Underthecurrent


Famous People in the Wild: A Trilogy
June 5, 2019, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Daniel Dae Kim was having brunch at a very average place downtown with one of the leads from The Good Doctor (not a surprise, he’s an executive producer).  Walking by the window where they were sitting I saw her first and recognized her, because I’d seen her around quite a bit before, and looked back as I passed to see who she was eating with because I’m nosy like that.

Daniel Dae Kim is a beautiful human being.

*

I was in L.A. for a self-styled art galleries and tacos tour; no Hollywood.  One gallery and one session of tacos per day was generally enough so the rest of the time was spent  wearing all black at the beach or burning Classpass credits.  The class was kind of hardcore, a version of something I liked to take at home, and everyone coming or going was California Beach Fit.

Missy Peregrym walked in and without even fully seeing her I knew it was her because for a brief period in my life I binged an awful lot of the delightful Canadian police series Rookie Blue and she looks… exactly the same in person as on the show.  I pretended not to have watched a lot of Rookie Blue, and that I didn’t recognize her, because that seemed like the polite thing to do.  This was weirdly one of my favorite celebrity sightings ever, I mean, it’s ANDY McNALLY.

*

I was crossing the street and saw a guy that I felt like I knew, maybe from work or maybe from a party?  Rushing to yoga class with my mat in a bag over my shoulder, we made eye contact and because I was sure I knew him and didn’t want to be rude I gave him a big “hey, good to see you again” smile, and he looked and me and gave me a big smile, and then out of the blue some girl behind me screamed “IT’S YOU!” and his smile immediately disappeared, he ducked his head and I think started to walk quickly or lightly jog.  Poor Cole Sprouse.

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Housekeeping
June 4, 2019, 11:54 am
Filed under: foreigner

Since returning this time each place I’ve stayed, other than two weeks with friends, has had a domestic worker at least twice per week.

It’s generally awkward.

It’s awkward because I vastly prefer doing my own laundry.  I’m particular about what is washed and how it’s washed and how it’s dried and whether it’s sorted and if it’s turned inside out and pretty much every step of the process.  So I pretend I don’t have laundry.  And I don’t want to be offensive, somehow suggesting that they aren’t good enough at doing laundry.  It’s not you, it’s me, and my delicates too.  But I also can’t have any other clothes with elastic-blend content fried beyond use because for reasons unknown everything sometimes gets ironed.  At the last house, this included enthusiastically trying to press some swimming shorts, resulting in burning.

It’s awkward because each house has different rules and expectations and relationships and we’re just temporary, trying to navigate a complicated relationship.  In the current situation, while she’s here, she makes meals during her working hours and eats whatever she wants from the fridge.  Which is a bit of a thing to get used to – like a roommate that helps themselves to your groceries but that you can’t really be mad at because they’re also cleaning the bathroom.  She’s also not my employee so it feels a bit weird to suggest that I was planning on using that block of cheese for dinner later so perhaps she could have a different kind of sandwich.

It’s awkward because most of my work is currently done from here, which means that twice a week I need to be somewhat presentable somewhat early and refrain from using the shower or kitchen for most of the day, at least until she’s done, because how can you go in and mess up something that someone has just cleaned?  So for one third of the week during the day, it’s being in the house, but trying not to be in the house.

The alternative is to suggest they not come, but that means not getting paid.  Paying her to not come, if it ever came out, would be a violation of the Rules, and there’s no way to know that it won’t come out.  And it’s unfair to ask someone to not be paid.

So twice a week it is.



Relocations
May 30, 2019, 8:14 am
Filed under: when I grow up

Time to pack again, this time to move across town to take care of a beautiful house and some friendly dogs for a couple of months.  A properly furnished house with great views and a lawn, the kind no one my age seems to own.  Trying on a future life for fun.

Yesterday, a call from nowhere means waiting to see if there will be a bigger move to another place entirely.  This isn’t so difficult, nothing here is set up yet with any permanence, there aren’t any commitments to undo.  But there is a growing group of friends and plans were being made and things were happening.  My mind had settled in a bit to an idea of how life would be.  I bought a frying pan and a cheese grater.

It’s a situation where both outcomes are good.

 



Top Ten Things To Do Everywhere in The World Forever At A Discount
May 27, 2019, 2:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Travel blogging used to, largely, be a collection of people who were good at travel and wanted to write about it.  They used to be a resource for things missing from guidebooks about independent travel – tips on difficult logistics, write ups about mishaps (sometimes a bit politically incorrect from a time before we all were expected to know to be constantly conscious of an ever-changing number of factors), and current information on the ground about the state of costs and politics and options.  The pictures were generally not enhanced and the web design wasn’t aspirational, if it existed at all.

Those blissful early basic HTML days.

Travel blogging today seems more like people who are good at things like SEO and copy writing.  Reviewing writing about places I have recently been, there’s so much missing.  While moving around the world, it was still hard to find solid information respecting more challenging logistics or anything that wasn’t a TOP TEN X TO DO IN Z!!

Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

*

Immediately, the urge to travel more now is satisfied by just staying here.

At this point, having spent literally years in this one country, there is still so much that’s new every day.  So many questions to ask, things to do or see or eat for the first time.  Languages to explore, history to understand.

And when that’s enough? Just beyond these borders, new languages, customs, cultures, people, views.



Mi Gente
May 10, 2019, 2:46 pm
Filed under: nomadisms

Recently, a lot of reflections on immigration; it comes up a lot in casual conversation.  Not an expat, not quite an immigrant, usually it makes sense to just say “I’m foreign.”  Then, the questions come.  From where?  Why?  Will you go back?

