I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about a topic that tends to come and go in my life. It is one that always seems a bit hard to put into words. I can remember a time almost ten years ago when I was sitting on our bed in a loft we were living in. I had this surreal moment when I looked around and thought: all these things happening in my life are all a distraction to get me to not look at the painful stuff. A clearer thought was: working through the painful stuff is what moves you forward to that next level of understanding. It was not a fun time in my life. That day I was alone. Chris was traveling in China and life felt rough, bumpy, and not much fun.
The conversation from a few weeks ago circled back to that same feeling. Do we all have the craziest of lives because it keeps us distracted from the real and raw stuff we are supposed to be looking at the most? We do not want to so we stay hyper-focused on all that we have to do? We stay extremely busy, and then we never have to get really quiet and listen to that voice inside that tells us where we should really be looking? It has been true for me from time to time. I like to think that I am still listening even between all the many responsibilities and deadlines. Am I lying to myself though? Is it really possible? Or do you just need to walk away from it all, whether for a week, or month to really be able to see inside?
I just finished reading a book called “Dinner with Buddha” by Roland Merullo. At first it was a hard book to read. I could not get into it, and then as I found a few morsels of inspiration I was pulled into the quiet, thoughtful ideas inside. While it is a novel, it reads like a self-help book. There were quite a few ideas that come from the story and analogies the author shares. This idea in particular resonated as it made me think of that day ten years ago, and the conversation from a few weeks ago:
“Plugging along at monk-speed, I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t all some kind of trick we were playing on ourselves. Maybe the more we crammed into a day the less we actually experienced. Maybe the addictive hurry was all a kind of racing away from our existential predicament, as if we could outrun old age and death, and as though, if we kept busy enough, kept moving, traveled farther, checked more items off the to-do list on any given day, then, like astronauts in orbit, we’d escape the bonds of ordinary time. Or escape, at least, the manic workings of our minds.” Page 118-119
Is that truly why we do so much? We are trying to get away from our minds and true thoughts? I sure hope not, but I can see it being true. I know it from the tricks my mind plays on me. Yet I want so badly to slow down, stop moving, get rid of the to-do list and live moment by moment into what my mind wants me to learn, however painful as it may be to look into all that is there for me to learn.
Just when we thought flying on a plane could not get ANY worse. Yes, they are trying to put in more seats, so that you basically are required to sit upright the entire time, a bag of peanuts is going to cost $3, and drinks will BYOB (all my jokes). All joking aside there does not seem to be much more they can take from us while on a flight, and instead it tends to go the other direction that everything is costing passengers more money.
So, when I saw this Fast Company article, “Good for Luggage Manufacturers, Bad for Travelers: Carry-on Bag Size to Shrink by 21%” I about lost it. What else are they going to do? The interesting part is that it looks like the current carry-on size is 22 inches tall, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches deep. The new guidelines would mean 21.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide, and 7.5 inches deep. They are only shaving a half-inch off two sides and 1.5 inches off another, yet, every inch counts! I am not one to check my luggage. I have to be going far enough and long enough that I need to take enough to warrant a larger suitcase. Even then, I do all I can to see how I can make do with a smaller carry-on. Less hassle and the wonder of if I will see my bag again, and it means I travel light. Oh, and did I mention that it saves me money because I do not have to pay to check my luggage (knock on wood, as that too could change).
The article states that the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has put forth these guidelines and it is voluntary if airlines want to comply. Something tells me that Samsonite, Tumi, Victorinox, and others are in on this deal? It means more business for luggage companies if the guidelines go into effect than those flying the friendly skies are going to have to pay up (in more ways than one) to travel comfortably. What is next, seat sharing to save money? How about seat belt sharing?
What is confusing is that if some airlines comply with guidelines and others do not, it makes for an interesting trip. These are guidelines that should be standard across all airplanes of similar types. So that when you get to China, your bag will fit just the same in Brazil. This is not customer service, it is just another way to steal from customers. Can we stop, and go back to the days when traveling was supposed to feel like a luxury?
It has been a full year. I traveled to Shanghai, Chicago, Oakland a few times, to LA, Bend, oh the list goes on. I went to a few weddings, luckily no funerals. I worked countless hours in the office, and at home on my couch. I visited my niece, Facetimed with her and my sister, and missed them in between. We saw family, friends, and played on our own a bit in other parts of the country and the world. I went No Poo in 2014, and then started using loo poo shampoo and wash my hair a lot less often.
We tried new things, thought about the past, and planned and brainstormed the future. We laughed, cuddled, giggled, listened, gave advice, learned a lot, and cherished each other more. Like I said, it was a full year. Here is my list of favorite random olio posts of 2014. In no specific oder:
I hope you enjoyed all you read on random olio this year. Be grateful for all that you have done, all that you have, and all that you have learned. Life is good, we just have to see what is right in front of us. Thank you for continuing to read random olio. Here is to a full, alive, and adventurous 2015!
