“Some Nights (in Thailand)” – RGAT

Because Renee had a song stuck in her head and a little too much down time while playing goalie in soccer (sung to the tune of “Some Nights” by FUN):

“Some nights I go eat food right off the street
Some nights I want to throw up
Some nights I wake up having diarrhea
Some nights my poop won’t come out

But I still wake up
And walk to Seven
But I’m still not sure what a wai is for
What is a wai for
What is a wai for
Most nights I get bit by mosquitoes – oh oh woah oh, etc.

“This is Thailand,” we all say
When our shoes go MIA
We don’t have air con in the day
Sleeping out under the stars
Don’t want to get in a car
These bug bites might leave scars
So we eat our feelings in Magnum bars

It’s alright
I bathed out in a stream tonight
Lay on my mat wondering why, why, wai?
Eheh eh eh I’m a bit de-hy mhm mhm

Most nights I don’t know…
Oh krap kun
Oh krap kun
Oh krap kun

My heart is breaking for my country and the place that I call home
Where everyone knows how to drive
Man, you won’t believe the misunderstandings that can come from some terrible Thai

Oh some nights I purchase far too many Thai pants
Most days I wear them around
Some nights I wish it would never end
Cause I fell in love with Thailand

“Guidance, Worship, & Celebration” Haiku Series

The last three spiritual disciplines were discussed as our internship winds down. To be honest, the poems haven’t been as easily inspired as they were when we began. I am becoming very tired. Still, I strive to be creative, even in a study time. Hopefully everyone will enjoy them.

Sharing your vision
Allows critiques to refine
To the best results

Seek out counseling
The guidance can clarify
Every clouded thought

Wisdom from others
Will outweigh our own judgement,
Our own biased mind

Understand their heart
Before giving food for thought,
Empathize with them

Spirit to spirit
Worship draws near the divine
Holy of holies

Bring our whole being
Beyond the mental limit
Thrown into worship

Celebrate living
Find strength in the joy of action
Free, alive, happy

Dance, learn to laugh more,
Don’t lose imagination,
Party all night long

Copyright Renee Rhodes July 21, 2013

Fan Fiction FTW? (Or WTF?)

Let’s be completely honest: most fanfiction is complete and utter crap.

I’ll be completely honest: I’m not big on the genre.

I mean, to each their own. You like fan fiction? Great! All power to you. I just never much got into it and I certainly never wrote it. The biggest reason for that, though, is that you have to wade through stories upon stories of crap until you finally find a gem. And I never wrote it because the prospect terrified me.

How do you write a story that isn’t your own?

How do you stay true to another author’s characters?

How do you attract the interest of fans?

There are two camps: Fan Fiction FTW and Fan Fiction WTF. FTW updates every week, has a plethora of followers, and religiously reads other stories. WTF – the camp I have always shamelessly been a part of – isn’t nearly as willing to comb through the stories to find the good ones. And sometimes they accuse fanfic fans of extreme nerdiness (which I never did, I am a huge nerd and have no right to call others more nerdy than I). Still, when I thought of fan fiction, it was with a small level of disdain. As if I thought I was better than that. (I know, it’s terrible. Hear me out?)

So, when our last assignment in my creative writing workshop was to write a fan fiction short story, I was beyond stumped. Heaven knows, I have enough games, tv shows, and books I am a fan of and could write about. But to actually participate in fan fiction writing…

I struggled. It was so hard. Suddenly, I understood why so few fanfics are any good. It takes a talented writer to compose a story based on someone else’s ideas. And I believe even experienced writers struggle to step into another author’s shoes completely. As authors, characters live floating around in our heads. Sometimes their words and actions even surprise us. So how do you embody characters that don’t live in your own mind?

That being said, fan fiction has become a new writing exercise for me. Since it presents such a challenge, it stretches me as a writer. I don’t do it often, but I did participate in Zutara Week this year for the first time, writing a different themed short story every day. I have a chance to glimpse how things might have been with characters in a different world. I have to stay true to their pre-existing personalities, adapting them with time, and making sure they remain distinctly their own.

Practice in these areas translates greatly into writing original stories. Sometimes we are unaware when character personalities begin to blend. We have to be consistent with their traits, even as they develop and mature. We have to let them be their own people and do things as they would do them, not necessarily as we would. Practicing this from a fanfic standpoint makes it easier as an exercise. The world and characters have already been created, now it’s up to the writer to manipulate them. It hasn’t been easy for me, but I feel I’ve already seen good results.

