Science 101

Lately, connections have been coming from the realm of science. Take entropy for example. It’s the idea that closed systems move from order to chaos, from shiny to rusty. It came to me the other day when Mari looked at me, studying my face, and said, “you’re looking old these days. I guess 10 months of unrelenting sun and elements really do add up.” Ppphhhhttt went the balloon that was my self-confidence.
But it did make me think of our backpack of belongings—as closed a system as any. My clothes, each a little worse for wear every time I push them back in the bag, have long ceased being dirt-free let alone wrinkle free. And they in turn press hard on my toiletries, which includes my electric clippers. Back in April, Mari’s parents brought me a clipper which I was able to use on my fuzzy head once before it stopped working. I bought a second pair in Turkey which worked fine for the first 4 ½ months. However, when I took it out to cut my hair in Hawaii for my grandfather’s birthday party, I noticed that the guard had broken in my backpack. Its side had broken off, leaving no way for it to stay secured to the razor and with a portion “guard-free.” My solution to secure the guard was duct tape. I cut my hair and felt pleased with my Mcgyver-esque ingenuity. Mari saw the back of my head and thought otherwise. She managed an “um…” before trailing off. It turned out that the part of the guard that broke off was kind of important. It’s what keeps your head from having lines shaved into it. I felt like I had the LA freeway system carved into my head that night at the party.
3 weeks later in Danang, Vietnam I again took the slightly used clippers from my backpack. This time I used more duct tape. But when I turned it on, it rattled for a few seconds, and made a new noise. But I cut my hair anyway. Or at least I tried to. The clipper’s noise had been its way of telling me cut at my own peril. It conked out on me, leaving me to feel like an unfinished crop circle. As I chucked my second pair of clippers in the garbage, I thought, “ain’t entropy a bitch?”

Remarkably, 10 months in and we haven’t been robbed, pickpocketed or beat up. We have the things we set out with (minus only a few things we’ve carelessly forgotten along the way), haven’t had any major health problems or other major issues. All in all, it feels like we’ve been extremely fortunate. And that’s led me to be a little reluctant to write about how we have been faring to date—for fear of our fortune changing by me jinxing it. And I surely don’t want to be the jinx, since I’m not the cause behind our good fortune. But for today, science trumps superstition.
For some time, I’ve been convinced that much of our good fortune is directly linked to Mari. She’s the equivalent of a scientific secret weapon. There’s a school of thought that says that mammals all have an instinctual affinity towards mammal babies. And because of that mammals will want to take care of them. It’s called the Biophilia Hypothesis. Think about how warm and cuddly you feel when you see kittens or puppies. Or calves or piglets for that matter. It’s the reason there are urban myths about people being left in the woods and raised by wolves, and why Tarzan was…well, Tarzan. Mari, thanks to her impish size and Asian youthfulness, seems to have fallen into a little natural selective niche with this one. Her oversized backpack only accentuates the issue.
Despite not speaking the language, local peoples love trying to communicate with her. They pat her on the head and grab her cheeks. I’ve seen men pick her up and carry her across streams and then put her down as gently as if she were being lowered into a crib. Every time we get off a bus or train, someone is helping her with her backpack. Last week the guesthouse owner, a woman actually about the same height as Mari but older looking, took Mari’s backpack for her and then held her hand to help Mari cross the street. For whatever reason, people want to baby this 31 year old woman, which has been ok with me.


12 hours after I wrote this, we lost our camera.  Way to go jinx.

Posted: November 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Hawaii, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Wouldn’t Miss it for the World (literally)

Originally, it was our plan to not touch down on US soil for all of 2009. As it turned out though, there was an event we felt we just didn’t want to miss out on. I mean, how often does your grandpa join the centenarian club? So we hit the pause button in Southeast Asia and flew to Oahu for 6 days to join with friends and family.
We stayed in Waikiki in a beautiful hotel. That’s right, that’s “H-O-T-E-L,” not “h-o-s-t-e-l.” Fresh flowers on our bathroom towels welcomed us. Come to think of it, we were geeked even that bathroom towels welcomed us. We flushed toilet paper right down the toilet with seemingly reckless abandon. There was wonderful refrigeration and we bought juice and poke to take full advantage. But the best part about the hotel was that it was 2 blocks from my sister and parents. After not seeing them for nine months, I now saw them daily. And I got to see my sister at least this once during her pregnancy.
We all, along with other family, flew in to celebrate my grandpa’s 100th birthday, which is really just an excuse to celebrate my grandpa. He’s a gentle man with an endearing, playful sense of humor. And though living to 100 is a feat in itself, it’s my grandpa’s quality of life that makes me smile. For one, he out ate me at my aunt’s dinner. And he needs all of that fuel, since he still dances and gardens. And into his nineties he swam, played tennis and drove a stick shift car with a spoiler in the back. It’s that never-ending lack of activity that I usually think of when I need to shoot down my own self-doubts. When I ran my marathon a few years ago, he was the inspiration.
After a family dinner, we sat around my aunt’s dining table. The grandkids made party favors for the upcoming celebration, and my mom and her 2 sisters were doing the seating chart. I remember thinking that I love seeing my mom interacting with her sisters. It all seems so happy and effortless. I get a glimpse into another part of her-as a sister. Maybe that’s why I think she looks even more complete whenever I see her with my aunts. I looked over to my grandpa and realized I wasn’t the only one whose attention they had caught. My mom’s and aunt’s laughter filled the area just as the house was filled with my grandpa’s daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren. And as my grandpa looked on at his daughters and family that surrounded him, his eyes blurred from tears that swelled in them. But even they couldn’t obscure for him his legacy, our family patriarch.
Happy Birthday Grandpa.

Posted: October 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Hawaii | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments »