Sunday, November 24, 2013

What This Blog's About

Location: Minneapolis, MN 55410, USA
What's the function of this blog?

I'm going back through my travel journal and reliving my experiences abroad. I'm also postdating these stories to when they happened. This isn't an attempt to fool anyone: it's just my form of record-keeping, so I can jump back and forth in writing these entries (go from Scotland to Iceland to Thailand) but keep the posts in chronological order.

My impossible dream is to be a food writer for travel publications, but I'm untrained in cooking and travel publications seem to be written for people with too much money and no conscience to speak of. Further, travel writing is a highly competitive line of work to break into. I've submitted entries to two writing contests and failed absolutely; I've contributed to various travel message boards with zero acknowledgement. Maybe I have no talent for this kind of thing.

But I love traveling with my wife, we know how to rough it, and we love trying new food everywhere we go. And everywhere we go, we learn how to say three things: hello, thank you, and very delicious. It gets us far. I've tried to take careful notes everywhere we've gone, though some days are too busy to allow this, and I have thousands of photos to tell my stories. Now it's time for me to go through them all and relate them as best I can, for anyone who may be tuning in.

Update: You'll note some of the photos now bear the watermark "C.W. Wilkie" and others say "C. Fredrickson". All photos (unless otherwise indicated) are mine—I'm currently in the process of legalizing my name to "Wilkie", so older photos bear the old name.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fifth Anniversary in Ireland: Killarney

Location: Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
We woke up in the Carlton Hotel in Tralee at a reasonable hour and went downstairs for the complimentary breakfast. I had some cereal, a selection of fruit and a fat, watery sausage, and Rebecca had access to gluten-free toast with yogurt and fruit. She was in down spirits: something about the struggle to arrange a suitable room last night really affected her, and then she reread the car rental contract and discovered we had to drop it off in Dublin by 1 p.m. We had been under the belief we could return it in the evening, so this caused a small amount of panic. Packing up, we hustled out under gray skies and navigated to Killarney (Cill Airne).

The drive through the countryside was, of course, whatever you could want it to be from Ireland. Plenty of farming landscape, dozens and dozens of quaint little towns that exuded backstory and culture. Throughout these I frequently felt a twinge of robbery, that we simply did not have enough time to pull over and get acquainted with the location for a meaningful period of time. This, of course, was a futile and naive wish as to do any village justice it would surely require around 20 years of getting established and meeting all the right people to hear all the important stories, as well as letting the town's vibe resonate with you and sink into your bones for true understanding. In this way, Ireland presents a lesson in cherishing what's immediately around you as a bulwark against the fear and grief of missing out on all the amazing things going on everywhere else.

This is easier done in Ireland than in Minneapolis, I think. But perhaps an Irish resident would say the same thing of Minneapolis.

Anon, we pulled into the angular network of outer Killarney. I found the town to be narrow and lined with beautiful, classical buildings, the streets very strictly running at right angles. I don't know why I was so impressed with how very sharp the right angles were here. Maybe that was because of how narrow the streets were and how closely the buildings pressed in on us, or that not every intersection was a four-way: sometimes you had to drive straight up to a wall of buildings before you discovered the street jagged sharply to the left, for example. It might also be because the streets and highways around it absolutely do not run at right angles: they run like the paths of a crayon in the hands of a frustrated toddler, oddly enough.

I wondered what it would be like to live in this town, in particular. We were clearly in the shopping district, surrounded by pubs all trumpeting their homeyness; stores for clothing, video games and souvenirs; caf├ęs promoting their fresh-baked wares with quality ingredients; and more pubs. I was aware that the surrounding area was the residential district, but I wondered how many people there could possibly be to fill all the pubs every night, so that they could all stay in business. On the other hand, I know nothing about the turnover rates for pubs in any given location.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Grand Adventure: Narita, High Noon

Location: Narita International Airport (NRT), 1-1 Furugome, Narita-shi, Chiba-ken 282-0004, Japan
April 6 was our long day of travel, flying along with the sun for a 36-hour commute, all told, only to end up in the Minneapolis St. Paul Int'l Airport on the same day we left the Ngurah Rai Int'l Airport in Denpasar. Technically. The day before was our third wedding anniversary, and the day after would be my 41st birthday, but today we spent a lovely afternoon in Narita, Japan.

From Denpasar we flew nearly two hours to the Soekarno-Hatta Int'l Airport, then caromed out over the Philippines to Narita Int'l Airport in Japan, seven hours to the northeast. Wearied, we touched down in Narita for a layover before the eleven-hour flight to Minneapolis. But this layover was five hours long, and as nice as the airport was, we didn't want to just malinger around there for the entire time. We took some time to check out the shops and find some food, but we also wanted to plot how to get out of the airport.

(For your own entertainment, open up each of those airport websites and compare them. The results may surprise you.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Grand Adventure: Entering Singapore, Part 1

Location: Singapore
We spent three days in Singapore. In my travel journal, I only wrote down notes on the third day. On the one hand, I'm mad at myself for not mandating one hour each evening to dedicate to note-taking, to record everywhere we went and everything we did. On the other hand, Singapore is so crammed full of every imaginable thing, it's next to impossible to take a breather to record it all. Therefore, I must rely upon my photographic journal and attempt to fill in the blanks as best I can recall.

The evening of March 25, 2011, Rebecca and I boarded an express bus at a gas station and rode on into the night, heading south from KL to Singapore. The setting was clean and utilitarian: fluorescent lights deprived the night-stark atmosphere of any emotion as we waited by our overstuffed travel luggage for the bus; once boarded, we wasted little time in hustling ourselves to slumber.

This was a crime: any bus trip from any nation to another deserves to be stared at, starvingly, through the windows. Every acre of sere clay and scrub merits study; every rest stop and gas station deserves analysis and absorption. The avid traveler must take in as much as possible, in order to place everything in relationship with everything else. How Western was that gas station? What was the Asian influence upon that snack bar?

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Grand Adventure: Drawing With Children

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
This entry is an aside from the normal journal. It combines a few days in one post, to talk about a specific activity.

In Cambodia, as everywhere in SE Asia, there were children begging in the streets. In Indonesia, they begged on the median of busy highways, waiting for a distant light to turn red and back up traffic so they could rap on car windows. Their families lounged nearby, keeping half an eye or less on their activity. In Lao P.D.R., they haunted temples and shuffled around restaurants, carrying a small cardboard box filled with tiny trinkets, small knit dolls or bracelets. These kids were usually organized by a leader who collected their earnings.

What was different about the children in Cambodia was that their begging was treated more like a formal job, something children did even in average families where there was enough to eat. In the above examples, those kids were part of an ethnic underclass, and they didn't go to school and they didn't eat well. We spoke with a little girl in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, who told us about her busy school schedule, after which she had to hustle books to tourists until 11 p.m., at which time her mom would drive out and pick her up, and she got as much sleep as she could before starting it all again at 7 a.m. She admitted it was exhausting but explained it all to us as a matter of course, like this is how everybody lives.

Think of what effort it takes to ask an American teen to do any small household chore once a week, for a sense of perspective. And this Khmer girl wasn't even getting an allowance, and she didn't even have an iPhone 4 to be withheld for 24 hours as punishment if she failed to comply.