and the world spins madly on

This time last week I was still in Texas.

On Thursday (April 28th), I was Texas bound. I was actually suppose to go to Texas in January to see Hannah so when that didn’t happen due to a new job, this trip had been planned almost as soon as Kina released her April tour dates. I saw 11 Kina shows last year and since I knew I probably won’t see that number again this year, the idea of 3 additional shows really made me happy.

The last time I was in Texas was for a wedding in Austin.

I was excited to see more of the state and this trip would allow me to do just that. Unfortunately, prior to getting to Houston, my attitude was just meh. Not only had I had car issues just a few days before, but my flight out was delayed that morning and I was just not particularly feeling like my chirpy self for awhile for so many reasons.

I made my way to Baggage Claim as soon as I landed in Houston since I was running late and we still had to pick up the rental car. Eric got there before I did but I couldn’t find him anywhere so I texted him my location. Hannah called a moment later asking where I was. To my surprise, she was there picking us up. I went to the door she told me and I saw her as we made our way towards each other. We hugged and soon after Eric showed up.

After a round of hugs, we headed towards the car where I got to officially meet and finally hug Hannah’s brother. He was literally running on empty so he was a bit loopy. The ride to pick up the rental car was hilarious, eclipsing our angry bellies that wanted to be filled.

I feel like I’ve known Hannah forever. Time would say otherwise, but we’re pretty close for people that have only known each other for merely a year. I was instantly comfortable with her, which isn’t the case for most people. Honestly, words fail me here for all that she means to me. It’s hard to explain and even harder to comprehend.

If she should ever stumble upon this: Thank you for all the ways you make our friendship so great. If you should forget: Your endless support and your constant confidence have gotten me through those tough days, those rough days, and those days I didn’t want to get up.

I had officially met Eric last August in Atlanta on my way home from Laos. I was so jet-lagged at that time though so any semblance of a personality was dormant, if not non-existent. Thankfully this time around, I’d have more on my mind then sleep.

After a lot of backtracking and copious amounts of hilarity, we finally got the car and started towards the venue – House of Blues Houston. We made great time and found pretty great standing room off to the side of the stage until they decided that they were going to rope that area off. Thankfully, I had been sitting on the stage and asked a girl that I had been talking to if I could stand by her instead of moving to the back. She agreed and I was happy. Thankfully, I was short enough so the boys behind me didn’t really care either.  They weren’t so kind towards Hannah’s brother and his tall friend.

Hannah and her sister moved up front with me before Kina took the stage. After Kina’s set, we quickly got in line for the Meet and Greet. Hellos, goodbyes, and hugs were quickly exchanged since we were all starving and quite annoyed with everything.

Unfortunately, the whole crowd was a bit rowdy that night with the exception of the front row, since we were the only ones that could hear both Imaginary Friend (Jesse) and Kina. I was content in the front row and tried to get lost in the show since I could actually hear them, but there were moments when it was just insane and you couldn’t help but hear the crowd.

It was insane.

Insane.

That shit was bananas, yo.

I have gone to a lot of Kina shows (Houston was #12) and I have never experienced such a crowd before. Both Jesse and Kina tried politely to tell everyone to be quiet, but their attempts were futile.  The only other time I was that annoyed with a crowd was in Illinois but compared to Houston the drunk boys seemed like a figment of my imagination than a major annoyance that night. It just broke my heart that two of my favorite people had to experience that.

We checked in extremely late at the hotel. Emotionally, we were tired, but mentally, we were too worked up about the show to sleep and our bellies too full from our meals at the diner. Instead, we stayed up and talked with the Royal Wedding broadcasting on the TV in the background. I think around 4ish, we decided to call it a night since we had a long drive that afternoon.

Since Hannah was driving, I let her sleep the longest.

Friday, April 29th

With the help of Yelp, we decided on a cute Vietnamese place for lunch. The parking lot was at capacity when we got there and the only space available to sit was with another group. The pho was delicious (Hannah and Eric said their sandwiches were delicious too), the company beautiful, and the setting so intimate.

