Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hanibal’s Crossing

Hanibal’s Crossing 

Her eyes were plagiarized from 
The stars 
I saw constellations in her smile 
That told future stories 
Of the myths we would write 
As we traversed the globe 
Hannibal's African war elephants crossing the alps 
Every strand of hair like 
Alert with purpose  
Dark matter 
Inexplicable in its gravity 
And bereft of earthly calculations 

The wrinkles at the corners of her eyes 
Like solar rays 
At first I circled her like  
Cosmic dust falling into a black hole 
But when she took my hand, 
I became forever lost behind 
The event horizon of her soul 
Until she expelled me 
Like gamma rays 
Across the expanse 
Left alone to dance 
With other phenomena 
A cloud of plasma 
Glowing dull 
With no form. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Front Porch, Stories from High Point, NC: The Front Door.

I was in the 4th or 5th grade. My great-grandfather had come to live with us because he could no longer do anything for himself. His wife had died a few months earlier and he was living alone. Although he had been alone for a few years before that as she dealt with a series of illnesses. It was good for him to move in with us. I think it helped him not feel sad all the time. He needed to be around people.
                But there was one big problem. He didn’t work anymore. He stopped working when he was 67 years old. Now he would be at home all day with nothing to do. Most of the time if he was not watching TV, he would stand at the front door and look outside while he smoked on a pipe.
                “Damn dogs barking all the time,” he would say.  “Somebody needs to clean up that dirty-ass car next door,” he would mumble just loud enough for the neighbors to hear. My neighbors didn’t like my grandfather. He wasn’t always like this. He used to be fun and would laugh all night as he drank moonshine and talked about the old days.  Losing his wife stopped all of the stories. Now he complained. 
                My grandfather had these brown pants that looked like they used to be black 40 years ago. The hips were tight around his boxlike waist, and the legs flared out slightly at the ankles. He had a matching vest. Both were made of some sort of 60’s synthetic material that seemed to last forever. That outfit lasted much longer than his smile. Shit, I can’t even remember his smile. All I can remember these days is the way he would hold his cane in the air just at shoulder height and shake it back and forth. “Damn dogs barking…”
                I said before that I was in the 4th or 5th grade at the time. Not quite sure. Might have been the 3rd grade. But there is one thing that I have never forgotten. Let’s just say that I was slight of frame in those days. I was small for my size with a brain that was slightly more engaged than the other kids in the neighborhood. N.E.R.D. I was totally a science nerd and everyone knew it. We had this neighborhood bully who rode the same school bus to school with me, but he was about a foot taller. People called him Buddy.  Buddy. He was anything but friendly. In hindsight, I think he had some sort of learning developmental delays that caused him to fall behind a few years. Not only was he a bully, but he was big.
                One day Buddy chased me home from the bus stop. I ran as fast as I could trying to avoiding getting punched in the face and laughed at by all the other kids on the block. As I got to my house, I saw my great-grandfather standing behind the screen of the front door. He had heard the noise from all the kids yelling “fight, fight!” as Buddy chased me down the street. 
                Ellis, my great-grandfather, looked at me with those sunken and wrinkled eyes and took his free hand and LOCKED the screen door. He was holding his cane in the other hand. “You can turn around and fight back, or come inside and get your ass beat with this cane!” Ellis demanded.  I had already chosen FLIGHT instead of FIGHT when I darted from the bus top! Shit, what could I do now?
                I looked at the locked door and my great-grandfather. I looked back at the crowd of kids yelling “fight!” I took two deep breaths and turned around. Buddy stood right in front of me. He looked down at my weak arms. I my body shaking as my arm seemed to lift itself. My clenched fist made contact with Buddy’s chin. Then I grabbed him and hit him again. I don’t think anyone had ever stood up to Buddy before. I hadn’t planned to be the first to do so, and Buddy wasn’t expecting it either. 
                The moments from the school bus steps to the locking of the screen door passed in no time. It must have been at least 150 meters from the bus stop to my house. But once that door locked clicked, it was like a black hole had materialized in my front yard and slowed everything down to a crawl. I could feel my every heartbeat. See the faces of the kids yelling. High Point, North Carolina might has well have been the Roman Coliseum. 
Most of the fight is lost to the years now, but I can still remember how it felt when Ellis made me turn around and face the crowd who had delighted in chasing me home. It changed me. I am sure that I have had fear and been scared since that day, but it never really had a paralyzing effect. Whatever happens, happens. Roll with it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

