The awkward turtle

Celebrating the failings of a successful person


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The Spotless Mind

Happiness is mind-boggling. Is there anyone that you know who does not strive to be happy? Entire industries have been born and flourished in the promise of providing happiness and yet I feel we are unhappier than ever. We are unhappy when we do not have everything we imagine we should.

Like many other things, Happiness has a sneaky way of stealing upon you when you are not pursuing it. I recognise these moments more and more nowadays, but here are a few that can transport me back to the point in time in which Happiness paid me a visit:

  1. Hurling myself down the jungle during a trek in Northern Thailand. We had climbed up one side of the jungle and now is was time to come down. The descent was steep and there was no path as such, just a smoother way to fall. I let the vertigo pass over me and soon realised my jungle-surfing, which was really m holding onto to one bamboo tree whilst I stretched my little legs as far as possible to the next, was not the best tactic so I was quickly forced to hash out a Plan B. Plan B was amazing; it involved me falling from the mountain height one tree at a time. It meant having to let go and trusting in gravity for splits of a second until I slammed into my next stable post. Each time I rested against the bamboo trunk I had to count myself down to let go again, a continuous battle of self-will and adrenalin. At some points we had to abseil down using bent tree branches, and there were times where I did slide down on my bum (on purpose of course).Whilst I had started the descent half-terrified by the treacherous route before me, the journey to the bottom was amazing. I was in a world of my own trusting in Nature and stretching my limits; I smiled the whole way down.
  2. Jumping from rock to rock on the quest to find a waterfall, I found my element surrounded by tributaries of water as I run against the current. I was the first one of the group to reach the top and when I arrived sweating from the trek to see a group of tourists just staring into the waterfall’s pool, I stripped and jumped in. Yes it was cold, freezing even, but as I lay back in Nature’s bathtub I was submerged into Happiness. Everything was still, even the cascade of water that came crashing down, and there was silence. I’m not sure how long it lasted as soon enough the rest of my group caught up with me and one by one they reluctantly plunged into the cold.
  3. Riding on the open road around the island of Koh Lanta. I had rented a scooter for the day encouraged by my new friend Lau. Just before we set out for the journey from our hostel I remember the concerned look on Welsh Joe’s face as I asked him how to remind me how to accelerate and break. I had ridden a scooter only once before 2 years earlier in Uruguay; it would have been a genuine Motorcycle Diaries moment had it not been for my Spanish companion holding on to me, so my riding skills were more than a little rusty. Nevertheless, after a tentative few hours during which I fluctuated between snail’s pace and speeding, I finally found my happy reward. I felt it in the warmth of the sun as I chased it up and down hill roads, I felt it in the breathlessness that stole upon me as the wind whipped around my body, and most worryingly I felt happiness in the moments when I jerked back to reality after realising my mind had drifted to where? Lau and I didn’t arrive back to the hostel until well after dark, we followed the sun all the way to its bed as we ate dinner at a restaurant on the cliff’s edge. We drunk drove, our bellies filled with laughter and Thai foods. The goddess Happiness was in full flow that day.
The open road

Lau and I stopping to fill our bikes as we embark on our amateur bike adventure

My motor skills improved vastly during that day, I may have had one tiny scrap with an offensive tree but by nightfall I was such a pro that an elderly, and possibly blind, Thai gentleman mistook me for a taxi-bike. After giving me the instructions (of which I obviously understood none of), he jumped on the back of my bike and not even his daughter could persuade him that I was in fact a tourist so she too jumped on. I decided I would play along being giddy on Happiness but I could barely start the bike with the new combined mass. He laughed hysterically when his daughter explained the mistake. I’m still laughing.

If I were to define Happiness for me, the recurring theme seems to be Freedom (from thought?). Happiness takes all forms for everyone, which underpins it as an elusive commodity. We are set to fail if we continue to attempt to purchase Happiness, it’s not for sale it just finds you.

