Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Three Hundred Days

When did three hundred days flow by? It is always today, this week. I have glimpses of tomorrow, what we will do or where we will go. Numbers, like 23, are harsh, dure reminders that something happens that day, and I have to remember it. Months are just names, there is no difference between January in South India and July in South Africa, as we move through a perpetual summer (day time temperatures).
You must have an idea what happened in those days, as you followed the blog. If you are new or need a refresher course, the blog paints the rosy picture of our days in Japan, China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia to this point. Because of the artistic process of producing blog posts (that includes the time and disposition to write down into a readable form some of the things that we did, perusing pictures, picking some and reducing drastically, fighting myself to take out the ones that I like but have no relation to the blog) and a frustrating, expensive, unreliable and wire-grounded connection to the internet, these adventures (South Africa, Madagascar and again South Africa) are yet to come.
What is missing in those blogs is the daily grind, the things that you usually do in your house like sleeping, eating, laundry, even cleaning (when we stayed more than four days in a house).

Luxury bedroom in Macao

In your house you have your bed with its coverings, your pillow (if you use one), the sheets that you like. On the road we slept from twin, to queen, to bunk beds, to all in one bed made from two united double beds. The children many time squished themselves into a double bed. Maria would split a bed with Ioan, she would take the spring-box and he the mattress. The last one would be sometimes just a futon or foam. Sheets sometimes are short, or stained, sometimes plastic instead of cotton. 

Budget room in Ayutalla, Thailand.

The covers are sometimes thin, or dusty and many times we cocooned in our sleeping bags to get warm. Pillow fillings vary from matted plastic, to feathers, to small squares of foam. Sometimes is easier not to use one. To this date we slept in 75 different beds!
Eating has two categories: eating out or cooking. Eating out would seem simple: you go to the restaurant, read the menu, choose, order and eat. Not so easy when you don’t know the language and they don’t know English. 

The recipe changes even if you order the same thing: fried pork rice with peanuts comes with carrots at one restaurant and peppers at another. What about portion size? China has family dishes, enough for three people. 

Sweet and sour chicken with a radish flower.

Fried rice in Cambodia.

In India you pay for each naan and parotta (flat breads). 

Breakfast in Kathmandu, Nepal, every day eggs, potatoes, toast and jam.

Salad in Chitwan, Nepal

We learned through tasting not to order tandoori food (so spicy that Mihai felt relief from the raw onion served with it). We got used to have all kind of spices in our food and sometimes we would order a steamed rice just to reduce the fieriness of the original dish.

Tandoori chicken, so HOT!
We each ordered one kind of dish and we would taste from each other, sometimes crossing plates, sometimes forks, under the wide eyes of the waiter.

Traditional nepalese food

 Drinks would go around and be compared, which lassi is better: peach or mint? 

This is not following the rules of hygiene, but we live in such close quarters that we are immune to each other. 

Baby coconut, when you're done drinking, you get to eat the meat.

Pineapple in Kerala, India

We tried to eat traditional food and also, a pizza in each country (the best is still in Alchemy restaurant, Kathmandu, Nepal).
Catering for ourselves was possible from time to time. When we rented apartments with kitchen I would make a short inventory of what I had (with the exception of the one from Guangzhou were there were no utensils) and then went shopping. If I had an oven, I could buy chicken, a pot meant spaghetti, a rice cooker would give us a Chinese meal my style. These were times when we could have comfort food (crepes in Goa), when we could eat when we wanted, dressed in our pajamas or swimming suits, at the table or at the counter. These were also the most economical meals that we had.
Laundry is at this point 85% by hand. I washed in a tub, in a sink (with or without a plugger), in a shower plugged with a plastic bag, in a bucket, in a garbage pail, in an Aloksan plastic bag (a Ziploc bag but more special). In the beginning I had Castillo soap bars, but later I changed to powder detergent (kept in plastic bottle). It’s easier if they first soak, and then wash. Those wonderful moments when I could drop them into a washing machine and return after half an hour (if they don’t cut the electricity) were rare. 

Japanese washing mashine.

Sometimes they dry on hangers on window bars or trees or the return vent of an acclimatized room, or on the braided rubber rope, or on bushes.

 Washing days are when conditions are good: we have time to stay at home and good chances of drying over night (or day for the pajamas). Though in many places there are offers for laundry, we never took advantage of them. It means to leave your clothes there for 8 or 24 hours and you have no guaranties that they will ALL return or in the same condition. We heard stories of having items replaced with something different or returned ripped and when you have only one short sleeve and two long sleeves, one pant, one skirt you don t take chances.

