SEATTLE, WA – My ipod finally died. It survived two years of abuse in Southeast Asia and decided to quit in treacherous Seattle. I was on a flight back from New York and Cape Cod a few weeks ago and we began our final approach into Setac international airport. Due to the FAA’s regulations, I was forced to turn off my portable electronic device in preparation for landing. I turned off the ipod and turned on the ‘hold’ switch (locking the buttons so the ipod won’t inadvertently turn on) and placed it in my bag. About 20 minutes later when I got on the bus to downtown Seattle, sitting next to a heroin addict with some serious plumber’s crack showing, I tried to turn on my ipod to no avail, even though I flipped the hold switch to the “off” position. I didn’t think much of it at the time, as my flight with ATA airlines had been severely delayed at Chicago-Midway (interestingly, delayed on the way out to New York too – my conclusion is that ATA airlines sucks and I will never fly them again) and I was a bit wore out from the severe heat, traffic, and concrete jungle of Manhattan.
The next day after a bit of troubleshooting, I figured out that though the hold switch can still be physically moved, the buttons and scroll wheel cannot be electronically activated. This situation is quite annoying because it seems like the ipod would still be fully functional if the hold were turned off. Unfortunately my computer and music are in Minnesota, and all the sweet tunes I got off Vinh at the Boom Boom Room are on my ipod with no backup. Hopefully I can access the music on my ipod via another computer and burn a backup before taking it to the Apple folks to see about a repair or simply an upgrade to the latest model.
Which brings me to my present situation, lounging on my new couch listening to some tunes on my sister’s computer. It is a quick fix, but I can’t go too long without my tunes so a long-term solution to the problem will have to be found soon. The new couch we got last weekend after a quick search on craig’s list. Natalie and I signed a lease on a two bedroom, two-bathroom (this was an essential amenity according to Natalie) apartment in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. I am doing Audio/Video installation work again in order to pay the bills and let me adjust to the Pacific Northwest scene. I ride my bicycle to work. Near misses with local Seattle drivers while screaming down the hills of this town almost remind me of cruising through traffic in Phnom Penh. Life is different, but good.
My last entry written in steamy Bangkok – three months and an entirely different state of mind away – was an initial reaction to the notion (that I was just beginning to grasp) of heading back to life in America. Before I left home in June of 2004, I had spoke with many people and read a fair amount on ‘reverse culture shock’, what one experiences when they come back from being abroad for a lengthy period of time. I expected and kind of looked forward to a nice ‘shock’ upon returning to America. But the shock never came. Instead I found myself occasionally getting locked into deep cycles of mental anguish – usually lying in bed late at night unable to sleep – questioning the future and agonizing over the past. Call it a general funk.
I would think back and try to piece together what had really happened. Was it really two years? Where did the time go?
I assembled some of my better and/or personally significant pictures into a photo album. It took me a few weeks to organize and mount them. Is this what two years of living abroad produced? A neat photo album so friends, family, and strangers can politely peruse images of what “it was like”? I look over their shoulders and answer their questions about where the picture was taken, or tell a story about that moment. Now that I’m in a completely different reality, it seems like memories are being washed away like the banks of the Mekong come rainy season.
But then I think a little harder and I remember cruising down the highway staring out over the endless expanse of multi-hued-green, knee-high, rice patties… And floating down a Lao river in an inner tube during one of those fat-droplet cloudbursts, with massive jagged Limestone mountains rising up into the clouds next to me, nursing a lukewarm Beer Lao… And swimming naked under the stars…
A significant portion of the funk comes from seeing everything and everyone that was familiar, be just as familiar. After seeing some crazy shit for two years (although my definition of crazy changed quite drastically) I came home to see everything more or less the same. Kind of like the Chronicles of Narnia, when those British kids go hang out in fantasyland for years gaining unbelievable life experiences only to return back to dreary England to find that nothing had changed.
This travelblog was quite fun, and I feel that it was a great way to share my experiences with the world during my travels. Though once I became apart of the community in Phnom Penh, Motorbike Sir lost its steam. I feel like I let down you all, the faithful blog reader. I am starting to get the urge to rant and share my thoughts again, so I am starting up a new blog. I have not decided on a title or format as of yet. Check back soon for details.
I spent last weekend down on the beach in Westport, WA, a fishing community on its way to becoming a vacation community with wide beaches, rolling dunes, and crashing surf. Some new friends and I enjoyed the stars, a roaring bonfire, and a few beers next to the pounding surf. I stood up and walked to the water’s edge and let the ice-cold waves wash over my feet. I took a long pull off my can of Miller High Life and looked up at the stars. It was familiar. It was glorious. The funk lifted.