Prior to leaving the States, we planned a 10-month itinerary to stay abroad–longer if we could find suitable jobs to further fund our travels. Mostly, we wanted to get a lot of writing done with bouts of traveling in between. The first month was easy–lots of beach bumming, spending time with family, acclimating. We got very little writing done.
In June, due to trouble finding the immigration official in San Jose, we decided to take a visa run–a 3-week trip to Singapore and Malaysia. July was more productive, as monsoon rains prevented us from enjoying the beach. I finished my second poetry manuscript and began an exercise regimen using p90x. But, as busy-minded, young Americans, we needed more activity. One can only be a beach bum for so long. The most activity we had were day trips to nearby islands, a night of bar-hopping with my cousins/aunt, or a stroll through the plaza on a Saturday night.
We considered traveling by train in Vietnam, volunteering for two months in Cambodia (where our housing was secured), then, upon finishing, more train traveling through Thailand. It worked out that returning to the States in September would be the most feasible option, as international job searching is a bit of a hassle. Even finding teaching jobs required documents with apostilles, which is not easy to coordinate remotely.
I considered staying abroad until November to continue writing and job searching, but we heard news that several islands in the region would have no electricity by Aug. 25th. How is this possible? We cannot fathom such an administrative failure in the US (maybe sarcasm, here–as it is exactly possible). The details were murky, but it has something to do with contracts and region-wide debts. How exactly politics work in developing countries is not any more depressing than developed countries. They just have fewer resources or banks to borrow money from.
My father decided to prepare for the worse: not replacing the 25-year-old water pump/generator after it began to emit smoke. We would now have to use the outside pump to bathe. While I appreciate and admire his motto of “back to basics” (I promote the romantic, Thoreauan ideal of simplifying one’s life), I had grown accustomed to running water and electricity. I do not write longhand, so I need my laptop to write. I deemed the place no longer habitable, so I decided that I would return to the US as well. If I’m going to stay abroad, I would do so employed with my own housing, in a more developed country. I did hear back from a recruiter in Thailand and Korea, but I’d like to prepare a little longer for such a commitment.
I appreciated this time to rediscover my hometown and see how it’s morphed. The changes are moving in the direction of more unsustainability–overpopulation, Western-obsessed and capitalistic drive. Every other store is an internet cafe. Favorite TV shows/radio channels mimick Western celebrities. It was hard not to sentimentalize simpler times. One afternoon, we took a walk along the beach near the estuary, which was recently opened to accommodate the monsoon season, and found examples of this in young kids who happily played in the water, a couple carrying a load of caught fish, an older man smiling in his hut, a grandmother collecting clams with her grandchildren:
Perhaps simplicity is still here.