Nikki Yeager

So many adventures, so little time!

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Yay for Nikki Yeager's Blog! Here you'll find a mix of funny anecdotes, NYC stories and travel tales! I try to update as regularly as possible and keep it interesting so you'll enjoy every minute of it. Comments make me incredibly happy (just keep it in mind), so keep on reading and come back often :). You can also read what else I've written by going to My Links

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She knew me well

Posted by Nikki Yeager on May 19, 2016 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

She was short but strong, maybe middle aged. I met her at a vocational center for ex-inmates -- her crime unknown. Given that fact I was in Thailand, she probably said something misconstrued as insulting to the King.

 

Or she could have shanked a B-&%* in the eye.

 

We'll never know.

 

What I do know is that in the hour I knew her, she explored parts of my life that were unknown, undiscovered. She was just a masseuse with weathered fingers, but those fingers could see it all.

 

She started by laying her hands on my calves. Strong, hard, disproportionately bulky calves developed over 10, 11, 12 miles of walking a day. Each hike, each new Bangkok neighborhood explored, each temple traversed added as a layer of muscle. A strength built on stories.

 

Then to my spread toes. The toes that used to be so unbearably, perfectly adorable. She could feel the weight of 30+ lbs carried for 9 months, the weight of which made my pinky toes turn awkardly in and attempt to hide. She pressed firmly on my arches. Arches that screamed out in pain from a year in flip flops.

 

She could see and feel everything. The metaphorical weight I'd been carrying for the last year.

 

She explored my back, my sides, my core, as she stretched my limbs every which way. My flabby stomach skin complained of a c-section as she searched, and failed to find, any muscle to stretch in my abs. My body betrayed me, told her my secret -- my mid-section is mysterious held up purely by bones, skin and organs. The muscles that keep normal people upright have been long misplaced. Possibly my doctor forgot to return them after removing that baby?

 

The same baby I carry every day. An observation her expert fingertips made when stumbling across my shoulders. Taut, tight, painful shoulders accustomed to 20 lbs of squirming child strapped on with a carrier.

 

As she pulled, pushed and rubbed each layer of tightness away, she discovered another day. Another trip. Another adventure. The bike ride through Angkor Wat with a baby on my back. The walk up 20 flights of stairs to a temple in the mountain as the baby slept soundly on my chest. The bouncing -- always bouncing! -- at every meal as I pray he'll fall asleep while I eat.

 

Each experience, each action, dissolved by her touch.

 

The woman knew. She knew I worked long hours at a computer when I winced in pain as she rubbed my fingers. My wrists. My forearms. She knew I've been sleeping in the same position every night, wedged between two boys who drool and sweat and prevent me from moving. All her strength couldn't break the tension in my neck from nights spent on my left side.

 

She could only sympathize as she tried one last time to nudge my neck, my shoulders, out of their perpetual left-ed-ness.

 

She stripped away the things I prefer to hide. The things left unacknowledged.

 

She found my stress in my upper back, constantly building as I build a business. The weakness in my knees inherited from generations of women, exacerbated by hours on the track. The tangles in my hair because, surprise, I forgot to brush it again.

 

She found it all and she experienced my life, discovered my life, as she tried to melt it all away. The pain, the stress, the kinks, the knots. One knuckle at a time. One twist at a time.

 

I wonder if it's a priveledge or a punishment? To live each client's life, to share their secrets, in hour increments

 

Her ongoing sentence as an ex-convinct from a women's jail.

 

 

Myanmar Take 2

Posted by Nikki Yeager on February 23, 2016 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (0)

As per my previous post about visiting Yangon, Myanmar, I'm back with some more suggestions and tips.


One thing posted on every "must see" list is the National Museum. Honestly? Don't bother. It doesn't discuss political or modern history. It's more a museum of artifacts than information. Plus, by Burmese standards it's ridiculously expensive. 


Instead, dedicate a whole day to the waterfront near Strand Road. Unfortunately for us, we factored in only a few hours before the sun went down and I feel like we cheated ourselves out of a great experience wandering around as long as we wanted. 


So here's how we did it and you might want to as well: 


1. Start at thehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strand_Hotel" target="_blank"> Strand Hotel. Don't eat in their overpriced Western restaraunt, but do stop in if you need to go to the bathroom or cool off for a minute. The Strand was opened in 1901 by the same brothers who managed the infamous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. It then went through a rocky history of being transferred to Japanese ownership during the occupation of Burma, then to Burma itself during the military occupation during which it was severely neglected, and now it's owned by a Burmese developmental organization that brought the building back to it's former luxurious self. Now it's home to souvenier shops, bars, a swanky restaurant and a Pattala player. The entire building is still reminiscent of an earlier time, which made me feel as though I'd walk outside and see men in suspenders and caps side by side with newspaper boys and women in bonnets. It was like stepping into a historical movie during a period of colonisation. 


