Strange Thailand Experience #1

Lots of people I know like to eat fish.  I do not like to eat fish but today I discovered I like to be eaten by fish!

This morning my brother took us to one of the larger Bangkok markets where we meandered through narrow corridors and crowded stalls.  We saw lots of sights, and smelled lots of smells.  We tasted a few tastes, and sampled a few samples.  Nothing too out of the ordinary for a large market filled to capacity with the art of the artisans and the merchandise of the merchants.  Little did I know that smack dab in the middle of all the textiles, t-Shirts, and unnecessary plastic objects, was an unusual experience waiting to happen.

We passed by a stall with two blue tubs and a large sign advertising “Fish Massage”.  Now this is something I have not seen before!  We investigated further and found  that for 150 Bot (About 4 dollars) you can stick your feet in these tubs and a swarm of little fish will cover your feet and nibble away all the dead skin.  That was enough to convince my mother and I that this would be money well spent!

The sensation was like no other I’ve had before.  It felt almost like a low level electrical current or slight vibration was covering my feet and toes as these little fish greedily scoured them clean.  I giggled a few times when they got between my toes, but for the most part it was a pleasant experience.  Supposedly this treatment is good for circulation, psoriasis, and the healing of scars, but I don’t care about any of these things.  I just thought it felt good!

Perhaps my favorite part of traveling is eating.  This is why this is my third trip to Thailand.  I intend to eat Thai food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, until I start to sweat chili paste!  What I did not count on was being a meal myself.

Who Likes To Sleep?

Tomorrow I am leaving with my family for Thailand.  My brother lives in Bangkok and we have not seen him in over a year.  Our plan is to spend a few days getting over jet lag, and then we will head over to Vietnam for a couple weeks, and then back to Thailand.

As much as I am looking forward to seeing my brother and eating Thai food three times a day, what I am most excited about at the moment is the jet lag!

For some reason I have always enjoyed the process of adapting to the day night cycle of a distant time zone.  It is so cool how my body wants to sleep at 3:00 in the afternoon, but at 3:00 in the morning I am wide awake!  Slowly over the course of a few days I want to sleep less in the afternoon, and start sleeping more at night.  The ride is over, and I have to go back to my normal, less interesting, routine.

I know that might sound odd to some people but here is why I like jet lag.  When I am wide awake in the middle of the night, I get to do whatever I want.  I embrace the jet lag for all it is worth!  I like to read books, go for a moonlit run, watch a movie, maybe write a blog, play the guitar, or even cook breakfast to be eaten when the rest of the world wakes up.  It makes me wonder what life would be like if I didn’t have to sleep.

If I had an extra 7 hours or so tagged onto every day that would be an extra 52 days a year to live!  What could I do with an extra 52 days?  Maybe I could learn to speak Russian.  Maybe I could learn to play the piano.  Maybe I could get another part time job as a video game tester and make extra cash.  Maybe I could build my own house.  Maybe I could invent a new color and paint a mural or try my hand at sculpture.  The possibilities are endless and jet lag offers me a brief glimpse of what life without sleep would be like.

I know there are a lot of sleep lovers out there, so lets put it to a vote.  Write a comment to this blog or email me your opinion on sleep.  Would you give it up if you could or do you enjoy your hours of slumber too much?  I will tally the votes and let you know who wins.

More Disgusting Thoughts

In my last post “Why Is This Disgusting?” I talked about how most of the foods we find disgusting come from animals.  That does not mean some people don’t hate brussel sprouts or egg plant, it just means that most foods that we find repulsive are from animals.

But what else do we find disgusting that is not related to food?  Think about it.  Vomit, puss, poop, burps, piss, farts, some sexual practices, rotting flesh, gore, and snot are also things that come from or are related to animals.  According to Paul Rozin, humans tend to withdraw from, and be disgusted by, anything that reminds us that we are biological creatures.  It is like a defense mechanism to keep us from being aware that we are part of the animal world.