When it comes to reading it, I’ll probably stay in Camp WTF, but when it comes to writing fan fiction? Definitely FTW.

The Queer Qualities of “Quelf”

(After a week of absolute busyness, I finally had a free day to sit down and write a post. Sorry for the wait. Thanks for bearing with me.)

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Let me preface this post by saying that if you have never before played the game “Quelf,” you should get on that. I was first introduced to the game in my high school theatre department, if that tells you anything. It is crazy, wild, and fun.

But don’t let that deter you if you are shy. My brother (in the above picture) is a textbook introvert and was hesitant to play, but once he got started, he enjoyed it immensely. He had to use his engineering skills to create a snorkel in between his turns. To his surprise, the game catered to his interest as well.

If you are unfamiliar with the rules, I regret to say I cannot explain them to you. They are very random and vary based on which category you are playing in at the time. There are charade-like cards, trivia cards, cards with challenges (like dares) on them, all-play cards, and cards that create ongoing rules for the players to follow. I’m not going to delude myself into thinking everyone who reads this will understand the game, so suffice to say: it is random, it is unpredictable, and I usually die laughing.

Quelf has many qualities:

1) It engages everyone. From the actor to the engineer, no one is left out.

2) It stretches your limits, and your comfort zone. Some of the requirements of the game are absolutely absurd and ridiculous, but calls everyone to just be goofy.

3) It makes you think. As with many games, part of the fun is the challenge. Quelf is challenging on so many different levels.

4) It is unpredictable. You never know how silly or how imaginative you will need to be. You must be flexible to go with what the game requires.

But what more fun way to put yourself out on the line! To practice flexibility and preparedness. To work on being yourself without putting up “appearances.” It is like a rehearsal for life. (Because all my blog posts have to have some sort of life lesson, right?) Sometimes, life throws curve balls. Sometimes, we have to be bold and unreserved. Sometimes, we have to work to involve everyone and make sure no one feels left out. Sometimes, we face worse challenges than a truth or dare.

Most likely, no one who plays Quelf thinks of the game like this. But if someone is too embarrassed to do one of the requirements of the game, how will they be able to step out when it really counts? Call it practice, call it a warm-up, the game Quelf is a good exercise for reality.

No Worse than a Paper Cut – RGAT

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Design to completion of my first tattoo.

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Final product. Copyright Renee Rhodes. July 7, 2013.

So I have ink permanently drawn on my skin. In the shape of a raven. Done with a bamboo stick. In Thailand.

Suffice to say, I’m feeling pretty cool.

Per the suggestion of my good friend, I designed the tattoo six months ago and deliberated for all that time. I placed it as the background on my phone so I could see it daily. After six months, I was still determined to get it. Preferably abroad.

After a while of researching, machine versus bamboo, I decided I wanted bamboo. I’d heard mixed reviews: “it hurts much worse than machine,” or “it hurts much less!” Frankly, I didn’t know. But if I were to get a tattoo in Thailand, may as well go full on traditional and get the bamboo, right?

So I did. And it was worth it for the experience alone. I didn’t think it hurt at all. Less than a paper cut. I mean, paper cuts are from the devil and this was easy in comparison. I have never had a machine tattoo and can’t say much about it. It probably depends a lot on where you get it on your body. (I’m also told I have a high pain tolerance, so I don’t know if my word is best.)

Anyway, it comes with my highest recommendations. I loved the artist (“The Master”) and I am so happy with how it turned out. Plus, it was cool to get a more natural tattoo. It makes it feel so artistic. It’s not perfect and that’s one of the reasons it’s beautiful.

Mainly, the tattoo is for me. No one else really needs to know why I got it. But since plenty of people will ask, I’m posting a brief summary here.

Birds symbolize a lot for me: freedom, imagination, creativity, the ability to soar beyond limits. A raven is even more symbolic. To me, as seen in my post “Being Raven”, it symbolizes doing the right thing in the face of adversity. And yes, my tattoo design is partially inspired by my favorite superhero because I’m a goofball. Don’t judge me.

This new design on my shoulder is a reminder of several things:

• I have the freedom to take my stories anywhere so long as I am willing to stretch my imagination.

• I never need to be held back by the expectations and desires of others.

