Dancin with fire

Maybe it was the unbeatable sunset view atop a Bob-Marley-vibed bar looking out over the Andaman Sea earlier that evening…sunsetMaybe it was that Ben and I’d shared a few buckets of margaritas and a pile of pretty-dang-good-for-Thailand Mexican-food…

Maybe it was that we’ve been island hopping for a week now and the slow pace of Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi life were finally soaking in…

island hoppingWhatever it was, Sunday night, I was in absolute awe.

We capped off our first night in Phi Phi with a glass of wine [[a Mai Tai for the stud]] and picked a seat on the beach. When the first local took the stage, dipped his gear in lighter fluid and then grazed it through the flame, my jaw hit the sand. And I didn’t bother to pick it up for the next hour…

These small, albeit chiseled, guys danced with fire on a stage on a beach on an island in the middle of nowhere. They flung flaming poi and batons through the air faster than I could comprehend. The dark of the night mixed with the light of the fire [[and ok, fine, the encouragement from a glass of red]] just had me hooked.  The danger and unknown of it all was absolutely, utterly beautiful.

fire dancingMost of the time, it was a precise art…an obvious culmination of years of practice, maybe even gifted to them through their lineage. Most of the time it was perfection. But some of the times, they’d mis-judge a toss and drop a flaming poi in the sand. They’d just smile, sink to the stage and pump out a few push-ups, get up, wipe the sand from their hands and get on with it…picking right back up to the beat of the music, as if they never missed the chorus. It just looked like growth and grace.

And it made me wanna dance with fire…

So then of course, all of my sentimental cheesy starts oozing together with the wine and the awe and then all of the metaphors start screaming at me…I AM playing with fire… kind of…

I mean I left home and my career and all of my comforts to come gallivant around the world for an undefined amount of time, for arguably fluffy, but important reasons. To my former ‘type-A’ self, that’s pretty fire-dancing-esque…

I could run out of money in Europe and have to figure out how to get home…

My bags could fall off the roof of the speed boat this afternoon and I’d be left with only the clothes on my back…

I could get food poisoning from the meat that sits out at the markets for hours on end, and have to stumble through a medical conversation with a foreign physician…

Honestly, anything could happen.

But it seems worth it. Dancing with fire is therapeutic and invigorating and inspiring.

Those boys didn’t mean to get all metaphorical on me. And certainly Ben didn’t know my jaw on the sand meant all these crazy things were running through my mind, but something clicked on that beach for me…

I love seeing people dare to be different… dare to live a little outside the box…dare to do what makes them happy…dare to make people smile… dare to try a little harder at the risk of failing…dare to forgive your dropped balls and do it all over again…

Find your fire, people…and then go on and dance. I dare you.

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Dear Mommas

Dear Mommas,

Not any poetic strand of words would do you justice…not today…not any day really…so I’ll just say thank you.

Thank you, truly…

  • For cleaning up the puke from the sink when we mis-aim in the middle of the night…
  • For clothing us, even when we’re embarrassed to look back at the obnoxious white sneakers and gross t-shirts that we donned decades back…
  • For the braces and glasses and skin treatment, but more importantly for building pretty people from the inside first and foremost…
  • For teaching us how to be a good friend…and how to pick good friends…
  • For cheering us on at every soccer game, football game and cheerleading competition…and for teaching us that YES, there are indeed winners and losers both on the field and in the game of life, but that we practice and play anyway…
  • For taking us on family vacations even when it was probably easier on you to just stay home…
  • For sending us to college where we grew into our skin and learned what it felt like to miss you…
  • For kissing your babies and sending them off to war, with nothing but a patriotic smile and a prayer…
  • For always wishing for peace, so the aforementioned wasn’t a thing…
  • For slipping us cash when things get tight…
  • For driving us to the emergency room in the middle of the night, huddled up in the hospital bed next to us and whispering encouraging words, like “no, you don’t have to go back to school bald…its going to be ok”…
  • For teaching us the difference between right and wrong, but giving us grace upon grace when we undoubtedly mess it up…
  • For loving us so unconditionally…even when we don’t know how, or care to, love ourselves…
  • For being our parent always, but eventually, once the adolescent bitch in us dies, a best friend too…

This list could go on for ages…but knowing you mommas, you have a million things to do… So, I hope today’s agenda is limited to receiving the love and soaking up those babies who have a million things to thank you for…

Happy Mothers Day to my sweetest momma and to you other sweet mommas who raised my favorite people momma

Postcard love, anyone?!

