They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. This phrase has been particularly true describing my relationship with my friends and loved ones from home during this year. Frankly, I was worried about moving away, not to mention: another country, continent and time zone. However, I am blessed to have a home base that is filled with love, support, and understanding for my spontaneity and non-traditional life decisions. Love that is often expressed in the form of written letters, cards, spontaneous phone calls and eleven flights to Asia. They are timeless. Distance does not strain our dynamics, as a matter of it, it strengthens it. I read a book by Heidi Priebe during my trip to the Philippines and there’s one chapter that stood out to me titled “what we forget when we say the timing’s wrong.” She spoke to my soul, that insightful woman, and reminded me of all the incredible relationships I am so grateful to have in my life.
The truth about timing being wrong is that it’s nothing more than the world’s flimsiest reason not to try. We live in the age of relentless communication and instantaneous connection. We find ourselves living in a time when it’s possible to wake up to a good morning text every day from someone who is clear across the world. And when you look at it that way, it doesn’t seem so bad. It doesn’t seem unbearable to wait for a few painstaking years or a single stretch of absence that will eventually be bridged. Saying that the timing and distance is wrong is saying nothing more than “you aren’t worth any inconvenience.”
The people we meet at the wrong time are actually just the wrong people. You never meet the right people at the wrong time because the right people are timeless. The truth is, when we pass someone up because the timing is wrong, what we are really saying is that we don’t care to spend our time with that person
Twenty five has taught me some valuable lessons thus far. For instance, not to take things at face value. I trust easily and my sisters always have to remind me that many times people refrain from the whole truth. One never does stop growing, do they? My mom, who recently discovered texting two years ago, is playing catch up. Nevertheless, she’s learning fast. Right now she’s on the eighth grade phase where she screenshots pictures of quotes and motivational sayings. Mostly Bible quotes. However, last week she sent me one from Frank Ocean. At this rate, I’ll be expecting lyrics from Drake and Eminem in a couple of weeks. Also, I guess I missed the part when my youngest sister, Theresa, grew up. I still treat her like she’s twelve sometimes but lately, more often than not, she is the one to answer my questions about discernment and my faith. She reminded me of the strength and courageousness of vulnerability, something I embraced at home but let go of when I moved to Asia. It’s so wonderful though, to grow up wanting to punch Theresa in the face for eating the last ice cream bar to presently, where I yearn for free periods to catch up in between our busy lives. Lexi also instilled some words of wisdom a few days ago. I was missing you guys and she said, “Cat, you’re always going to be a gypsy. Right now, I know it’s hard and you want to be home. But you can’t. So just grow where you are planted. Everyday, write three things: why you are happy to be in Laos, what you appreciate about Laos and think about your perspective. You are living an experience that many people will never be fortunate to have and when you come home you’re going to be so grateful that you were able to pull through the hard times. It’s hard because we went to la Salle. La Sallians are taught to be loyal and the rugby players have an even deeper connection. It doesn’t matter how far away someone lives or if it’s hard because we’re going to make the friendship work. But you’re there so just make the most of it”
IN A WORLD FULL OF KARDASHIANS, BE CHRISTINA YANG
Being the youngest teacher at work makes me very excited for the new Fellow to arrive in a few months. I’m on the bottom of the ‘teaching experience’ totem pole and I have yet to find someone to appreciate my not so serious adoration for JBiebs and spontaneous moments of dancing. Regardless, I’ve become close to many of my co workers– their support, guidance, and wisdom is made this year even more wonderful. I sit with these two British guys in the teacher’s lounge. Dave, the same neighbor from the beginning of the year who had to drive me to work, frequently comments about my ‘bubbliness. ‘ Are you always this happy in the morning? One day, I brought a bag of Reese’s Pieces to the work and all the Americans flipped. One of my coworkers from Norway fell in love and Sam, a super ripped, coworker of mine who belongs on Baywatch/PopEye look-a-like went nuts. “This is my cheat day,” he exclaimed in between fists full of peanut butter goodness. I was in a fit of giggles– candy is the way to everyone’s heart.