As much as I wanted to hate Houston, I still love it a lot more than I do Dallas.

After lunch, we drove to San Marcos, which is where Hannah’s friend lives and where we stayed after the Austin show. We drove into Austin early. Thankfully, we had left San Marcos when we did because we had forgotten that it was Friday, which explained the insane rush hour traffic we were trying to drive into. It was more of an annoyance to us than anything since we seem to be awesome about entertaining ourselves – singing along with the radio and making each other laugh.

We walked around 6th Street a little and eventually settled on having an early dinner on the same street as the venue  on the rooftop of a cute Mexican restaurant. Minus the high winds, it was another lovey meal with an even lovelier company.  We ate quickly and made our way to the venue – The Parish.

We got a nice spot up front next to a very annoying guy wearing too short shorts. He would not dampen my night. I was so content with Eric on one side of me and Hannah on the other. The show was amazing with all of my favorite songs played and the crowd was the complete opposite of the Houston crowd.

After the show we sat on the stage and waited for the Meet and Greet line to go down. The manager of the venue was pretty amazing. He didn’t rush anyone and he didn’t have any crazy rules about how many items could be signed or the number of photos that could be taken. He even helped me lay out my shirt and other items I had bought. We stayed to talk to Kina and helped Jesse break down the merch display.

We walked around 6th Street for a little bit before we decided to head back to San Marcos. Evidently, Texas doesn’t sell alcohol after midnight. It was a frustrating night of driving around aimlessly looking for a liquor store that was open.

Saturday, April 30th

Hannah got us Shipley’s for breakfast and we were off again.

For some reason, Dallas did not like us even though I had made a crazy awesome playlist for it. What gives, Dallas? Hannah and I enjoyed it so much that we were eventually stopped. That stop officially killed her mood and I tried so hard to comfort her to the best of my abilities. Many sad songs were played during that stretch.

My last attempt to kill Hannah’s mood was by playing and singing Daniel Powter’s Bad Day (we all laughed and sang along) as we got into Dallas and checked into our hotel downtown. We ended up in a beautiful room on the 35th floor with an incredible view of downtown Dallas. We had some time to kill so we played numerous rounds of Speed and then just crashed on the bed and laid around taking in the moment. Everything just felt right. It was wonderful even if the weather decided to be anything but.

Of course dinner at Chick-Fil-A would also be a failed attempt, and of course there would be no electricity at the House of Blues once we got there. Really, Universe? Really?

Despite it all, the show was amazing. Surely, I won’t be forgetting about that show for a long time. Parting with Jesse and Kina was difficult since I’m not quite sure when I’ll see them both again. Unbeknownst to most, my life is currently in a state of limbo, but I am hopeful.

Sunday, May 1st

The dread came over me regarding my pending departure.

The drive to Nach to drop Hannah off at her school was incredibly sad. I bit my lips a lot to keep from spontaneously crying. I wanted to sit in the back with her but thought better of it. Lots of heavy sighs were exhaled.

The actual parting itself was heartbreaking. I gave my hug and quickly got into the driver seat of the rental car. Doing anything more would have opened the flood gates. In my haste, I turned the wrong way leaving the campus. As I stopped at the red light, all I wanted to do was turn back into the parking lot and hug her again but it would have been such an ugly sight.

And I was doing okay until I read the text message from her about an hour into the drive and the tears started and hasn’t stopped since. Eric asked if I wanted him to drive. Even though he was tired, he didn’t end up napping like he wanted to.

To make matters worse, the people in Texas just don’t know how to friggin drive! Nothing frustrates me more than someone who stays in the left lane and drives below the posted speed limit. Once I was almost in Houston, I stayed in the left lane so nobody could get in front of me and slow down my speed. Especially the dude that kept changing his speed in the SUV.

