The Squeaky Robot

A Meddling Robot in a Human's World

Posts tagged “story

Sweet Waan

Posted on January 27, 2015

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In the ancient capital of Siam, Ayutthaya, crumbling ruins, palaces and monasteries decorate the earth. Decadently-carved prangs, a Khmer-type tower common in Buddhist architecture, protrude over tree tops and buildings. Their deadness suits this sleepy river town, and their lofty presence coexists in modern life with impressive nonchalance.

One of the most grandiose sites to see is Wat Chaiwatthanaram, built to commemorate King Prasatthong’s victory over Cambodia. It was once the King’s home and later a royal cremation tower. Royal people would go there to become royal ash, like Prince Thammathibet who was beaten to death in 1746 because he indulged in scandal with one of his father’s concubines.

Inside such a weighty and resplendent monastery, the hallowed grounds of venerated kings where powerful people lived and burned, sat two tiny people eating tiny bananas: yours truly and a seventy-year-old named Waan. She sat in the cool shade of one the prangs, only in the company of a giant stone Buddha adorned with flower offerings and ceiling murals of wood and black lacquer. She was selling these bright yellow flower necklaces to the tourists who would sporadically file in, for the place was mostly deserted save the 120 gilt lacquered maravijaya Buddhas that lined the square periphery (maravijaya, my one-dollar guide book tells me, is a pose that Buddha adopts immediately following the triumph over death and evil).

She called out to me, pointing to her flowers. She told me in rough English that they’d give me luck if I gave them to the deity who sat cross-legged over her shoulder. This seemed like a good deal to me, so I bought one and dressed the Buddha.

I couldn’t think of anything else to do in that specific moment, so I sat down and started talking to Waan. She was an enthusiastic conversation partner, asking about my age and origins, career and travel plans. “How many children do you have?” I inquired. “8,000,” she said smiling, showing off the gaps in her teeth. We continued to talk at each other for a while in a playful way, when she hurriedly began opening her bag of mini chartreuse bananas. She gave me one and she gave herself one, and we ate them together like feasting kings in a happy, thick silence that couldn’t be described, only felt.

On an Edge with a Fire Behind You

Posted on February 27, 2013

In Russian, voicing the word “Murmansk” properly would mean to voice it intensely, with the accent on the “u” and a pitch that naturally deepens. The tongue should roll with the “r”, and it should conclude definitively with a crisp “k” click, allowing the word’s powerful phonetics to ring in pulsating waves emanating from the speaker’s vibrating throat. The name Murmansk was born from the local Sami word murman, meaning “the edge of the earth”. My friends and I stepped out of the train station into a thick fog produced by our own heavy breaths. The immediate city was gray and coated with a crust of dirt, apart from the sea foam green façade of the station, a circular building with a garish obelisk…

A Single Story of Soviet Russia

Posted on December 3, 2012

“I don’t know what hunger is,” said Mikhail: teacher, father, product of the Soviet Union. It was strange hearing that from him, even more so with a bright smile in his eyes and overall jovial demeanor, as if he were discussing a recent hockey victory and not a supposedly sore subject. Rather, as an American it was strange hearing that. I think of the USSR, and I think of tanks, grayness, secrecy, scary and impenetrable Cyrillic lettering, looming misery, and long bread lines in inclement weather; the depressing and immoral yield of a communist machine; the enemy of capitalism and, consequently, freedom. So how could Mikhail even utter the words: “I was a teenager. I didn’t have problems”? Of course you had problems! The…

Upcoming Adventures

Posted on October 31, 2012

Much to my surprise, it is very cold here. It’s a face-burning kind of cold. When I remove my glove to change my music, the wind stings my fingers and it feels like my blood is freezing. Then I put the glove on and I feel the ice-crystal blood fill my extremities once again. And then my hand swells with heat. The winter curse of a music lover. But I appreciate all of these things because it means I’m in Russia and snow is falling and winter is coming and it’s cold, but so what? How terrible it would be to not have any discomfort, no? The night and the snow shut the city up. Everything gets quiet, apart from the soothing sound of…

A Weekday in the Life

Posted on October 8, 2012

I wake up at 4:30 am, stumble around the room looking for my phone, realize it’s 4:30 am, and curl up into a tiny ball under the covers so that the bed looks like it’s housing a strange yet sizeable lump, and not a human being with irregular sleep patterns. I wake up again at 8:45 and this time I need to get up fo’ realsies. But it’s impossible. My eyes hurt when I open them. I’m sheltered by a cocoon of warmth. At the exact moment I realize and appreciate my comfort level, Gemma the Weiner Dog bursts through the door, bouncing up and down like a fucking jackhammer. She jumps on me, slides under the covers, and licks me incessantly. Her stupid…

Moving East: A Film Photo Story

Posted on September 23, 2012

A background song, if you’d like?

