by Niall Doherty

Pushing out the first installment of what’s likely to become a monthly series. Below you’ll find a collection of diary-like entries, one per day for the last month or so. The idea is to record and share a brief snippet of my life each day, hopefully giving you a better idea of what kind of shenanigans I get up to.

Let’s dive in, starting with the tail-end of February…

27.

She still couldn’t believe it, even after seeing me walk away. I read her bewildered text as I rode home on the skytrain and replied, “I’m sorry. I told you before. I don’t want sex with woman who has boyfriend or husband anymore. We can be friends, that’s all.” As I walked the final stretch back to the condo, I put Jango in my ears and smiled a self-respecting smile as Ms. Simone sang me a song about a sinner man.

28.

It was only later that I’d realized what I’d done. He’d told me something deeply personal, deeply vulnerable. And I, at least on the surface, reacted like it was no big deal. Pretty much shrugged it off, when I suspect he really needed someone to talk to. Not the first time I’d done such a thing, either. I was ashamed of myself.

1.

Stepping out of the supermall and into that plaza, surrounded by the bright lights of the big screens and skyscrapers, people paying their respects at the shrine, others dining roadside, night fast approaching, gym muscles aching, an upbeat song in my ears. The whole scene never fails to give me warm pause, a moment to appreciate the fact that I’m living in this surreal metropolis, thousands of miles from home, and doing pretty damn well for myself.

2.

No chicken, so I went pork instead. Sixteen pieces, each to a stick. I sat there sweating as I ate, sharing a small table with two locals who didn’t seem to speak any English. I’ve been back eating meat for several weeks now. I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with it until I personally kill a chicken or the like. If I’m going to eat the flesh of animal, I figure I should be at least willing to look one in the eye as it breathes its last breath.

3.

We wake late and laze in bed for a couple hours more. It’s a rainy Sunday in Bangkok, no hurry on either of us. We walk five minutes under a borrowed umbrella to grab breakfast, and afterwards share a sweet see-you-soon as I hop on the skytrain. A half hour later her text reads, “Miss you already.” I guess it should make me feel warm and fuzzy inside — I do like her, a lot — but instead I feel my shoulders tighten.

4.

She‘s in the film business in Los Angeles. He‘s a photographer in Wisconsin. And then there’s me, the wannabe entrepreneur hanging out in Thailand. Every two weeks we get together on Skype for a mastermind session, and today we’re due. It’s almost midnight for me, still early morning for them. I’ve failed to reach the goal I set a fortnight ago. Time to pay the price.

5.

Three farang in a Thai yoga class. We barely understood a word, and we were easily the most inflexible bodies in the room. Even the heavy girl and the old lady in the back were pulling off stretches we found a struggle. At one point the teacher came to assist Anthony, gently correcting his posture while spilling out some rapid reassurances in Thai. Ant nodded firmly in response, then, teacher having left him, flashed back at us a look of complete bewilderment.

6.

I started into the Paleo diet a few days ago, aiming for 90/10 with a cheat day once a week. Today’s meals: Three scrambled eggs and a hefty green smoothie for breakfast, smoothie consisting of apple, banana, dark leafy greens, pineapple, and spinach; Four scrambled eggs with four chicken fillets and a bit of spinach for lunch; an egg salad followed by salmon steak and veggies at a restaurant for dinner; then sliced carrot dipped in homemade guacamole for supper, with a treat of dark chocolate (85% cocoa) an hour before bed.

Groceries

7.

I was early so I grabbed a table all to myself. The band had yet to start. I ordered a hot tea and sat there resisting the temptation to check Facebook. To distract myself, I practiced the mindset of a lion. Lions are top of the food chain. They saunter calmly into a territory, largely unconcerned by the goings on around them, whereas a mouse scurries in and peeks around timidly, on the lookout for threats. I’m not yet a lion, no longer a mouse.

8.

There would be no challenger, so I decided to go it alone. The initial plan was for two of us to start in front of the elevators on the tenth floor, then race towards separate stairwells and climb thirty floors to the roof. I made it ten on the run before my legs demanded I slow to a steady walk. By the time I got to the top I was breathless and loving it.

9.