2. Walk cross the bridge to Nanthida Ferry Terminal. We didn't have time, but I would highly recommend grabbing a ferry across the river. It's a short ride and takes you to Dala, which we heard is a much less developed city across from Yangon. However, even if you don't hop on the ferry, you can stop at any one of the food stalls lining the ferry terminal. Our choice was a table with about 10 chairs set up and a very large woman cooking up noodles. We sat down, pointed to some noodles and were delivered dishes with green and yellow spices mixed in with pieces of cut up, fried.... something. Talk about tasty. In total we spend about $1 USD 


3. Cross back over and wander past the Customs house and Region Court. There isn't much too do here aside from admiring the architecture. These buildings reminded me of Washington DC with it's palatial entry ways and impressive columns. 


3.  Zig zag between the streets directly north of the Customs House and Region Court - do not be afraid to wander down local alleys. Between Bank Street and Merchant Street there are dozens of food stalls and miniature markets hawking everything from fish to veggies to t-shirts. More so than the street stalls, I was wowed by the buildings. Each one was grand in it's own right, but each one was also in various stages of being reclaimed by the wild. Some were merely browned from the yearly rains and haze of dust. Others had inexplicable bushes growing from the walls. Rarely do I wish I had photography skills - this was one of the times I did. 


4. Meander up to Sule Pagoda and Bandoola Park, which I'll write about in my next post! 


The truth about being a mom.

Posted by Nikki Yeager on February 18, 2016 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (2)


The truth about being a mom (or any type of parent) is this: 


There is no single truth


It seems from all the stories I've heard, the majority of parents have an initial, shocking, overwhelming sense of  love for their little squishy the second it comes out. Through all the tears and diapers and tantrums, that love makes everything worthwhile and it breaks their little hearts every. single. day.


There are also moms who see a bloody mess of a baby appear after an unpleasant labor and want nothing more than to give said baby away to a loving home. A home very, very far away. And you know what? That's ok. Feelings are feelings. 


Some parents regard a baby with scant interest. Nothing more than another piece of furniture. Yet another group of parents will experience sheer fear at the sight of a newborn and then allow that fear to morph into any one of a million emotions once they realize that they won't accidentally kill the baby or leave it on top of a car before driving off like a forgotten cup of lukewarm coffee. 


The truth is, you never know. 


In fact, there are as many types of parents as there are people (who would have guessed?). There are those of us who still separate emotions from actions and there are those parents who dawdle and love and smother their babies with affection. Having a baby can change people.


... but sometimes it doesn't. 


Truth is, you might be the same person pre-baby as you are post-baby, or you might be someone different. The only thing I know for sure is that there is no "mama-mold" that shapes us all into the same package of perfection. 


What is perfection anyways? 


I prefer babywearing and breastfeeding (preferably while traveling Southeast Asia), but my friends in OH prefer formula and strollers in addition to stability. We are all perfect in our own ways. We will all parent the way we see fit. Aside from abuse and/or neglect, we are all the exact type of parents we were mean to be. The exact parents we choose to be. We are all amazing. 


As is the mother with postpartum depression and the husband with no libido. The teenager who left her 2 year old at a police station because she knew she couldn't care for her the way she deserved. The 40 year old woman who is just too tired to pick that baby up one more time so instead she let's him cry it out for just a few seconds longer than planned. The dad who stays home although he had a wonderful job. The mom who goes to work solely because she needs to get away. The formula feeders. The babywearers. The circumcision believers and the anti-vaxxers. The organic food-givers and the soda drinkers. The people who sneak cigarettes during naptime and the ones who quit caffeine for fear of developmental delays. 


The truth is this: we are all different. Just like we were different as children, as teenagers, as single adults. We continue to be different in ways unbeknownst to our former selves. But we are perfect as parents.


Let's all stop telling the world there is one way. A better way. A best way. 


Let's tell everyone the truth. 


The truth is, there is no universal truth


The best you can do is close your eyes and try your best to enjoy this wacky ride called parenthood (but hey, it's ok if you don't!).


You will do things differently than I do and you will do things differently than planned. And at the end of the day, it's still going to be OK. Go forth and discover you're own parenting truth. 

Myanmar: The Unknown

Posted by Nikki Yeager on February 17, 2016 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Most travel destinations require nothing more than a quick Google search to pull up more than enough information for a 4-day trip. Oddly, that was not the case with Myanmar. Granted, the country only fully opened up to tourists in 2012, so Myanmar as a travel destination is still a fairly new concept. But I would have thought that all those quirky backpacking bloggers would have filled in the gaps.


They haven't.


In fact, when searching for things to do in Yangon, I continued to come up with the same suggestions from every source: Chinatown, pagodas, national museum and circular rail.


The weirdest part is that everyone who has travelled here seems to write about the local train as a tourist destination and nothing more - much like the tram through Epcot Center. Hop on and ride around for a few hours while looking out the windows at locals. One blog even claimed that the train doesn't take tourists anywhere they'd want to go (unless the maps are all off, that's completely inaccurate considering every "must see" is within a mile of a train stop). It's bizarre how little I could come up with.


So here we are and for anyone who is planning their own trip to Yangon, I'll fill in some of the holes in a few separate blogs.


