Now My Days

I went to Thailand. I came back and immediately embarked on a road trip to Tallahassee with some of my favorite friends I made while working in Doha.

After roughly 6 weeks of travel, I am prepared to provide a synopsis.

Thailand was beautiful and fun and relaxing and full of activities, as advertised. Francis and I had a great time. As a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some of my favorite pictures from our time there.

Tiger Kingdom

This is me hanging out with some tigers and Tiger Kingdom in Phuket. It should be mentioned that to get to this Tiger Kingdom and subsequent destinations in Phuket, we boarded a taxi cab out of the ferry dock, and allowed him to take us around. He waited for us at every place and eventually took us to the airport. After getting over our fear of being robbed, the fear of driving in his car in the rain up hills, passing cars in the oncoming traffic lane really took hold. A simple picture- but what a crazy day.

Koh Phi PhiBeautiful Koh Phi Phi Island, where we spent the second week of our trip.

Maya BayFrancis and myself doing cartwheels at Maya Bay. We saw this small island by way of a “Sleep Aboard Tour”. We had a bonfire on this beach, ate curry out of a bucket, and slept on a boat. Some slept more than others. It was a great day of swimming, kayaking, jumping off boats and enjoying the peaceful and secluded beach.

View at DinnerTypical Koh Phi Phi view while walking down the main road for dinner.

Fire Show

This is what is known as a “fire show”. This photo was taken on the last day of our guided tour with Thaintro on Koh Phangan Island. Following this photo, Laila stays out all night until after 4am, then proceeds to attempt to catch a taxi at 6am, ride a ferry to the main land, take a bus across the main land, and ride another ferry to Koh Phi Phi. Laila considers this to be one of her dumber ideas and credits her survival to a loyal travel partner, Francis.

Elephants

Just kickin it with some elephants in Koh Phangan.

Bottle Beach

Heading to Bottle Beach in Koh Phangan.

Ferry

This is for some reason one of my favorite photos. Please note: BEAUTIFUL water and limestone formations in the background, taking a ferry ride, matching fruit shirts, mini water bottle I’m wearing around my neck, completely disheveled hair, ridiculous dive watch that I don’t know how to use and was a great conversation starter, and big grins all around.

Khao Sok National Park

This is Khao Sok National Park, where we stayed one night in floating bungalows. It was another beautiful day of swimming, kayaking, and washing my hair in a lake.

Cooking Class

Before arriving at Khao Sok National Park, we took an overnight train, where I developed an atrocious and offensive cough, and before that, we were here- in a cooking class. I’ve included this photo because Francis can not look at it without laughing herself to tears. This is not one of Laila’s smarter fashion choices. Whatever- no regrets.

After two fun filled weeks in Thailand, I spent a couple days in San Diego, mostly sleeping and recovering from a small fever. I came back to Dallas and as I mentioned, started road tripping. Two Norweigans and two Americans, we spent a day in Dallas. We spent a day driving down to Houma. I was finally reunited with Albert and Alice and all my old Schlumberger friends down there. I introduced my Doha and Houma friends and watched my worlds magically interface. We went to New Orleans. We saw some jazz music and were tourists on Bourbon Street.

On the road

We went to Tallahassee, I went to my friend’s High School reunion. I had fun. We went river tubing. Then… I felt chest pains which kept me up all night long. Assuming it was heartburn, I drank anti acid liquids, took Zantac, and ate a bucket of TUMS. As the pain worsened and moved to be concentrated in my back, I saw a doctor after four sleepless nights. I had an ultrasound, which revealed nothing. I was given pain killers and my mother, most alarmed, flew to Tallahassee. We drove to Pensacola and stayed with a cousin there. Though I was experiencing a health crisis, I popped my pain pills and had as much fun with family as I could. We went out to eat, to a farmers market,  and planted trees in my cousins marshy front yard. After 4 days of eating oatmeal- I started to feel better. During this time, mom and I had some road trip adventures in Florida and Louisiana.

Laura Plantation Home

We toured Laura Plantation and learned about Creole culture in Louisiana.

Swamp Tour

On a swamp tour, we learned all about the unique characteristics and building qualities of Cyprus trees, swamp ecology, and alligator hunting.

Caverns

There are caverns in Florida!

Eventual diagnosis was that I must have severe inflammation or esophagitis. Cautionary tale, dear readers, there IS such a thing as too much curry and too many road trip burgers and too many Chick Fil A breakfasts. In a row, they proved detrimental. Thankfully, my health complications were self induced and I am doing much better.

Now my days consist of laying in bed sending snapchats to my working friends with the caption “#unemployed”, cleaning out my closet, and secretly plotting my next move…

Plugs and Sparks

I understand now why it is called the “Golden Coast”. My car maneuvered the cliffs along highway 1, playing a leap-frog style pattern with the other cars stopping to take pictures at turn out patches scattered along the road.

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Thirteen hours after leaving Palo Alto, I arrived in San Diego, where I met my dear friend from college, and a fellow displaced former Whataberger employee enjoying his fun-employment vacation in Pacific Beach.  I hiked, I ran, I played. I ate burritos and I let the sun have its way with me. I did some whale watching and saw no whales. I went to the zoo. In recent years, I don’t enjoy zoos so much- they really seem a bit archaic and frankly, depressing. As the San Diego Zoo has such a great reputation, I figured why not check it out.

The San Diego Zoo, ladies and gentlemen, is totally worth all the hype it gets. While the entry fee seems a bit steep, its worth EVERY PENNY. Debbin, my fellow funemployed warrior, and I meandered into the zoo on a Monday around 10 am. As dictated to us by Debbin’s San Diego host: Step 1- ride the zoo bus tour, sit on the top level, right side. Step 2- Take the lift to the top of the zoo and work your way down the hill. I believe no simpler advice has yielded such rewarding results. I was equally in awe of the zoo animals as I was the zoo’s infrastructure. There are concession areas at every turn, stocked with pretzels with cheese and churros. The bathrooms are plentiful and hardly ever with a wait. The Zoo’s intricate road system often leaves people standing in the center of the park holding their maps upside down, confused and sad. There are zoo volunteers and employees appropriately dispersed throughout the park to placate the masses of confused and eager zoo goers. There’s outdoor escalators and moving sidewalks which take you through animal exhibits. Seriously, I can not stress this enough, the San Diego Zoo is amazing. During my day, I finally realized my life dream. My pie in the sky fantasy career apex is to work for a large company, plan the annual investor conference as an overnight zoo retreat at the San Diego Zoo. Presentations will be held in the zoo’s two movie theatres.

I left San Diego for Phoenix. Similar to the flat plains and grazing cattle scenery in North Texas, the Arizona desert strikes a chord with me. I get into town where I know all the roads. I drive around Arizona State’s campus for nostalgia purposes, and take myself to the Chipoltle near campus. I remember when this place opened and gave away free burritos. I’m finding the people I’ve kept in touch with the least are the ones I now have most in common with. We talk for hours and hours. We share stories and perspectives fluidly as the time seems to stand still. Occasionally we break to reminisce old stories, laughing until we cry.

There’s a particular feeling I’m learning- it emerges in a flicker and disappears. It appears in the following structure of conversation.  1.You take turns talking about some intense experiences you’ve been through and how it’s changed how you think about or approach life. You sit and listen for several minutes uninterrupted. You talk several minutes uninterrupted.  2.You tell a more lighthearted or funny experience, you listen to their funny story and laugh hysterically, as if you were there.  3.The hilarity reminds you of a time you were together, someone mentions “remember that time….” and you both contribute your specific memories to the event or time period. You laugh until you cry, and you look up at your friend, through teary eyes you dab or wipe away.

The end of the sequence is an exhale, where you’re just looking at each other. Sometimes there’s a slight head shake. That’s the moment the feeling sparks- complete respect and admiration for this person who is truly your friend. Its a delicate understanding, just listening and unassuming to all each other’s experiences, talking freely and laughing as if the years don’t matter.