I think the strangest but most useful thing I brought to the desert was my wetsuit. I’ve had it for years, a spring suit I bought in San Diego when I was first learning to surf. I’ve worn it in rivers, oceans, seas, and now in the desert. It drops below freezing here in the mornings, so I wear it to practice kung fu.
It’s tight, but it keeps in heat while I’m practicing. It feels familiar, and it still smells like salt and coconut from the ocean and sunblock. I was worried it would be useless here, especially when I found out I was going to the edge of the Gobi Desert, but it keeps me warmer than anything else when I’m practicing.
If you work hard enough, you sweat, even in the cold here. Layers don’t help when they get wet, they just hold the chill to your body. The wetsuit was designed for this, I sweat, it keeps the water warm, protecting me from the air. The legs and sleeves are short enough to not be a problem, and I can still flex and move like I need to.
My fingers still freeze, and sometimes my face is so cold I can’t speak properly, but I can practice, and it feels so good to get warm again. I got used to the cold surfing in San Diego, all those years in the cold ocean water for hours. I was a lot fatter then, so I was warmer, but it really wasn’t worth the trade. At least the wetsuit comes off easy.
I’ve been working a lot more here, to the point where there is never really a day off. Feast or famine, but both have their place. Another month and my schedule drops back down to something easier. Plus I can reuse some of the lesson plans I’m building now to teach those students too. I haven’t been hiking, or traveling much, but it’s really to cold to be outdoors for more than a few hours anyway.
I’m having a mini-thanksgiving with some of the volunteers tonight. Baked ziti isn’t really tradition, but with the ingredients I have, this is what I can make. It’s hard to find all I need to make Mexican food, and American ingredients are expensive, but Italian ingredients always seem to be easy to find. It would be nice to find fresh basil though.
Life here is just life, nothing fancy, nothing complicated. It’s unfamiliar, but still the same as it ever was. The language is different, but I talk to people here as much as I did back home. The oddities never seem cultural as much as individual, a choice someone makes rather than a cultural norm. Maybe it’s because this is my third country to live in, or maybe I just found a comfortable medium where everything seems ordinary. Ordinary, but spectacular.