First of all, don't bother trying to change money before you get here. We tried five different money changing stations at the airport in Bangkok and each cashier gave us a similar look of confusion and amusement when we asked if they would give us some Burmese Kyat. The good news is that there are about 10 money changers right outside customs at the Yangon airport and they all offer pretty good rates with little or no fees.



Secondly, the food. We've only been here 6 hours and I've already tried a handful of dishes I've never had before. I'd love to tell you what they were, but I have absolutely no idea except that one had chicken, one was deep fried and one seemed to have been picked off a tree. My favorite so far was the hot, sweet milk (or whatever it was) we had near the Chinatown area.


We found a street vendor near Maha Bandula and 23rd St. with tiny chairs and tiny tables, just like they do in Myanmar, and ordered two of whatever white beverage was being stirred in the huge wok-like silver pot in front of us. After a fair amount of pointing, we also managed to order a plate of toast and churro-like pastries that all the local patrons seemed to have spread out across their equally miniature tables.

 

After a few seconds of staring at the tables around us, we decided that the best course of action was to dip the toast in the mystery beverage. So we did.


It turns out the drink was some sort of steamed, frothy dairy product with sugar mixed in. It was sort of like a cappuccino without the espresso, but with a little extra sugar. And it was surprisingly delicious. When the thick slices of white bread absorbed it, everything came together for one extremely comforting evening snack.


As we slowly drained our drinks, we noticed that it was perfectly acceptable to mix the tea sitting on each table with the remainder of the milk-drink in our cups as the amount dipped. So we did. And what resulted was a milky tea beverage that rivaled any tea I've had in the last few years.


Once we finished, we pulled ourselves from the table and asked "how much"?


The answer? $1.40


Which is amazing.


Lastly, be ready for some interesting hotel situations. We're staying at a hotel with great reviews. It's about $25 a night with a private bathroom. But it also lacks windows, stain-free sheets and drinkable water. From what I've read online, hotels that most Westerners feel comfortable with are priced at $150+ a night. I personally say it's worth the risk to save the money! Chalk it up to experience and enjoy watching the abnormally large ants scurry around your bathroom floor.

 

I'll write more once we've done more. Stay posted!

The feel better train

Posted by Nikki Yeager on February 12, 2016 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

 

"Let's just stay home instead."


That's the sentence that started my Kuala Lumpur/Singapore vacation a few weeks ago. I should have listened to myself. Instead, I let my husband drag me to the airport for our 4 day trip after 3 hours of sleep. We both thought I was just being a sleep deprived jerk.


Instead, my body knew what was coming. About 20 minutes into the flight I felt it - nausea. And that started my 24 hour bout of the stomach flu complete with headache, heaving and a slight fever. It was super fun.


But not really.


We got to Kuala Lumpur and instead of heading to the Batu Caves like I had planned, we got in a taxi and asked to be driven a quarter mile away to our hotel. Which caused the driver to start cursing us in his native language while I stared silently out the window and thought about all the food I wouldn't be eating that night. Fun was had by all.


And so went the evening. I sat in bed while the family went and entertained themselves for the evening. As I watched tv, I thought about our upcoming overnight train to Singapore and I fought the urge to vomit over and over again in sick anticipation.


4am rolled around and we all packed our bags yet again with me shuffling behind my husband all the way to the train station. I may or may not have been moaning quietly and complaining under my breath about how stupid the entire trip was as we passed street food vendors and 7-11s. We made it to the station and I managed to stumble on the train before veering into the bathroom, where I found a metal toilet bowl and a family of baby roaches scurrying around the sink.


It was a scary start to a sick night on a train.


But then something wonderful happened. I loaded husband and baby into their bed and then climbed the ladder to get into my bed where I crashed on some questionable sheets. What should have been a night of misery was.... well... pleasant.


 

I slept for 8 hours (excluding 2 night feedings) with no one in my bed. No baby rolling around after I forgot to put him back in his own bed after a feeding. No husband trying to latch on for a midnight snuggle. No one. It was just me, myself, and possibly some baby roaches.


It was beautiful.


When I woke up in the morning covered in sweat from my fever breaking, I woke up like a new woman. It was miraculous and it was everything I've needed for the past 6 months.


And right then and there I decided that I needed to convince everyone to do another overnight train so I could get one more night of quiet, lovely, solo sleep. No one has agreed yet, but here's to hoping!

Singapore taught me to love propaganda

Posted by Nikki Yeager on February 10, 2016 at 3:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Coming from the US, I've found that Singapore has a reputation for being a strict, even oppressive, rule-based society. Not a society that has culturally-imposed rules, but one who's government lays down the law regarding daily behavior and enforces it. Strictly. 


What I found when I went there was something different. Yes, they have laws against spitting, neglecting to flush a public toilet and chewing gum. But then again, why should people be allowed to do gross things like spit on a public floor? Have you ever tried to clean chewing gum off a desk? It's pretty much impossible.  


Instead of feeling oppressive, I found that Singapore was shiny and clean and exceedingly organized. The laws seem to be more of an educational tool than a heavy-handed one. 