After our midterm break in June started, I flew to Bangkok with Molly and Miriam. Molly is from Philly- she worked at an irish pub called Fado for seven years and also played rugby in university. She’s probably kicked you out of the bar before. Her voice is so soothing, warm & her face lights up when she speaks. Now she’s a teacher in Laos. Isn’t it interesting how life plays out? Miriam is from Norway, and she probably wouldn’t have been my friend in high school because she is way cooler than me. If you want to hear jaw-dropping, intense, crazy true stories-Miriam is your girl. We went to dinner, hung out at a rooftop bar and although I’m the younger one- I was struggling to stay awake towards the end of the night because they stayed out until four a.m. I guess your energy levels can continue to exponentially increase with age. The next morning, I went for a run around a beautiful man-made lake, had some breakfast and even had time to go to church. I really look forward to attending this Church when I’m in Bangkok. It reminds me of La Salle’s masses- everyone is from different groups on campus but we all gather together for fifty minutes while Fr. Jim thanks us for “postponing our pre game.” When I got back at noon they had just gotten up and we filled up with hot, steaming bowls of ramen. We had an exploration day at Chatuchak market, the biggest open market in the world, and we wore our new purchases out that night. I was so excited the whole day because Molly, Maura and Catherine were coming in a few hours!
When Maura opened the door my heart stopped a feeling of home waved over me. I was reminded of the love and light from Philly and it’s really wonderful to be reminded of that warmth. Our hotel was adorable: we stayed in a family room and it had a bunk bed and ceramic solo cups. It’s like upgraded college cups for the adults who miss their young, carefree days. We went to meet up with Molly Work & Miriam, who had three “welcome to Thailand” beers ready for the girls to shotgun upon their arrival. Molly Work and Molly Home hit it off- they’re from the same town in Jersey and share the same humor, dry jokes and all. We headed off to a micro-brewery next where the owners are very fond of Miriam. Their pineapple beer was wonderful– the night was cool and I was having brews with some beautiful souls in Bangkok. Life is unreal. We went to a nightclub and danced with carefree spirits and washed away bad feelings with laughter and club remixes, the kind that streamed out of frat house speakers back in the our young days.
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COMPLIMENTARY INSTANT COFFEE
Three hours later, it was time to wake up. Molly and I squeezed in a jog around the neighborhood before having family breakfast and jetting off to our flight. Catherine’s ankles were swollen and kept insisting that her “leg veins were thrombosis-ing.” I was in a fit of giggles. I was asleep for most of the flight and when the attendant forgot to give me an immigration form, Molly kindly asked her for another.
“She’s not Filipina? She’s a foreigner?” She and Molly had a weird interaction for another thirty seconds because she didn’t believe that Molly and I were traveling together. When I awoke for food (what’s new), they somehow forgot to serve Molly, Catherine and I. My stomach produced a symphony of grumbles because I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Catherine went into autopilot and made it her mission to get us our meals. We only made a little scene. On the bright side, they gave us ice cream while we calmed the ‘hangry’ monster inside.
We had a layover in Manila and after being ripped off and paying thirty dollars for a cab, we decided that a quiet dinner and tea would suffice. Molly brought me three boxes of Yogi tea and the girls would entertain me during the week by having tea time on the bed after a shower or at the end of the night. Life hack: never drink detox tea before eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas. I learned that the hard way later in the week. That night, I introduced Molly to Alex Aiono and performed my own renditions of his mash-ups while she tried to fall asleep. I think this trip is enough doses of Kitty to last Molly until my return next year.