I miss Shanghai. There are definitely parts of it I would never miss, but of the cities I have been to in the past few years, there was something very endearing about it. Last night Chris flew back from Memphis, Tennessee and due to his late night return I decided to be the horrible wife and not make the drive out to the airport to pick him up. While I am always exuberant to see him after he is gone (regardless of how long he is away), I am exhausted that late at night, and it is best to keep me in my pajamas on the couch then driving in the rain. So — he took a cab. Which reminded me of taxi’s in Shanghai.
There is one thing that is the complete opposite in Shanghai than Portland (and many cities in the United States). Pedestrians do not come first. Cars do, and taxis can be aggressive. If you are on foot, beware. Even if you have the right of way at a cross walk, do not trust that it is truly your turn. It was something that I had to constantly remember, as it is so different from the United States. Taxi’s can range from chill and quiet, to loud and maniac drivers. I guess the same could be said for cabbies in New York City. In Shanghai they honk all the time and especially if a pedestrian or cyclist is in their way, and often yell at everyone and everything in their vicinity. (Not that I could understand what they are saying, but you can tell by the tone). The exact moment the stoplight changes from red to green the horn is blaring, not giving anyone a second to be distracted.
While I never saw a single accident, there were quite a few times when I saw near misses. Somehow though they glide through the streets and dodge people and cyclists left and right without any harm done. They have a poise and agility about them. In some ways they make cabbies in New York City look like they are little league in comparison. There must be some unwritten rules for how people drive because somehow (and I could never explain it) it all works out.
Since some foreigners cannot rent cars while visiting China (probably a good thing) they are reliant on public transportation, car services, or taxis to be transported to each destination. Or, as we often did, walk. I cannot imagine if you added drivers from the rest of the world into the mix. What chaos that would be. Now, what it does make me ponder is why the United States lets almost anyone with a driver’s license in the rest of the world rent a car and navigate our roads. Does that make sense? It makes you think. I will say one more thing:
Over the past few days, after Chris has done his business in the bathroom he says: “Ah, how I missed nice toilet paper.” Oh how I know what he means. In China no matter where you were: a hotel, business, restaurant the toilet paper was tissue paper-thin. Actually thinner than tissue paper. Which baffles me because then you just need to use more of it. Most of the time it was one-ply instead of two-ply. So is two-ply toilet paper more of an American thing?
We saw a commercial this weekend for Scott toilet paper. Their Natural Tube-Free toilet paper. What a concept. The ad says that every year the US throws away enough toilet paper tubes to fill the Empire State building — twice. You then see an Empire State building made of toilet paper rolls. A good ploy for those that are environmentally savvy enough to care about the tube leftover. I am not saying I do not care, but I have to say this house is more picky about the paper on the roll!
So back to bathrooms in China. They varied. Chris warned me before my trip to always have kleenex with me and hand sanitizer. He was right. On one of the first days we were there, we were on a street that was stationary + pen store after another. My idea of bliss. The problem? No bathrooms, and well when I got to go, I got go. We found an old bookstore (one that had been around awhile, although the book titles were current.) I figured out that the bathroom was up this strange staircase and up I went. I get into the stall and found the toilet was in the floor and start to do my business as quickly as possible, only to look around and realize there was no toilet paper. Crap, I was screwed. There was only one thing I could do. Finish, go downstairs and ask Chris for the kleenex and hand sanitizer. (It also had no sink.)
Let me just say that when there was toilet paper it was thin, but my bathroom experiences were vastly different. My bookstore experience was probably the most primitive. Most other bathrooms where more mainstream. My hotel lobby bathroom was well in another era.
When I first saw this contraption in the bathroom stall I at first thought it was more bidet-like, and realized these were just the flushing options for the toilet. Pulsating, front cleansing, rear cleansing, drying (click the photo to see it larger). Quite the experience. This was for lobby guests only, they did not give hotel guests the option to test out the features in our room. Although I did have a telephone. Not sure these days who would use a telephone in the bathroom, I mean we have iPhones for that.
The last interesting bathroom adventure while in China was in a restaurant bathroom. Each stall had a “water flow sound sensor.” I was especially intrigued by this due to the nature of our conversations at work about bathroom etiquette. When you pushed the button, it made the loudest flushing sounds and would do it again if you pressed the button again. It took me a bit to figure out that the sounds were meant to cover whatever noises you were going to make while using the commode. What is not to like?
The world works in mysterious ways especially pertaining to toilet paper, toilets, and flushing.