I get the impression she’d like to see me again, so I suggest calling around to hers for the evening. She’s keen. I finish dinner with friends and hop the skytrain towards Chong Nonsi. I’m two stops deep before I realize I’m headed the wrong way, having confused this girl’s apartment with that of another, someone I was seeing a few weeks back. I knock on the right door twenty minutes late, and say nothing of the mix up.

10.

Sunday at 5:30 p.m. means Skype with the folks, some six thousand miles away in Ireland. Weak connection this week, so no video, just voice. We chat for half an hour. It’s interesting how conversations can be much deeper over the phone. You’re on there to talk, not to watch TV together, or eat together, or do something else that distracts from the dialogue. It’s odd, but I feel chats with my parents run deeper when we’ve got oceans and continents between us.

11.

I buy my ticket at the station and head off in search of a bank. I spot one across the street but find it closed. I knock on the glass and call over a shirt and tie. He tells me they don’t open for another half hour. I ask if he knows of anywhere else nearby I can get money changed. But of course he doesn’t. Thai people are lovely and everything, and this is a massive generalization, but their habit is to shrug you off rather than pause and think when you ask a question they don’t immediately know the answer to.

12.

He approaches as I’m taking my first steps on Cambodian soil. Well dressed, clean cut, good English. Three hundred Baht to take me to the bus station. I tell him it’s too much, that I’ll just grab a songtow instead. “No songtow,” he replies, “and last bus leaves at eight a.m. Better hurry!” Really? Last bus leaves at eight? “Yes, I promise. If no believe me, check Internet.” I check it on my phone and see that buses run until four in the afternoon. “Internet wrong,” he explains, having lost not an ounce of composure.

13.

I sit and pump out a thousand words in thirteen minutes. It’s eight in the evening and I’m outside shirtless, maybe ten meters from the waves I hear massaging the beach. Chez Paou on Otres in Sihanoukville. This place is remarkably chill. I’ve got a coconut smoothie in front of me, jazz plays from the bar to my right, three dogs laze on the warm sand, a local family dines quietly behind, and to my left a bunch of English lads and lasses chat away in friendly tones.

14.

It was my first time. I almost gave up, stuck with it just long enough to figure out the breathing, and promptly found myself face-down in a different world. Brightly striped tropical fish, big round spikey black things with hints of a deep fluorescent blue, the coral itself alive with countless hungry mouths embedded within. Nothing I hadn’t seen before on TV, and yet like nothing I’d ever seen before.

15.

I wake up to waves lapping at the shore, seemingly beneath my feet. I’m in paradise, or Koh Ta Kiev as the locals call it. There are no roads here. The sun has yet to rise but it’s bright enough for a walk. I climb down from the open air dorm and take off along the beach. It’s the last day of my thirty-first year. The sand is white and the water is warm.

Sunrise view from Koh Ta Kiev in Cambodia

Sunrise view from Koh Ta Kiev in Cambodia

16.

Three nightclubs and a thirty-minute taxi ride later, we’re at the outskirts of Bangkok. My birthday celebration will come to a close at this hotel. I don’t think the girl remembers my name, but everything else says she’s pretty keen on me. I don’t even have to suggest that we get a room separate from the one she’s already booked into with her sister-cousin-friend. Of course I’m footing the bill for it. One way or the other, farang always pay.

17.

We grab a late breakfast at The Dubliner to a soundtrack of live diddly-idle music, perfect for the day that’s in it. The conversation moves effortlessly from the deep and serious to the shallow and comical. We’ve solidified our friendship well over the course of these few months. He’s one of the few people I trust completely. And to think we might never have known each other if not for Twitter and Sean Ogle.

18.

Final coffee date with married girl. She leaves tomorrow for a new life in Europe. I’ve asked myself several times why I’ve continued to meet up with her. I like to think I’m doing it to be a good influence. Rare she’s around people who know their values and try hard to stick to them. But that’s not the whole story. Truth be told, I’m very much enjoying the power trip. This beautiful woman keeps trying to seduce me, and I keep telling her no.

19.

I need a nap. I’ve got all these emails and comments and Facebook messages to respond to. And I’ve been meaning to get a haircut and pick up my pants from the seamstress. And I’ve got yoga later. And a date tonight. Yeah, so much to do, I definitely deserve a nap. Let me just do a half hour of work first and see how I feel.

20.

