27 Days In ...

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It isn’t as easy being a digital nomad as I thought. I like the idea of being a digital nomad, and my plans have not changed after hitting the reality, but that old saw I believe is true. It is never too late to learn new things. And I am enjoying the process of learning quite a bit. Granted, I am not learning large earth-shaking things, but I find myself undergoing a constant refinement of learning many small things that I didn’t know before. Some of this is just the minutia of living in a brand-new country, and some of it is a realization of how little I actually do need to carry with me as I move around the world.

*BTW - if you search digital nomad and look at the images, they all show people working on a beach or by a pool. What's up with that? Has anyone ever tried that? It's hot, sandy, usually no power, the glare is unbelievable (you can't see anything on the screen), and no good desk to spread out your notebooks and write. Really! Who thinks that is how people actually work? :-)*


I am actually quite pleased that my own estimation of what I thought I needed has been so close to the truth. I will say that it seems inevitable that no matter where you go, you end up accumulating ‘stuff’. Since I have arrived I seem to have purchased a French press coffee machine, an extremely heavy book, a stapler, and (inevitably) a number of notebooks. But most of this stuff doesn’t need to come with me. I brought a small toolkit with me, and so far it has proved to be just what I need.


I’ve only been here 4 weeks. It seems so much longer. I would say that only in the last few days would I consider myself to be getting settled in. By this I mean that all of my one time tasks are pretty much done and I just have a daily routine.


So, what has happened in the last 27 days? Arrived, suffered through jet lag, got mugged and my phone stolen, experienced the local (private health system), opened a local bank account and got my ATM card, moved into a small studio apartment, 3 weeks of Spanish classes – kind of sink or swim in that department (stressful), joined a gym (which included a medical exam), found a laundry, barber, and salon.


Living in an apartment here is a completely different experience than living in a hotel (naturally enough). My landlord (very nice guy) speaks no English. Neither does the housekeeper. That is good for me of course from the Spanish perspective, but stressful. My housekeeper is 75 if she’s a day and mumbles at high speed. Yesterday I thought she told me her mother had died and I was trying to give her my sympathy. It turned out she was trying to tell me something her mother had said about what would happen WHEN she died.  😊 And her mother is still alive and 99 by the way.

I’m still trying to adjust to a new schedule of eating. This business with restaurants not opening until 8pm is jarring. If I want to eat at my usual time of sometime between 4 PM and 6 PM, I end up eating something either very unhealthy like Ramen noodles and tuna (anything that can be easily cooked in a microwave), a protein shake, or snack food. And the other thing that I don’t like about doing that is that I end up being a recluse in my apartment. So, I try to make sure that at least three nights a week I go out to eat. Honestly, I still haven’t figured this out yet. I’m experimenting.


Hmmm … so … 4 weeks to get settled? Maybe I’m not doing so bad after all … As usual, what I need to learn to do is to not be as hard on myself as I always am. Still feeling guilty about not being in Asia as needed to help my partners but I really need to be doing this.


Body basically recovered, I’m back at the gym on a regular schedule, and I’m really enjoying that. It is interesting being in the gym here, because I see a lot more fitness-oriented people here than I ever see in Asia. That of course, may be a very slanted view, I only go certain gyms in Asia and most of them nobody is ever awake as early as I am. The closest I’ve seen to this level of gym attendance is Pattaya, but still not as many as I see here.


My Spanish is up to being able to have a basic conversation with someone (very basic). Although I can say a little about myself and why I’m here. Restaurants and stores are still difficult because there is an extremely fast automatic method of conversing … too fast for me to catch it … And I don’t have too much fear of speaking … But I definitely still have some. My enthusiasm about learning Spanish has definitely increased though. Just last night I was at a restaurant, one of my regular places, and there was an American sitting next to me at the bar who is speaking fluent Spanish. Both depressed me and motivated me at the same time. I have to keep reminding myself that other than my personal study, I have only been actively speaking Spanish for three weeks now. And I can confirm, that as much book study as one wants to do (and I love doing that), nothing can replace actual conversation with people in the language you are trying to learn. I am just now examining two websites that offer conversation exchange both online and in person. The idea is that I search for somebody in my area who speaks English as a native language and wants to learn English, and then we can arrange to meet either face-to-face or via video chat to trade conversation. I am a little nervous about this because I am really not the most sociable person in the world as most of my friends know, but I think this is a quite significantly good way to go about improving my Spanish. So, next week, let’s see how I get along with that. This may seem blindingly obvious to others, but I only realized in the last week or so, that when you start entering search terms into Google in a different language it truly opens up a whole new world.


The apartment hunt continues. Surprisingly, I haven’t been able to find an agent yet. I was very much hoping I could just find someone who really knew the real estate market and could help me find an apartment if I gave them my parameters. This is truly a huge city. Just a few days ago I ended up having to go to a post office in another part of the city to pick up my ATM card. A 30-minute trip, and I was going through parts of the city that I had never seen before and were absolutely lovely. Well, it’s not a complete surprise that I hadn’t seen it before, because it is of course, an enormous city and I haven’t come close to being everywhere yet, but I realize that I had gotten into a rut rather quickly and there is a small section of the city that I tend to inhabit. And I generally just don’t go outside the bounds of that area. So, I’m going to try to do that, maybe at least try to go to a different area of the city each week and just walk around a little and get the flavor of the place.

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One last note. I finally purchased a backpack to carry stuff in as I walk around the city. Usually this is my iPad, my laptop, some notebooks, pens, etc. I had really agonized over whether I would buy one of these because of my experience with the phone. And - being a digital nomad is difficult if you can't carry around the digital stuff. But, I just figured out a couple of days ago a very good way to safeguard myself in this regard. I purchased from North Face (they just happen to have this in one of their stores and I bought it immediately) two carabiners connected by a extremely strong nylon strap (designed for climbers). One carabiner is attached to the shoulder strap on the backpack, and the other one goes around my belt. Anyone who attempts to snatch my bag while I’m in the street is in for an extremely rude shock because they’ll have the bag plus a pissed off 88kg guy along with it. And there is an added benefit of that in places like Starbucks, cafes, and restaurants that you can use that exact same carabiner to loop around a chair or table leg and make it difficult for somebody to simply lift your bag and walk off with it. And the huge upside to this is now I carry stuff around with me in the city and I don’t worry about it anymore. It is very unobtrusive and doesn’t impede everyday carry of the backpack in the slightest.