So here I am, it’s early in the morning and I’m sipping on an iced Americano, munching on a Greek souvlaki and watching the early-riser waves crash over a Thai beach with a good ole Arkansas friend…Global breakfast for the win, much?! I’m totally in love with this moment.

It’s just the millionth time I’ve sat back on this trip and thought ‘is this real life?!’ It seriously doesn’t feel possible…but then again, that’s kind of how my roller coaster works. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. And through it all, John Mayer’s verses chime in my heart ‘No it won’t all go the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good.’

I think one of the most powerfully calming and encouraging bits about this whole surreal thing is the people I have back home cheering me on. It blows my mind to know how many of yall are praying for me, hopeful for my healing and genuinely happy for my adventure. I don’t know how I lucked out with you people, but I’m as grateful as they come.

I so wish I could share this whole thing [[or atleast the bits in-between getting robbed and using squatty-pottys with no toilet paper]] with so many of you. I often think ‘when I’m rich, I’ll fly Sara here.’ Or ‘when I win the lotto, I’m packin up the Temme / Adams clan and we are gonna do Thailand like nobody’s business.’ Unfortunately, my wallet is a wee bit sad these days [[though how rich I am in memories]], so until wealth finds me and I can transport my people to my places, I wondered if maybe I could share some of the love via some good old fashioned snail mail?

My people are sending me so much love that I can feel it a million miles and a billion waves away. I feel selfish taking it all in and using it to fuel my journey without giving anything back. I want to give something back, anything…even small as a postcard from this pretty little perch I’m sitting on this morning…

That, I can do. Small gesture. Heartfelt thoughts. Use my words. Share the love that I’m feeling, back with the world.

So here’s the idea…send me your address [[ atemme33@Gmail.com ]]. Or send me your coworker’s or your grandma’s address. Send me addresses and stories of people that you love who need to feel a little love from the world coming back to them. I’d love to pay the love forward. It’s not a big thing, but who wouldn’t love surprise snail mail from a beach bum a billion waves away?

Postcard coming soon to a mailbox near you. Beach bum signin out.

Sealed with love –XO

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Wish you were here, from Chiang Mai

If there was one person in the world I could have had with us in Chiang Mai this week, it’d be the girl with the elephant tattoo on the back of her neck…

I always think of my little Lucia when I see elephants. She loves the things. Like LOVES them, loves them. Almost as much as I love her. So if you account for sleeping time, Loosh was on my mind for approximately 70 hours this week. Everywhere I turned, an elephant shirt, an elephant necklace, an elephant satchel. Four days of colorful elephant everything.

Then yesterday, there was a real elephant. Three big elephants and one baby elephant, to be exact. And if anyone could have smiled harder than I did, it would have been Lucia.

I struggled at first, as I’m sure Lucia would have, to wrap my head around the ethics of the whole thing…is this animal cruelty? Are the elephants treated nicely? Is this just a glorified zoo? If I visit a park or sanctuary, do I want to ride one as well? If so, which one?

Hours upon hours of research turned up a particular gem—Elephant Discovery Chiang Mai—and from what I could tell, it was a total haven for these big beauties. Their mahouts revered them. There were no chains, no hooks, no pens, no riding rickshaws. Just elephants and their human friends living harmoniously in the dense bush about 2 hours outside of Chiang Mai. If Lucia could have seen the way the people and elephants alike smiled, I think she would have approved too.

This is how you do a day at Elephant Discovery Chiang Mai. This is how you make an elephant lover like Loosh smile so dang hard…

First you hop in the back of a 4 wheel drive with the A-team [[hello fellow Americans!]], windows down, Paw, our guide, singing lead to every Bob Marley, Maroon 5 and Shakira song from the last decade. Drive for two hours through the northern Thai switchbacks, with a coffee bubble tea in hand, and swoon over Paw’s incessant giggle.

When you arrive at the humble park, the small family of elephants will greet you like an old friend. You’ll be overwhelmed and slightly timid at first, but as the gentle beings sway back and forth and bat their pretty brown eyes at you, it all just melts… And you start to realize that this day is going to leave an elephant sized stamp on your life’s memory book.