Speaking of education, the one thing that stood out to me most about the city/state/country was their amazing ability to educate the public. Call it propaganda if you'd like, but no matter what name you use, they rock at it. 


For example, just watching tv for a little over an hour I saw public service announcements for: Planning for retirement, getting preventative medical care and avoiding drug use. None of these messages were promoted by for-profit companies, none were suggesting specific services and none were threatening legal action. All of the short videos simply educated the public on the importance of a specific behavior and gave some ideas for how to do so. I also saw signs discussing the importance of cleaning up after oneself in a public bathroom (not threatening fines) including an amusing little cartoon about what happens when you forget to flush the toilet, toss garbage on the floor or pee on the seat. Even for someone who avoids those negative behaviors, it was a good reminder of just why it's important for everyone to take on the responsibility of being a conscientious individual. 


It was great. 


Which made me wonder, why don't we educate our public on things that are good for Americans? We all know that 401k plans are becoming rare in the workplace, so why aren't we teaching citizens that saving is important? Why don't we talk about the importance of financial responsibility? Instead, we leave it up to banks to push retirement solutions that may or may not actually benefit their customers. Instead of promoting healthy opinions of drug use, we rely on non-profits to spread scary messages about what happens when you become an addict. We don't talk about preventative healthcare at all, we just let insurance companies promote whatever nonsense they'd like. And bathroom etiquette? Have you seen a public bathroom in American? Disgusting. 


And I wonder why? 


Why do we view propaganda as a bad thing? When used to educate the public, it can be a great tool to help citizens. I think it's time we stop leaving public education to private corporations and take a page out of Singapore's book. 


Let's teach our people habits that will help themselves and the people around them. 

The market that defeated us

Posted by Nikki Yeager on February 7, 2016 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I was talking to a fellow traveller on Khao San Rd. over beers and backpacks a while back. There were four of us at the table, a friend from Brooklyn, me, hubby and the awesome Canadian girl I bonded with over the beauty of solo travel. 


It was just a typical travelling-hobo type experience. 


Except I was wearing a baby and we were getting a ton of attention from the waitresses who constantly came over to relieve me of baby duty and parade the little guy around for other patrons to admire. My new Canadian friend giggled as the baby wandered away in the bartender's arms and she explained her rationale for this particular trip, "I always figured I'd have to do Southeast Asia before I settled down, so I decided to go ahead and do it now...." 


"Oh, wait. You have a baby. And you're in SE Asia. I guess I can't use that excuse anymore!"


And I laughed good-naturedly because it's easy to forget we're a travelling family considering the type of travel we do. We laugh at the thought of airconditioned trains (an extra dollar?!?!? open a window and I'm fine!), do overnight trips on dodgy diesel coaches from Kuala Lumpur, bicycle through ancient temples and delight in strangers kissing our baby. Having an infant has not slowed us down. 


Well, except for once. 


There was one impossible fadventure we just couldn't survive. A situation too insane, too crowded and a little too exciting for a mama with a baby. Or, I would argue, anyone. 


The thing that finally beat us was Chatuchak Market. The most crowded, unruly market on the planet. 


Apparantly you can find everything from baby jaguars to stolen Nikes to handmade furniture at Chatuchak. Something we cannot personally attest to, considering we lasted about 15 minutes once we crossed into market territory. We arrived on a Sunday and slowly (and I mean slowly) crawled from the train station to the food stalls surrounding the market, being pulled forward by the momentum of a thousand bodies all moving in one direction. The baby occasionally bumped up against a stranger, sandwiched between me and whoever I was currently smooshed against. 


We finally shuffled our way to the mass of stalls in front of us and entered the market area. A market that was established in the 40s and maintains a reputation as either the largest market in Thailand or the largest in the world depending on who you ask. There are more than 8,000 stalls arranged into 27 sections (supposedly.... I found the purses next to the dishes and the puppies next to the bubble tea a bit disorganized) over a span of 35 acres. THIRTY FIVE ACRES. Do you understand just how ginormous that is? 


So we started exploring with a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket. We were there to buy dresses and shoes and enough food to stuff us for days. But something unpleasant happened... about two feet past the entrance I started sweating. 


Seriously sweating. I'm talking about sweat rivers running down my back and pooling in the soles of my sandals. We were so hot, the baby was sweating. It looked like we just bathed him and neglected to towel him off before packing him up in the carrier. It was disgusting. It was smelly. It was very, very wet. 


And the crowd just seemed to swell. 


I demanded a bathroom break to gather myself and towel off before diving back into the thick of it. So I dragged an overwhelmed husband and soaking baby towards a stinky, wet, smelly bathroom ... that cost 5 baht to enter. 


And the second I opened the door I heard a thhhhhppppppt. 


BLLLLLFFFFTTTT. 


And then giggles. 


Which can only mean one thing - there was a poop-splosion in the baby's diapers. And it was a big one. And there was not a surface in the bathroom that wasn't covered with a layer of dirt and wetness for a diaper change. 


