Falling into Rhythm

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Running pon di road

Each time my foot pushes into the ground, propelling me further down the road, my breath comes a little bit quicker, heavier, wilder. Afterwards, I wonder how it is that I managed to bounce around the potholes, fly down the hills and trod back up them; I’m not a runner so finding my pace takes time.

When I imagined myself in the Peace Corps, I pictured an integrated me, hungry after working all day in the field with local farmers, wiping sweat from my forehead as I rubbed my clothes clean watching as other women did the same, teaching a class how to improve their crop yield with biodynamic farming. This image, one of hard work and success, ignored a necessary step: figuring out how to fit in. Continue reading

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Hit the Road, Jack

Footsteps in the sand dunes at  Khongoryn Els

Footsteps in the sand dunes at Khongoryn Els

“You know, I told you how I have been translating the Odyssey. I always read it as a tragic tale of Odysseus’s struggle to find his way home. Now I understand more and more what Dante and Tennyson wrote about it, that he wasn’t lost, but that after the wonders he had seen, Odysseus couldn’t, perhaps didn’t want to, return home.” The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

“We’re within inches of the perfect distance from the sun,
the sky is blueberries and cream,
and the wind is as warm as air from a tire.” “The Charm Of 5:30” by David Berman

The Van

The Van

Peeling my thighs from the seat of our Soviet Russian van, I slipped on my sandals, straps and buckles dangling and dinging like wind chimes, and hopped out. Sam had his Frisbee ready as I walked into place some meters away. Several 3-5 year-olds joined our catch-and-throw, Sam slapping his hands together like a crocodile chomping to demonstrate a proper catch. Whether or not the kids improved, we had to leave after a few minutes. Kicking off my sandals in the van, straps dusty from the sandy clay ground, I fell asleep once more.

“Do you have Backstreet Boys?” Another Gobi-ready van with blinking neon lights blasted Western and Mongolian pop music through the valley. After our first shaman ceremony, we celebrated the normalcy of dancing to catchy tunes. As “I Want it That Way” began, Petra, Sam, and I jumped around like toddlers after a lollipop. Taking the children’s hands, our Mongolian saturnalia continued until the moon rose high enough to wash away the starlight. I hadn’t seen stars like that in decades (excepting the few previous nights), but I was too busy singing and laughing to notice the moon and stars.

The Sky in the Gobi

The Sky in the Gobi

The last night, we slept outside, three S Shaped Sleeping bags spooning closer together for warmth. When I shimmied back into my bag after a predawn pee, I could feel Sam and Petra inching towards me once more, their bodies yearning for the heat of their friend.

“Whoa, did you see that one?!” Even after seeing ten shooting stars blaze across the sky, I couldn’t keep my giddiness to myself. Petra or Sam would nod or let out an “Ooooooh!” to accompany mine, the other having missed it. Then we returned to our puzzle. “A man goes into a pub in the desert, orders his meal, eats it, then walks out onto the path of an oncoming train. Why?” We hopped from question to question, uncovering more of the story until we could finally tell it ourselves. Our story told, we arched our necks backward and watched the sky’s play out until we were too tired to keep our lids open.

The Making of Shot of Petra Jumping and Sam Capturing

The Making of Shot of Petra Jumping and Sam Capturing

One last riddle: What do you get when you add a van, a reliable driver, a gracious guide, a Slovenian-Swiss girl who uses floss to repair tents and falls out of her seat as often as I do, a German guy who throws Frisbee by day and dances rumba by night, and me? Team Tao: Five humans traveling across Central Mongolia and the Gobi Desert singing, dancing, solving riddles, throwing Frisbees, farting (and yelling “Tallyho!” afterwards) eating, drinking, laughing, star-gazing, story-telling, being together ❤

Thoughts on a Plane

The next time you fly, try the following:

1. If you fly more than never, get TSA PreCheck. Trust me.

2. When choosing your beverages for the evening, consider this: how much do I want to sleep? If you’re anything like me, you can only sleep on public transportation with the help of mild depressants. Fortunately, most flights supply these. I recommend having a couple of glasses of wine, or your equivalent. Which brings me to my next point…

3. If they offer you mini-bottles, take them. You don’t have to drink them now, but when you’re eating your soggy sandwich later that evening, you’ll be glad you can wash it down with some nice red wine. Border security took my red wine 😦

4. When using the flight’s bathroom facilities, remember to multi-task. You can in fact pee and brush your teeth at the same time. This is somewhat disturbing, I concede, but when I remember the sheer number of bowel movements on the plane, I get over it.

5. Keep in mind that others can see your movie selections. To the guy who kept fast-forwarding, then pausing his Scarlett Johansson  movie at opportune moments, I saw that. Also, ScarJo can’t feel your finger caressing her lip. I’m judging you, and I’m probably not the only one.

6. Talking to neighbors is tricky. You have to strike that nigh-imperceptible balance between politeness and respecting her/his own time. Good luck, and proceed with caution.

7. If you do want to sleep and have already read step number 2, look for the best way to stretch out without committing the most venal of flight crimes: popping your neighbor’s space bubble. If there are free seats next to you, I recommend a somewhat diagonal corporeal positioning. If you’re limby like me, this is difficult, but COURAGE, ’tis possible!

8. I don’t care how stupid you look, to release the pressure you feel after a flight, follow these steps: close your mouth, pinch your nose, AND BLOW OUT OF YOUR EARS. It works. Just blow. Your ears and head will thank you.

9. Socks are a long flight’s best friend.

10. When it comes down to it, flying is incredible, to use the word literally. If you find yourself angry, cramped, or annoyed that your flight doesn’t stock Woodford Reserve, just remember the words of Louis C.K.: “You’re sitting in a chair…IN THE SKY!” Pretty amazing 🙂

Post your best flight recommendations below. I can always use more tips!