One of my main resolutions this year is to re-commit to a habit I attempted (and failed) to begin a number of months ago: writing a bite-size essay each morning that I spend no more than an hour on, then sharing it. The essays will always be kind of a ramble, since the goal is just to capture a snapshot of my mindstate each day, not create a masterpiece. So here I am, on a fresh, blank January 1st, putting fingers to keyboard.
I want to do this because there’s something about daily creativity that feels good. It’s a record that a day actually existed, a first-person remnant that’s more than just a memory. If I stick to this, and actually have 365 mini-essays at the end of the year, I’ll hopefully have a pretty accurate little book of what I was thinking about.
Today was my first full day experiencing Asia. I flew into Wuhan, China last night, then had a 3-hour layover before a connecting flight to Bangkok. During the layover, I wandered around the airport and felt that first tinge of dizzying confusion that comes from not being able to remotely decipher the language. When you suddenly can’t read, you start noticing other things more. The visual tonality, the typography, the context. A yellow and black sign with exclamations…some sort of warning. An overly-happy anime child with glistening eyes holding a chocolate duck…some sort of ad.
I tried to pay for noodles with my debit card (which I’ve done without issues in other countries) and was told that they only accepted cash, specifically the Chinese RMB. I went to the currency exchange, and they said that American debit and credit cards cannot be used in China. I couldn’t believe that that was true, but every person I asked told me that ATMs wouldn’t work with my cards, and that I was simply “out of luck” if I didn’t have actual US dollars. They turned out to be wrong, and I found an ATM that worked just fine.
In the moment before finding the ATM, it really hit me just how much easier life is going to be once the world runs on global cryptocurrencies. It’s ridiculous that I can have money, but can’t use it because a country prefers their fancy paper and plastic to another country’s fancy paper and plastic. Value is value, and soon enough all these esoteric currency exchange systems will be seen as totally unnecessary and wasteful. Countries should not control money.
I’m on this trip both working and traveling, testing out the “digital nomad” lifestyle and seeing if it works for me. One day in, and I’m enjoying it. I like the freedom and sense of adventure, but there are definitely new logistical challenges at every step. I spent the day exploring Bangkok. My first impressions are that it’s an extremely colorful place, full of life and history, and that the people are extraordinarily friendly. The aesthetic is entirely different from the West. Everything is gold-accented in an ancient sort of way, and intricate curved-line patterns are on most surfaces. The written language itself matches this curved, flowy feel, and looks kind of like somebody attempted to write English in cursive, but was terrible at it.
As I was walking through an ancient temple in the center of the city, some locals approached me and asked if I would take a picture. I said I’d be happy to, and reached out to take their camera from them. They looked confused and laughed, then made it clear that they wanted to take a picture with me, not me take a picture of them. I guess being non-Asian here is seen as exotic.
While the city is beautiful, it’s also noticeably dirty. The beautiful waterways that run through the streets have lots of trash in them, and the air feels thick and smoggy. Instead of using a taxi to get around, I took two rides in a “Tuk-Tuk” (a three-wheeled motorcycle with a little roof and bench in the back) and both rides were fun, but also felt pretty dangerous. There are no seatbelts or doors, and it seems like there aren’t many traffic rules beyond “don’t die.” That said, the locals seem very at ease flowing through the chaos. I guess being able to navigate the traffic of a city is the surest sign that you know the place.
My other two (non-work-related) resolutions this year are to develop a social media presence that feels authentic, and to release my first music EP of songs I’ve written over the last few years. I’ll get to the music stuff on another day though.
I’ve spent the last 6 months mostly quiet on social media. To be honest, it was nice. There’s a certain pressure that comes from posting regularly. The “I need to post, everyone is waiting for me to post” type of thoughts (in reality, absolutely no one cares if I post). So I stopped posting for a while because it felt fake, like I didn’t really have anything important to say. I was just posting things because other people were. But now with the actual content of these little essays, I feel like I’m creating something that feels a bit more genuine.
Okay, that’s one hour. Until tomorrow.