That day was not a good day to frustrate me, but evidently the universe didn’t get that memo out in time. I made pretty good time so I stopped to put gas in the rental before I returned it and had to run in and out because the pump didn’t like that I was from a different zipcode. Fine. Okay.

We rushed to get on the shuttle and the driver would just not leave. Fine. Okay. Be nice, but realize that some people might be on a tight schedule and that another shuttle would be there to pick people up in 10 minutes. To prove this point, another shuttle had actually arrived before we even left. We really aren’t leaving people stranded, but doing an awesome job of agitating me because people were getting on the wrong shuttle and then later a man decided that he forgot his cellphone in the rental. Breathe.

Check-in was a cinch because Eric had checked me in online on his phone in the car and all I had to do was go to a kiosk and print out my boarding pass. Technology and guys named Eric are so awesome. The security line was insanely long, but thankfully Eric was taking a later flight out so he stood in line with me and helped calm me down. Given the line, we got through fairly quickly only to find out that my connecting flight to Dallas was delayed.

Honestly, it was really nice to just sit with Eric without having to rush right onto the plane. Unfortunately, Hannah has impeccable timing and sent another text that had me crying again. And this time I could not stop. I literally could not stop. (My optometrist was so wrong when he diagnosed me with a tear deficiency a week prior.) I felt so bad for Eric who probably didn’t know what to do as I cried like a baby on his shoulders. I carried on like that for probably an hour until it was time to board and hug Eric.

I hate goodbyes.

ສະບາຍດີປີໃໝ່ລາວ

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Laos. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel that pain in my heart due to missing my family, missing my friends, and missing the girl that I am when I am back where I feel most that I belong.

Straddling two worlds is incredibly interesting.

I don’t have to wish that I am in two places at once because every day it is my reality.

How does one soothe the pain in a way that doesn’t deny it nor deny the happiness when I am so fortunate to also be in another world where I have been so incredibly blessed?

Every Lao New Year, I wish I was back in the homeland and celebrating with my family.

I am so incredibly thankful that I have been able to experience it. It’s such a beautiful celebration with some many amazing parts. To outsiders and foreigners, it might seem like it’s one big water fight and to all the perverts, a country wide wet t-shirt contest, but it is so much more. There is so much history and culture and spiritual beauty wrapped into it.

I am incredibly thankful that all those memories still feel as real today as they did that day I was experiencing it.

one regret

I don’t regret too much and at first I had titled this post ‘missed opportunity’ and that’s probably better than the current one, but ‘one regret’ makes that missed opportunity seemed that much more important to me. Which it was. Is.

My personal mantra has always been ‘no regrets’ and I’ve tried to live a life where I don’t regret much and it has served me well. I have done a lot, seen a lot, and met a lot of great people along the way. I have lived my life on my terms and for my own happiness.

But the one thing I absolutely do regret, and it continues to haunt me to this day, is that I didn’t invite my two girl cousins to come to the city with me when I was in the village. Blame it on the nights of drinking prior to my departure or even my inability to even think properly when I’m in my village. Seriously, I am so completely in love with my village and family that I don’t think when I am there. I just am. It’s a beautiful thing but one that leads to regrets it seems.

I asked mom on several occassions if she had ever been to VTE prior to being there in 2007 and she said she’d never went anywhere as a young girl besides the surrounding villages. And even then, I am sure it was only a handful of times. I think I went to more surrounding villages in the month we were there in 2007 then she did in her young life. She mostly didn’t have time because she was always tending to the cattle, but also because she hadn’t been much of a traveler.

Don’t ask me where I got my passion of traveling from.

But yes, regret. Had I done it, I could have had company on that crazy ride back up north. Not that I was scared, because I have a good command of the language and dressed to fit in, but mostly because I could have spent more precious time with them. I’m also positive that they haven’t been in VTE before. (My green sihn is amazing for long bus rides. Good for when I have to squat on the side of the roads and even more excellent for sitting for hours and hours squished in a bus.)

