Tuesday, September 30, 2014


  • It's official.  The water pump at the cottage was destroyed by the crawlspace flood.  After speaking with the plumber, D's plan is to replace it next spring.  It doesn't make sense to do it now, just to close it up in a few weeks, when it is perfectly usable (stream water for toilet tank, access to municipal water for rest).
  • Relationship with Mentee is moving along slowly.  He is trying to do and be Everything and is having trouble balancing it all.  I did have to mention that overbooking himself isn't an excuse for not providing timely communication.  Other than that,  we are getting to know each other's style.  He's a bit "old school" and likes to use words like "delightful" and "most excellent". And much to my surprise, prefers to talk rather than email, which I suppose is consistent.  I think we could get more done if he uses email more often for certain things.  We actually do have a number of things in common (music, volunteering).  Got the impression he would have preferred to be matched up with a full time working male.  However, that impression may have existed initially because he hadn't done any homework on me yet and made some assumptions about my work schedule.  Whereas I went in knowing the times of the last 3 races he did.. Seems logical to look up the person you'll be working with (Or maybe he did look me up and saw the results of the last 2 races I did sucked...)  My working part time by choice and being able to financially manage it is vastly different than being part time by force.  His tone has changed significantly. I am beginning to think he may be starting to see and appreciate the work world through my eyes a bit.  
  • Moved to my temporary office.  Renovations to existing building ought to be done by spring.
  • D started a new position within his current company.  He had 3 interviews (2 external) and received 2 offers.  Was most interested in the one other external company but they kept delaying.  It wasn't until a week after D accepted an offer, that he found out they were finally ready to make an offer.  When asked if he regretted not waiting, D said that he has a really great feeling about this new (to him) part of his company and it was worth staying for.  Fingers crossed!
  • We have talked seriously about putting the cottage up for sale in the coming few years.  Nothing to do with the water pump incident.  More so to do with where we see our lives eventually shifting to -- Away from here.  Let's see if we will finally be able to pull the trigger.
  • I'd like to do the same with the ski condo (for different reasons) but the idea was met with D's firm "No".  So I will need to come at it from another angle...Next to be re-assessed will be my vehicle.
  • Cannot believe there are still mosquitoes around when we've been using our cottage fireplace at night.  Let my guard down and got bitten 3 times over the weekend.  
  • Feeling somewhat ungrounded as of late.  Mind has gone into overdrive considering thoughts and feelings like:  Not doing enough, inadequacy, worry about having too much time and not enough structure and the wild ideas that can come out of that.  Boredom, missing out.  Even when my rational side disagrees.  So what is missing or off?  Hoping to have time to sort through all that soon.
  • Been fighting a low grade "something".  Think it may have to do with eating stuff I don't normally eat anymore (sugar, dairy), even if it is gluten free.  Time to tighten things up again.  May be a cause of the above errant thoughts?  My body feels strong and there are no other "sick" symptoms, just a bit tired, which adds to the frustration.
  • The location of the Habitat build I'm involved with has changed due to the political situation nearby.  Add to it a record 5 flight time changes and I am beginning to wonder how this will all turn out. 
  • My long time travel currency exchange agent will be losing her position shortly (unexpected).  I'm sad for her as she is within 8 years to full retirement but still is far enough away.  I'm losing a valuable person on my "travel team".  She has gotten me currency, yes, but specifically the denominations I really wanted.  I've dealt with a number of money exchange places before and know it is not easy to find for custom orders.  Our final transaction was a week ago where she finally asked me, after all these years, what is it I do that allows me to travel so much?  I told her that my travels have nothing to do with work.  That I wish my work would send me all over the place. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


It looks like we've found it.  Our equivalent of an "all inclusive" vacation -- Bangkok. 

The city isn't what I would consider to be "beautiful".  There aren't any architectural stand outs.  I know a lot of people visit the temples (Wat) there but we didn't feel like it this time around.  Chinatown turned us off as did all the shopping malls.  Even the ride up and down the Chao Phraya river (all the way to the end) surprisingly didn't inspire and being on the water usually does.

What captured us was the calm of the culture and not surprising, the street food.  There wasn't the feeling of suffering or overwhelming poverty.  I didn't walk around feeling bad or guilty for what I had.  People work long hours outside but seem to do so with dignity and control.  Minimum wage has risen to around 9.55 USD Per Day...

