Tagged: Travel

Wrote this the other day

- by Alyson Shane


I’m writing this on a plane from Winnipeg to Toronto. We’re going to celebrate my Grandma’s 100th birthday and I’m thinking about death.

I’ve been reading Slaughterhouse Five despite my own efforts to distract myself from writing.

I start wanting to write as soon as I get on a plane. As soon as it starts to taxi, as soon as I see the tarmac beginning to move, that little voice in my head starts talking.

The voice has been with me for as long as I can remember. I think it’s how I knew I was supposed to be a writer: words flow through me and out of me whether I want them to or not.

I read somewhere once that a certain percentage of people don’t have inner monologues. 

That sounds like a lonely existence if you ask me.

So here I am, sitting in a tube in the sky listening to the hum of the engines, reading a book about the war and thinking about death.

I’m thinking about the characters in Slaughterhouse Five, dying

about how, almost every time I talk to my Grandma who turns 100 tomorrow she says

“I wish I was dead”

and maybe that should upset me but it doesn’t. I get it. I understand her perspective.

She lived most of her life as an independent, able-bodied person who took care of herself and lived her life on her own terms, and as she’s gotten older and older she’s lost more and more of what made her feel like herself.

I feel for that. I fear it.

So now I’m looking out the window at nothing and thinking about death and what I’ll say at her funeral. 

I think it will go something like this:

“My Grandma was the only person I know who thought about death more than I do.

One of my first memories of her is standing on the back step of her house in the North End. I’m in kindergarten or one of these early grades, in elementary school for sure.

I’m looking at my Grandma’s feet, slacks, shoes, and she’s saying

“I’ll be dead before you graduate high school.”

As I got older she kept moving the goal posts on me:

“… by the time you graduate from university”

“… by the time you get married”

“… by the time you start a family”

I guess she figured that if she kept moving the deadline out into the future, some day she would be right.

When I went to visit my Grandma for her 100th birthday I read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut on the plane.

It’s an anti-war book and darkly funny in the way you’re not supposed to laugh at, but makes you want to anyway.

In the book the main character suffers a head injury and comes to believe that he was abducted by aliens who can see in four dimensions.

As a result, these aliens don’t perceive time the same way we do. They see a dead body as just a way that person is existing at that moment in time, but that person continues to exist in throughout all the other moments in time before, too.

So when someone dies they aren’t sad about it because that person isn’t really gone. They’re just not existing in that moment of time anymore.

They shrug and say: “So it goes.” 

Which seems like a flippant thing to say but when I think about it, it’s true: the universe and time works in ways we don’t understand and even though Slaughterhouse Five is a story, I figure maybe those aliens who see in four dimensions may be onto something.

In some ways my Grandma isn’t really gone.

She won’t be in my present moving forward, but she’s in my memories and in moment of time in the past.

She’s still sitting in her sunroom on Mountain Ave with me on her lap as I eat an ice cream out of a crinkly plastic container with a wooden spoon.

She’s still buzzing around in her kitchen making me perogies for lunch when I’m a university student working on my bachelor’s degree.

She’s still walking around the basement of The Bay in her determined, thorough way, chatting with all the clerks who know her and talking about how much she likes having “the groceteria” so close to her apartment.

She’s still sitting across from me at The Paddlewheel Restaurant, picking away at a cheeseburger and saying “I’ve never been much of an eater”

(A sentiment I’ve never truly understood if I’m being honest.)

My Grandma is gone and I’m devastated. I have lost one of the only people who made space for me, listened to me, and made me feel seen and heard and loved when I didn’t feel like most people did.

Losing her feels like there’s a part of my that’s missing and that I won’t ever find again. 

But my Grandma will always exist because she existed once, and she still continues to exist in those moments in time.

She continues to exist in our memories of her, which are also snippets of time.

She exists in my dad, my aunt, my brothers, and in all the lives of the people she touched.

She’s gone right now, but she isn’t really. 

Time isn’t linear just because we perceive it that way. That’s just us, being humans, making sense of a universe that folds and expands and works in ways our mammal brains can’t comprehend.

That doesn’t make losing her any easier, but it does give me solace to think that she’s still around in the annals of time, watching baseball and Wheel of Fortune and wearing slacks with perfect creases in them.

But my Grandma won’t be around moving forward and I’ll miss her for the rest of my life.

So it goes.”

The pilot just announced that we’re starting our descent and now I’m back here up in the sky, thinking about death.

My Grandma is probably asleep right now, but in a few hours it’ll be her 100th birthday. I wonder what she’ll thinking about but I think I know.

I’m sure that tomorrow when we all get together she’ll find some way to slip it into the conversation. Remind us that life as a centennial may not always be what it’s cracked up to be. 

She’ll say she’s ready. That she wants to go. 

It will upset everyone but me and I’ll feel bad and guilty the same way as I do now, looking out the window for signs of the city and still seeing nothing but a red light blinking in the darkness, thinking about death and time.

So it goes.


 

I miss Thailand

- by Alyson Shane


We're home and I'm so jet-lagged that I feel sick. My sleeping pattern is all out of whack and I've been awake since 3:30AM this morning and am going to try and stay awake all day to reset my circadian rhythm.

But Thailand was worth every lost hour and every weird grumble in my insides.

We were there for nearly a month, and stayed in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Tao, Phuket, and Bangkok again before flying home. 

Bangkok was insane. It's big, bigger than I realized or can describe. The city, which houses 8.5 million people, stretches for miles and miles.