Why are we afraid to acknowledge our “animalness”?   Is it because we are afraid to believe that we are mortal?  Do our biological functions and animalistic drives force us to let go of the fantasy that we will live forever?

In his book Ishmael, Daniel Quinn writes that the story of Adam and Eve is allegorical rather than literal.  Man’s fall from grace occurred when humans left the Garden of Eden and separating themselves from the rest of animal kingdom.  Original sin was not a bite from an apple, but a choice to live outside of the natural order that all other animals adhere to.  Since that time, we have been doing everything we can to prove our superiority and dominion over nature.

Have we come so far in our quest to be separate from animals, that we are disgusted and even morally repulsed by our own animalism?  Lust, gluttony, sloth, anger, and greed occur naturally in the animal kingdom, but in some human circles these are considered deadly sins.

I am not sure that knowing this will help me embrace all of my animal instincts and drives but I do feel much better about how much I enjoy a good belch!

Why Is This Disgusting?

I have never eaten dog meat or snake blood.  I have never munched a maggot or nibbled a newt.  I have always wanted to be that guy who can eat anything.  I watch some dude on Fear Factor eat a raw pig uterus and I am filled with a sense of admiration.  However, I am not that guy!  As much as I want to be fearless and open minded about what I eat, I find myself repulsed by foods I have never  even bothered to try.  Maybe they would be delicious.  Maybe they would be nutritious.  Sadly, I may never know.  When I was in Cambodia a few years back, I remember seeing huge displays of fried spiders.  The Cambodians snatched them up by the bag full, but I couldn’t bring myself to even try a nibble.

Being the nerd that I am, I wanted to know why I feel this way about certain foods.  So I Googled my way down a rabbit hole and emerged a couple hours later with some fascinating insight.  Paul Rozin has spent over three decades researching disgust as a human emotion.  He has several articles on the web and books in the stores that detail the evolution of disgust.  My advice is don’t start reading unless you have some spare time.

Some things that caught my attention were that in American culture, we almost never consider eating invertebrates.  We are repulsed by reptiles, avoid amphibians, and limit ourselves to only a few birds and mammals.  Further almost every food we find disgusting is of animal origin.  To test this theory I looked up some sites claiming to have the 10 most disgusting foods and indeed I found not a single listing that was not an animal product.  Soft-boiled fetal duck, whole sheep’s head, live octopus, jellied moose nose, bat paste, and others topped the list.  How interesting that not a single vegetable or fruit made the top 10.

Maybe I should consider becoming a vegetarian!  What is the most disgusting thing you have eaten?

Living Green

Raise your hand if you believe in living green!  Green living is a hot topic these days, so hurry up and jump on this bandwagon powered by a hybrid motor and solar energy.  We have green cars for greener travel, green stores with green products, green weddings, green fabrics for green fashion, green light bulbs, and even a greener mining practices.

With spring just around the corner, my favorite form of green living is about to wake up from its winter slumber.  As the days grow longer, and the weather heats up, suburban homes around the country will begin to surround themselves with green.  It is time to blow out the sprinkler systems, buy a few bags of fertilizer, and fire up the gas powered lawn mowers to see who can be the greenest in the neighborhood!

We Americans love our lawns.  A thick healthy carpet of green surrounding our houses is certainly a status symbol, but let’s look at how far we go to stay green, and ask ourselves just how green we are really living.

Think of lawns as crops and the people growing them as urban farmers.  First the farmer digs up the old yard and buries plastic tubes, valves, and sprinklers.  Then he replaces the grass and introduces chemicals (some greener than others) that will help it grow, more chemicals that will keep away unwanted insects, and still more chemicals that will ensure only the grass he planted will grow and not allow other plants, grasses, dandelions, or clover, to grow along side his selected variety.  The farmer then proceeds to dump thousands of gallons of water on his crop so it will grow as fast and as thick as possible,  Why?   So he can harvest it every week and throw it away.