You’ll learn about the village’s tradition of raising elephants. And the sad truths about some of the more circus-like attractions closer to the city [[#CountryGirlForLife]].

You’ll get buddied up with an elephant like our 37-year-old Campot and you’ll become her new bestie with a little banana-lovin.

CampotThen, oh my gosh, Lucia, you get.to.bathe.the.elephants… Not like you grab a hose and spray them down in some superficial line-up…but you walk them down to the river and they lay down in the warm water for a good scrub. It is probably the coolest thing you’ll ever do…

Until the babe squirts water on you and you feel like you’re in some Nat-Geo-Jungle-Book medley of a dream…then THAT’S the coolest

squirts

The trek through the winding, tree-draped river and alongside the rice paddies and up steep jungle banks is only made more amazing by the fact that a multi-ton beast is gliding along underneath your groin-straining-straddle.

Lunch is served in a hut. We aren’t convinced that it wasn’t KFC Original Recipe tied up in banana leaves. But when the baby comes to clear the dishes, you don’t give a flying crap about the authenticity of lunch.

Babe

In fact…

with a view like this…

view

and a new friend like this…

friends

and a weird friend like this…

weird

…nobody cares what the lunch recipe was, cause the whole thing was the perfect recipe for a perfect smile-inducing kind of day.

smiling

One that I so desperately wish I could have shared with little Lucia baby.

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Patience and Complacence

So it’s a million and two degrees outside when the bus driver drops us off and it’s time to bid adieu to my 3-week-long-Vietnamese home. Now we’re meant to walk to Cambodia. It’s indeed as surreal as it seems, made only more so by the fact that Ben and I were approximately the only people crossing that day. Alone, hot as hell and loaded down with our bags, we hoofed off for Cambo.

The Vietnamese border control, lovely as they are, don’t really have a thing for customer service. Not like we do at home, anyway. So we rolled up to the front desk, passports ready and waited to be acknowledged by the immigration officers. Five minutes later they look up. Another ten minutes later to bustle our departure cards around and clear Ben’s name from the most wanted list [[or whatever it is that took them that long to let him through]]..it struck me…this trip is teaching me patience.

Almost 3 months into the trek and I can queue up with the best of them. My flight can be delayed, my driver can get lost and my room doesn’t even have to be ready when I arrive at a hotel…cause the thing is, it doesn’t dang matter. Apparently having no schedule serves up a healthy dose of patience. It was a proud little moment to realize how much my OCD-overly-hurried-butt has learned to be present, accept every delay as part of the adventure and not wish away time. And that made me smile.

My smile didn’t last long though.

Apparently, 3 months of travel also causes some complacence too. I didn’t realize how cush I’d gotten. Especially having traveled with a dude for 10 days, I must have laxed up, and I forgot to knock wood.

I might have made it through the border with a lot of fresh patience, but I did NOT make it through the border with my phone [[which so handily stores my Drivers License, credit card AND debit card]]. Yep. I basically don’t exist anymore.

This was the start of a very weird 48 hours in Cambodia.

We took a day bus to Phnom Penh, stopped for some dinner and decided to wing it and head straight for Siem Reap. A 7-hour night bus ride later, we made it to temple town, dropped our bags, jumped in a tuk tuk and headed off to see the granddaddy of them all—Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat at sunrise [[aka, magic]] made me forget about my lost phone and identity for a while.

Until weird things started happening again…

First, a 5 year old Cambodian peddler boy hit me…in a temple.  We’re talkin full on swing to the gut. I’m still not sure why, but probably because I wouldn’t buy a $2 magnet?

Then Ben almost got attacked by a monkey…for which you should NOT feel sorry. Ben totally prompted said almost attack. Those little mackays are fearless, aggressive and probably attack 130 tourists per day. Luckily we didn’t have to add ‘Ben’s thumb’ to our missing items list for the day.

THEN, apparently there was some big car accident that knocked power out to the whole city of Siem Reap. Our driver said it could take up to a week to bring the grid back [[hello, patient locals]].

Fortunately, the gorgeous temples of Siem Reap don’t care about electricity—they shine on regardless. Driving through the World Heritage Site [[I should have kept tally of how many of these I’ve checked off over the last 3 months]], it struck me as an eerie blend of spiritual and commercial; ancient and exact; authentic and touristy.