But in the end, had they come along, I would not have been able to go to Vang Vieng. An exceptional first trip. Then again, I would have been able to go to Buddha Park, which is actually on my list to do next trip. Mostly I regret it because seeing one of the cry the night before my departure and the day of my departure killed me in a way that nothing has ever killed me before.

For a family that doesn’t show emotions, those were tough moments.

blog her

Not too many people know this, but I’ve been blogging since 2001. I did it sporadically prior to that, but 2001 was the year I really made it an extension of myself. I went back to read a few of my entries years ago and I was pretty impressed by that young girl. I fear I am even less articulate now then when I went back and re-read those entries. Granted, I would not change what has happened between then and now because all of it has made me who I am today. There were a lot of struggles both before my official blogging years and during them. There are even gloomy days now, but definitely less of them. Or I’m just more accepting of the world around me and more grateful for every breath and connection made. I’m living instead of just moving.

I am in a good place right now.

I love that I contributing to the working class again. I love my boss. I love my co-workers. I love that I am learning about a new industry. I love that I’m learning how difficult HR work is, especially since the department is currently not as established as it has been in my previous companies. But I don’t judge. I want to grow with the company.  Grow in my roll. Develop as a professional. Learn this industry and keep learning.

But back to blogging.

I am grateful for the friendships and connections that blogging has given me. Many have come and gone, just like in real life, but there are those few that have seen me through some crazy times. Friends that married or are getting married. Guy friends that turned into lovers that turned into exes that turned back into friends.

I don’t have the magic equation. And sometimes it just works. And then there are times when you think about them and the pain still lingers and we bleed just like the rest of the world.

picture in a frame

November 19th came and went.

Not acknowledging it didn’t make it any easier.

This time last year was a real struggle for me. I still remember how I avoided everyone’s phone calls and how I didn’t even want to be around family for Thanksgiving and felt even more dread to be around them during Christmas. I should have been feeling the opposite.

I met Nya for the first time in 2007. Prior to that, all I knew of her was a picture in a frame. It was quite an emotional night and the jet lag probably didn’t help me out either. It also doesn’t really help that when I see someone cry, my first reaction is to join them. Not because I’m trying to put the focus on me, but to share in their pain since I know I can’t take them away.

Nya, although forgetful at her old age, always had a smile for me. I knew she knew I was her grandchild and that I had indeed come to see her after 20 years. She talked about my dad when he was younger and how he loved frog legs. I guess I know what I get my love of frog legs from.

When I had left, I promised her I would return in 2010, but she never made it to 2010 and I never made it to Laos on Lao New Years. I was grateful for the opportunity to get there this summer to fulfill a promise, even though it was a few months too late.

When I got back to my village this summer, we stopped at Koun Nya’s that to let her know that I had returned to say goodbye. Not only is it a beautiful structure, but it’s right near the road so as I was leaving five days later, I was able to quickly say my goodbyes.

Just thinking about my aunt makes me really miss Nya. My aunt is alone now so I was happy to keep her company during my visit. The hardest moment was when we were going around time saying goodbye to family and we stopped at Nya Gong’s house and my aunt talked about her last moments with Nya. I’ve never tried so hard not to cry in my whole life and I love my aunt that much for for the care she gave to Nya because she literally did it alone.

I am thankful that one of my photographer friends visited Laos and got a great picture of Nya. It was the photo we ended up using for her funeral here. She’s got the cutest smirk on her face.

I think Dad is still haunted by her. Sometimes I wonder what he feels since none of us were able to make it back to Laos. I took a picture of Nya when I was there and had it blown up for Dad, but it’s no longer in his room, or the dining room, which is where it was relocated to temporarily.

Mom said she told him to burn it.

Wish heaven had a phone, so I could hear your voice again. I thought of you today, but that is nothing new. I thought about you yesterday and days before that too. I think of you in silence, I often speak your name. All I have are memories & a picture in a frame. It’s been a year, and I still miss you, ຍ່າ.

hopes and dreams

While I am on the subject of really good music and really good people, I should talk about Noi Sengsourigna, a singer/songwriter/amazing woman in Laos.