After publicly humiliating myself by falling on the airport transfer bus, a short flight to Kalibo, a two-hour drive, and a ferry transfer, we finally arrived to paradise. Bali used to hold first place but it was immediately knocked off the podium. Guys, Boracay is spectacular. It’s immaculate, mesmerizing, and there really aren’t any words to describe its beauty and serenity. Our hotel was on the beachfront and we had amazing breakfasts during those several days. Because my skin protests the effectiveness of SPF and Catherine’s Irish skin has a lifelong revolution against the sun, we ventured out for some Ube ice cream instead of laying out to toast under mother nature’s violent rays. By the time we reconnected with the rest of the group, Molly & Maura had already found us a group of friends: a traveling couple from the UK and Sweden and two Irish working in Dubai. Our motley Model UN crew enjoyed each other’s company for the rest of the night and the next few days. Catherine received a Swedish language lesson and I added a newfound appreciation for the Irish accent– when I finally perfect my Harry Potter voice this will be my next feat. It started to downpour when Molly and I walked back to the hotel that night. I had been eating a bag of Ruffles sour cream and cheddar chips– they were six dollars! I haven’t had them since being home and was having a real case of the munchies. You bet your quarters I protected that foil bag against the torrential downpour. The chips were saved and only fifteen percent were soggy. I will never pay six dollars for a bag of chips ever again. Molly and I laughed until our bellies hurt over James Corden videos and drank tea because what else do you do after nine months of separation and flying nine thousand miles to see your friend?
SHE DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE
Guys, I think my Fellowship should have been in the Philippines. Remember I mentioned that I get treated differently from the other fellows back in Laos? Omigoodness, people were so nice to me because everyone thought I was a local. To saturate my ego even more, these men and women said I looked like a Filipina actress except “her skin is white.” Yes, I could never get away from that..the skin color comment. You know, in America, people pay lots of money for this tan, sir! When we went fly fishing (Maura, Catherine and I clinging on for our lives onto a big inflatable bed while it literally flies up into the air and trying not to fling across the ocean) the guys on the boat kept asking Molly about my heritage. My story for the week was that I was Hawaiian but lived on the mainland because I was adopted. Is this my foreshadowing for an acting career as a Lifetime movie star? I was terrified of my despicable swimming skills so I only half fell off once. I begged Cath to pull me back in screaming, “don’t let go Jack!” When the guys told me they were going to ring us around the ocean again I jumped off the float. They didn’t even come to get me.
“Mom Cat, just swim back to the boat.”
“She can’t swim.”
“It’s okay, now you can learn…swim like a frog!”
Sweet baby Jesus.
A little later on, two local children asked if we wanted them to build a sandcastle for four dollars. We excited agreed, and as they started their masterpiece, I befriend them. I felt an instant wave of sadness because he could not audibly recognize the letter “s” when I spelled out La Salle. I just go through these internal conflicts about the world and am always in deep reflection about life while living here but I won’t get into it on this blog. If you ever want to pick my brains, y’all know my Skype ID. Catduhlina10. Yes, I know. I was fourteen okay? Stop judging.
During one particular sunset, we rented a paraw, a sailboat, to be whisked away into a romantic backdrop of the island. Realistically, my butt suffered unwanted indentation from the fish netting but the views were very wonderful. We even found a blue starfish! Molly and I adopted our five-minute pet child and dubbed him “Sir Mix-A Lot.” We are the co-parents of the year. After a failed power nap before rallying later that night, we woke up at 10pm to grumbling stomachs. We found a place to eat and it was so nice to catch up and share stories. I still go back and forth about my decision to stay two years in Laos and Molly eased my fears.
“When we were graduating, I just wanted to pass my boards and start working as a nurse. Your goal was to get out. You wanted to see the world and that’s really brave, Cat. You’re doing the right thing, girl.”
Molly always knows the most comforting things to say. If you want her to deliver your baby, she’s the best. Ten minutes later, Catherine reached out and asked what were we wearing at the restaurant. Molly responded “our PJs.” I kid you not nurse Molly was wearing her floral print PJ’s and reading glasses while I was wearing the same dress I would crawl into bed with thirty minutes later. Molly, Maura and I cuddled in bed and watched Netflix. Maura asked what I missed most about home.
“I really miss the people.”
“You are really missed at home Cat, but you aren’t missing anything.”
