Meaty Meaty Meatfest

I gave up meat nearly a decade ago. This time. I’d chosen vegetarianism off and on for all of my adult life, primarily citing ethical reasons (secondarily environmental issues, tertiarily health issues, blah blah blah).

I’ve always been what I call a “loose” vegetarian, though. Example: When friends brought over bacon-wrapped water chestnuts years ago, I justified eating them by telling myself I wasn’t creating any more demand for meat by eating leftovers. Suuuuuuure, Julie. But gotdamn, if that bacon wasn’t delicious.

At home, I’d eat water meat occasionally (fish, mussels, etc.), and when I got here, I loosened up even more. Example: That broth is definitely not vegetarian (but it’s just made up of leftover animal parts that would go to waste anyway, right?). Suuuuuuure, Julie. But gotdamn, if that soup wasn’t delicious.

And then I went to Vietnam on a vacation week.

It all started so innocently with this lovely veg street food consumed in one of the many lovely parks that exist in the heart of Saigon. I knew there was fish sauce in the egg part, and I was fine with that.
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And I ordered the pho tofu. Which wasn’t exactly veg (but was exactly tasty).

Then I took a cooking class, and on the way to the market, our guide asked if anyone was a vegetarian. I kept my hand down. So we went to the market and shopped for deliciously fresh veg and herbs. And meat. 

And that’s when the meat hit the proverbial fan. And not just water meat, but all the land meat available to humankind. I had shrimp. Fish. Chicken. Pork. Beef. 

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We cooked lovely dishes that day, and then over the course of the week, I had all the meats again, sometimes all on one sandwich.

I told myself when I returned to Cambodia, I would eschew meat again, or at least to the extent that I had before I went to Vietnam. My first attempt to get a sandwich without meat? This:

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I’ll let you guess where it’s gone since then…

Midterm

The students in the course I’m coordinating and partially teaching took their midterm today. They’re half way through the course (and evidently retaining a lot of info from the looks of midterm scores so far). Which means my work here is well over half finished.

Just this week, I started to really, really feel like I’m just living and working here. Like, this is where I live. I don’t feel like I’m exploring more than I did back in D-town. I don’t feel like the day-to-day life is so novel any more.

I guess this just happens.

I was asked today if the honeymoon period was over. Seems so.

The excitement of crossing a road for the first time (seriously) is gone. Now biking in the traffic feels like just something that happens (albeit joyfully). There are no longer any flutters of excitement (or anxiety) about getting a tuk tuk, or going to the market, or telling the sandwich lady I don’t want meat. It all just starts to feel ordinary. Thanks, brain! (why isn’t there a ‘sarcasm’ font variant like there is underlining or italics?)

There are a zillion things that would likely still seem interesting compared to life back “home”. When a new instructor comes, I get to hear about all the things that I don’t see as new any more. How hard the rain falls and how big the puddles get and how the traffic gets all messy when it rains. How all the tuk tuk drivers try to get them to pay way more than they need to and how they never know where they’re going and how you have to try to tell them in English where you’re trying to go. How it’s so hot that you just sweat all the time and how you can barely stay hydrated and how you can barely stand to walk anywhere without nearly cooking. All the things I was likely saying a few months ago.

I mean, I’m still learning so much every moment. About how to establish boundaries. About how to find, schedule and pay interpreters. About how to be compassionate. About so many things my head spins some days. But not in an explore-y kind of way.

I guess this is where Phase 2 begins. Explore outside the city? Travel on weekends? Seek out events in town? Find novelty within the day-to-day? We shall see where it goes.

Maybe next week I’ll send you pictures of all the meat I’ve been eating lately. Not kidding…. Gotta find novelty somewhere, right? Poor animals, lucky palate.

Happy Trails

Many people, when they travel for a while, find that they miss certain things from home. The food. The sounds. The smells. The comfortable beds or the hot showers.

Personally, I miss the trails. Man, do I miss the trails. The way they smell, the fact that they’re quiet, the way the light filters through the trees, the vistas. I miss that feeling I get when I hop out of the car at the trailhead, put on my backpack, and step onto the trail. There is nothing I’ve found like it in the world, and I’ve been dreaming about getting back on the trails as soon as I return “back home.”

Buuuuuuttttt, then I found Phnom Penh Hike! It’s a group on Facebook (well, really one guy) that organizes guided group hikes around Phnom Penh on some Sundays. So, I signed up to go to the hike up to Oudong Mountain.

The group meets near Wat Langka (where I meditate), and on this particular morning, it was lightning, thundering and POURING rain. I decided to show up anyway for the bus ride out of town.

While I knew I wouldn’t get the full experience I wanted since it was a group hike, I was excited to get “out there” again! Wellllll, we all know that expectations reduce joy (or at least we all know that I say it), right? Yeah. This turned out to be less of a hike than a tour of multiple temples, but I actually did a great job of dumping my expectations and really enjoying the day, especially since the rain dried up and the sun came out.

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But I’ve realized there are so many other things wrapped into my hikes that I’m really missing.

I miss the physical activity of hiking and trail running. I miss the adrenaline and the sense of accomplishment when I’ve really pushed through a few miles or have covered a significant distance. I can get those things other ways (I’m still running streets a bit even though I’ve quit training for anything, and I do some other exercise), but it’s not the same.