My response to what makes learning English difficult for the English Learner.

Learning English is difficult because in most subjects we are taught to learn rules.  And while there are certainly some rules to speaking English, our language is a language rife with rule breaking. With new classes, I often explain that nothing I say will always be correct. But that rules usually will get you more than halfway towards your learning objectives.

The second biggest difficulty is vocabulary. With every country English speaking nations conquered, parts of the local language were incorporated into the main language. I give the example of the word Big. And then I ask what else means big? “Large, huge, massive, enormous, giant, extreme, etc.”  Even though each of these words might be used in a different context, and have only slight differences in meaning, it can be a headache for students. I often assign homework of finding other ways to express the same idea.

Fear: Students suffer from fear of making a mistake, fear of being embarrassed, and sometimes personal shyness. So sometimes I have to be bigger than life and make mistakes so that they understand that mistakes will happen and it’s no big deal. I tell students that it is more important to understand and be understood than it is to be perfect. We can always correct and adjust, but we need to start with understanding each other.

Finally, another big problem is time. Learning takes time. I often mention the 10,000 hour rule. That to become an expert in anything, you need about 10,000 hours of practice. It can be sport, art, dance, music, etc. Once they realize that it will take time, they either freak out or relax and have fun. Usually it’s the latter. 

I have never sat down with my students and asked them what makes learning English difficult, but I imagine this is what they might say if they had already learned English and could have this conversation.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Albino Crocodile

I just watched 2 short videos about albino crocodiles. Creatures that probably should not exists if not for the creation of new habitats by Man.

In August of 2009, I left the United States for a new habitat; different and strange, South Korea was so foreign to me. But now I find myself somehow transported all these years later to the desert of Saudi Arabia. In 8 days, from now my contract in this habit will end. Crossroads. I am not the same creature ho left the USA so many years ago and thus I don't really know where I fit in.

HOME - what is this word and where is this place? As I prepare to change habitats again, I find myself lost and certainly alone. Will I meet other albino crocodiles who exists outside of place and time? Will I stick out like a giant black and white panda walking down Central Ave? Or will I make may way to some other local. A secret place. Where everyone there understands my language?

From a link posted by Andrew Meadors

Monday, September 21, 2015

Stalker or Shadow: D Birdy

She was the first digital nomad I met. Her smile was 3 parts charm and 1 part sexy. Her brain was 100 percent turned on and tuned in to the things that matter in life. We never got the chance to be close close friends, yet we have stayed connected over the years. We sort of individually inspire each other to keep pushing forward and be greater than being comfortable allows a person.

So we live in the place where growth and change are as interchangeable as air and breath.  She will always be The birdy soaring to new heights and I will be the shadow. Also soaring but less noticed and much closer to the ground.

D Birdy.

The grass is always greener outside of Saudi.

Mostly because grass is not exactly native to the desert.

I have been doing some soul searching lately and that is probably going to be an on going project. One thing I have learned is that there are a few people in this world who are landmarks. People who are at the right place at the right time and guide you into who you become. 

I have a friend like this. I once told her that "When I think about you, I think about writing a book about making all the wrong choices, going on adventures, and ending up with a person who accepts your flaws. I want you to be my ending."

