The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Random Nomads to the rescue! How to have an enchanted August (2/2)

Every year in mid-August, I swear I can still hear the beat of the taiko drums, even though it’s been years since I lived in Japan as an expat.

As I mentioned in my comment on Anthony Windram’s post of last week, the Japanese hold their Obon Festival in the dead of August. Appropriately, it’s the Buddhist version of the Festival of the Dead — when the dead are supposed to come back and visit.

That said, I have always thought of obon festivities as an attempt to arouse the living dead, which is what most people are after enduring the agonies of a Japanese summer. Just hearing the lively drumbeat can be revitalizing, getting one’s blood flowing again.

I am therefore personally curious to see how The Displaced Nation’s Random Nomads who live in Asia are doing. Are they managing to have some enchanting moments despite the heat — which, if anything, appears to be even more brutal in that part of the world than it was in my day? And what advice can they impart to the rest of us? (Besides the fact that compared to them, we shouldn’t really be complaining…)

Three of them got back with answers to these questions:
1) What has been your most enchanting moment of Summer 2011 thus far?
2) What has been your least enchanting moment?
3) Do you have any survival tips for people who can’t escape?

Please note:
a. You can read interviews with each of these three Random Nomads about their “displacement” by clicking on their names. They, and their lives, are fabulously inspiring regardless of season.
b. In Part 1 of this post, five US/Europe-based Random Nomads answered the same three questions. Check it out!

KIM ANDREASSON — Swedish passport; current home: Vietnam (Saigon)
Most enchanting:
Vacationing in my native Sweden with my wife. It was the longest time I have spent in my homeland in over a decade, and I have a new-found appreciation for the proverb: “Away is good, but home is best.”

Least enchanting:
Trying to do work while vacationing in Italy. An hour before an important conference call, the Internet went down at our 4-star hotel, and the hotel manager airily proclaimed, “That’s what usually happens when it rains.”

Survival tips:
We live in Saigon, where it’s basically 90 degrees all the time so there are only two options: stay inside and use AC; or if you go outside, wear light-colored clothes and drink lots of liquid.

EMILY CANNELL — U.S. passport; current home: Japan (Tokyo)
Most enchanting:
In spite of not being terribly interested in the rainforest or the quest to save it, I found myself smack dab in the middle of Borneo, Malaysia, on an Ecotour. Searching for the endangered orang-utans, we happened upon what became one of the highlights of my summer — and life. A pygmy elephant emerged from the trees, and just like the rest of us, he was hot. Slowly, he ambled in to the river where he proceeded to entertain us with his cooling down antics — scratching his ears on the trees, blowing water out of his trunk, and completely submerging himself while only 10 feet away from our boat. What a gift! I got out my checkbook then and there.

Least enchanting:
Getting up at 4:00 a.m. for the fifth time this summer in order to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight to somewhere. Once is okay, but five times?

Survival tips:
Currently I’m writing from the complete darkness of the guest bedroom, fan on high. Keep the curtains closed and the fans on high to circulate the air. When outside, wear a hat to keep the sun off the top of the head. It’ll do wonders.

JO GAN — U.S. passport; current home: China (Yuyao City, Zhejiang Province)
Most enchanting:
Since my summer is usually spent teaching high school and university students on their summer holidays, I usually don’t get many enchanting moments.  However, I did have one thing that was kind of nice.  After a long day at the language school, I walked down to the Yaojiang River that flows through the downtown area, with some fellow expat teachers and a couple of our adult students.  To our great surprise, white plastic chairs and tables had been set up all along the river underneath the willow trees. Cold beer and hot tea was being served, and there was a lone guitarist playing Chinese folk music for all to enjoy. We sat down and chatted, drank our beers, and watched the river float by with a slight breeze. The servers kept the beggars at bay so we were not hounded for money.

The best part of the evening was around midnight when they started shooting fireworks over the river.

It wasn’t a special occasion or even a special event — just the right mix of people and location, at just the right moment.

Least enchanting:
That would have to be when it rained for a month. I don’t know what was going on with the weather, but in the month of June I thought we were going to have to build an ark. It rained for three weeks straight every day without stopping. I didn’t want to do anything, but had to trek in the rain and puddles all the way to school every day. One day was particularly miserable because the electricity went out.  So it was hot and rainy, and we had no lights. I just kept thinking, why me?

Survival tips:
In the small Chinese city where I live, it’s the little things that count. Taking a trip around the city center in a rickshaw may cost you a little, but you get to sit back and survey the different things going on — and if that special person joins you, it can be romantic.

Another option is going out to the local parks every evening from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. to dance with the older locals. They are almost always playing some salsa or pop music and dancing the cha cha, or there’s some line dancing action. It is actually kind of fun to join them even if your are not in their age set. They always are excited to teach you their moves.

Lastly, we live close to Siming Mountain. You can take a trolley bus to the top and then float down the small river in a little orange raft. The river has added twists, turns and drops that make you scream out for your mama to help you. It makes for an interesting day, and you are bound to get wet and cool off.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, in which Anthony Windram debuts his new Agony Aunt column!

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5 responses to “Random Nomads to the rescue! How to have an enchanted August (2/2)

  1. amblerangel August 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I forgot to mention that due to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant being disabled by the tsunami, we are on power reduction in Tokyo. All businesses and residents have been asked to keep air conditioners at 28 degrees. The heat combined with the humidilty is making me moldy.

    Love this concept by the way! Learning so much about other areas….

    • ML Awanohara August 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      @Emily
      I can’t even begin to contemplate the further hardship of having to set your air con at 28C/82F!

      Okay, I won’t complain any more…

      Also, I love your suggestion of a hat. I’ve worn my Tilley hat almost every day this summer here in NYC, where I’m often out walking my two dogs, shopping at the greenmarket, etc.

      I’m only surprised you haven’t also recommended carrying an umbrella/parasol. By the time I left Japan, I was using one — and was surprised when Americans thought it odd. (At least in NYC, you see Asians, Caribbean people, and some Hispanics carrying them. Still, I feel somewhat self conscious, even though I know it makes good sense for someone like me, with strawberry blonde hair and freckled skin!)

  2. amblerangel August 24, 2011 at 7:02 am

    One can see the difference the umbrellas and hats make on the skin. We actually got used to umbrellas in Arizona- always had one. I never feel like I`m in the sun in NY- so much shade from the buildings.

    • ML Awanohara August 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      Hmmm… maybe that’s why people often comment on my Tilley hat — they think I’m overdoing it for the urban life. Big-name dermatologists don’t think that, though. Many of them advise hat, sunglasses, parasols, and gloves(!) at all times of the year — and point to the actress Anne Hathaway as a role model for what skin should ideally look like (a baby’s). Incidentally, there was a really good article in the Style section of NYT on this topic: Farewell to My Summer Tan. Even after all these years of hearing about the evils of tanning, Western women think tans look healthier, make us look slimmer, etc. Oh, well. if I hadn’t spent so much time in Japan, I probably would, too!

  3. Pingback: Obon, the Dance of the Dead (Japanese Festival) | Ledia Runnels' "Mysterious Orient"

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