain, of course) sort of numb, once the damage had been done (and it’s quite serious, as we’ll see in a moment) I couldn’t have hoped for a greater series of events. It started with David, who’s here with his wife, Donna, and their two little girls from England. He was by my side in about 15 seconds with some of the best words I’ve ever heard: John, I’m a doctor.

“You’re kidding,” I said. (It might have been “No shit,” which, in writing it I realize how many ways the expression can be used but of course I meant it in the most positive of senses.) “That’s amazing.”

He asked me what happened and I told him I was pretty sure I broke my collarbone. He confirmed my diagnosis about 3 seconds after opening up my coat and shirt. Ski vacation over. “That… sucks,” is all I could manage.

As our instructor, Nesko, one of the best people I’ve met on this trip, called for the Skidoo and ski patrol, David hovered over me. The adrenaline kept my arm from hurting too much immediately, but I knew it was going to feel worse pretty quickly. “Am I going to go into shock here?” I asked him. I was on my back in the snow, and though I had a warm coat and pants on I wasn’t really sure what happens when one breaks a collarbone.

“No,” he reassured me, and walked me through what would likely happen: a quick wrap, a ride down, an x-ray, and then a sling for 6 weeks. No problem at all. As breaks go, collarbones aren’t so bad. I might lose a little mobility at the top end of my shoulder rotation, but otherwise I’d be fine.

I can’t understate how helpful it was to have David there. I’m sure Nesko would have taken great care of me, but to have a British doctor tell me exactly what was going to happen and that I’d be fine… I mean, that was incredible. Meanwhile, Donna had fished out a gram of paracetamol from her coat for me. Mild as it is, it’s the only analgesic I had for the first 4 hours, and it was infinitely better than nothing.

As we waited for the Skidoo, David, Nesko, another David from our group and I kept things light. “Well, guess I’ll go to Thessaloniki,” I said.

“I hear Athens is lovely this time of year,” David answered. At one point I said I figured I had this coming – something like 15,000 kilometers on a road bike and I’d yet to break a collarbone (one of the most common injuries from biking), and we talked about cycling for a while. I remember feeling particularly funny, but I cant remember much of what else we talked about.

Before long (well actually it felt like an eternity), ski patrol was on scene and I had to sit up. That would be the first of many times since the crash I’d have to make myself feel worse in order to get eventually better. My field of vision was limited by my goggles, and not being able to see much of what was going on around me was a bit disconcerting. Soon the medic was wrapping a sling around my shoulders. It hurt. A lot.

“So I’m actually in the air force,” David told me (seriously, what a cool guy. He looked a bit like Anderson Cooper, too). “And we have a saying, ‘pain is weakness leaving the body.'”

“Ha, I used to run cross-country, and we’d say that then.”

“So you know,” he said. I thought back about my favorite motivational cliché: pain is temporary; pride is forever. I was sad to realize it didn’t really apply in this case, unless you count not breaking down into tears as something to be particularly proud of later on. Just then, the medic pulled back on my shoulder. Mother. I called out. “Wow, there goes a lot of weakness!” David said. We both laughed.

Wow, typing with one hand takes FOREVER, and this is getting a bit long. So let me skip ahead a bit and write part 2 tomorrow, since I’ll have nothing better to do anyway.

Here’s what I’m thinking as I’m looking forward to trying to go to sleep tonight:

This is a real bummer. I came to Bansko to learn to ski, and part of the reason for coming here instead of somewhere in the U.S. is that I’m a little embarrassed to be learning at 25 (especially after living in New Hampshire for 7 years), and I’d rather not be with a bunch of 4-year-olds at a place like Killington; it’s just different to be learning in a foreign country. But as it turns out I wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered from the last time I went skiing; I guess I learned a bit through osmosis, and also I’m sure 4 years of nordic skiing didn’t hurt. On my first day here I was going down reds – not with the best technique, but I was doing it. By the end of 12 days I figured I’d actually be able to call myself a “skier.” Honestly I’m not sure when my next chance to learn will be – I figure to be in Beijing next winter, and I don’t think it’ll happen there.