Take a minute to think what makes you Happy, don’t be surprised if it is something as simple as your mum’s home cooking.
Share your Happiness below 🙂

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Two Girls and a Ping-Pong Show

**Disclaimer: This is not a Travel Guide, this is a series of awkwardness that happens to take place abroad**

Night two in Bangkok and after a day spent melting in one of the city’s biggest weekend markets, we sought out the night market on Silom Road. Despite having seen the same products over and over again during the day in Mo Chit I was mesmerised by the bright lights set against the night. We slithered through the crowds, teasing vendors as our eyes lingered over the endless display of designer watches, sunglasses, electronics, traditional lamps and golden buddhas, with no intention of buying. Flanking the night market on both sides were the  bars and dingy doorways of illicit promises, whilst sex shows were brazenly advertised above the head of the crowd. At street level men scurried by, invitations to sex shows rolling off their tongues. “Ping pong show?”, man after man suggested, inclining their head towards mine to whisper in my ear. I did not deign to reply only swatted them away with less zeal than I would a fly. An hour later, over bowls of steaming food outside a street vendor van, a strange discussion took place between two friends:

“So shall we go to the ping-pong show?”
“I guess we ought to really, we’re in Bangkok”
“Ok, really? But how?”

And so it was decided, two girls finished off their food knowing that once they were done their mission commenced. As we walked back towards the hubbub of the night stalls and bars we were instantly harangued by a middle-aged Thai man who added a banana show to the opening offer, topped off with a “Good price” promise. Before I had even thought V said, “Ok. where?”. The three of us set off for a brown building across the street without delay. The heavy silence measured the seriousness of the situation. We paid the doorwoman 300baht each (a reasonable price to enter Hell) and followed the dark stairwell that lead to the show room. I was concerned about what people would think of two girls entering a seedy establishment as this, unaware of the irony of being judged in a place that could only be maintained through lack of judgement. Instantly I felt at ease when on the other side of the mirrored room there was another female pair reflecting us: they were not us. The table ahead of ours a man and his girlfriend sat with front row seats like honoured guests in a royal house. As soon as the barman came bearing the limited drinks menu I foresaw a long night of exploitation; a spirit was 200Baht and the mixer was an additional 200baht. One full day into my Thai experience and I was determined not to be taken for a fool, or to spend all my money, so I order a whisky, straight. I don’t like whisky but I was presumably getting into character as a sleazy male much like the type I would expect to find in this very place, a stereotype I was helping to dispel. That dark room with the strange slow-dancing girls on a stage that hosted weird vaginal tricks and the banal domesticity of a mop intermittently, was a confusing place for me to be. I didn’t understand the show; on one side I was disgusted that I had come into an establishment that was essentially part of the sex trade, and on another I found myself disappointed that there was nothing sexy about it, it was a circus act. 

Silom Road Nightlife

Nightlife on Silom Road

Soon enough I had found myself an admirer; she was 22, don’t remember her name, don’t remember where exactly she came from, what I do remember however is how much I wished she would go away. She talked to me about her life, her various boyfriends, toyed with my hair, bummed my cigarettes and after all that she asked me to buy her a drink. I looked down at my pathetic glass which hadn’t held a drop for over an hour now, and then I turned to V:

“Can you give me 100baht please” (I only had 1000baht)
“Why? What for?”
“She wants me to buy her a drink. Just give it to me so she can go away!”

I gladly paid, well had V pay, for my companion to finally leave my side, anything to lessen the depression of the place. V was lucky, sitting wedged in the corner and with the good sense to look unapproachable, I on the other hand had freed the seat up next to me for my next predator. The impressive 50-something year old who had wowed us with her dexterity and ingenious use of chopsticks, a ring, and a bottle – not sure I want to say anymore about that – and who later wooed us with an offering of paper-chain people carved out using a string of razor blades extracted from a certain Nether Region which was meant to represent V and myself, had now taken up residence beside me. I tried to ignore her. I refused to meet her eyes and I knew she was trying to catch mine. I turned to my right and pleaded with V to help me but she just mocked me for not being able to say “No”. Finally she went in for the kill. She spoke in Thai and whilst I did not understand what she said, I understood what she meant. I pretended not to however and mimed offering her a cigarette. Nope, didn’t work. V was laughing at me and soon enough the Madame came along to quite loudly and purposefully reveal what we all already knew: “She wants you to buy her a drink. She only ask 100baht”. Once again I pretended not to understand and passed her onto V who until that point had been left in peace, that had to be rectified. One minute later V surrendered 100baht, she too was impervious to Thai charm. I was still so attached to the principles of money, of being conned and resented every moment of it. I knew the money had bought no one a drink that night; neither myself or V, nor the two Thai women who deposited the bills into a jar. As well as the most sincere conviction that I was going to go to Hell for this, I also left with the most surprising feeling of having been exploited. The irony was not lost on me, in fact it only served to make me feel even more violated, that I had brought it upon myself.

