Posted by: cousindampier | 23 June 2011

On Writing

I go through bouts of writing depression.  This is likely obvious, given the infrequency of this blog.  Some weeks, I am motivated to organize all the random thoughts into something coherent enough to read.

Other weeks, I cannot be bothered.  The weight of writing feels too immense to face and deal with.

The latter stage held true the past few weeks.  I was travelling a little; T’s sister visited; mostly, I just was not feeling ‘it’.

‘It’ is not really writer’s block as much as a feeling total lack of creativity.  Anybody can easily list places and events.  Making it a story is more difficult.  Making it entertaining moreso.

So, I sit on the bus from Auckland to Hamilton and ponder the following (which, really, want to live in the middle of nowhere but in a city? Move to Hamilton, New Zealand):

How, exactly, did I get here?

My brother sent me an email last night, one of those ‘I am headed on my trip, thanks for all the support, talk to you soon!’ emails.  He is headed to do some archaeology work in Thailand.  My first thought upon reading it was, “the hell?”

Because just yesterday, that was a long way in the future.  He was not leaving for a while.  Then I looked at the calendar and it is already late June.  In Spokane, the summer is just heating up.  I am missing out on Hoopfest, which pains me.  The Mariners are somehow a half game out of first place with an offense which vaguely resembles the Polish Army circa 1939.

Oh, and another Northwest team (the Canucks) managed to lose in heartbreaking fashion.  That train is never late!

One of my main complaints about New Zealand is the incredible lack of internet capability.  Most hostels do have wireless, but it is either slow or capped with a small megabyte limit.  Dialup is still relatively common, especially in the rural areas.

I find this incredible, but I do not know if it is incredible because I am American, and I expect certain things, or if it is really surprising.  My other trips have been to Europe, where ease of internet access is similar to America, and to Colombia, where I was part of a tour group, and cannot really speak to the internet.

Though the next question becomes: what do I need the internet for?

Email, but I’ve started to adjust.  I no longer feel the need to check it four times per day.  News: I do miss reading the news, especially keeping up with politics.  But then again, reading about the Republican Nominees is brain-numbing.  Other long articles which I want to read I can save and download via

There is an element of not knowing what is happening which bothers me.  But is it that important?  I did not know about the Schwarzenegger scandal until about a week or so after it hit, but that is not life-altering news.  Actually, not reading the news a little helpful, because I have been able to focus on reading books.

Essays and opinions.  I give this its own topic because I spent a lot of time online looking for different perspectives on current events.  This was hard to adjust to.  For a few months I felt I was missing out on making myself smarter.

Though that is a little egocentric and unoriginal, and without that ability, I feel much better off.  Wandering around New Zealand is the metaphorical equivalent of Dr. House throwing a tennis ball against the wall while being inside his head, trying to figure out the cause of whatever malady is killing somebody that week.  Not that I am forced to come to my own conclusions, but I am forced to create my own structure of thought and then read others, rather than read others and then incorporate their points into my own view.

It’s a slight difference.

What bothers me the most is the lack of media.  I am the worst movie-goer ever.  I never saw Avatar.  I only saw the Hangover when it came to DVD.  If another person asks me, “Did you see (movie title x),” my answer is usually no.  Before I came here, I was awful at listening and searching for new music.  I couldn’t be bothered to make time every week to watch even just one TV show (but, strangely, I panicked if I missed basketball on TNT on Thursdays).

All this is true on January 21.  By mid-February I was in a meltdown over wanting more media.  I want to listen to all kinds of music.  I spend a few hours scheming how to get all eight seasons of West Wing or how to catch up with Mad Men, and most especially, when Boardwalk Empire will be on itunes.  I go into a movie craze, listing the next 15 movies I want to see – which has since died, because the internet really does suck in New Zealand, and acquiring any movie via the internet is a goddamn magic trick.

Though I have seen X-Men: First Class (very disappointing, thought it could be much better) and The Conspirator (absolutely fantastic, both in story and how it was filmed.  But it had the James McAvoy/Robert Redford combination.  SOLD!)

I miss the communication, but I’ve grown better at making my emails longer and more coherent, and I tweet instead of text (follow me! @jerikantilles).  I miss the news and op-ed’s, but I have more time to think and read longer pieces rather than short news stories.  I can’t get enough media.

I am fascinated by this, because I can’t tell if it was bound to happen – can one really live in a media culture such as America and miss out on a lot of it? – or if it is because I am not in America, but I remain American.

I should add: the shows which I have watched the most here are Family Guy, American Dad, Top Gear and Man vs. Wild.  So this desire isn’t exactly mainstream.

Minimalism is another topic which I think about a lot.  The obsessive-compulsive part of my brain looks forward to returning to America, largely for the reason of selling and giving away a lot of stuff and clearing out my room.  This is, by all decent standards, a dumb reason to want to leave another country.  But the desire to own less stuff is a little humerous.  It is one of the easies wants to achieve, yet it remains elusively hard.

Probably anybody who travels knows that carrying less is the stuff dreams are made of.  My first week in New Zealand, in the Base Hostel in Wellington, I met a girl who had just sent a box of stuff back to Manitoba and was committed to only using a daypack.  She was using a sarong as a towel.

I have given away much, and want to give away more, but cannot.  Some things, like a few books, I cannot bear to part with because I know I will read them again.  Otherwise I am stuck carrying a tent – I’ll use again sometime, right? – a sleeping bag, clothing for any type of season, and other assorted odds and ends.

I am certain I cannot beat the 100-things or less challenge.   But I want less.  The dichotomy is I feel I can go one of two ways: keep what I have, which is a good amount, or go ultra-minimalist.  One pair of pants, two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, etc.

This second option is continually tempting.  I keep telling myself that if I was not headed into cold weather, I would do this.  However, this is more or less just an excuse.  A lot of the clothing I have is small, easily transportable, and easily layered for warmth.

So could live with less here, and to get back to my original point, it is easy to do: give something away.  But the things I kept are somehow invested with an emotional attachment, even though they are just composed of fabric.  Coupled with the probability of use – “I am pretty sure I’ll keep wearing this if I have it.” – and cutting down any less is difficult.

I have no idea why any person invests an emotional attachment to cloth, but most people do.  Something about owning it and wearing it for certain events (the ‘lucky shirt’) or a piece of clothing ‘not letting me down!’ – for example, a jacket one wears which is especially warm in cold conditions.

Whatever it is, I find I cannot totally shake it yet.  Which is both annoying and probably a good thing, because otherwise I’d just give away too much and then freeze to death.


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