Outside wasn't much better. There were thousands of people, thousands of stalls and although there were 35 acres, it felt like 35 square meters for everyone and everything that was related to the market. 


So I grabbed the stinky, sweaty family and I attempted to run (which turned into an impossibly slow crawl) back towards the train. It was the first baby-caused retreat. It was a failure. 


It beat us. 


It was the first time. I pray it was the only time. Because I really enjoy being the family that puts everyone's perception of travelling with a baby into question. 


The chicken that stumped us

Posted by Nikki Yeager on January 10, 2016 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (3)

Anyone who finds themselves with a head too large for their shoulders should move abroad. There is no experience more humbling than immersing yourself in a culture and language distinctly different from your own. Suddenly, the things you take for granted as true, and easy, and obvious, are no longer so.


A basic trip to the grocery store can have your head spinning with questions. Especially when you're of a New York mentality and just go for things. I'll just try it and see what happens. Which is exactly what my husband does.


The other day my husband and I went to Big C (basically, Bangkok's Walmart) and decided to get ourselves pre-made food for dinner since we wouldn't have time to stop at a street stall. As we perused the shelves, a table full of grilled chickens caught our eye. Just like the rotisserie chickens you find at grocery stores in the US. Except these chickens were just sort of sitting on the table hanging out -- no packaging, no plastic, no anything.


I poked around for a bit trying to figure things out. Do I just tuck a chicken under my arm and go? Do I put it in my purse? Am I supposed to bring my own packaging?


It was a strange concept in a country obsessed with plastic bags. Surely, there must be some plastic somewhere?


My husband is a bit of a reckless type when it comes to the unknown. He fumbled around, picking things up until he found a solution. Under the table was a shelf with styrofoam trays. Were they meant for the chicken? Were they just extra stock for the employees who worked in the deli? It didn't matter. He grabbed one with his "I-got-this" Brooklyn attitude and tossed the chicken on top.


But now all we had was a chicken on a tray. Did the chicken need a barcode? Was he supposed to be wearing a saran wrap sweater?


I spied a solution ... or so I thought... in the form of plastic wrap propped up on the table next to us. I pointed it out and then Daniel went for it.


And by went for it, I mean he handled the situation much like a five year old with little manual dexterity. He pulled out a little saran wrap.


And then he pulled out some more.


And then some more.


All while holding the tray of chicken precariously in his other hand. I realized that things were about to get embarrassing when I saw him with about 6 feet of plastic wrap twisted up around itself, dangling near his knees. Mind you, the chicken was still sitting naked on the styrofoam.


Then came the wrapping, which looked more like haphazardly throwing a pile of plastic on top of a bird. So I did what any sane woman would do. I ran away and hid behind some shelves hoping no one would notice the stupid foreigners plastic wrapping a chicken with packaging that may or may not have been for public use. Finally we grabbed the mess of plastic and poultry and made our way to the counter for a dose of truth. We handed over our chicken, as hopefully as possible, and were met with something resembling... Confusion? The cashier had no idea what was happening. It was as if we handed her a box of worms with jelly beans taped to the outside and a cherry on top. It was awkward.


Made worse by the fact that when she started to question us, we just sort of stared at her. And then I ran away with our now-crying baby and left Daniel to sort things out. Because apparently I'm a really good support person in these types of situations.


Finally she called over a colleague who straightened out the situation by somehow charging us for the chicken. To this day we don't know what we were supposed to do with that chicken or what exactly was so confusing about our presentation to the cashier. But we know that we looked stupid. And we definitely did it wrong.


Which is kind of nice once in a while. It's a reminder that everyone is equally dumb when put in a new situation.

Year in Review: 2015

Posted by Nikki Yeager on January 3, 2016 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I hardly noticed the new year pass, so this review is a few days late and not nearly as thoughtful as years past. Truth be told, I think that's probably a good thing. The fact that there's so much going on in my life that I hardly have time to pause and reflect means that must be moving full steam ahead.

 

Or, at least, I'm not standing still.

 

Cheers to that! And in the tradition of reflecting on my year, I'm listing some of my favorite moments below.

 

1. Saw all but two of the states in the US. I'm still missing Alaska and Oklahoma, but I'm going to get them eventually. Surprise of the year was that Montana happens to be my favorite of all the states so far.


Very Pregnant.


2. Had a baby. The goal was to do it before 25 and I made it with one month to spare!


 

3. Moved to Thailand for 5 months. The fact that I got my husband to agree was more of the accomplishment than the move itself, but I'm still counting this one as a score for me.

 


4. Brokered a few pretty cool partnership deals for my family's company. They were finalized in 2015, but will be announced publicly any week now.

 

Hopefully number 4 will lead to hitting some big business goals in 2016, but we'll just have to wait until this time next year to see how that all pans out. As for now, I'll just keep moving and hopefully I'll have a big year to come!

Fishy, fishy, fish fish

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 30, 2015 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (0)

When I went to Cambodia the first time, about 7 years ago, I did a lot of things I never thought I'd do. A lot of things I'd never even heard of doing. 