The walk back to the hostel was long and silent. Neither of us really knew what it was that we had experienced. The only time I was roused from my thoughts was passing through Dog Alley which made me think of the Valley of the Shadow of Death; the sight of the hungry pack of street dogs that lined the road was enough to make me pee my pants. On the roof of the hostel, safe from the street dogs and far removed from our moment of sober madness, V and I sat in shocked silence, the only conversation being had was through the whirls of smoke blown from the tips of our cigarettes. We played a game of cards and drank ice milk tea from straws desperately trying to claw back our innocence.

Two broken down paper-chain girls

Two broken down paper-chain girls

As I closed my eyes to sleep I could still hear the words of the showgirl who had provided me a commentary of every act each time stopping to ask me, “Can you do that?”


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Hollow Man Returns

It only takes a day to disappear. Even when I found myself on solitary islands in the midst of the Andaman Sea, the only neighbouring land visible but ghosts on the horizon, I still did not experience that feeling of absolute tranquility, the feeling that I had disappeared. I was still connected to the world by which I define life; my family and friends back home in England, the new friends I met along the way, all combined to keep me firmly grounded to a tangible reality. It wasn’t until my last days in Thailand that I experienced the strange and oddly exhilarating sensation of not existing. I was in Bangkok passing through en route to Kanchanaburi, a city 2 hours outside of the capitol, having just touched ground after a 14 hour coach journey through the night from Krabi. I had no wifi access and I had maxed my roaming limit so my phone was rendered obsolete but for the need to keep time. I was alone in Bangkok for the first time, the previous two occasions I had been there I was in the company of my friend V. As I looked around the bustle of traffic and people pursuing life in the unrelenting heat and pollution, it dawned on me that not one soul in the world knew where I was. Not exactly. I smiled, no one could vouch for my presence since going on 17 hours now, and this was at once terrifying and liberating. Do you exist if no one knows you? Then came the guilt for the people who would be worried about me: my mum who I am certain never slept the whole time I was away. But as I could do nothing to alleviate their concerns I decided to enjoy the moment anyway basking in the freedom of nonentity.

In some respects coming back to AwkwardTurtleTales reminds me of that feeling of nonexistence. I have been hovering over half-written posts since my return and have held back each time from recommitting myself to the world. Im still retreating in observer mode, cautious to jump right back in. This post is me breaking my proverbial seal (the literal one is long gone by now), and by golly! there’s a lot of writing to be done.


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London to Bangkok

So I made it to Bangkok.

The plane did not crash, fall apart or explode.

Turbulence did not rip my life apart.

I may not have slept since the 5am that I woke up the morning of, during the 6 hour flight landing me in Doha airport, nor for the 8 and something hours spent in Doha for my connection. I was still awake yet another 6 hour flight later arriving in Bangkok only to drop off now and again during the taxi ride when I had too little energy to remain vigilant.

I arrived at the most amazing flashy W Hotel thanking my lucky stars that my hostel had somehow transformed into a palace, paid my taxi fare and relinquished my backpack to the porter. I proudly presented my printed out email confirmation from Hostelworld of my reservation and it was only then whilst glancing at the clientele at the hotel bar that it dawned on me that this was in fact the wrong place. The Thai receptionist was very forgiving and rather than making me feel like an impostor waited with me to get a taxi and instructed him how to get to WE Bangkok Hostel . I took a midnight stroll down the urban, a polite way of saying not fully paved, streets admiring the bright lights and breathing in the fresh humidity of polluted air. During this idyllic gander I heard the sound of a rustic alarm; a dog barked from behind a gate marking his territory. As it was dark I didn’t immediately see the menacing grey animal but did however spot an innocent looking brown puppy. All was well again until the adult revealed himself from the shadows. I rationalized  there’s a gate separating us, he’s behind the gate, meanwhile my friend chimed “you should never run from dogs“. I settled for speed walking and it wasn’t until I glanced over my shoulder that I knew the little fucker was now over the gate. Still she reiterated “Do not run”, and I conceded to ignore the dark cloud following us when all of a sudden my friend picked up her feet and ran into the distance.

Fuck, welcome to Bangkok.

I was still up a further 5 hours later only to fall asleep in a fresh bed ironically to the sound of air-con that sounded like a melody of airplane’s engine – music to a flying-phobic’s ears.