This is a fairly extreme form of green living considering that the land and water could have been used to grow fruits or vegetables.  What would our friends in developing countries, where food is scarce, do with these kinds of land and water resources?  I am not saying that we should all dig up our yards and plant gardens.  I like a good yard as much as the next guy.  I am just wondering how green we are living by living so green?

The Time Of Our Lives

I have always been fascinated with the concept of time.  The amount of time we spend doing odd things adds up to be a pretty impressive sum over the years.  The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to one of my senior classes a few years ago.  Do you have time to read it?

Here is a list that I came up with, about the amount of time you will spend doing certain activities by the time you graduate: For example, sleeping.  If one sleeps 8 hours a day, that is 2,920 hours a year or 121.6 days.  By the time you graduate you will have slept 52,560 hours or 2190 days for exactly 6 years of your life.
I think about that one a lot but what about other activities that we take for granted like say brushing your teeth?  If the average person brushes his/her teeth twice a day for an average of 2:30 each time, that makes 5 minutes a day.  Times 365 days that is 1825 minutes a year, or 30.42 hours.  So by the times you graduate from high school you will have spent over 540 hours or 22.8 days of your life just brushing your teeth.
Why do we need to brush so much?  Because we spend an incredible amount of time eating and getting them dirty!  Let’s break it down:  If we only consider the actual time you spend chewing swallowing and drinking and discount the time spent in conversation and waiting for desert, we could safely assume that the average person spends 8 minutes eating breakfast, and 12 minutes eating lunch and dinner.  This ends up being 32 minutes a day in the act if refueling your body.  Over the span of a year, that is 11,680 minutes or 194.7 hours.  Therefore by the time you graduate, you will have spent 3,504 hours eating or 146 days of your life chewing and swallowing.
All this eating and drinking of course leads to other activities; namely peeing and……well….you know.
If we assume that the average person pees, on average, six times a day for an average of 45 seconds each time, then each year we are in the process of emptying our bladders for approximately 1,642 minutes or 27.3 hours a year.  By the time you graduate, you will have spent over 492 hours or just over 20 and a half entire days of your life doing nothing more than returning fluids to the earth to be recycled, consumed, and peed out again.”

Make you think doesn’t it?

The Exploited Tomato

I am here to stand up for the tomato!  The tomato has no voice but has a right to be heard.  I just think it is unfair the way some farmers are treating their tomatoes, and if nobody says anything, this practice will continue while we turn a blind eye.

Before I get to the tomato, I want to take a minute to describe a lady I saw at Whole Foods Market the other day.  She was in the organic section poking and prodding various vegetables with her experienced and discriminating fingers.  She was made up from head to toe.  Her hair was doing some amazing yet unnatural gymnastics on top of her head, held up by some powerful chemical compounds.  Her fake eyelashes fluttered giving life to a face that had obviously been nipped and tucked to a point where it had a motionless statue like quality.  In her basket were several vitamins, some anti-wrinkle cream, and a case of Slim Fast.  I marveled at the lengths this woman had gone to keep herself looking young.  I imagine she was not above Botox injections, human growth hormone treatments, antibiotics, or anything else that might give her an advantage.   She was fighting valiantly against the aging process and I respected her for the effort.  Then she picked up the tomato.

The tomato looked sad.  I think it knew that it did not look as good as its non organic peers.  It had been denied the opportunity to live the type of life the woman had.  No hormones to help it grow big and strong.  No chemicals or fertilizers that, like our multi vitamins, ensure it will have the nutrients it needs.  No pesticides or herbicides that would have helped fight off the invaders that caused the ugly scars and cost the lives of some of his tomato friends.

What an interesting and unfair dichotomy this was.  The most inorganic and unnatural looking woman using every resource at her disposal to fight aging, which is one of the most natural human processes, holding and valuing a tomato because it was organic.  This tomato was the epitome of everything this woman was not, and it just seemed so ironic and sad.

I say it is time we either allow our tomato brothers and sisters to have the same standard of living as we do, or join then in living naturally.  Since I know the latter is impossible, I feel compelled to speak for those with no voice.  I speak for the tomato!


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