A few months back I was mentioning (It was maybe a bit like whining) to a friend that I didn’t think I could walk very far anymore, at least without stopping a lot. After my bout with pneumonia five years ago when I went unconscious for more than two days and the resulting dehydration left my legs so stiff that initially I couldn’t lift them off the bed even an inch and couldn’t get around without a walker for two full months, it seemed my legs and back were weaker than before. And besides I’m an old geezer and everything is just naturally winding down, wearing thin, getting creaky.
So I couldn’t have been more surprised that I managed maybe 10 miles (16kms) on my hitch. For sure, I had lots of rest periods, and as mentioned before, I really was at my limit, though if pressed and had no choice I guess I could’ve carried on a bit more. On the other hand, I know from past experience when I push myself too hard, I get sick. Not this time, I managed very well.
Another dimension was the heat: I don’t mind it that much, can deal with it, but it sure weighs on you. I can’t imagine anyone liking 100° (38C), except maybe for one fellow I came across who was wearing a thermal vest over a T-shirt on a very hot day. It seemed so odd, I had to ask him about it. He responded that he had a back problem and the only time it didn’t hurt was when it was warm. Hot is easier on the body than cold, at least until the temperature gets really hot. Before then it’s relaxing compared to cold which needs fending off and brings aches to bones and such. In my case my nose starts dripping when the temp goes below 70 (21C). I’ve been through some really cold times in my life, and actively sought out the cold when I was younger, but today I’d much rather be hot. Here where I live in Cambodia it only goes below 70 a few times a year, so just perfect for me.
Lots of people live where high temperatures are common so it’s just something you get used to. Since it was very dry – around 30% humidity – while I was out during those temps, I’d be walking in the sun and barely able to work up a sweat… I’d sweat and it would almost instantly dry.
Well, sure there are people who really can’t handle it, but mostly it’s only laziness, a need to never feel discomfited. Tough luck, it’s only going to get hotter. On the other hand some of my fogey friends who keep their air-cons at chill temperatures are full of ailments. Sunset years, beset with lots of infirmities? Why then shouldn’t you be entitled to be as comfortable as you like? Then again, why spend money and use energy to make it freezing inside when it’s perfectly comfortable outside? Okay I’m exaggerating, but that’s how it felt to me.
All that is only to say I believe I owe my (relatively) sprightly condition at 81 at least partly to not letting those kinds of things affect me. Heat, or in my younger days cold, is not going to stop me from my goals and I just keep plugging away; no matter how tired I am I keep plodding, trudging along. I find it difficult to rest until I reach my destination. It isn’t just will. Stamina doesn’t come without effort and consciousness. Karma also helps: I’m blessed with a strong constitution, but by itself that wouldn’t do it if I didn’t also exercise and eat healthy.
A lot of it is attitude. If you know it’s healthy food and you care about health, you grow to like it. You don’t bemoan having to walk a little, you look at it as an opportunity. If it’s hot, what the hell, get out there, extend yourself, carry on your life, see what you can do. Don’t go overboard, just put in a little effort.
Okay, that’s enough lecturing and moralizing for today.
I arrived in Portland around 8.30 am, the train ride was uneventful, it’s always a pleasant ride.
My plane to Chicago left at near midnight on the third day so I had time to visit with several more friends and spend another afternoon with two daughters and a grandson. My last day I connected with four different friends, that was really cool.
My original plan was a couple nights in Chicago, five nights in Minneapolis reuniting with my siblings and then a week at my daughter’s place in the south end of the big island in Hawaii, then home.
First stop the inner burbs of Chicago. When I knew him in Phnom Penh my friend was working as a teacher, married to a Cambodian woman, already with two kids. We were trivia quizzers with a team that had some wins under our belt. He was young, in his twenties. In a sense you don’t pick your friends, you just find yourself hanging out with people you’re comfortable with. He was doing okay as a teacher, but the temptation of returning to Illinois to work for his father and living easier was too much to pass up. I didn’t realize till I saw him recently that he was not only returning to the states, but also to the town he grew up in. That’s really going back.
Like quite a few of my friends who became parents in Cambodia, the question of the kid’s education crops up. It’s easy enough to find good schools when they’re young, but a proper western standard education for the later years is hard to come by without deep pockets. I can see the need to migrate home, but also, there’s something about growing up in two cultures that counterbalances the technically superior education available in the west. Digression: Studies have shown that people who speak 2 languages get Alzheimer’s 5 years later than those who know only one and speakers of 3 or more languages get it 7 years later. Something about the exposure to diverse cultures keeps the mind more active and fresh.
But keeping the kids in Cambodia is a hard sell so back home they go. Unfortunately they often wind up in the burbs where almost everywhere the kids need to go they have to be ferried by the parents. And while my friends are liberal, progressive people, they’re surrounded by Repug conservatives and even trumpster types, so that many of the kid’s classmates are also such.
He and his wife both hate living in the US and since he does all of his work online he could technically do it anywhere… except working hours in the US is 8pm to 5am in Cambodia, making for a strange schedule.
