Tuesday, October 02, 2007

home, sick. not homesick.

left work yesterday + met Kathryn at somerset for a fine Vietnamese dining experience. we wound up at a Thai restaurant instead. the green curry was delicious, as were the fish-salt steamed vegetables. made it back for a call w/ my boss back in the states (who incidentally enough shares the same name of my sister, which i find moderately ironic).

before going to bed, my throat began to hurt. i shrugged it off + went back to bed. i didn't sleep well through the night as the throat became progressively worse and worse. given i had a slow morning at work, i chose to sleep in a bit longer to get some energy for the day. the throat was still in great pain, so i took my mom's age-old advice of gargling w/ salt (good thing we finally found + bought some at Carrafour just 1 day prior). after a shower + getting ready for work, i found myself in the rare, but familiar sickly situation of being to weak to barely walk. i knew the short trek to + ride on the MRT to work would likely wipe me out. so after a quick boiled egg, some cheese + toast, i popped open the laptop, cleared my day, and went back to bed.

got back up around 3pm for a work call, took care of a few items, and here i am, alone in my apartment. my throat is still sore, but i feel somewhat recharged. good thing Kat smuggled some gatorade fruit punch powder w/ her from the states. i noticed a few people noticed my online status as "home sick." apparantly everyone + their mother thinks i'm homesick. i didn't even think of the homonymity (is that a word, or even correct use of the base term?) of the terms. while there definitely are a few things that i miss about the states, traveling has always been such a regular thing for me, that being homesick rarely occurs to me.

sure, i was bored for awhile, and recently found myself upset/frustrated that despite my lengthy stay out here, it will have been more than 6-7 weeks before i get to do any real independent travel thru the region to explore south Asia (the Philippines was nice, but was work-filled, and Japan next week, well i've been there, and it's part of north Asia :), which was one of the key selling points of this assignment in Singapore. i often have to look at a map to remind myself where i am: a small dot off the coastal tip of Malaysia, and just above the many islands of Indonesia. but you wouldn't necessarily get that from my day-to-day existence. so i find it hard to be homesick. but i get a charge out of being at work (despite the frequent frustrations w/ my new position - small scope, a reduced short term, etc), so being home, sick, kind of takes a further wind out of me, especially since i'm not out and about exploring.

unrelatedly (i'm just inventing words left + right today), i have been thinking a lot more about life back home. but from a traveler's perspective. every time i travel abroad, i always take along 1-2 books in addition to the necessary lonely planet/let's go volume. more often than note, these books share a common theme - America. when i was wandering Spain alone, i brought Kerouac's On the Road. when in india, i found myself immersed in A Walk Across America before going to bed each night (recommended by a random fellow i met in Spain). in China i re-started Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie (at the strong recommendation of fellow traveler + former roommate Chad), only for it to find itself buried at the bottom of my backpack (while Barun + i played DS Mariokart + Tetris). my first few weeks here, i picked back up, made blazing progress through, and eventually finished al gore's the Assault on Reason. and more recently, i picked back up steinbeck's Travels with Charlie, completing it just last week.

again, what the uniting theme of these books: America. what they all accomplish, in some shape or form - via fiction, non-fiction, and even some hybrid of the two - is a thorough examination and analysis of the country to which i belong. kind of an odd topic to be thumbing through while you're on the other side of the world, but hey, it makes for good reading. but i do think being taken out of one's environment is probably the best time to spend some time reflecting on what that environment really means. and believe me, it is much more than rock music and free refills.

both On the Road and Travels with Charlie offer the reader a classic driving recount of America, from east to west. the storytellers' perspective are those of the blurred fiction/nonfiction experience i mentioned above. both travel east to west and back, through their adventures and encounters making a subtle analysis on what they see as happening to America, whether it be through the eye's of Kerouac's restless youth, or Steinbeck's experienced veteran. oh, and both are in cars. one hitchhikes, while the other brings his dog along for the ride in a rigged up truck/camper he names Rocinante (something of mine one day will bear this same name. either that or Rosebud). both novels take place in the 50s/60s, a time when the US found itself in in the throes of change. to see it from the common man's perspective, across the many subcultures of our country, was more interesting than any other chapter in a history book i did not read.

A Walk Across America takes a similar approach, but is slightly more contemporary. the author (Peter Jenkins) gives up on automation altogether and takes to foot and backpack (like Steinbeck, he brings a dog, but a more manly dog), before such things were made cool again by the Northface and Patagonia. turns out though (to my recent surprise) that these non-fiction recounts take place in the late 70s. Jenkins treks from his home in upstate NY all the way down into the deep south. in all of my Wikipedia + Amaonon-ing for this blog's links, i have recently discovered that a sequel was written in 1979, where Jenkin's heads west. it's will soon be purchased, eventually find it's way here to the other side of the world. but still, all these books take place in a past i was never witness to.

then finally there is Gore's more current, the Assault on Reason. while it ends up being a very much (welcome) politically-charged commentary, it is based in an initial thorough argument for what has happened to the American consciousness as far as media is concerned over the past 100 years (which is told in a scary, but true fashion, something i can attest to given my limited purview and work w/ media at the world's largest advertiser). this piece of the novel was the slower read, but really further reawakened me to what has been going wrong for so many years. but at the same time i can't help but feel even more apathetic that it might not get any better before it actually gets much worse. we're on a slippery slope of decline, and despite Gore's optimism towards the end, i can't help but wonder if we have all along been bearing witness to the fall of America's leadership in the eyes of the global community. we were the first democracy in the modern era (the past 1000 years), the last being Greece. our market-based systems have allowed us great strides in industry and technology, but many have begun to adapt our models and put their feet further on the accelerator while we remain bogged down in partisanship agendas and special interests. and what of the people who are supposed to keep this entire system in check? we've mostly turned a blind eye, rather to focus on OJ + Paris, rather than focus on removing the wool that's being pulled over our eyes.

alright, alright. enough commie pinko talk. i'd like to be allowed back into my country, and have no desire to be audited by the IRS. i love america. capitalism is good. democracy is great. our government can do no wrong. seriously though, what has all of this reading done for me (other than build my vocabulary + verboseness, and let me claim i read something other than comic books)? it's kept warm my instilled sense of wanderlust. sure, that's always been tempered by the reality of work + life, and i can sate such desires with the occasional trip here and there outside of the US. but part of me wants to experience america for myself, in a similar vein as those authors above. to be clear, the commitment is still there to have set foot on every continent by 30 (i'm coming for you Africa + Antarctica), but "50 states by 50" does not seem nearly soon enough.

the several weeks i've been out here, i've really started putting more thought into what i plan to do when i return to the states + finish up the rest my assignment. a big part is tempted by the idea of a sabbatical. while i'm relatively young from a corporate yuppie standpoint, i don't find myself motivated by the promise of pay and promotion (though they do have their nice perks). i find myself motivated on experience. and i am not going to truly experience america on 2/3 weeks of paid leave. but i'm not going to do it in the pages of books either.

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