Train, trails, Japanese garden, Cambly… and rain, and life


I feel like I’m getting a little later every week on these “Friday” blog posts, and I’m a bit chagrined about that. To be honest, life feels surreal and challenging these days. I am wholesale changing my way of life. I believe it’s right that I’m doing so, but it’s not easy. I don’t have a steady home space (though this is my choice, and has its benefits too); my finances are precarious; and this spring continues to be mostly cold and wet, feeling rather like an extended winter.

Where is my dream life of traveling through continuously sunny 70-degree weather??

I do believe it’s coming. I’m working toward it. I’m manifesting it. I’ve made lots of progress over the past few years.

But it can be hard, and lonely, and scary at times. And the weather doesn’t always cooperate.

Feels good to get that off my chest. Thanks for “listening.” That said, though, I’d like to share a bit from the past week, mostly fun stuff!

I’ve started a new cat sit in Milwaukie, just south of Portland, for my friend Melora’s cat Coconut. What a character!

This location has also allowed me to visit my close friend Johnny again at the prison in Salem, including the opportunity to take an Amtrak train each way; experience a new-to-me Amtrak station (Oregon City); meet and talk with some really cool women there while we waited nearly an hour during the train’s delay; and bike a total of 27 miles to and from the station on each end.

This in turn allowed for some beautiful bike trails, and some sightseeing in Salem, including probably my favorite shot I’ve ever taken of the Oregon capitol building. (Look at those cherry blossoms!)

I also took the opportunity to visit Salem’s waterfront park, with its iconic acid-ball-turned-globe.

Then I meandered through the Willamette University campus on the way back to the train station, and stopped by the tiny Japanese Garden there. What a little hidden gem.

On the way back to Milwaukie, I got to enjoy the falls in Oregon City from the train window. I have heard that this is the second-largest waterfall in the United States, surpassed only by Niagara Falls! I always enjoy seeing it from the train.

It’s back to rain today, but that one day of partly sunny weather was a balm for my soul. It got me to thinking about summer, which it’s looking like I will spend here in the Northwest. I’ll be seeking cat sits around the region, and enjoying the beautiful weather we are (I think??) pretty much guaranteed from July through September, with some beautiful peeks of it between April and June.

I’m thinking of possibly reprising a version of my 2013 East Coast Empathy Tour, going out on the street to ask people about their life dreams. We’ll see…!

I’d also like to share a video my documentary-filmmaker friend Aurelie recently made (you may recall Aurelie from the time she hosted me in Montreal last summer) about her Brompton bicycle travels in the Netherlands this past September. She even visited the headquarters of the small, 8-person company—Radical Design—that makes the trailers that she and I both use with our Bromptons. I invite you to watch the whole 30-minute video—it’s delightful—but if you want to skip ahead to the trailer factory part, it’s at about the 26:00 mark. (There is even a fun parrot tie-in!)

Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy my English tutoring on Cambly. I do it for a few hours each day, and talk to people all over the world. I’ve been trying to think of exactly how I can write about that here. I may write more later, but for now I’ll just include a few “factoids” that I have learned by video chatting with people from more than 15 countries.

First, the countries. I have talked with people from Saudi Arabia (probably about 40% of my students), Japan, South Korea, Brazil, China, Taiwan, Turkey, and Mexico. I would estimate that these countries—roughly in the order I listed them—make up about 85-90% of my students. But I have also spoken to at least one person each from Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Oman, Peru, Belarus, India, Vietnam, and Venezuela (though he was in Colombia when he called). A number of these folks have been in the US when they called; they call Cambly tutors to practice their English once they have arrived here, either temporarily or long-term. Two were calling from military bases: a Saudi Arabian guy in San Antonio, and a Taiwanese guy in Biloxi, Mississippi.

A few things I have learned:

Korean music, drama, food, and culture is very popular with young people all around the world, including Saudi Arabia.

There is a city in Brazil called Gramado, with classical German-style architecture.

Overall, I have probably had the most interesting and philosophical conversations with Koreans. (Interestingly, two of them were living in Manhattan, including a fellow vegan woman around my age who is an artist, and a man just a bit older, who had done some backpack traveling around Asia and Europe for six months in his youth.)

In the city of Azumino, Japan, there is a place called Wasabi Park, which is a big tourist attraction, and you can get wasabi ice cream there! (I’m assuming no vegan options, but who knows?)

English is very important for international business, the tech field, and university education. (I have learned that in Saudi Arabia, university courses in many, if not most, subjects are taught in English, not Arabic. I’m really noticing my privilege to have been born into an English-speaking country. And, I’m enjoying teaching and helping people with their English. It’s fun!)

That’s my update for the week! I’ll leave you with a sleepy shot of Coconut.

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