Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who wants a high five?

There's something about being able to stretch your legs out as far as you want and to realize that they are fully supported by a padded surface underneath that makes me content. Sometimes I cross them at my ankles, sometimes I do not. But without a doubt, it's one hundred times better than the fetal position the lower half of my body automatically contorts to upon landing on a bed or couch. Simply because there sometimes is a very large disadvantage to being taller than your country's native.

Any travelling experience has it's ups downs and in-betweens. Clearly the ups tip the scale or I and the majority of all nomads would not continually journey the way they do. I'd like to be able to say that I always spend the time I spend dwelling on past instances on the positives. but that would be a lie and this isn't a passage about lies. It's also not one about a heightened traveler's complaints. I'd like to say it's more of a reminder to others that my 6 foot four inch frame AT TIMES would be the opposite of what some term "a blessing in disguise". Because when you hit the road, I promise you that you'd sacrifice your blessing of the ability to dunk a basketball (which problematically enough I can not do) and replace it with the ability to remain in a seated posture upon a bus that does not require you to spear your knees sideways into the unlucky stranger who will deal with said knees for the next six hours. And there is no disguising height. That's also a promise.

Living in Asia is a small feat in itself if you are on the taller end of the yardstick. I've walked into a class full of confused Japanese students with blood streaming from the forehead after an attempt to walk into a room at standard speed backfired when the doorframe failed to fit my height requirements and instead chose to leave its mark on my skull. Did I realize the gash, decide to ignore it and chose to enter the class as hard core badass number one? No, my head had just become so accustomed to these daily beatings that I was no longer fazed. Top five everyday places to bash your face in no apparent order: exiting subways, kindergartens, bathrooms in bars, entering and exiting McDonald's Playlands, and any glass door (you can't see it, you can't feel it right?) So let it be said, the door frame's overhang is my enemy. And something must be said for chandeliers. Unless you've got yourself vaulted ceilings, grand pianos, and maybe a phantom lurking in underground chambers, what are you trying to prove? Stop all the dangling.

While living in Chile, I spent some time with a host family who were fantastic people and took the greatest care of me. So I can forgive their choice of providing me with their 16 year old daughter's former bed to spend my nights on. Now I'm accustomed to the ankles hanging over the edge, but when we are approaching the upper calf region, something must be done. Rather than waking up every morning having to massage blood into my lifeless lower limbs, I chose to tuck an extra sheet into the bed's end and stretch that across the room into a closed desk drawer. My host family was under the impression that this gringo still used his free time to build blanket forts, but REM was finally achieved and all was well. Backpacking through South America also allowed me to realize another instance of height related discrimination (also known as HRD). Because of their countrys' smaller stature, South Americans are seemingly not that into leg room. So every backseat taxi ride, domestic air flight, SUV jungle vehicle, or cramped bus brought with it minimal space for these chicken legs and potential blood clots for future fun.

More than anything, we receive a constant inquiry from strangers about our height. Locals wonder how we acquired such a thing, exact dimensions, what clouds taste like, and nutritional suggestions on how they could too share our elevated point of view. Apart from reccommending a steady dose of green vegetables and 8-12 servings of milk per day, there is no choice but to smile and politefully provide the information requested. While waiting to cross a busy road, the corner of your eye will often catch a group of giggling teenagers measuring themselves to your back. It also is no coincidence that i have the phrase "so tall" in my vocabulary in Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. But it's not all bad. I get a great view of scalps, particularly in crowded areas so I am very well aware of who's dying blond and who's not using enough dandruff shampoo. I am also now able to convert inches to centimeters so i can accurately give out my numbers, thus proving that height does educate. And while a passing glance upward from an older mumbling gentleman does not equate to an Argentinian beauty acknowledging my body's resistance to gravity, it's always good to be noticed.

So if you're considered tall and planning on crossing some borders anytime soon, I suggest a brief investigation on your destination's average height and its documented ability to deal with those extra inches. Just be prepared to let your new friends know how the weather is up here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Early yesterday morning, I decided that my life would be take a turn for the intellectual and sophisticated with the introduction of tea into my daily routine. This decision by no means came naturally; tea is something that has always confused more than enlightened me. I've never sat back after draining a majestic cup of fresh herb-mountain-wildrose-sage blend and had that sense of calm or understanding or contentment that tea seems to provide for others. I usually slam the cup down and wait for something to hit. Wait, that's it? Other things i have no particular taste for, yet still drink on a given occassion solely for resulting effects: coffee, beer, gin, and tomato juice. Each possesses a consequenting high or low that I'm craving; at the very least I'm awarded with a small sense of satisfaction for forcing my tastebuds to weather a liquid storm.

The more I traveled, the more I became even more inquisitive about this beverage. Mainly because it was at my every turn. There was tea and there was me. Living with a family in Chile, I was served it typically twice a day. Most households even have a makeshift meal based around tea consumption, held in the late evenings. Tecito, as I believe it's called, is nothing more than a time for families to gather once more and drink their brew of choice. This is usually served alongside mountains of bread accompanied by avocados and a bucket of butter. Spending nearly two years in Asia, I've found myself more addicted to Anime and Korean boy bands than I am to a morning cup of fresh milk tea. And here I am, living in an arguable tea mecca, appreciating ever so little about the importance of a bag filled with leaves, soaked in scalding water.

Now don't get me wrong, tea is not something I wholeheartedly despise or have even held one man protests for. It's fine, really. The thing is, it's just so---bland. At least a black iced coffee hits my tongue hard and lets it know it's there. A can of tomato and carrot juice keeps me feeling healthy enough to accept the gag-inducing effect it often has upon me. I mean, at least these drinks show up. At times, I feel like I could get more from wringing out the soggy towel I've used to soak up a pipe leak in the basement than this supposed magical blend of vegetation has ever given me. (I've never remedied a pipe leak and have no idea what basement I'm talking about, but please don't take me for a liar.) I dont know, perhaps I'm turned off by the prim and properness of pinky up, antique china welding, cutesy sips that I envision an avid tea drinker to partake in. At this point in time, I don't even own nor have any means to acquiring a monacle. But I have begun to realize that the culture itself is not all tea and crumpets style, which I had previously decided it to be. For example, the intricate process of a tea ceremony I observed in Japan is spiritually above and beyond my all-you-can-drink club favorite Long Island iced teas. Poking into a streetside tea shop yesterday, I discovered the magnitude of this situation. The sheer diversity of tea flavoring I witnessed craftily persuaded me into a 90 Taiwan Dollar purchase of high mountain oolong tea. 18 bags and possible bliss in a box. Starting anew in small town Taiwan, two hours away from the grandeur of Taipei, I've accepted the possibility of beginning a fresh chapter in my life. And maybe, just maybe, tea will become a warm, friendly, and ever so slightly tasty partner in this new journey.

Afterthought: Last night, lacking a teapot, I boiled water in a massive pot and mixed the first cup. Painfully hot, it took a good twenty minutes to finish, but I reckoned that maybe slow sipping is part of the tea drinker's culture. I read a book while doing so and nibbled on a chinese cookie. I put on glasses for the occassion. I felt astute. Three hours later, I was sitting straight up in bed scrambling to find any blunt object I could utilize as a weapon. My possible tea-induced dreams had convinced me that dozens of dinosaur eggs were hatching in my drawers and carnivorous babies were on the prowl. Appendages were no longer safe. Teatime for Andy has now switched to a morning affair.