Monks in striking orange robes donned most of the temples. Trees older than the good ole USA buried roots deep into the earth only to grow up and cover entire temple entryways. At every turn, a NatGeo-worthy photo opp [[too bad no phone = no Insta]]. It is a breathtaking place, no doubt, and an icon that I was thankful to have spent some time exploring.

We took our sweet-time climbing through, over and around a half dozen temples for the morning, exercising our patience with each group of peddlers that somehow don’t quite fit the soothing, graceful environment…

Patience again.

But no.more.complacence, thanks. Call us hoity-toity if you like, but a $7 room with zero electricity, air conditioning, wifi or free breakfast just wasn’t gonna satisfy on this particular day. So naturally, we walked the streets listening for the hum of a generator, ate the $7 and invested in the most lovely $30 hotel. We even got dressed up and went out for sushi at the 5-star resort across the street [[what would that cost at home? $150-$200? Not in Cambodia. Three amazing rolls, a chicken teriyaki, drinks, fresh fruit and more importantly a lit / cooled / stunning place to collect ourselves, set us back a whopping $34.]]

And by ‘us’ I mean Ben. Cause I still don’t have a debit card.

Yes, 48 hours in Cambodia was totally weird. Totally beautiful. And a memorable exercise in patience and complacence.

Token pic

‘What the hell is a Pagoda?’

If you know me at all, you know that two of my very favorite things to do are suggesting vacas and inviting people to visit me. Genuine as these suggestions always are, I’ve learned the hard way to not believe an RSVP till I see it. I guess years of Army-brat-hood instilled a tiny bit of cynicism in me…cause not everyone is gonna come visit you. And certainly, not everyone is gonna drop everything to do a massive vaca. Sometimes it’s just easier to not get your hopes up…

But yall, last week, these little suggestive worlds collided when an Arkansan proved me wrong on both accords.

I think our convo went something like this:

Ben: ‘Hey! I get out of the Army in April, where are you gonna be?’

Anne: ‘Probably hanging out in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand! Wanna join?’

Ben: ‘Yup. I’ll do it.’

Anne: [[thinking, but not saying… ‘yeah RIGHT’]]

He did it. Ben Trouble, as he’s formally called in my world, proved me wrong and met me in Saigon last week. So far, we’ve spent some days doing a lot and some days doing absolutely nothing but lie on the beach with a spiked watermelon juice in hand. All of those days have made me laugh though…

For example…

  • We both seem to be a bit directionally challenged in Vietnam. Whether it was trying to find the Cho Ben Thanh Market in Saigon during our first hour of travel, attempting to motorbike to the most movie-esque beach ever in Phu Quoc, or just hunting down a mini-mart, Vietnamese road signs have bested us so far. Luckily, Ben didn’t get lost in the Cu Chi Tunnels though. About 100 degrees hot, 1 meter tall and far too few inches wide, my claustrophobic butt was NOT climbing down into those tunnels, but I was still sweatin bullets hoping Ben made it out alive and didn’t get lost in the labyrinth of a Vietcong underground fighting city. He made it out, albeit sweaty and cramped. And we haven’t lost each other or our bags yet, so losing track of time and destinations is actually just a funny and welcomed part of the adventure.
  • Ben gets hit on by more men in Vietnam than I do. Yes you read that right. The Vietnamese men loooove them some Ben Trouble. Maybe it’s the twang. Probably the broad stance. Definitely the beard. Men are falling all over this little Arkansan and it makes me giggle every.single.time. The other night, while in transit between the Mekong Delta and a little piece of paradise off the southern tip of Vietnam, we found ourselves at a local restaurant for a delicious Hot Pot dinner. As the ONLY westerners in this packed joint, we felt a little circus-like to say the least. After all eyes on us for the evening, we got up to wait for a taxi when a small group of slightly inebriated locals walked up to get a closer look. They all just shook Ben’s hand and say ‘you so handsome’ and then they shook my hand and say ‘oh, congratulations!’ It is probably the definition of hilarious.
  • Then there are just the moments on moments on moments that prove, without a shadow of a doubt that we are indeed NOT in Arkansas anymore. Culture shock is always a funny thing. But its kind of funnier with Ben. From the Vietnam American War Museum in Saigon [[which is a humbling and horrific dose of recent history]], to the floating markets in the Mekong Delta; from the motorbike traffic insanity, to our new water buffalo friend on Unicorn Island; from a honeybee farm, rice noodle-making compounds and coconut candy making factory, to the live ocean creatures that they season, splice and dice right in front of you at the night markets for dinner, we’ve shoved a WHOLE lot of culture into a mere 7 days. Some of it could easily overwhelm, unless you soak it up and laugh it off instead. Case in point: our new friend and host in Phu Quoc pointed us to the ocean-facing Pagoda up the road and shooed us off for a visit. I hopped on the back of the bike and we tore off. About three minutes into the trek, Ben turns to me and yells ‘what the hell is a Pagoda?!’