Okay, I tried. I fell asleep two minutes in. Are you surprised? Life is so wonderful when your friends are on the same wavelength. I don’t think Catherine will ever vacation with me ever again. Second winds past midnight were impossible with me. Besides, how else would I have annoyingly woken up Molly with our morning playlist of Moana, Despacito and Katy Perry? Hey, at least I’m consistent. Do you even know what the lyrics in Despacito means? We laid in bed while Molly read the lyrics aloud and I will never be the same person again. Why are men so vile towards women in these songs? And poor Molly, I would drag her onto these morning beach runs under the blistering sun. While I was covered head to toe in a sun guard shirt and leggings, she perfectly donned a tank top and shorts. One night, I forgot about our ab workout until we were already dressed for the bar. We completed the exercises on our bed. She worked for that beer.
Speaking of food, the best dinner we unanimously agreed on was a place called Maya and Jony’s. Thanks for the recommendation, Hannah! We had a seared tuna salad and the best crispy pork I’ve ever eaten. It’s better than my whole-in-the-wall shop back in Laos. The pork belly was succulent and the sauces that complemented the meat were the perfect additions. We sat on the beach and the sunset was so delightful. We had dinner with the European couple because we ran into them on the beach a few hours earlier. Sam’s (a diver) from England and Anya (a diving videographer) is from Switzerland. They were so cool! Anya’s been to over fifty countries! She is actual goals. We actually ran into them again at the airport a few days later before we all parted ways. They were the ones who gave Molly’s cellphone to security when she realized she lost it…after we already boarded the plane. That could’ve been a disaster.
Now that we’re mentioning hiccups… the girls were so patient of my ‘ideas’ during the week. Example one: the fly-fishing. I found an image of it on google and exclaimed, “Maura this is fun, let’s do it!” Catherine got dragged into it because we needed three people. What a trooper. My next fabulous idea was taking a “short” hike to Mount Luho to climb the highest point in Boracay for a 360 view of the island. The view? Breathtaking. I mean literally breathtaking. I was dry heaving on Molly, who clearly has a phobia of bodily fluids that I was not aware of until she was gagging next to me. We had to hike up a big hill under the unforgiving sun, not to mention, I was wearing a long sleeve again so sweat was protruding out of any exposed pores on my body. We tried to play music and dance our way up the steep incline but Beyoncé was helpless during this turmoil. My initial plan was hike to Puka Beach after the observatory, but we were grateful to have taken an electric cab after driving through six kilometers of winding hills we would have otherwise walked. The last brilliant idea I had been to use the complimentary one hour massages that came with the stay at our hotel. The first sign should have been that the location was on the other side of the island. Second clue? It was on the second floor of a random building on the main strip of the beach. No relaxing, pre-dinner ocean wave music playing oil massages for us here. We were crammed into a big open room with about ten other wood, rickety, massage tables put together. The hostess offered a male therapist and Molly consented. However, he literally gunned towards me while entering the room. I was so stinking uncomfortable during the next sixty minutes.To say that was an interesting massage is an understatement… I will only be going to my trusted places in Laos from here on out.
“Guys, stop listening to my crazy ideas,” I requested.
They never complied.
The trip was filled with many other delightful moments such as parasailing over an island whose beauty is not justified by my temperamental iPhone 6s. We also swam to Willy’s Rock, which was a little tiny island that housed the statue of Mary at the top of the steps. There was a place called Jonah’s in which we trekked to everyday at the same time for their refreshing avocado milkshakes. We tried to aimlessly climb a palm tree and was embarrassed when a six-year-old boy scurried up the long truck effortlessly after our failed attempts. On our last night, we had a traditional Filipino meal and ate off the banana leaf and everything. It was interesting and a fun experience.
As far as sunrises go, the only time we witnessed one was the morning of our 5:00 am departure. I did not wake Molly with my musical renditions that morning and I’m sure she was eternally grateful. The growing sunrise was so peaceful and filled me with a sense of clarity. In hindsight, I should have questioned the front desk as to why we were leaving five hours before our departure time. However, it would have been unlucky to be stuck in traffic and miss our ferry and shuttle bus to the next island. We arrived to Kalibo at 7:07 am. The airport wasn’t even open yet and I could see the steam fusing out of Molly’s ears. She and Cath immediately plopped onto the ground outside. Cath scrutinized the size of her Pringle and immediately tweeted Pringle’s headquarters to alert “the Malaysians that they are being jipped..they can’t make duck lips!” Omigoodness, it was only 7:17am at this point. This was going to be a long travel day indeed.
