The New Normal



We live on the sixth floor of a nice building.  Our serviced apartment has a small kitchen and attached living area, one bedroom, one bathroom and a walk in closet. Living here is not living like the rest of the city. I know this. I’m thankful for this. I have a clean and safe place to come back to every day after walking through the streets of Vientiane. I have air conditioning. I (usually) have hot water in the bathroom but not the kitchen. Our laundry and cleaning are done for us. This is not living like the locals.

We have Wifi. It’s very slow, but we have it. It’s not the internet I’ve grown accustomed to. Remember dial up? Remember waiting for pages to load? Remember when that was normal? It’s the new normal for me. I wait. Downloading a single episode of a t.v. show on iTunes can take between 3-5 hours. One episode. Why do I want to pay for t.v. or movies when I have Netflix you ask? Consider how long this internet takes to load a page of text and pictures and you’ll realize that getting it to buffer fast enough to stream a movie is impossible.

This means I’m reprogramming my brain not to depend on constant entertainment. Slowly it’s actually happening. I read more, I draw, I walk around and watch people, I keep in touch with friends and family and I try to enjoy the simplicity of it.

I tend to leave the apartment after 1 or 2 p.m. This is when my lovely friends and family are starting to go to sleep on the west coast and I no longer have anyone to text with. I look forward to my mornings of catching up so much. These texts going half way around the world keep me sane.

I leave the apartment with a small list of things I’d like to find, usually grocery items. If I don’t need anything I try to find new places or streets I’d like to explore. If it’s too hot I stay closer to home instead of wearing myself out in the high heat and humidity. On the cooler days I walk as far as I can before turning back.

I always see things that take me by surprise. I see small babies riding on scooters with their moms. I see tuk tuk drivers napping in hammocks they’ve strung up in the back of their three wheeled vehicles. I see kids playing jump rope with an actual piece of rope they’ve found. I catch their lives in small puzzle pieces to be assembled later when I have enough for a full picture.

As the sun starts to set, I often walk closer to the Mekong River. On the far side I can see Thailand. How strange that still is to me. The night market begins to set up as it does every  night. Each day they bring their carts of wares. They set up elaborate tables under bright red tents. Each night they tear it all down and take it away. So much work for what I can’t imagine is a lot of income on a daily basis. Most of them are selling the same things. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, scarves…over and over and over as I walk through the tents.

Evenings at home can be quite slow. I’m realizing just how dependent my brain had become on the easy time fillers. It’s been a sort of detox for me here. I’m learning to let time go by without being so busy and full. It’s okay to sit and listen to music without doing anything but listen. It’s good to watch the people go by down on the street or gaze over the top of the city considering how far I’ve come and where I’ll go.

For now this is home. For now this is my new normal.


    • I try to just be happy I have the internet at all! I was so happy at first when Netflix appeared to work here. I’ve been able to watch one episode of one show on it for the last three weeks. Usually it’s just that spinning circle. Thanks for reading!

  1. Hi Rachel,, Lisa told me you were off again to a new home.. I so enjoy ready about your adventures.. I admire your spirit, …I am still going out to Calif a few times a year to see Bobby.. I am hoping to move out there in a few years..

    • Jodi! Hello! What a wonderful surprise to hear from you. Thank you for reading and cheering me on. I know I’ll see you again someday and hopefully in California over a glass of wine. Tell Bobby I said hello too please?

  2. Good evening Rachel – I say this as it is morning here, so it must be evening on the other side of the globe. Thank you for these stories. It seems you are settling in somewhat, which is great. Hope you get to go across the river and visit Thailand. Loved the people and the food was amazing. Your post today is very poignant for me as I, too, rely too much on time fillers. Since I retired, I find myself mindlessly streaming/watching shows. I need to get up and out more, and wish I had some new sights to explore like your night markets. Being present to just read or as you say, listen to music (or maybe create some) is a great start. Keep me posted on creative ideas we can share together filling our days 8,053 miles apart. 😊

    • Hello Kate! I understand the frustration of not having new sights to see when you’re used to the environment around you. My first suggestion would be to start going down streets you’ve never been down, to coffee shops you’ve never gone to or even just going to familiar places at a time of day you’ve never experienced them before. Even the lighting can change your world a little bit. As always, I appreciate your presence very much!

  3. Beautiful expressions. I can’t imagine such a different environment having never been farther away than Canada and Mexico. Such a wonderful opportunity you have to fill your mind.
    Thank you for sharing this blog. I have enjoyed reading, Rachel.
    Trudy (Over the Rhine fellow follower and friend to Stephanie on FB)

    • Oh Trudy I could never forget you! I even follow you on Pinterest:) I have this theory that everyone joined as friends under the OTR umbrella will always be friends no matter what. Thank you for your support!

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