No matter how your day started, I hope you finish it well and I hope you find the right landmarks to build a wonderful life. Keep living in the moment.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Thai trains, possible scams, and one hell of an adventure

I am not a noob when it comes to travel, but I still make mistakes. I was lucky enough to meet up with an old friend Stacy, during my Ramadan break from teaching English in Saudi Arabia. We met in Bangkok to start an 11 day adventure that we had been loosely planning for some time via chats on Facebook since she lives in South Korea and I toil away my days in the 120F or 50C heat of Saudi Arabia. 

Having lived in Bangkok for 6 month and teaching out in the semi suburbs just past Don Meung Airport, I consider Bangkok one of my second homes. I love the place. The grit. The grime. The greenery. The people. The language, and of course the food. But today I am not going to talk much about food. I have a story to tell you.

Our plan, part something:Go from Bangkok to Chiang Mai via train.

Stacy had some international commitments and needed to be in a place with reliable wifi for a Skype call at 11 pm. Most people who make this trip take the night train as the trip takes about 11 hours and the night train is quite comfortable. But this was not an option for us because the train does not have wifi and tethering with a mobile hotspot doesn't work so well on a moving train in rural northern Thailand.

We decided to take the day train. By the way, anything you ever want to know about train travel in Thailand, check out The Man in Seat Sixty-One. Our train was scheduled to leave from  Bangkok Hualamphong station at 8:30 am. We were staying not too far from the train station via taxi and were up and ready to go by 7 am. Easy peasy. 

Note to self and others: I almost never get in a taxi that is waiting outside of a hotel or restaurant, bar, etc in Bangkok. These drivers stand around all day waiting for some unsuspecting tourist (falang) as the Thais say, to jump in the back seat and be methodically taken for a ride. But we were not going far and we had plenty of time. I thought there was no way this guy would try to get over on us.........

I am not fluent in Thai. For that matter, sometimes I can't get my words out in English and I am an English teacher. That being said, I told the taxi driver where we were going and from the moment he started driving, I knew he was going the wrong way. Maybe he knows some short cut and will save us some time or he is trying to get a few extra baht in fare. At 34 baht for each USA, I was not worried about it. 

Before long, however, he managed to find the only traffic jam in Bangkok at 7 am on this side of town. Suddenly our "we have enough time to catch our train" became an uncertainty.

I am going to skip ahead a bit to the point where we realized that we were not going to make it to the train station in this taxi. We had him uturn, and drop us off at the closest MRT stop. We were 5 stops away from the train station and we had 10 minutes until departure. The part of me that does not know how to stay calm wanted to scream FUCK!

We arrive at the station at 8:31 and there is a chance that train 7 is still there. Thais are generally not known for promptness like the trains in Japan. An official looking woman sees us looking for our train and asks to see our ticket (she probably didn't actually work for the train station).

You train leave 5 minutes ago. Here, take moto taxi to next station and catch train!  She led us out of the train station to 2 motorbike taxis that just happened to be ready to speed us through morning traffic to the next train station to catch our train. Bag in tow, helmets half on, and hanging on for dear life, we raced through the streets of Bangkok to the next train station.

About this time I started thinking that our train probably was still at the station and this was some sort of scam. Before long, I spotted train 7 behind us and the next train station ahead of us. Both motorbike drivers slowed down and decided this was the time to discuss how much we should pay them for helping us catch our train.

11 hour day train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok =641 Thai Baht each
These guys asked us for 1000 or 600 baht each for helping us catch the train. And of course we are still on the back of the motorbikes and they have slowed to a crawl. If we don't negotiate soon, our train would reach the next station and pass us.

There is no way in Hell I was going to pay more for a 10 minute death ride through Bangkok traffic than I paid for the actual 11 hour train ticket!  We argued about price in Thai for a bit and finally agreed to give them about $10 usd each (300 Thai Baht). We are not talking about being scammed out of a large amount of money by American standards, but given the price of the train ticket and our need to be on that specific train, we between a rock and a hard place.