“When we get to Bangkok I want the biggest coffee to give me cardiac arrest.”
What? They’re nurses– they know how to take care of themselves. Actually, Cath is an engineer for the US Navy– so I’m not worried one bit.
I forgot to mention that we were all suffering from a bad case of the stomach bug when we traveled to Bangkok. We made it in time for happy hour and the girls got to meet Nick and Mallory, two fellows that work in the city. We struggled to finish a pizza and fries and I nearly begged Cath to finish off my wine. You know I’m really sick when I pass up food. Since it was their last night in Asia, I promised to rally. Molly and I agreed to a twenty-minute power nap which un-regrettably turned into a two-hour siesta. We had drinks at a rooftop bar and danced our sleepy ha-ha’s off at a nightclub. Guys, we even rallied and got up a few hours later to attend Sunday mass. It was so, so wonderful being able to share a piece of my life with them. It’s almost surreal.
I despised that word in college. I loathed change it was always an unwelcoming discomfort because it scared me as I felt powerless over my future.
I learned to welcome change and embrace it. It’s all about perspective, really. Recently, it seems like I’ve just been saying goodbyes. In particular, it was hard to say farewell to Kat and Sara, two fellows I have become particularly close with here in Laos. I won’t be able to drive to their house or just physically be in their presence. They were always down to satisfy my sweet cravings at 11pm, and most of the time we’d end up laying in Sara’s bed and talk about life or just watch movies. I’m so well versed in movie quotes because of them. Sara saw right through me– I put up a wall when I moved to Laos but she helped me to embrace my vulnerability, my sass, my ability to always trust and believe the best in people, even if it means getting hurt. Sara was my safe place in Vientiane.
It’s taken me quite some time to feel comfortable and my this city my own and it’s going to be difficult to start anew.
A few days before Sara left, I was welcomed to have lunch with her co-worker, Phet, at their house to introduce Phet to a typical american breakfast: eggs and hash browns. I think Phet and her daughter Angela were not amused by the American cuisine as it lacks the eleven ingredient, five-hour preparation like that of Lao food. I’ve only met Phet once before when she invited us to a service at her church earlier in the year but what I’ve learned about her is that she is a powerhouse, a fearless yet greatly loved woman. She was just saying things during our meal that really touched me. The only thing you can be sure of in this life is change, she started off. She even encouraged Sara and I to keep traveling, and that life gets hard but we just have to keep pushing. As I washed the dishes in the kitchen, she walked over to me in her motherly, loving voice and said “I know you’re going to be sad when Sara leaves. I want you to know that you have family here so you can come over and I will cook Lao food for you whenever you would like.” Ohmigoodness my heart melted.
Sara and I decided to try Zumba at our very fancy gym the day before she left. I was always intimidated to go because it’s full of Desperate Housweives/Stepford Wives-esque Lao women, and my curves would have stood out among the chiseled abs that were carefully crafted by their hard work. Sorry not sorry, I like to eat sweets.
Anyways, it was such a blast! The reggeaton music was what I needed and it made me miss the hip hop classes Lauren and I take back in Philly. The Zumba here is a PG-13 version compared to those dance moves our instructor had us doing. He was the choreographer for the Eagles’ cheerleaders. Lots of booty poppin’.
The morning before Sara left, we were so exhausted from crying. She, Spencer and I laid her in bed and watched 30 Rock- talk about an ab workout! My nonexistent abs were so sore from laughing.
Update: I finally bought a new bike. I LOVE IT! Having a bigger, faster, and more powerful bike makes riding around Vientiane all the difference. Zach’s been using my bike for the past few weeks and it makes me giggle because he’s a giant compared to Lil’ Red.
Miss you guys so much! P.S. My iPhone got stolen two months ago (yes, the Cheer Up Kitty Album is no longer in existence. So, PLEASE send me more pics and videos as I have created a new album recently. yes, I want that video of Tom twerking on the wall, or the pic of the massive burrito bowl I inhaled after that tough practice and yes Mat C, I want those pics of me sleeping everywhere we went in Amsterdam)