One of which was dipping my feet into a tub full of hungry fish and allowing them to feast upon my dirty, calloused, foot flesh. At the time it was bizarre and novel and very, very tickly. 


So when I went back last week, I tracked down the same exact tank of fish and forced my husband to dip his toes in the water as well. As soon as his feet sank below the surface, the fish started swarming, looking for a tasty snack. And he sort of freaked out. Which make me giggle like a school girl. 




It turns out, some people find the sensation unsettling. As he put it, "if these fish started doing this in the ocean I would definitely walk away". So he sat squirmy and wiggling and generally scaring the fish off his feet for the 20 minutes I enjoyed the exfoliation. 


If we were awarding bravery points, he'd be trailing by at least 2. 


Unexpected Silliness

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 28, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

 

I thought traveling with a baby would negatively impact our trip(s) no matter how "easy" we claim it is. I figured we'd still enjoy Southeast Asia despite having Alexei with us. It turns out the opposite is true. This baby opens up doors and leads us into all sorts of situations we wouldn't normally encounter.

 

For example, today I took Daniel to Angkor Wat near my old stomping grounds in Cambodia. We hopped on two bicycles, baby riding on my back in a carrier, and headed to the ancient temples. It was nearly 96 degrees outside and it was impossible to tell if the moisture collecting on my back was diaper related or sweat related. Either way it was gross.

 

And the baby was crabby.

 

Sure the temple was beautiful and awe inspiring and all that, but babies apparently don't care about history. I know, because I've tried to convince Alexei it's cool to see old wats, but he insists the shining lights at the mall are the best thing he's ever seen. 

Babies. *eye roll* 

 

Anyways, we had to make a detour down a dirt path to the side of the site and duck behind a few gnarled trees to find a quiet, private space where I could pop open my shirt to feed the baby.

 

Daniel wandered off in the opposite direction while I was distracted, apparently chasing some monkeys.

 

For those of you that don't know, there are a ton of monkeys running around Angkor Wat. They're of the tiny, mischievous variety rather than the big, poo flinging sort... so, you know, they're kind of amazing.

 

So off Daniel goes while I'm boob-out behind a tree with a baby. All of a sudden two monkeys walk up behind me and duck under the tree I was leaning against. When they crossed to the other side, only one monkey remained.

 

Where did the other monkey go?

 

When I turned around he was sitting on the tree staring at me.

 

.... While waving my baby's hat in the air.

 

Hat thief on the right.


That silly monkey grabbed Alexei's hat and was sitting there taunting me with it as Alexei ate and ate and ate. I called out to Daniel "hey! This monkey has the baby's hat!" but Daniel was busy taking pictures of a mama and baby monkey picking fleas off each other. Thankfully, the monkey in question was reasonable. I calmly explained to him that I needed the hat back or my baby's head would get terribly burned (because he doesn't have fur like baby monkeys, of course). And would he please give me the hat back and be a good little jungle critter? He kindly complied and dropped the hat around the same time Daniel got bored of his primate pictures and wandered back to help.

 

The family of monkeys that prevented my husband from coming to the rescue.


So we grabbed the hat and off we went back to the temple with baby and the hat in tow.

 

An experience that never would have happened had we not stopped to take care of a fussy baby instead of just staying on the path where we belonged. 

 


When Muay Thai is More

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 23, 2015 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Because we're closing in on the holidays, I have an extremely light work load lately. Thankfully, it's bought me a few extra hours here and there to explore Thailand without being perpetually exhausted and/or on call. Bangkok seems to wake up at night (even more so than NYC), so I've been trying to explore the things that we typically can't see due to work, one of which being FIght Nights at the MBK Center.

 

Fight Night is a free night during which you can watch Muay Thai matches outside of a popular local mall. And it's awesome considering Muay Thai is usually pretty expensive to watch during any of the paid matches.


So here's the deal... I've never seen an actual fight in my life. I come from a city that often had scuffles break out in our high school halls, but the participants merely shuffled around procrastinating and shouting until a teacher came to break things up and then all of sudden everyone was ready to throw punches. Right when they knew they wouldn't be able to. I've never been to a boxing match (although I've often dreamed of learning how to box myself) and I've never watched more than a minute or two of ultimate fighting.

 

Not only could I watch Muay Thai for free, but I could just plain watch it. My first fight experience ever.


And instead of being disturbed by the blood (which, holy crap. there was blood), I found myself enthralled by the faces. It wasn't two mean trading kicks and punches, it was two men in a play. On the stage they both followed their own storylines, grimacing and grunting, frowning and smiling for the audience to see. A drama during which violence was just another character.


The fighters were fairly young (early 30s?), one American and one Thai. Both tattooed, both slick with sweat and oil. They took the stage to raucous applause and proceeded to bow in each corner, paying respect to the sport and the culture. The American was determined, unsmiling, almost removed. The Thai fighter felt somehow more present. One violent, greedy, vicious, the other lighthearted, light footed, jovial.

 

The rag-tag band sitting to the side started drumming and strumming on their instruments as the ref pulled away. The American went in without blinking. The Thai man landed a punch squarely on his eye. After pulling a successful fist away, he looked quickly to the side as if registering the viewers, making sure he was putting on a show.

