Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Don't Know This Place!

There’s something that has been on my mind a lot lately that I have been rather reluctant to broach. Not for any benefit to myself, because the truth is I want to talk about it, a lot. I mean a lot. However, whenever I bring it up in conversation others just don't seem as keen to talk about it. It makes sense, as it’s something personal and rather exclusive. Like the guy who is constantly making inside jokes, even if no one who gets them is present [you know the type].

It is tempting to use this platform to completely indulge myself on a topic others just don’t find interesting, which I think everyone would advise against, but being a rebel at heart I am going to do it anyhow! [Hopefully in a way that is not purely self-indulgent.]

So here’s the thing:

The city I moved to eleven years ago is completely gone.

Before you start googling for catastrophic events, allow me to clarify. The city still stands, but it has transformed so drastically that it is a completely different place now than it was ten years ago.

I grew up in a very small village town in Colorado. For the twelve years I lived there, there were two drastic changes in the town. The first was that they added a pizzeria to the small grocery, and secondly, they installed a single stop light. These seemed like such huge monumental changes, altering the entire dynamic of the town.

So to now look back on the Chiang Mai I moved to all those years ago and see how much has changed and developed, it is rather astounding. Perhaps it is simply a sign I am getting old because I just want to talk about “back in my day when there were no pizzerias and this was just a dirt road...”

Perhaps it is because this city actually is growing and changing at an alarming rate. I cannot think of a single store or city block that has remained untouched. Or maybe it is simply the amount of Westernization that has taken hold.

When I first moved to Chiang Mai in 2002 there was a single Starbucks and two McDonald's. Now there’s at least seven Starbucks and almost too many McDonald’s to count. Pizza was available from only one company then. Now, just counting one mile from my house, I can count at least six pizza restaurants.
Eating at "Burito House" in the newly opened section of Airport Plaza in 2003.

The imported items available in 2002 were so expensive it was too impractical to buy. You could feed your whole family Thai food for $4, so it was difficult to justify spending $10 on a tiny personal pan pizza. Now, with inflation and the exchange rate in favor of the Thai Baht, that difference is narrowing. It isn’t so unreasonable to buy a block of cheese or a box of cereal. A box of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese is only $1 more than a cup of fried rice.

By no means am I complaining. It makes it easier to have some of the comforts of home easily available. It saves room in our suitcases not having to buy so many cake mixes or chocolate chips.

However. the last few months in particular have hit me heavy with the change. Huge, gigantic, face-lifting sort of change. Three giant malls opened bringing with them new stores and chains, ice skating rinks and even an IMAX theater. We now have Cold Stone and Toys R Us.

I walk through these new stores or sit down at a new restaurant and it feels surreal. I think of the restaurants and shops that have come and gone, places that were once so familiar and so much a part of my everyday life that have now faded into the background or are now something entirely different.

Just this week there was a fire at the oldest mall in the city. The mall that I practically lived at during my first few years here.
Posing with Ronald at the McDonald's at Airport Plaza

So, even though I still live in this city, it is not the same city that it was when I first experienced. Not even a little bit, and for someone who hates change, that is a scary feeling. So I mourn that time of my life that can never be revisited, that exists only in my memory. And I eat Cold Stone and Mrs. Field’s. I don’t think twice about having Starbucks and Subway just down the road. I no longer horde cake mixes or covet pizza. So really, its not all so bad...

Monday, January 13, 2014

What To Read This Year?

I was an awkward child, short with lanky arms and legs and more clumsy than I am even now [which is a lot]. I wore clothes much too big, that never seemed to match, and had yet to discover hair ties. So my short, cropped hair was always hanging down in my face.

So, it may come to no surprise to you that I was not particularly good at sports. Field day was a nightmare, and the ‘A’ team was no friend of mine. I was undoubtedly more of an academic from the start, and one thing I was good at, even excelled at, was reading. I didn’t need any challenge or motivation to convince me to read, but ‘Book It’ sure made up some for my lack of blue ribbons from field day. Needless to say, I got a lot of free pizzas.

Every year I make a reading goal [even if I don’t get free pizza anymore]. Making a list helps me remain focused throughout the year and cuts out the time in between books wondering what to read next. Last year my list was incredibly short, and I still didn’t finish:

Finish Wheel of Time
The Lord of The Rings
Les Miserables

I did squeeze in a couple not listed, but after Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings I needed a break before committing to another long story. [Les Mis is like the Everest of book reading, and one day I will conquer it.]

For this year I went for a variety of books, mostly ones that have been recommended to me or that have been on my To Read list for far too long.

Here is my book list for 2014:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I’m just finally getting around to this one. Having been a long time follower of the Green brothers on YouTube I have had great interest in reading his novels. Then Amazon had a sale and they got me with their one-click button. Such a dangerous button...

Divergent by Veronica Roth

This series has been on my wish list for a while. With the movie coming out this year I want to read the books before seeing it, and prior to all the hype. I try to read the books before seeing the movie version as a general rule. That way I am continually and thoroughly disappointed.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I definitely am not on top of things with new and upcoming novels. I guess when I’m not reading books by men long dead, I am reading books that others recommend. There’s just too many books to read to waste time on ones that aren’t good. This book was highly recommended to me and then was on sale. [that one-click button! I tell ya...]

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

I started this book sometime last year and really enjoyed the first chapter, which was as far as I got. It was written in the 1930’s but is still extremely relevant and useful for anyone who has an interest in writing or art. She has an edginess that is compelling and inspiring, and intrigues me about the kind of woman she was in her time.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

I was visiting some friends and they had this book sitting on their coffee table. So, naturally, I picked it up and began to read it. This was before I discovered that I actually love history. This book captured me from page 1...or whatever page my friend had bookmarked. I made the splurge and purchased this one not on sale. Bryon’s style is captivating and hilarious. When it comes to history I can't get enough. And I want to know random facts such as how the French almost built a 900 foot Guillotine instead of the Eiffel Tower…

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

I discovered my favorite reading genres quite early in life, and I am guessing my love for apologetics and theology may have stemmed directly from growing up as a pastor’s kid? I don’t remember buying this book [seriously Amazon!] but its been sitting quietly on my Kindle for quite some time. This may be the first in this genre I have read from someone who is still living. [Did I mention I am a bit of a nerd?]

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This has been on my To Read list for ages! Plus I need a good fantasy novel to wrap up this list with. It is almost embarrassing to admit I haven’t read this yet. I barely know anything about the story, which is how I like it- I don’t even like reading the backs of books before I start a story. All I know is its about a boy who does magic in a fictional land and that is enough to pique my interest.

Reading has always been something I’ve loved and was easy to pour my heart into. I hope you are planning on diving into some good reads this year!

What’s on your book list for this year?