There was a smog warning when we were there and you could taste it in the air. Lots of people wore masks.

We saw Buddhist monks everywhere in their bright orange robes with their shaved heads. We saw a group of teenage monks filing into a 7-11 to buy popsicles to beat the heat which made me laugh.

The heat. My god.

+35C most days, humid, sticky and perfect. 

The best weather, food, and vibe were found in the northern city of Chiang Mai. 

We found the Cowboy Hat Lady, made famous in that episode of Parts Unknown and it probably comes as no surprise that the food completely lived up to the hype.

Almost everything we ate was made at a stall, cart, or cobbled-together shack on the side of the road (except some yakiniku and shabu-shabu that we ate while in Phuket).

I will deeply miss the food there.

Thai food (and Asian food in general) is so much more interesting and complex than North American food, I think. It's layered and spicy and every bite is different.

I discovered Prik Nam Pla, which is a condiment sauce made by pickling chilies in vinegar and fish sauce, sometimes with sugar to cut the tang. 

It can be kinda dull or spicy af, depending on where you are; everyone makes it, and everyone makes it a little differently.

Everyone in Thailand has "their recipe" for everything, which means there's a huge variety in how the same dish can turn out, and it's always good. I didn't eat a bad meal the entire time we were there.

The thing I will miss most about Thailand isn't the food, though. It's the people.

Everyone we met was so gracious, kind, and helpful. They seemed to appreciate that we tried to learn the language, which I'm sure we still butchered because Thai is a tonal language and is much more subtle than you realize while listening to it as a non-native speaker.

I'm going to miss saying (and lightly butchering) "sawasdee ka!" when greeting people, and giving a wai (a slight bow with hands pressed together) and saying "khob khun kha!" as thanks.

I'm going to miss being immersed in the Buddhist culture. All the little spirit houses, monks, wats, and flowers everywhere.

I felt peaceful in the wats we visited. I liked taking my shoes off and covering my shoulders and my knees out of respect for their places of worship. It was such a simple, nice form of reverence. 

I've never been a religious person, but Buddhism is something I can think I could get behind.

We met the most amazing people, as usual. John and I have good luck that way.

Every time we go on vacation we wind up having nights that make us wake up the next day and say "can you believe we did that?!"

It's also way easier to power through a hangover when you know a spicy bowl of Tom Yum at the stall around the corner.

(Did I mention I'm going to miss the food?)

Obviously though, the best part about the trip was spending it with John.

I really lucked out in finding a guy I travel well with. He's so patient and outgoing and records every day of our trip in a book every time we go on vacation, which is the cutest thing.

He even glued Thai coins and kept all the transfer stickers they gave us to get on different planes and boats in the book too, omg.

At the end of our trip we got matching tattoos. Which sounds lame and dumb but hear me out:

We're getting married next year and neither of us want to wear wedding bands day-to-day, so we decided to get matching tattoos of the constellation "Ursa Majora", which is a nod to a deep and weird inside joke and our love of science and space. 

They're both in the same spot, below our hearts. Pointing us home.

I know it's cheesy but whatever. I love them.

I wish I could describe everything we saw and did in that amazing country. 

How green and lush and humid it is. How every back lane looked. How the sky looks from the beach on Koh Tao at night. What it feels like to be lulled to sleep on the Night Train to Chiang Mai. 

But there aren't enough words to explain it all. All I can do is hold onto the memories of the things I experienced as tightly as I can, and plan to make more of them as soon as I can.

I'll miss Thailand.

But I'm really gonna miss their food, though.


 

Plane thoughts

- by Alyson Shane

I'm on a flight right now.

Sitting in a middle seat between a quiet dude and a lady with a baby with big brown eyes. The baby keeps grabbing my hair a bit and pulling, which hurts but not too much, so I'm not too bothered.

We've been in the air for a few hours and I've finished reading The Handmaid's Tale, which is the book I brought for the trip. I've read it before, but it's been nice to revisit it given the current political climate and recent tv series starring Elizabeth Moss.

Margaret Atwood manages to be so quietly sinister in her writing. I forgot how upsetting this book was.

But now that I'm done I have nothing to do, so I'm writing this and looking over the dude's shoulder out the window.

(I covet window seats, but I didn't book these so it wasn't up to me.)

We're descending into Pearson Airport right now and I can see Toronto in the distance. The sun is setting and it's misty. I can see the dim outline of the CN Tower against the misty lake.

There's a big, wide highway that leads from a suburb

(Mississauga? Brampton? Oakville?)

into the heart of the city. Like a big, thick vein.

An artery for cars.

I used to know the names of these streets, once. I pored over Google Maps, memorizing the streets and picturing myself walking down their sidewalks.

Once upon a time I daydreamed about disappearing into this big, noisy metropolis. Forgetting my name, history, family.

All the things I knew or believed about myself.

Starting over.

Every city has that appeal for someone, I suppose. People looking to start over. For an opportunity. A big break. A culture shock.

Or just to get out of their own damn hometown.

Toronto used to be that to me, once. I was obnoxious with how much I wanted to live there. How I compared it - unfairly, of course - to Winnipeg.

(How annoying I must have been.)

It's weird to see it now and feel that same familiar pull. Like a fish hook in my navel, pulling me towards those towers of glass. The possibilities.

But we're about to land and if I'm being honest I can't wait to get back to Winnipeg.

I miss home.


 

Regina I don't want to fight

- by admin



but I will if I have to.

 

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