 

It continued as the American's white skin turned progressively more purple, then blue then red. Bruises and blood covering his face. Undereye makeup dripping into his mouth. Every round leaning in, growling, grimacing, straining. He had the face of a killer and I don't doubt he would have carried the fight to that level had he been able to find the strength. He was out for blood.

 

But he couldn't seem to get it.

 

The other fighter dodged his blows, kicked him in the gut, ducked to the side. He pulled back when the ref stepped in and looked straight into the crowd.

 

And he smiled.

 

The fightwas something more to him. A performance? An art?

 

It was as if he was playing the part of a Shakespearean fool, landing jokes instead of hits. Each time making sure the punch lines were well received. his performance was one of enjoyment rather than violence.

 

And it was surprising.


To find someone so happy in such a setting?

 

I don't know what I expected in a fight, but it certainly wasn't a show with feelings. I somehow imagined fights without faces. As if between the flailing arms and swinging legs, I'd never be able to see the participants' eyes. But it turns out that's not the case. Blood and violence can't stop people from being... well.... people.


#Instagram #Isforlovers

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 21, 2015 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Not too long ago I created an instagram account for my baby. Weird for someone who hates baby photos? Definitely. An easy way to get my family/close friends off my back for never sending them pictures? You betcha. It's not that I want to flood the internet with Alexei's chubby face, it's that instagram was the easiest way to share photos in a non-forceful way (unlike email or texts that scream "LOOK AT THIS SQUISHY THING AND RESPOND TO ME IMMEDIATELY!"). 


Anywho. That's besides the point. 


The point is that I'm now on Instagram so I decided to follow a few old friends. Which led to more old friends. Which led to older friends and friends of friends and siblings of friends and friends of siblings of friends and... you get it. The typical social media black hole was formed and I got sucked inside. Deep.


But unlike some of my other strolls down Following Lane, I was surprised by the comments/tags on my friends' instagrams accounts. They were all surprisingly positive. I'm used to reading the comments on articles I've written or seeing the tweets about posts I follow. They're largely critical and insensitive with a little bit of general prejudice (against everyone) thrown in. This was different. 


One friend has pictures upon pictures of her and other girls out and about. Under each photo is an overwhelmingly supportive description including the phrase "beautiful inside and out". Each one is followed by responses from the pictured girls gushing about the length and depth of the pair's friendship. There were "happy birthdays" and "lovelies" and so many exclamation points, I found the voice in my head reading everything SUPER LOUD AND SUPER EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like comments on crack. If crack were a good thing. 


There was body acceptance and lifestyle acceptance and posts with flowers and posts with protesters. There were supportive comments and compliments oozing from the page. It was as if I stumbled into an internet world where negativity no longer exists. 


And I'm perplexed. 


What happened to the internet of yesteryear where the ignorant and the angry congregate? What happened to insulting slang (example: "that's gay") and hateful rhetoric (racism.)? Where did the fat shaming and the slut shaming and the just plain shame-shaming go? 


I don't miss it... I'm just askin'. 


I can't help but wonder if it's a societal shift or just a coincidence. Is it just my friends who have decided to play nice? 


Or has instagram brought together all the people who see all the beauty in the world? The ones who enjoy and live and love. The people who see not just the picture itself, but the wonderful, complex, vibrant, joyful context behind it? Is this the one place where people have dropped their cynicism and become simple, kind hearted humans? 



Probably not. But maybe.. just maybe. It is :) 

Sylvia Plath had it wrong.

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 18, 2015 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (1)

I found myself sitting at a restaurant with two girlfriends last month talking about nothing of consequence, in the way old friends do. We started chatting about Anziz Ansari’s new show, “Master of None,” on Netflix, a show that everyone we know apparently binge watched immediately after it came out (something I forgot to do between diaper changes and travel plans). Being a huge fan of Aziz Ansari, I demanded that someone recap the entire show since it’d most likely be months before I could catch up.


“You should watch it, there was this whole episode about a Sylvia Plath passage. You know, the one about the fig tree.” My friend went on to explain that our entire social circle was simultaneously finding themselves in early mid-life crises. “We can’t have all the figs! How do we choose a good one?!”.


The passage in question is from “The Bell Jar” and was the focus of the season finale:


“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”


The episode ends with Aziz Ansari, losing a proverbial fig (his girlfriend) and picking another (career as a spaghetti maker). Apparently the whole thing sent more than one of my friends looking for answers. In a world where we all “want it all”, how do we pick the best fig from the tree? How do we give up the rest?


I broke down and watched the finale after I finally got my 6 month old down for bed one night and managed to wrap up any immediate needs at my start-up. I expected to be rattled in the same way my friends were, but I came away unperturbed. The Plath quote is undoubtedly a meaningful one, but meaning is much like beauty -- in the eye of the beholder. Unlike my friends who focus on the middle of the passage listing the figs and ending with “I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest.”, I found myself focusing on the very last phrase, ““as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”


My friends and I grew up in a generation that was told we can have all the things in the world. Now that we’re hovering around the 30 year old mark, many of us are realizing some of our figs have already withered. And it’s terrifying.