Once we gave them their 300 baht and got on our train, we had time to take a deep breath and think about all that had happened.
Did the taxi driver get stuck in traffic on purpose?
Was the woman at the train station a friend of his?
Were the moto guys in on the scam?

We will never know. 

That's enough for now. I need to eat lunch and go for a swim. Soon I will write about the actual train ride. It was a very different kind of adventure and one I won't soon forget.


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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Looking at political progressiveism from one of the most conservative places on earth

Two things being true does not make one thing less true. Every economic messenger does not need to be versed in every progressive issue. But if you want to eventually become a serious contender and not a way to just generate mid level support for the party as a whole, then Bernie needs to address each of the multitude of progressive activists issues. BLM, issues about fair pay for men and women, the corrupt and corporate run correctional system that has become a second slave state, the mis-appropriation of the war on drugs, a global economy vs failing us cities, etc. Each of the groups in these arenas have more in common that what separates them.

So we need to figure out a way to stop fighting over how we are different and focus on how we are the same. As a Black man who is not yet been killed by the police or suckered into the legal shell game of incarceration slave labor, maybe I am missing something. I don't have any skin in the game (although my skin is black and I do have a life). But I am also cis gendered and care about the rights of people who identify differently than I do. I have a stable, yet unsettling job, but certainly care about the economic disparity that exists, and so on. None of us is One Thing or can live in a world where we only care about one thing. Because if we do that, our One Thing will become almost important and end up as nothing.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Where is Home

Over the next couple of weeks, I have a lot to write about. I just took an amazing 5 week trip around SE Asia and spent time traveling with a couple of good friends at different parts of my trip. But I will regail you with stories from those adventures in the coming weeks. 

Today, I had a long chat with my favorite digital nomad, Desiree Kane, and she share a an article she wrote about life as a digital nomad. Her worlds cut right to the bone of some of what I have been feeling lately. WayfaringTechNomad

My response to her article is listed below.

Thank you for sharing this with me and everyone else who lives this life and knows these emotions. I left the USA in 2009 with no real plan of becoming a nomad. It just sort of happened piece by piece and momemt by moment. Home started to become as mythical as Nirvana and Utopia or Zeus and Thor. I still have friends in a place that I often refer to as home, but having spent exactly 9 months there since 2009, I am not sure what that means anymore. Home. I don't love my friends any less and I couldn't possibly miss them any more, but the road is my drug of choice and I am an addict. 

I don't mean to make a life of travel sound morbid and depressing, although there are some days when I just need a hug from an old friend. What I mean to say is that once you start learning to exist anywhere, you exist everywhere. My mind is my personal cloud storage and every expat bar, mom and pop Vietnamese noodle shop, Thai moo ping street food vendor, turbo prop plane ride from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang are my analog interfaces to my digital nomadic life. 

Happy is how other people see me and often how I feel. But when I am not happy, I am lonely and lost. Waiting for that next inspiration to send me spiraling towards some unknown destination and adventure. I don't know if I will ever know a HOME again, but it's nice to know that I am not really alone.

Marcus L. Williams
In the Moment

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Salted Cashews

The taste of Baja Salted Cashews lingers
Long after the last handful has been chewed and
Gingerly swallowed
Somewhere between Bangkok and
Riyadh, I developed quite the
Addiction to the
Crunchy, salty and dry taste

The door opens and I am handed
My class schedule for the week
Listening and Speaking, for 3 periods
Corporate Co Curricular for 2
The latter seems like something
Made up

“Who has room 8?” someone says
While walking into the teacher’s room
“Abdullah died in a car crash over
The weekend.”
I grabbed another handful of cashews
Life here exists on the razor’s edge
My students are at a constant crossroads
Being pulled towards being a family man,
Death by car accident,
Religious zealotry
And Jihad
And much like the cashews,
Their spirts will linger long after they have
Been chewed up and swallowed

And mostly forgotten