I met a lot of great people this summer. A lot. One of those people just happened to be Euay Noi. I was oblivious to the fact that she would have such an impact on me when I met her, in her cute chiffon sleeveless blue dress that night at Wattay International Airport in VTE. But I should have known how special she was when she was so concerned about us that not only did she want to feed us, but also wanted us in bed ASAP after dinner our first night in Laos.

She took us to a wonderful sukiyaki place and proceeded to cater to our every whim. All of us were trying out best to stay awake and grateful for her every gesture. Unfortunately, jetleg caught up to all of us but we were happy for full stomachs before bed.

Throughout the summer, I would go to her Children’s Music and Cultural Center and enjoy the wonderful children who attended every week.  The center is a non-profit organization, for underprivileged children, dedicated to cultural preservation of traditional music, dance, and customs. By improving the lives of the young through nurturing their artistic talents, the center hopes to inspire learning.

I grew to love all of them. Each with their own wonderful personality. The last day we visited was a hard day for me as I hugged and kissed the kids that were my living symbol of all my hopes and dreams for Laos.

For my birthday, not only was I allowed to spend the whole afternoon with the kids, but Euay Noi came out to my party to help me celebrate and we ended up at a karaoke bar for the night. That will always be such a special day for me. Not only were my friends surprised at my party to see her, but I was also blown away at what a great singer she was. It’s like when I’m at a Kina Grannis show and all I want to do is cry at how beautiful the sound is. It’s so pure and beautiful and for moments that night time stood still and I was really in that reality.

I love her music, but I love her as a person. Every time I was around her I feel like I do when I am around Kina. So happy. Euay Noi showed me what a great person looks like and I am happy and blessed to have been in her company.  I want to help her out because I know ultimately I would be helping out the wonderful children so much. They are too precious and beautiful to be forgotten.

I can’t talk about Euay Noi and not talk about the center. It is so much a part of her. Even though she signed CDs and posters for all of us as gifts, I couldn’t help but put the cost in the donation box because I knew all of it would go back to the kids. It has and it will.

If you love Lao music, you should check out her music. For $10 you can get any of her wonderful CDs. All the proceeds go to the preservation of Lao culture and support not only a great woman, but the children she loves.

The center, the kids, and Euay Noi make my heart so incredibly happy. If hopes and dreams were fulfilled with thoughts and missing, I’d have built her the dream center already. I miss them every day and I can’t wait to see them all again soon.

another farewell

On Friday night, I attended the Kina Grannis show in Madison, WI with some amazing friends I met this summer in Laos. I made one listen to Kina this past week and she enjoyed her so much she decided to join us. It was so lovely. I loved seeing her interact with them and it just makes my heart happy that they enjoyed her so much. And Kina thought IA was the last show she was seeing me at so she was happily surprised.

Saturday meant the end of the tour. It was bittersweet being in the audience of her Champaign, IL show since I was also at the very first show in San Francisco, CA. Being in IL meant attending my 9th show and ultimately another farewell.

The show was amazing minus the loud, obnoxious, drunk boys next to me. It took my everything to not punch him. At one point I even moved closer to the stage so I wouldn’t be tempted to since he was really obnoxious during my favorite song. Kina sang louder in order to drown them out and that made me smile, but I was really annoyed.

I love my drinks, but you don’t have to be an ass during the show. I was very disappointed that the venue didn’t kick him out or at least talk to him. We all paid for a ticket to see Kina play, not listen to some drunk boys.

The drive home last night stunk. I loved that my GPS avoided all the lame IL tolls, but I was not pleased that it took me through country and gravel roads. Thankfully all the corn has been harvested so the Children of the Corn notion got killed as quickly as it formed. Still, not amused, GPS.

Of course, it was so great to see Kina again. She makes my heart happy. Another farewell means I can’t wait to see her again.