For the first time this trip, I feel acutely alone. The Internet here is really slow, but fortunately it was working well enough a little while ago to call my parents, and that helped. But, like, how am I going to get dressed in the morning? I’ve got some botton-front shirts so I ought to be all right there, but damn, I learned today that you use your collarbone for just about everything, and it’ll be interesting to see how I get through the next week or so on my own.

This is actually a bad break (we’ll see in part 2), and I might need to go to Sofia for surgery. I’m flying home March 7th (oh man I just realized I haven’t mentioned that here yet – I’m coming home for a few weeks!) but this shouldn’t wait until then – besides, my travel insurance doesn’t cover anything in the U.S. So I’m a little bit scared; I don’t want to lose any mobility in my arm, but right now that seems like it could be possible.

In any event, I’m almost definitely going to have to replace my frame pack with a suitcase. I was probably going to retire my pack after this trip, but it’s been to 21 different countries with me now (and DOC Trips!), and I’m going to be devastated to leave it behind.

I feel like an idiot. I mean, who wouldn’t?

I’m so incredibly grateful to all the people I met today who went way out of their way to help me. Tomorrow I’m probably not doing anything, but I told David I owe him a beer and I’ll try to get in touch with him, and Nesko said I should definitely come by at the end of the ski day in a few days and we’ll go get a drink together.

Things could be so much worse. Seriously. I’m booked here for another 12 days or so, so I can stay that long if I want to. Then all I have to do is get to Sofia for my flight to New York. If I’d gotten hurt in Burma? I don’t even want to think about it.

I think I had some more thoughts, but I’ve forgotten them. I’ll share whatever’s left in part 2 tomorrow, as I get down the mountain, see the doctor, and make it back to the ski school office. In the meantime, I could use whatever love you all feel like sharing.

-J, in Bansko, Bulgaria

 Posted by on February 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm
Feb 152013
 

I’m going through sort of a strange phase where I’m totally bored* with everything I might write before I write it… I’ve got probably 12,000 words of notes and half-written blog posts from Burma that at this point I’m not sure will ever make it to the blog. So I’ll probably post an update-type entry soon while I try to figure out how to write something I think is worth publishing here. The good news is I’ve still got pictures, and I’m pretty sure January’s are the best yet.

You can see previous months’ pictures by clicking here, or on the “Favorite Photos” menu item above.

As usual, click any picture to make it bigger. Then you can navigate with your arrow keys.

*It’s possible it may not have been the best idea to read On the Road again while trying to write about my own experiences. Oh well.

Greetings, 2013! January 1, Bokeo Nature Reserve, Laos

Greetings, 2013! January 1, Bokeo Nature Reserve, Laos

 

January 6, Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand

 

January 12, Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 13, Aung San Suu Kyi Residence, Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 15, Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar)

The Myanmar kyat trades at about 855 to the dollar, and the largest bill is 5,000 kyats. Because of the lack of internationally connected ATMs in the country, you’ve got to carry most of your cash with you. Additionally, I traded $400 on the black market at a better rate and received only 1,000 kyat bills (352 of them). It all added up a stack my wallet couldn’t quite handle.

January 16, Amarapura, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 19, Palaung Village, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 19, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 19, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 19, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

Trek 1

January 19, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

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January 20, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 20, Pa-O village, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 20, Pa-O village, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 21, Inle Lake, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 21, Inle Lake, Southern Shan State, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 23, Nyaungshwe, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 25, Inwa, Irrawaddy River, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 26, Bagan, Burma (Myanmar)

 

January 27, Bagan, Burma (Myanmar)

January 27, Bagan, Burma (Myanmar)

 Posted by on February 15, 2013 at 3:21 pm