It has all been worth it. Bangkok is unreal, I could not imagine it before my departure and I am grateful for my lack of any preconceived mental image. Stay tuned for my Thai travels, I’m sure this awkward turtle will have a few tales to be told once I’m through. Until then this is adieu; I don’t post and travel.

 


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And the journey begins…

Tomorrow I take flight for the first time in 2 years. After a month of serious and thorough obsession over my preoccupation with death via aeroplane I still feel emotionally fraught at the thought of flight.

Tomorrow the physically begins but tonight my mind has already travelled through countless scenarios of my experience to come. I believe it is what is called anticipation. So instead of listing all the things that I anticipate will happen and cause panic, here is a run through of how I would love the journey to begin:

  1. Arrive at the airport and check-in desk minus the messy running around without my head and against the clock
  2. Have an easy and friendly exchange with the check-in clerk
  3. Calmly stroll around the airport without getting lost and hug out a leisurely farewell with my sister as she waves me through the gate
  4. Go through the security check without a) performing a mental scan of any potential criminality in my past, b) having to remove more than just my shoes
  5. Find a seat away from annoying loud children and/or groups
  6. Locate my departure gate without getting lost
  7. Walk down the boarding passage without imagining the tunnel getting smaller and smaller
  8. Arrive on the plane without visualising my fellow travellers as partners of a shared dismal end
  9. Sit next to a handsome and utterly charming gentleman who talks me to distraction
  10. Fall asleep
  11. Wake up at my destination – no turbulence, no sweaty palms, no heart constrictions later
  12. Ready to take on the actual adventure – next stop Bangkok!

A snap of the items that will keep me sane: Magazines for mindless stimulation, face wipes, toothbrush, snacks and more snacks, notebook with relaxation tips, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea, Rescue Remedy, sucking sweets, flight pillow for a good snooze and what would I be without my iPod loaded with a breathing meditation compilation. And a Disney playlist…yes I said Disney!

The Flight Bag

The Flight Bag

– I added a video by Steve Pavilanis on a 10 second anxiety-busting technique. His voice is very soothing and for some reason comforting, check out his website A Life Less Anxious for tips on defeating anxiety.


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Dating tips for the romantically impaired

1. Always be yourself: yes, it is true, you should never try to be someone you’re not and that is a truth I take in earnest when it comes to the dating world. Even though myself is slightly  very geeky, slightly arrogant and painfully sarcastic, I nevertheless use this as my opening offer personality in the world of dating…I’m currently single.

2. Don’t flirt: flirting is an absolute no-no in unsuccessful dating. You should always aim to steer away from any sexual undercurrents in your conversations, how else will you be sure if they like you for you? Do this even at the risk of seeming prudish, frigid, and lacking a sense of humour.

3. Never show humility: why would you want to give the impression that you are a nice person who acknowledges that everyone is human, in other words, not perfect. It is imperative to go to extreme lengths to protect your perfect persona even if this undermines tip 1.

4. Lay your cards on the table: Complete transparency is important when you meet a new romantic candidate. It removes any sense of mystery which might add to your allure, and cuts the getting to know each other process in half. It also tells the person that you are not a game-player, even if game-playing is fun, there are essentially no winners.

I have recently come to the realisation that I am the anti-dating guru. Everything that I sincerely believe about dating – i.e those points previously addressed – has left me questioning whether I know anything at all. At 22 years old I should be in the prime of my life, I will never again possess such a tremendous combination of feminine prowess and girlish innocence, and yet whilst confined in the bloom of my years I have not mastered a way to channel these mythical powers. I have however, succeeded in pushing any potential suitor away; I am consistently, and persistently, a reluctant Juliet. I once found myself on a date by refusing to acknowledge that it was such an arrangement. The suitor took me to a Muay Thai gymand as one who has always been in awe of martial arts, I enjoyed myself immensely. After an hour and half sweating, punching and kicking, Mr Suitor decided it would be a nice touch for us both to get in the ring; a bit of rough-and-tumble if you will. Bearing in mind I’m rather competitive, boisterous, and know how to throw a punch, is it surprising that the romantic tussle he had envisaged ended with me landing two punches to his face? That was the last time I saw Mr Suitor. For the record he did message me, I guess it took my willingness to punch him for me to realise I was just not that into him.