I don’t know if I ever wrote down why do we have what we have, so here are the reasons: we needed something thin enough to wear in the hot temperatures, to behave like a drywick, and add warmth when layered. We had two options: plastic and merino. I have a sensitive nose, plastic and sweat are a nauseous combination for me. Merino won because it does all of the above, does not smell even after days of hard wearing, they are machine washable and they dry quickly!. So you understand that they are not easily replaceable.
Our Icebreakers, after being worn almost every day, are past their prime time. They have small holes, repaired the moment that I see them, they are fading, but they still keep us warm and dry. The Scottevests, also faded, are like treasure chests, hiding in their 18 pockets besides coins from different countries, shells, rocks, pens and also long-thought-lost hats.
We each pack something. The children their bags, Mihai the electronics, I our luggage and food. Things have their place, even inside the bag, so it is easier to find by different people (my headlight is always in the middle pocket in my day bag). If we stay a week in one place, the bags are emptied completely. If we stay one night we take out just the necessary things. We still need 40 minutes to get out with our bags in the morning, but just 15 if we have to visit.
The other thing that is missing is how we changed. It is on these markers, a hundred, two hundred days, that we look back and notice something different. We started with a lot of energy and high expectations. We had to see things parks and operas, museums and night markets, and in the beginning we wanted to cram as much as we could. Later, as we realized they were variations of things already seen, with the local flavor, we would space them out or skip them entirely. 
 When we started we knew very well what we wanted to see, some landmarks that we couldn’t skip, like the Forbidden City in Beijing. Reading the guides it seemed that everything was wonderful and a must-see. We learned to focus on what made sense for us, like the Bird Park for the boys in Malaysia, or Botanical Garden in Singapore. But at one point we found ourselves without the usual criteria (museums, buildings, shows). How do you learn about a country? Through its people. Markets, streets, cooking classes became our new playground.
What about our former life? No one misses it! We miss our friends and family. Talking with them while on the road is very difficult, especially when we have an unreliable wi-fi signal. Beside this, Maria misses a schedule, Ileana different clothes, Ioan his legos. As for us, the parents, we have nice memories, they are sufficient. The thing is we know we’re going back home, so we are not self-indulging in moments of things that we miss. But if we would travel indefinitely, I would buy some cooking utensils and I would slow down, taking my time to know some people.
How is it to be with your family 24/7? Wonderful! We needed some time in the beginning  to get on the same wave length, we would get hungry at different speeds, some wanted to take all the pictures (me) and the others had to wait. It was difficult to go some place because some of us weren’t interested, until we remembered that our family is a parental dictatorship and not a democracy. It is us who decide what to visit, and our privilege to suspend the trip if we discover that it would take too long to get there (and it’s to the childrens’ merit that they don’t say “I told you so!” when things go their way and not ours). Privacy is no longer in a room by ourselves, but lying across the same bed engrossed in our own activity. 
Mysore, India

Kuta, Indonesia

The children are coming to us for advice (for projects or for life), we get hugs, and kisses, and massages. We also have melt downs, when the whole world is responsible, and especially this trip, for whatever is not working in the life of our teenage girls. It is difficult from time to time to be in the same space, one is singing, one is reading, one is taking too much space, but we’ve learned to accommodate some venting, discuss with them, help them articulate what is bothering them, help them find solutions.
And we too have our low moments, when we’re hungry and we don’t know where to eat, or when the iPad’s battery is completely discharged, or they have a different rhythm than myself. We changed our lifestyle, our work consist now in choosing a location, finding ways to get there, read in three guide books their recommendations, decide what we are going to see, take pictures and shoot video keeping in mind the blog, download them on the computer, select the good ones, back up the computer two times on different hard-drives, recharge the batteries, write blogposts, pester the kids to do theirs. It is always changing and sometimes we’re longing for a little bit of stability, of routine. 
And sometimes we feel lonely, as the people whom we usually talk don’t feel like writing, those who write, they write less as our correspondence became less personal through the blog, those whom we used to meet in social gatherings have no idea that we would like to know how is their life. 

And sometimes, someone takes a little bit of his or her time and writes down a comment on facebook or on our blog, and then we’re not lonely anymore.
The best moments are in the car, driving for long distances, listening to the iPod on shuffle and all of us bursting in song on our favorite songs. Or skipping on our way to customs, after a four hour flight (should I say that it was I who started it?) Or watching Ileana and Ioan building a castle from driftwood. Should I continue?

In the train toward Agra, India the boys are playing chess.

1 comment:

  1. This is the post I waited a long time for, thank you largest hugs imaginable.


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