*

One of the subtle challenges to relocating is the disorientation.

People in different places have subtle social cues that facilitate daily interactions – the ability to pick up and mimic these cues appropriately predicts how quickly integration will happen.  The world doesn’t change for you, you must change for it.  The opposite of integration is isolation.  Amplify exponentially with any language barriers or deep difference in cultural values.

It’s in things like the grocery shopping.  Maybe everything is unfamiliar, maybe even the way the shopping is arranged is new with things that have to be learned.   Simple things may be expensive or completely unavailable;  ordinary things that are familiar become valuable just for familiarity, some scrap of something to move towards.  Food, one of the most basic things that we learn about, that defines our cultures and our routines, may need to be radically relearned.

Things don’t work the same way.  The power plugs, the phones, the process at the bank.  The furnishings in a home, how holidays are celebrated.  On holiday, this is a novelty, a cultural experience.  After the holiday is over, it becomes real life.  The changes can feel like being a child again, it becomes easy to criticize and generalize about the people who would put in place a system that doesn’t make sense.  Except some of the things do make sense, it’s just you that hasn’t learned to make sense of them yet.

At this point, after over a decade of living in other cultures, living among large groups of immigrants in my own country, and watching a partner experience immigration, it’s clear that most people don’t fully adapt to long term relocation.  They recreate aspects of the familiar to stay comfortable, they associate with others like them (or at least others having the same foreigner experience), they learn to exist in the in-between as best possible.  As positive as they may be about the experience, if you go to their homes and into their lives you will find the same challenges over and over.

There are some outliers who integrate almost fully, who learn a completely new way of living, but they seem to be the exceptions.  When people ask me if they should move to another country now, I no longer try and weigh the objectives pros and cons of each place they are discussing based on experience visiting and living in a number of places, I try and (likely unsuccessfully) explain the complicated experience of starting over.

*

Do many people actually find their people?  Or is finding my people a quest for those who are a bit strange anyways, a reflection of not fitting into the averages.  Does everyone have experiences of group synergy at some point, a sense of knowing and being known within a group of people?

This sounds like a very bad quora question.

*

Mi Gente [original version currently with more than two billion streams on youtube alone] is to be credited with rapidly advancing my basic Spanish in late 2017.  Reggaeton: better than flashcards!  (And more fun at parties)



No. 1 Travel Tip
April 25, 2019, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bring something to stop you from sh*tting.  Subsection (b): know when to use it.

Someday, most likely through some accidental water consumption, after visiting enough places there will be uncontrollable bowel situations like nothing previously experienced.  Assuming the cause is a bacterial infection, this will likely go on for several days with incredible regularity.  With luck, this will happen in a place with a pleasant and private commode and not many activities planned.  If you have been a bad person in a past life perhaps this will happen on a long haul bus or during an economy class flight.

Some gap year child who has been to three places and spent most of the time killing any bacteria in water they are drinking with moonshine and vodka will tell you that local pharmacies will always be able to sort this out.

A random selection of international pharmacies confirms (a) no, in many places it’s common for basic stock to run out and (b) you may be given a mix of wild and wacky pills including random antibiotics that you definitely should not take in your current sad state.  The pills you should have are not a cure, your body has to do that and minimal interference is best, but they are the magic bullet in situations where social standards suggest spontaneous defecation would be inappropriate.



Colombo
April 21, 2019, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

About nine months ago, give or take, alone for two days in Colombo.

In many ways, it was my kind of city – a bit of a jumble, relatively safe and full of little places waiting to be found out.  It’s the sort of place that the tidy thumb of globalization hasn’t pressed too hard on yet.  Although I was so obviously foreign in the neighborhoods I walked through, no one really bothered me (other than by always hopeful taxi drivers that I would give up my love of walking through cities).

The best things were away – up an uninspired escalator in a confusing mall, down a nondescript alley, waiting in a strip mall.  Circling the same road three or four times trying to pick the shop front for something I’d heard about.  Behind walls and gates were colonial buildings, houses of worship and sometimes gardens.

The streets and hotels on the news are familiar.

*

It’s common to read things about how travel teaches you about the goodness in people.  Fair enough.  It’s true that if you go into the world you will, generally, be surprised at the kindness.  It is comforting to see that, for all the differences, most of us want and value some of the same things.  But history, recent and distant, is generally brutal.  People may be, maybe, inherently good but humanity is really probably not.  Go far enough, listen enough, and it is hard to avoid this conclusion.

The stories on the news become more vividly imaginable because they happen in places that are no longer unfamiliar.

*

After a long overnight trip, the guest house in Cinnamon Gardens has cold white linens and an ample concrete shower block.  After a rest, it’s time to make this day.  The old streets around here have colonial buildings and tall, leafy shade trees.  This gives way to commercial roads with wild traffic and variable sidewalks.

Eventually, there is incredibly spicy chicken with daal and rice and air conditioning.  There are complex Hindu and Buddhist temples to try and absorb, perfect single cups of tea to drink and new ayurvedic products in the pharmacies to consider.  In the evening, the largest rat imaginable will peer out from the bathroom and a very apologetic guesthouse manager will bring two other men for a probable rat assassination.  There are crashing sounds, it is better not to ask.

The days in Colombo, probably less than a week in total, are happy ones.  This is a place in the world with so much to find for those who will look; may it remain open to the world and the world open to it.