However, that’s not what I take from this passage. That’s not how I see the world. Why can’t we choose all the figs?

 

I imagine myself walking up to the same tree Ms. Plath is starving to death under. Instead of pondering which of the figs is best, which is ripest, prettiest, easiest to grab, I would have rushed up to the tree, taking a moment to chuckle at the dumbfounded fool sitting beneath the branches, and start grabbing figs. Whichever looked most appealing at the time I’d snatch, using both hands to maximize my picking ability. Rather than pondering which fig is the tastiest, I’d pick as many as possible and take a bite of them all.


After all, one fig would never be enough for a meal.

I never viewed this quote as an explanation of our need to limit our options as women, nay, of human beings. I instead see it as a one sided narrative from an indecisive girl. The shame isn’t in having to choose, it’s in being unable to do so.


As a generation, we’ve lost the ability to decide quickly and act swiftly. In college we wait until year two, three, sometimes four, to declare a major, wasting our time “exploring” options (and occasionally, the handsome men of a nearby frat). We move back in with our parents instead of committing to a house, or even an apartment. We wait and wait and wait for a dream career, something that appears to be the juiciest fig on the tree, but that career never comes and in the meantime our dreams have died, our lives have passed. We find ourselves sitting below the branches, starving.


As someone who has picked and eaten multiple figs, I propose an alternative to this narrative. Don’t wait and debate and mull over your choices until they wilt and spoil. Instead, grab the figs by the fistful. Come running up to opportunity with both hands grasping and take a bite of every experience that comes your way. Yes, some figs will be bitter. Some may have a wormhole or two. Some may even be spoilt by the time you grab them. But that’s ok. It’s OK to pick many, throw away those that have soured and choose from the remaining figs in your fists.


There’s no reason to waste time waiting for the one that fits perfectly, let’s refuse to let them all blacken with indecision.

 

Little acrobatic jerks

Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 14, 2015 at 4:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Taking care of a baby devolves into a cruel, demented circus act more often than I'd like to admit. I mean, honestly, babies are like trying to wrangle circus performers. Acrobatic d-bags with selfish, nonsensical agendas. 


Just take feeding time. For those of you who don't know, I breastfeed. I hate it, but I do it because "breast is best" and all that other stuff people tell you when you birth a human being. Breastfeeding in Thailand is an exercise in modesty. I'm not one to whip out a boob in a crowded room, but I did regularly cover myself with a scarf, find a secluded park bench in NYC and feed Alexei between errands. That's not an option here. 


So when baby starts fussing, I start scanning the nearby area for bathrooms. Beause this is Thailand and I have an intense desire to eat as locally as possible, that sometime results in finding a western style bathroom, but just as often ends with me setting up shop over a squatty potty covered with flies while geckos play tag on the ceiling. 

.... on a side note, I'm always amazed when the geckos don't fall on my head. Seriously, how do they stay up there?! 


Anyways, after securing the door shut, I juggle the baby in one arm while performing nothing short of a miracle to release a boob from behind several layers of shirt/dress/etc. and all the hooks/loops/buttons/snaps of my nursing bra. If I don't drop the baby in the potty, I consider the setup process a success. 


Kidding. Kind of. 


Once we manage the bg boob reveal, I have to twist and tilt and spin the baby until I get his face in the right place. All the while he fusses, screams, bites, thrashes and flails. Occasionally I have to use a propped up leg to keep an unlocked door closed. Other times I have to squat against a wall to make a seat out of my legs for a baby that suddenly goes limp. You know, just to be a jerk. 


Then the latch happens. And that's when the circus begins. 


Baby starts to suck, suck... suck........ suck.............su... ARGH!


He arches his back to the point his head nearly touches his toes and throws his hands in the air as if he's about to do a crique-du-soleil style roll across he bathroom floor. 


Without fail, this is when "letdown" occurs. For those of you who have never brestfed (or don't have boobs), letdown is when your boobs go from being boobs as we know them to successful milk dispenseries. 


I'm talking milk flow. 


No, scratch that. Milk SPRAY.


After some conversations with friends, I've learned that this isn't quite normal. Most women are leaky fauets. I'm a fire hose. On full blast. If you were standing within a few inches of the nozzle. 


I'm talking powerful.


So baby is doing his acrobatic backbends as I'm spraying his entire stomach, neck and face with milk. If I prepared ahead of time, I'll have some toilet paper to staunch the flow. If I didn't, we're just going to be milky and moldy for the rest of the day. 


In a panicked voice I usually whisper-screech "GET BACK ON! GET BACK ON!" while Alexei arches further and further back, smiling for an imaginary audience. Finally, he'll decide he's had a nice stretch and pop right back on and suck, suck... suck.... POP!


Off again and into a backbend. 


And so it continues until I get tired of fighting with him and carry his contorted body back out to dad, or he gets bored of the game and decides to eat like a normal baby. Over and over again. Every single day. 



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