So perfect. We definitely don’t know what we’re doing over here half of the time. But ALL of the time, we’re soaking it up and laughing.

Wanna join??

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Wish you were here, from Hoi An

The pretty little blue eyed blonde waved me over to the seat she saved for me at the Dulles Town Center food court. I stripped my winter jacket, but kept my hat on—reluctant to reveal my nearly bald and pretty pudgy, sick gnome-ish self.

I don’t remember exactly what we talked about that afternoon, but I do remember the card she handed me at the end of our visit. Well wishes from my All Girl crew covered the spread, but the one signature that really stood out was Vals.

‘Can’t wait to live together next semester!’ it read. That tiny sentence made me cry all the way home in my tiny little cabrio convertible. But for once, it was not because I felt like a wad of cancer, but rather because I knew without a doubt, that I would make up for lost time with Valerie Voorhies.

We spent the next three years doing just that…We drove our matching Cabrios to the beach for hand stand contests and tan-soakin. We hosted family dinners with our sisters from other misters and brothers from other mothers. We poured diet V8 and rum into our bubba kegs and set up shop at the pool for hours on end. We went to Chicago to visit boys we met on spring break. We line-danced our boots off at the Bull most Thursday nights. We drove to Key West and bought matching seashell rings. She picked me up from my check-ups at Moffitt Cancer Center and I drove her drunk ass home from Tias. Yes, for all of that and more, Val helped me make up for a cancer-ridden-lost-semester, tenfold.

While Val and I haven’t shared an apartment number, let alone a zip code, in years, our friendship continues to stand the test of time and distance. As I type this, it’s still yesterday in Richmond, Virginia and Val is literally on the other side of the world. But today, I longed for Val to be here with me in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Hoi An is full of life and color and easy livin—just like Val Val. There’s a beautiful beach up the road where cabanas and drinks flow abundantly. There are lanterns draped across every street that light up the night in a soft glow, just like the lanterns have on every balcony Val’s ever furnished. And there are tailors that will hand create any piece of clothing you can dream up.

Today, I dreamed up a pretty special piece of clothing and that, more than anything else, is why I longed for Val today. This morning, while I stood in the little tailor shop getting measured, sifting through hundreds of fabric swatches and sketching a Pinterest-mock-up with the designer, it sunk in… we’re not in college anymore and my little ValVal is growing up and getting married.

Val’s probably sleeping right now. But if I could genie up any dream today, it would be to bang down her door, throw her pillows on the floor and push her out of bed [[as she did to me on many-a-night when she needed a wingman at the hottest baseball party]] and I’d make that girl be right here by my side today…

We’d have rented bicycles, grabbed a token iced coffee to-go and pedaled over to Violet where–my fave tailor in town–where we’d design that special dress together. We’d have celebrated toes in the water, ass in the sand-style with a tequila sunrise in hand, [[because celebrating Val is the only reason on the planet that I would voluntarily drink tequila]]. I’d have laughed at her vomit-esque reaction to the slaughtered pigs hanging from bamboo at the corner shop. We’d have showered off the sand and thrown on dresses that show off our tan lines and found a sweet little café that overlooks the lantern-lit riverwalk.

We’d spend the evening reminiscing on our true loves and our losers who taught us what true love is not; on the Corey Smith concerts [[in both a real venue and our kitchen]]; on T-Flatts addictions and the time she threw my sandwich out the sun roof on I75.

So many memories from yesterday, so many dreams for tomorrow all wrapped up in one little dress in a little World Heritage protected town on the Vietnam coast.

One little dress that I’ll wear on the special night that my pretty little blue-eyed blonde friend again waves me over to the seat she saved for me at her table.

Raising a tequila sunrise to you tonight, ValVal, and so wishing you were here. I’ll save you a seat.

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