• Even when it’s hard, I need to strive to do the right thing. That is what will ultimately be rewarding for myself and those around me.

• I need to be strong, even when the world crashes down around me and conspires against me.

• I can do great things if I only try.

Supposedly, the bamboo heals faster. I’ve certainly noticed less pain than my dad’s (who got a machine tattoo at the same time I got mine). Supposedly, there is less chance of infection. Which was good since I spent the next three days in villages in Mae Hong Son. Supposedly there is less pain (or more pain). Really, it was no worse than a paper cut. And, even if it had been, it would have been totally worth it for a permanent symbol that is meaningful and special to me.

“Service and Confession” Haiku Series

Covered in discussion by both Lauren and Lisa, these two disciplines resulted in a lot of conversation. I think most of the group is amused that, instead of taking notes, I write haikus. Same, same, but different, right? Basically.

No point standing back
When there is need for service,
We must step forward

More than to receive,
Passing joy out to others
Grows our own spirit

It is not selfish
Though it’s a blessing to all
It is for others

Genuine regret
A burning desire to share
Heavy on our hearts

Pain is pain to all
But confessing won’t feel safe
When mouths don’t stay shut

Share what’s on your mind
Confidentiality
Comes along with trust

Guilt loses power
The instant it is confessed
Be brave and speak up

Copyright Renee Rhodes July 7, 2013

Ain’t Money Funny – RGAT

20130702-143049.jpg (above: me sitting in a window frame overlooking the courtyard of Angkor Wat temple, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever set eyes on)

Shortly after our arrival in Cambodia, frustrations sky-rocketed. Getting through immigration was frantic enough (considering it was rainy, muddy, and we had to haul our luggage all over the place – this situation was only worsened by the sprained foot I sported from my Bangkok disaster day), but the more frustrating things all boiled down to money.

Instead of taking us directly from Poipet to our destination in Siem Reap, our rented vans wanted to take us to their home office so that we could change vehicles and (in short) pay them twice. All we wanted to do was get to out guesthouse hotel which wasn’t even that far away. Convenience wasn’t the issue, money was. Because of communication differences and rather extreme stubbornness from both parties, we waited a long time before finally moving on to our temporary residence.

However, upon arrival at the hotel, we discovered that three of our nine reserved rooms had been given away earlier that day. For – guess what – monetary reasons! The owners of the guesthouse didn’t think ahead to losing the business of foreigners staying for four nights. Instead, they took one-night guests, thinking they would just get the money then. Basically, they set themselves up for less profit. Instead of practicality, they were focused on immediacy.

All of this raises questions about the importance of money. I can’t live well without it, that’s for sure. It is a part of day to day life. Wake up in the morning. Check the stock market. Attend expensive classes at a university. Buy lunch. Pay off your new car (since you wrecked your first one). Buy groceries. Buy a mango sweet tea at Sonic Happy Hour because who can argue with a dollar drink? I dish it out regularly, and I consider myself fairly frugal. I celebrate every time I get a paycheck and can have a more extravagant meal than Ramen. (The life of a college student is so hard, you know.)

The government, our society, businesses, and individuals all rely on the strength of the economy and the circulation of money. None of this is a bad thing. Money is a tool to build a functioning society. It helps regulate the trade of goods and services between members of a community. People like to be compensated for their efforts. Imagine the chaos without it.

No, no. Money is, in itself, a good thing. The problem arises when money becomes an idol. When the simple need turns to devouring greed. Dramatic as it may seem, huge consequences can result from the love of money. We, thankfully, did not encounter huge consequences. We just split up to stay at different hotels in the vicinity. And the people of Cambodia would not recognize or call their desire for money “greed,” since their basic needs aren’t always fulfilled. They take the money where they can get it so they can keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads and maybe have enough left over to buy a toy for the baby. Mostly, it’s the treatment of money in wealthier countries that is brought into perspective by the experiences we had in Cambodia.

We should not take for granted what we have. Moreover, we should not forsake the more valuable things (like a unified family, a loyal friendship, etc.) in pursuit of money. Most of us (and I can’t speak for the followers I don’t personally know) live comfortable lives. Money should simply be a part of life, not the cause of so much frustration. There are worthier goals than money, richer treasures than gold, and wealth alone brings no joy.

(below: Siem Reap graffiti and Cambodian humor: “Angkor What?”)

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