Krakow: A pretty girl who hates being photographed is photographed.

In the center of Warsaw lies a tiny room. The space in the room is mostly occupied by a large Photoplasticon and a few stools. The viewer sits and the Photoplasticon rotates to show three-dimensional pictures of Warsaw from the years 1915 to 1918. This particular photograph shows market vendors working on Szeroki Dunaj in the year 1916.

Take a break in Warsaw’s botanical gardens.

A visit to the Photoplasticon is a delightfully fitting frame for my next point: Warsaw is changing rapidly and blatantly. There are two types of Warsaw of my own label – “static” Warsaw, or the parts of the city that will never change due to historical significance and the honoring of architectural and aesthetic traditions, and “dynamic” Warsaw, the areas that have adopted the modernism of London and the sleek minimalism of Scandinavia. Pre-war brick structures are now being fitted with glass walls and ceilings. Newer restaurants look like the one pictured; this pizzeria also happens to be named after one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, Powazki Cemetary, its neighbor across the street. People don’t discard old things in Warsaw; they simply allow them to grow and change with the times. For better or for worse, this mix amounts to quite a cool city.

Behold: the unbelievable beauty of a Russian autumn in Novgorod.

A friend and I were walking along Novgorod’s residential streets. A woman picked us off the street and ushered us into her garden. Tatiana was her name. She gifted us with kilos and kilos of produce: apples, plums, cucumbers, and homemade pickles. We were positively giddy.

She is so uniquely beautiful.

Hand-carved and painted domovoys. They are meant to protect your house. I couldn’t walk away without one.

If I were a guy, I’d move to Russia (but with that logic, Brazil would work too):

A Petersburg kind of night. I don’t want to be anywhere else.

Matysowka

Posted on August 31, 2012

As tiny children, my cousins and I would play jump rope in their empty schoolyard. It was always great fun, mostly because we played helicopter-style, the only style I could ever manage without skinning my knees on rough asphalt. Little did we know, the metal gate we walked by everyday as children would be destroyed by their friends one night far into the future. The gate would be smashed by a Skoda after their one friend consumed too many beers. Little did we jump-roping children could know, the driver would walk away fine, but the gate that I saw everyday would be severely dented. Confused neighbors and passers-by would see the gate and wonder: “When did this happen?” It would be a fleeting thought as…

The Parts of the Line

Posted on August 7, 2012

I often speak ad nauseum about the journey vis-a-vis the destination – how the line connecting point A and point B is often more memorable, more educational, more action-packed, more tale-worthy than the points themselves. This particular line has four parts: Part One: The Place that Doesn’t Exist Eastern Hungary smells like smoke and sunflowers. I’m currently at a tiny train station in Lőkösháza, so I would know. Rather, I’m sitting on the concrete platform watching local men and women socialize. They appear to be railway employees but they’re not doing anything official, just the occasional joke and smoke. It’s dusk already. A light flickers on overhead; a line of lights soon follow suit, flickering on in a systematic fashion down the line. I have…

Fish in Ice

Posted on August 3, 2012

A tune, perhaps? She begins speaking to me. Excellent English with a slight German accent. A few sentences in, I ask if I could record her. “It was cloudy like this when I first met him,” she says. “Walls of rain will come down later, by the way.” She asks if I’d like to relocate to some kind of shelter. I tell her I don’t mind the rain, I prefer it actually. She continues: “I don’t know where the beginning of this story is. But would you like to hear it?” “Only if you want to tell it.” I hear thunder in the distance. A breeze picks up and swirls dead leaves in a tiny cyclone a few meters away. “He is Austrian, I…

Photo Essay: An Austrian Love

Posted on August 2, 2012

I feel glad to be alone here. I’m often at peace, but the calm is especially pronounced as I wind through the Bavarian Alps. The crystal clear water probably splashes clarity. Talking with some Argentinians in Amsterdam, they find out I’m traveling alone. Then they relinquish a group “awww” and look at me with sad brown eyes, saying preciosa and pobrecita. Poor me, indeed! Achieving my travel dreams whether or not someone will accompany me on them! And then this thing called cultural relativism kicks in: to them, it’s extremely unorthodox for a young blonde woman to go without steady companionship for extended periods of time, especially in foreign places.  But I say in Spanish with that unique Argentine flare as I point to…