I miss being so close to wilderness. I was so lucky to live in a place where, in a matter of minutes, I could be on a trail or a beach where I felt so far removed from “the city” (I put this in quotes because I lived in a darn small city, but still). I could find silence and a connection to nature so easily.

I miss my ability to get out of the city at will, in the moment that I want to in the direction that I want to for the duration that I want to. I used to be able to decide where I wanted to go, pack up the car, and go. I was also be able to, in the middle of those plans, change my mind and go anywhere that sounded good in the moment. Now, when I get in a tuk tuk or get on a bus, it’s extraordinarily difficult to change direction. Not impossible, but not usually worth the effort. (I mean, have you ever tried to change plans mid-tuk tuk ride? Yeah.) I didn’t realize this was something I was missing until I thought about it last week. And I think that’s why, when I got on my new bike and started pedalling, I felt a freedom of movement through space of my own volition that made me giggle like a schoolgirl while I rode down the street, my hair (and my skirt – thank goodness for pantaloons of sorts!) whipping behind me.

I miss being alone. While I have a room with a door here, too, I only very rarely feel like I truly have my own space. I’m living with people with whom I work (at times my boss, at times other instructors for the course I’m coordinating/teaching). If you either (1) are an introvert or have introvert/ambivert tendencies or (2) know or have lived with an introvert, you know that sometimes having to just look at other people can make a person crazy. Or feel draining. I know it’s stupid, but sometimes I sit in my room with the door closed, debating whether or not going out to get another cup of coffee in the kitchen is worth the possible price of having to have a conversation. Don’t get me wrong — the people I have been sharing space with are all delightful humans, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with them. Sometimes, though, it just takes something out of me that I might not have to give in the moment.

The combination of all those things above makes hiking (and getting to the trailheads) so appealing to me. I didn’t take my ability to go for hikes for granted, but I don’t think I realized how many needs those moments helped me meet. While I thought I couldn’t possibly be more fond of The Trail I frequented most, absence has truly made my heart grow even fonder.

Until we meet again, Trail…

Quitter

As I started writing this post, everyone on Facebook is posting that they just signed up for the Grandma’s races. They’re so excited! They’re ecstatic! They’re posting motivational quotes! And I want to punch every one of them in their energetic runner bodies.

Well, not really, because they’re actually the people who have gotten me through runs that I couldn’t have done without them. And there is lots of love there. But I’ve made lots of friends and acquaintances through running, so there are LOTS of posts on this. Today, of all days. On the day on which I’ve decided not to run the half marathon for which I am registered.

Now, I know that I can make myself run half marathons. I’ve run a handful of them. I even PR’d this past May, something I was immensely proud of. I’ve run two full marathons. So I know what it takes to get to that point, and I know that I have it within the confines of this body to follow through. When I’m there mentally.

Right now, though, I cannot, no matter how many psychological strategies and methods I’ve used successfully in the past, absolutely cannot make myself run more than several miles at a time, if I can even get myself out the door. Training for races is a mind game (okay, I usually call it a mind fuck, honestly). I mean, yes, your body has to cooperate, but the mental component can take you out of the game waaaaaaayyyy before the physical component does if you let it. 

And I just let it.

I have made a conscious decision to scrap the half. Throw it in the bin. Take all of the scheduled runs off my calendar. Delete delete delete.

I could justify it away. Blame it on other things. Say that work got in the way (I have been working some loooooong hours). Say that it’s too hot here (it is dang hot, people). Say that the roads are too crazy to run (but that would be a lie. i love running the crazy roads. and they’re not really that crazy.). But the real reason is that my head is not in the game. I don’t want it.

I messaged J this morning saying that I had to scrap the half marathon, “so let the now-Julie-beats-herself-up-about-it party begin!” And while he immediately shot that idea down, I couldn’t help but do that for a little while.  And now I’m getting over it.

I just went to the race website to see if I’d be able to switch to a 10K, and I actually read the fine print that I evidently ignored when I signed the registration form. “All runners are asked to raise at least US$500 – AHC will set up your fundraising page and your log in details will be provided once your page has been completed.” Aaah, so that’s what all those (also ignored) emails were all about! Whaaaaa? $500? I suck at fundraising. Reason number one to quit.

And a bigger reason? I need to rekindle my willingness to say “no” to things (to quit things) that don’t spark joy, so that I have the time, energy, and resources to say “yes” to the things that do. Yep, that’s some Marie Kondo for you right there. Tidying up. So, while so many of my friends are throwing their hats in the ring for upcoming races, I’m keeping my hat firmly on my melon until I see something that lights a fire in my gut. Which right now is not training for a half marathon.

But here’s the kind of messed up part. The main reason I didn’t want to drop out? I didn’t want to admit that I was quitting. Because I was afraid I’d disappoint other people. Well, FUCK THAT from now until forever. That’s right — caps, bold, italics, AND underlining for that right there. It’s not that I don’t care what other people think. It’ll take me until forever to get over that, I’m sure. But it’s that, if I’ve learned one thing in the past few years, it’s that NO ONE who really means anything in my life will think anything less of me for something like this, for crying out loud. What a disgusting insult to the people who have been around me, stuck around me through some ugly times, to think that they are the kind of people who would think that I am “less” for making this decision.

There is no truth in my fear.

I mightily quit.