The last few days have been total busts because of the terrible air quality in Chiang Mai. Saturday was all prepped and primed to be a day full of motorbike exploring and of observing artisans craft umbrellas and parasols in the most ancient of methods. We saddled up on the bike and found ourselves pushing through miles and miles of horrible, hazy dust only to find the Bo Sang Handicrafts Center closed and most of the souvenir shops shuttered.
The next day I was still traumatized by the grey skies, the blurry sun, poised in full sunset mode in it’s mid-afternoon place, casting an apocalyptic red glow across the dust and smoke particles suspended in the air for hours on end. I only went outside for the purpose of sustenance and another scooter ride, this time ascending a mountain, getting up and out of the haze. The rest of the day was spent cursing our slow internet speed and its role in making everything difficult when it comes to watching Downton Abbey.
The air remains terrible, and as such, I’ve been spending a lot of time inside, feeling a bit bad about wasting my experiences. So, with no further ado, I present to you a list of what I’ve been doing while housebound.
Taken on Sunday on Doi Suthep. Note where the smog line ends.
A Grand List of Things to Do When You’re Stuck Inside Because You Can’t Breathe Outside (In A Foreign Country)
1) Watch Downton Abbey
Since last Friday we have watched the entire first season of Downton Abbey, the most critically-acclaimed television show in the history of television. If you are the one person in the world who has access to PBS that has not watched it, here is all you need to know: fancy people in fancy clothes and working people in working fancy clothes create lots of drama all on one aristocratic British estate where they live. It’s a soap, but you get to feel classy and educated when watching it because it’s on PBS and all of the characters have lovely British accents; it’s an open secret that Downton Abbey is British aristocracy porn for Americans who fantasize about having a bell to ring to summon a fleet of maids.
We have to buy episodes off of iTunes, since to watch it on PBS or even Netflix, we have to log into a VPN service to hide our IP address and that makes it unbearable slow and choppy. We may or may not have spent most of Sunday watching the episodes download on iTunes as a sort of (hours long) pre-game to the actual viewing because that was better than going outside.
2) Research Alternative Grooming Practices
I’ve gone No ‘Poo, you guys, and no, that has nothing to do with my bowels. I’m eating plenty of fiber, since you wanted to know, and why do you care about that anyway? No ‘Poo is an unfortunately named movement that refers to quitting shampoo entirely. The theory is not sabotage one’s hygiene or offend lovers with an unkempt mass of greasy hair, but instead to recallibrate the scalp’s oil production. Apparently shampooing removes all of our beneficial hair oils and tells the scalp to produce more, more, more when you’ve removed them. Because we’re disrupting our hair’s natural conditioning system, we have to supplement with conditioner.
I haven’t used shampoo since Thursday, February 23, and to be honest, things are getting kind of slick, as I’ve only used a baking soda solution on my scalp and white vinegar on my hair twice since then. All accounts across the internet say it’s hard at first, and that a transition period can be long, but if you stick to the regimen, you’ll have wonderful, shiny, healthy, high-volume and manageable hair that needs very little product or maintenance to look awesome. If you don’t believe the shtick, you can Google pictures of No ‘Poo hair and come across some lovely locks (and lots of “before” pictures as well).
3) Drink Whiskey
I’m over beer, too broke for wine, and too naughty to not replace them with something else. So, I’ve been drinking the Thai way: whiskey (or rum), soda water and ice, plus maybe some lime and a squirt of honey if I’m feeling fancy. Since the air has contains me inside, I might as well engage in some cheerful libations to cut through the dull sky. It’s not like I’m driving anywhere.
I do, however, wonder if I’ve created some, er, problems for myself (yes, problems works nicely here). Private problems, mind you, for myself by rinsing off the severely freezer-burned ice cubes in tap water. I’ve been shuttling unpotable tap water straight to my gut via these beverages because I’m too lazy to make new ice with bottled water. Sometimes living outside America is so hard, you guys.
4) Spend Hours Writing Proposals For Freelance Work That, If Rewarded, Will Pay You A Pittance
I’ve been blowing through my money, spending it willy-nilly on bags of ripe mango and salted broad beans and even pizza (like anyone could ever stay away from pizza for more than a week). So, I’ve decided to earn some back. Enter Elance.com, “the human cloud,” connecting contractors with employers for all sorts of work. That’s right. I’m signing up to be one of those overseas contractors stealing jobs from good, hard-working Americans! God, I hate outsourcing, don’t you? Do they ever speak English**?
Elance has a trusted rating system, and as a newbie, I’m facing tough competition from people with dozens of references on the site. As such, I’ve been spending a good deal of life writing proposals for work that doesn’t pay very well just to get my foot in the door in that system. I have six pending proposals, currently, and quite honestly if I’m awarded all of them I won’t have enough time to spread between them. So I’m towing the line between proposing more and waiting for responses, some not obligated to come for weeks.
**This is in jest, obviously. I do believe outsourcing is problematic for Americans, but the folks to blame are the deregulators and the companies choosing to move jobs overseas, not the workers themselves.
A Grand List of Things You Probably Should Do While Stuck Inside Because You Can’t Breathe Outside (In A Foreign Country)
1) Practice Thai
2) Finally Take Chipping Polish Off Your Nails
4) Read the Classics
5) Correspond with Friends and Family Abroad
6) Write Here On This Site
7) Practice Guitar
8) Practice Yoga to Your Yoga Podcast Collection
9) Get Off the Couch
10) Check the Visa Renewal Requirement Documents So You Don’t Arrive at Immigration at 7:00 AM Without a Copy of Your Passport
What would you do if you were stuck inside because outside was toxic?
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