She’s great, but I’m a little wary, I must admit. I read about the concept of social loan-sharking last week. That’s when someone does you an unsolicited favor so you’ll feel indebted to them. I was expecting a quick massage last night but she gave me the full two-hour treatment. Then I wake up this morning to find she’s swept the floors and scrubbed the bathroom. She’ll either end up as my wife, or chop off my penis some night while I sleep.

21.

It happened more than ten years ago, and I’d rarely given it much thought until recently. Back in college, during a basketball game, I ran head first into a blind pick and fractured my eye socket. Since then, whenever I get a bad cold I can feel a dull pain above my right eye. Lately it’s been more constant. Today it felt like a proper headache. I cut my workout short. Handstand practice wasn’t helping.

22.

I’m mad at a dead guy. Steig Larsson, to be precise. I should never have started reading that second book. I couldn’t stop. I lay awake last night until the wee hours, reading, gripped. Today I had shit to do and a new laptop to play with and all I wanted was to keep reading. I ended up sitting on the couch for four straight hours until I’d finished the damn thing. I’m afraid to start the third one.

23.

He put everything into those blows. First he sent a variety of punches my way, then kicks, and finally elbows. There was no way I could match him. Too much experience, too much force. I was drenched in sweat and a bit bruised up by the time we finished. I was also thankful that there had been pads between us the whole time. We chatted as we left the park and he offered me a slice of pineapple.

Muy Thai intro

24.

I felt like a dick, but I knew it was a conversation we had to have. I’d been avoiding it for too long, and I knew I’d hate myself if I backed out this time. So I spoke up. I’m not sure how he took it, really. Not an easy guy to read. But I slept easy after he’d left. I’d trusted my gut and spoke my mind. I didn’t regret it for a second.

25.

I find myself being more honest than ever with women, very bold and direct. I tell them I’m not looking for a girlfriend. I tell them what turns me on in bed. I tell them that I like to date more than one girl at a time. Interestingly enough, I’m getting what I want, more so than ever, with a clear conscience and without pissing anyone off. There’s a lot to be said for being at peace with your desires.

26.

We sit and chat. Seems she’s been trying to break away from the night game, got a job at a market in On Nut. Working eight-hour shifts, seven days a week, earning $300 a month. She used to make that in a five nights, easy. I pay for her meal and taxi home; small change for me, a day’s wages for her. But I still come away feeling guilty. For being white… for being a man… for wanting to fuck her. So much for that clear conscience.

27.

CrossFit, take two. The guys at the Aspire gym here in Bangkok know their stuff. They’re not just pushing people to exhaustion. They’re sticklers for proper form, improved my squat in a matter of seconds with some keen observations. It’s not cheap — about $18 per workout if you pay as you go — but undoubtedly good bang for your buck. Thinking of signing up for their PT sessions in April.

28.

I thought about it. Worst case scenario: $1k down the drain and some good lessons learned. Best case scenario: An extra thousand or two passive income each month, provide on-going employment for several people, and some good lessons learned. A no-brainer really. But three months ago I wouldn’t have seen it that way. How quickly one’s mindset can shift. I’m starting to feel like a real-deal entrepreneur.

29.

19 months, 17 countries, and only my second airport. Here I am standing in Suvarnabhumi International, holding a sign with the names of two elderly Nepalese ladies I’ve never met before. There are others awaiting pick ups alongside me. Their signs are all printed neatly on clear white cardboard. Show offs. I made do with a big fat marker and the innards of the box my blender came in.

30.

I arrive at Udom Suk a little early, so I head down to the street and find a 7-Eleven. They’re everywhere in Thailand. Throw a rock in any direction and there’s a good chance you’ll break a 7-Eleven window. I buy a Kit Kat Chunky (cheat day has officially begun) and a pack of condoms. I have to tell the cashier no thanks on the plastic bag. I leave the store, take the steps back up to the BTS, and wait.

31.

She’s different. Most people I’ve met in Asia are fully content with the ho-hum job, the confines of regular employment, the default lifestyle. And a good chunk of the women I meet seem to be waiting for prince charming to ride in on his unicorn and make their life complete. But not this girl. She travels solo to Bali, pets giant spiders and practices Parkour. She’s not quite where she wants to be, but I wouldn’t bet against her getting there.

I’d love to get your feedback on this format, so do let me know your thoughts via the comments.

» Read the next edition of Momentos: April 1st – April 15th, 2013