Now Mr Guy I was into. So into in fact, that I forgot all the tricks that come instinctively to me when I want to ward off unwanted prey. Needless to say I did not leave a customary 2 days to reply to his messages, the likes of which had been applied to Mr Suitor, because in my mind it made sense to be prompt when you like somebody. I also found the need to be right, or appear clever, to be very important to me; I corrected him on the etymology of the word karaoke – by the way karaoke is a Japanese word, it comes from kara meaning empty and okesutora meaning orchestra – at risk of revealing my true geek colours too soon. And I managed to misinterpret him on more than one occasion because I was too proud to admit I didn’t know what HAM stood for (for all those equally ignorant of this acronym it means Hard As a Motherfucker, not as I guessed, Amsterdam. When I was 12 I did call it Hamsterdam so it came as the only logical answer).

Mr Guy soon lost interest in our short-lived textation, and whilst I did spend the first 3 days of silence berating myself for not trying to be a more easy-going, coy, and uncomplicated human being, I soon smiled to myself as the energy I would have to spend trying to hide my inner freak would be exhausting. Plus I honestly wouldn’t want to be any different.

ps. When asked the dreaded question, “So why are you single?” I’ve found the answer, “There are worse tragedies in life” to be a tad on the heavy side.


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Why I think the Universe is against me

One day after celebrating the milestone of finally purchasing a flight to Thailand, I sit down to watch the News only to see the very aircraft model I will be flying on being reported for “Safety Concerns”. Cue the world crashing down around me….

BBC News report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21054089

17 January 2013 Last updated at 14:48

Boeing 787 Dreamliners
There are 50 Boeing 787 Dreamliners at airlines around the world

All of Boeing’s 50 flagship 787 Dreamliners have been temporarily taken out of service amid safety concerns.

The US and European aviation agencies said planes should be grounded while safety checks are carried out on their lithium ion batteries.

They are worried that the batteries could leak, corroding vital equipment and potentially causing fires.

Boeing said it stood by the integrity of the Dreamliner, which has been in service since October 2011.

Grounding aircraft on this scale over safety concerns is rare. The last time the FAA ordered a general grounding of an aircraft model was in 1979, when McDonnell Douglas DC-10s were grounded following a fatal crash.

Continue reading the main story

Who owns Dreamliners?

Source: Boeing

A string of issues in recent weeks have raised questions about the 787.

Dreamliners have suffered incidents including fuel leaks, a cracked cockpit window, brake problems and an electrical fire. However, it is the battery problems that have caused the most concern.

On Wednesday, an All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight made an emergency landing because of a battery fault and fire smoke in one of the electrical compartments.

ANA said the battery in the forward cargo hold was the same type as the one involved in a fire on a Japan Airlines Dreamliner at a US airport last week.

battery was taken from the ANA Dreamliner which had to perform an emergency landing this weekSafety inspectors are looking at a battery taken from an ANA Dreamliner earlier this week

Airlines complying

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that airlines must demonstrate battery safety before flights can resume.

The authority added that it had alerted the international aviation community of its airworthiness directive, so that other authorities could take parallel action to cover the fleets operating in their countries.

The European Aviation Safety Agency endorsed the directive early on Thursday.

All eight airlines currently flying Boeing 787s have grounded the planes.

  • All Nippon Airways and Japan Airways have grounded their combined fleet of 24 787s

  • United Airlines, the only US airline currently operating Dreamliners, said it would immediately comply with the FAA’s directive and would begin re-accommodating customers on alternative aircraft

  • Chile’s LAN announced it would suspend its three Dreamliners from service in co-ordination with the Chilean Aeronautical Authority

  • Indian aviation regulators ordered Air India to stop operating its 787s

  • Poland’s Lot Airlines, the only European airline currently flying 787s, was due to launch its 787 transatlantic service this week, but cancelled a return flight from Chicago to Warsaw on Wednesday

  • Qatar Airways, which currently operates five Dreamliners, said it had grounded the planes and was “actively working with Boeing and the regulators to restore full customer confidence in the 787”

  • Ethiopian Airlines said it was taking its 787s out of service as a precautionary measure

 

Things I'm forced to tell myself:
  1. None of these faults resulted in a crash or fatalities
  2. All flights/emergency landings were completed professionally and safety, testament to the capabilities of the pilots
  3. My airline has grounded the offending plane model
  4. Everyone is working overtime to avoid losing money! 
  5. Did I mention I am going to Thailand 🙂