He has a Tesla, so I got a chance to ride around in it quite a bit. It’s a fine vehicle, though I understand there are technical/computer type problems with windows and peripheral stuff. As for the mechanics, drive and power, it’s superior. You’re on the freeway going 60mph and you want to pass another vehicle, you hit the accelerator and almost instantly, it seems, you’re there… it was incredibly fast and seamless with no downshifting, no engine roar. I was really impressed.
The car has a monitor with a touchscreen that includes a map which can take you down to individual buildings and up to the whole state and country. It’s impossible to get lost: Where’s the fun in that? In fact getting lost and dealing with other inconveniences because of lack of a telephone on the trip makes me think I really have to get a smartphone before my next one. But we’ll see, I’ve held off so far.
After two very pleasant days I’m off to Minneapolis in the far burbs for a sibling and daughter reunion. The last time I was in the states 8 years ago I never left Oregon so I hadn’t seen my siblings, who live in Ventura Cal. and Minneapolis, for 15 years and because my daughter lives in Hawaii and it’s way off the beaten path, I hadn’t seen her since she moved there 22 years before.
Family’s important, but my life is in Cambodia, there’s nothing I could do or would want to do about that. I’m having the time of my life and feel blessed being here. Family separation is just one of the failings, unfortunate aspects of modern life, and not much can change that. But then, in addition to unintended separation, and by that I mean you don’t want to be separated, that’s just the way life unfolds, there’s also estrangement, families whose members hate each other. That’s even true of my son and his three sons. All three have sour feelings towards their father and the eldest and youngest had a severe falling out. Very sad.
No problem with my siblings and never has been, we get along fine. We mostly hung around my sister’s house, but we did make a couple of excursions; one to a natural history museum that had a full size mammoth on display, another to a large public garden, which was very cool.
We reminisced, told stories, looked at old pics, took it easy. On a previous visit, my brother-in-law asked, Wouldn’t you like to live here? Well, the burbs have their peace and lots of trees and such, but I responded, No Way, if I lived in this area I’d be in the center city where there are shops and bars, people on the streets and public transportation. The burbs have always represented the worst of both worlds to me; it’s green and far from the city, but it’s nothing like country living where you can really experience a bit of the natural world. It’s close enough to take advantage of the city’s culture, but far enough that it’s a chore and excursion every time you go. There’s nothing pleasant about driving, it’s tense and stressful, something you have to do. People drive fast for that reason, you just want to get it over with. You can’t go anywhere or do anything without getting in your car. Also where my sister lives it’s on a steep hill so not even conducive for cycling. The only time driving is enjoyable is when you’re out for a leisurely drive in the countryside on a peaceful, uncrowded highway.
One thing I did was get a checkup, free under Obamacare rules. Everything was fine except for an elevated number connected to possible prostate problems (and hypertension which I was already aware of). I was told enlarged prostate or cancer. As per Wiki, enlargement is very common among older men and doesn’t come from malignancy. Therefore according to the description in Wiki my take was that the only time you’d want or need to do anything about it, drugs or surgery, is if it interferes with urination. Before then it’s only an inconvenience, like having to pee often. As for cancer: according to Wiki that elevated number has nothing to do with cancer, further the only way to know is a biopsy which involves sticking a device up your urethra that hacks off pieces of the prostate for testing. The only way that could ever happen is back there, otherwise it’d probably cost bigly. Going back there won’t happen for at least a couple years, so I’m just going to live with it for now.
Another goal was to find a pair of quality sandals at a second hand store, but didn’t see a single pair in two stores in two cities. I only wore sandals on the trip, but had to wear socks since the cheap sandals I got here in Cambo were rubbing my feet the wrong way. Fact is the only time I wear shoes in Cambodia is for hiking, my feet like to be free.
Another goal was basic boxer shorts underwear. It took three big stores to find them in my size which is very common, and it wasn’t even the everyday brand I preferred. Meanwhile a thing called boxer briefs were plentiful. They’re just briefs with long legs, nothing boxer about them. Is there some nefarious conspiracy to force men to wear those misnomered undies? Thinking about it I probably could’ve found Hanes/Fruit of the Loom type boxers in one of the malls in Phnom Penh, but I hardly ever go there and when I do the last thing I want to do is go to a mall.
I managed to find rain gauges, to replace the one I brought here 8 years ago which was so clouded with age I could barely see through it anymore and in case other people wanted one.
It was a great visit, I’m lucky to have such a good hearted family.
Next stop Hawaii.
For instance, a good friend here in Kampot died of a heart attack some years ago. He wasn’t that old, maybe 60, and he’d already had a mild one in the past. We we’re leaving an event and walking towards his house which was barely 200 meters away. As we started someone offered a ride. I said, Why not walk?, he responded, Why should I walk if I can ride? He had a bicycle, but wouldn’t use it much. I’d beg him to take a ride out to my house just a mile away, he never made it. He was fat so riding tired him, but how could you ever not be fat if you don’t extend yourself a bit, get tired until your body strengthens and then not get so tired?
People love bacon, it’s iconic – Bring home the bacon and all – and frequently extolled on my FB feed, but it’s 80% saturated fat. I’m far from perfect. The only important thing is to stay conscious and honest with yourself.