As usual, a smile and attempts at speaking were appreciated.  The 2 times we led with English, we got overcharged.  There was no detectable tension or visible military presence in the places we went.  Although I was surprised at the number of older people begging. 

Thanks to advice from an expat I connected with online, we ended up staying in an older neighborhood, away from the main shopping and partying areas and it made all the difference.  We wouldn't have had near the immersive experience otherwise.  I knew I had found the right person to ask when he commented, "(those) areas are fine if you are wanting to spend your holiday drinking, shopping and more drinking.  But, why go on a holiday for that!?!"

We stayed in a studio apartment and never ended up needing the kitchen.  There is just too much great homemade food all around, all day -- And way better than what we could have prepared, that's for sure.  It was incredible and there were new things to try everyday.  The cost was ridiculously cheap.  We barely spent half our spending money.

Our biggest issue was trying to coax our stomachs to digest faster so we could make room to try something else.  We weren't successful on that front as the food we were eating was real food (very filling), which meant most days, despite hours of walking in high heat, we were only able to eat 2 meals.

For those of you who are into trying new foods, you'll be able to relate to us plotting our days and routes so that we would end up at the right spots at the right times to be able to indulge.  It was a miracle I only gained a pound on this trip.  It felt like I had eaten a cumulative whale.

The heat was challenging.  It wasn't as humid as Hanoi felt to me as my papers didn't curl irreversibly.  But it was humid enough -- Felt like 48 C by 8:30 am.  Good thing that coconut water and ice coffee were readily available.  Plus when you buy pre-cut fruit, there is salt and chili spices included which helps with electrolyte balance.  Hard getting used to eating steaming hot and spicy soup outside but it didn't stop us.

As for being there during rainy season?  It was probably my biggest concern (flight delays, water contamination etc.) alongside political tension.  This trip was a last minute decision (3 weeks out), which is rare for us, when considering the distance.  A combination of the water pump at the cottage being flooded and seeing a drop in price of flights made this happen.  We both had holiday time booked already.

Our stay wasn't impacted by weather.  In fact, we longed for rain as it was welcomed relief to the heat and humidity.  Prior to our arrival for several weeks, there was a monsoon trough stationary over the area ushering significant rainfall, everyday.  So we came with full rain gear and intentions of buying rain boots if necessary as flash flooding can be common place then.

For many years, I had avoided going to Bangkok, despite reading over and over again, how it was a perfect introduction to SE Asia.  It is considered to provide a relatively "soft landing" with respect to culture shock, tourist infrastructure and getting around.  Would completely agree with that. 

I also have personal issues with the well known sex trade there -- Just look up "Bangkok ping pong shows".  We did walk around the Patpong area many times but like our experience in Amsterdam, there aren't prostitutes all around the city at all hours.  In fact, there was much less of that there than I found in Phnom Penh.  D did receive a good amount of visual attention but nothing phased me nor tripped either of our caution meters. 

It was so very easy to navigate the city.  The transit system is first rate and orderly.  Occasionally we saw people (other tourists) who didn't realize you need to line up but that was an exception.  Having said that, we only took transit for one trip.  We braved the heat and walked, because it is more interesting for us as well as something needed to burn off all the food we had eaten. 

Having attempted Khmer earlier in the year made trying to learn Thai much easier.  My accent must have been acceptable enough because people would continue talking to me in Thai after they heard my greetings when I really couldn't say much more which was embarrassing.  Will endeavor to keep improving for next time.  And there will be a next time.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Scenes From Recent Outing

A favorite thing to do:  Watch river traffic after breakfast while sipping an ice coffee.

A family is still living there.

 Location of last great meal.  Complete with fighting cats underneath our table.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


After some persistent nudging from D some months ago, and with some reluctance, I decided to try my hand at Mentorship again.  Upon my return from our latest getaway (will get to that later), an email confirming the match appeared.  It has been 16 years since my first experience and 5 years since my last.  They have all frustrated me in one way or another.

This will be my first time via this particular program.  Maybe being matched will actually mean a better fit.  It hasn't been the most fun as I have found new grads to either be not so serious about the business aspect of their job or be just too serious about making money.  Which made me question whether I'm really the right type of person to be even doing this.  Why I hesitated with offering up my time (6 month min.) yet again.

D seems to think I have much to offer and eventually I'll be matched up with someone that "gets" it.  That I've evolved a lot personally and professionally in the last 5 years. Blah, blah, blah.  This will be my last shot at this.

It has crossed my mind that I may be the problem.  That maybe I'm being particularly rigid and difficult to deal with as I have expectations for punctuality, professionalism, reasonable attitude, willingness to think, work, self reflect.  That my role is to challenge and question and help reflection to occur.  I want to encourage free thinking.  As just copying wouldn't require a mentor.

My feeling is that we often go into things with an expectation and mentees tend to want some magical bullet list of action points that will guarantee success.  I think if you were in manufacturing, that thinking might work better.  When you are working with people in the private sector, in a country where people are used to getting what you do for "free" (taxes), that's a totally different ball game.  Whatever happened to just doing a great job and the success will follow idea?

I tend to zero in on a person's motivation as I assume that because they managed to pass their exams, they are competent in what they have been trained to do.  Only 1 so far have asked me specific technical questions.  Peoples' actions follow their motivations -- Sometimes people don't dig hard enough at it to learn why they do what they do.

As an aside, what has also surprised me was the style of language used.  A couple were quite casual, in person as well as via email.  I'm not here to become their best friend and hold their hand.  I'm here to help.

So where are they now?

The first one didn't really want to be mentored.  He wanted confirmation that his chosen approach was right.  He wanted to choose someone he thought was successful to emulate and join with long term.  He didn't choose the right person and fell for the fast talking, flashy type.  It wasn't a great move and it was done way too soon, at a time when you really don't know what you don't know yet.  The offer happened during our time together and while I did break it down with him and told him why it wouldn't be something I would sign up for, he went for it anyways.

That was over 8 years ago and currently he is even more in debt and locked into an healthy situation, working more hours than before.  Doesn't feel he has the strength to leave and "start over" again.  A shame as he is a hard worker.  That I can say for sure.  He is reliable, committed and will be there.  But because he isn't a leader and hates confrontation (even minor stuff), he can be easily taken advantage of.  For someone who was a varsity athlete, I expected him to be able to stand up for himself better.  We lost touch a number of years ago.

The second one was very high energy, hyper even, person who was an awkward match for me as I find it difficult work with and to be around people who exhibit borderline ADHD traits.  I like steady, calm, collected.  Even to this day, she cannot be described as such.  But that isn't necessary a barrier to success as she will "attract" like and she has.

Out of the bunch, she has done the best financially, purchased commercial real estate and has built up a good name for herself.  What she needed guidance with was work life balance.  Because she tends to function at the extreme ends of things, she burnt herself out.  And the physical recovery has taken almost 2 years.  She is finally realizing that you really cannot sprint full out your entire life.  Admitting to the existence of limits has been the most difficult thing she has done.  But she is in a way better place personally and professionally because of it. 

The third one was also high energy, cut from the same cloth as number two.  The aspect she needed help with was actually money management.  A particularly weak area for her.  Continues today.  I say needed because she resisted for years and have squandered a lot of money with unconscious spending.  She too has done well professionally but has realized she doesn't wish to continue for much longer as she isn't enjoying it.  But because of the level of debt, she has no real choice.

Though recently she seemed to have turned a corner and has finally realized there is no substitute for the act of just saving.   So with her high earning years behind her, the timing of this realization is not the best, but at least she is starting.

The fourth one is still a work in progress.  She is hung up on wanting the "good life" and still believes just showing up is enough.  It isn't.  You do have to work and put in your time.  There are also some deep insecurity issues.  After 5 years, frustration and mounting debt has set in.  So has training for another career in the public sector which has amounted to even more debt.  Already there has been complaints about the new career's work schedule!  She wants my life without having to work for it.  What do you do with that?? 

This fifth one shows well on paper.  In fact, they all did.  Very dynamic write ups.  High achievers in their own way.  But in person has been something else.  I mean, we all have our particular issues and hang ups.  I certainly do.  But I feel attitude makes a big difference.  Being that this is a mentorship opportunity, an open mind, I feel is crucial.  It's not like I don't understand the immediate concerns of a new grad, graduating with gigantic student loans.  But if you've already made up your mind, then why sign up to be mentored?

I think I'm supposed to meet up with #5 today.  Haven't received a confirmation yet which isn't the best start to a new relationship.  We'll see how it shakes out.