Farmer Market sesh
So excited for the trip, back in May!

I have this amazing friend who is traveling in Europe–or rather Asia, as she recently moved into the eastern part of Turkey. She’s been making short, sweet and colorful posts to her tumbr blog as she progresses along, gathering sunshine warmth, sampling new flavors and seeing amazing sights. These posts make me very happy for her, and envious, as they romanticize (rightfully so) a long trip in lands far, far away. She also posts little nuggets that can hint at some of the challenges of this kind of travel. Laundry, food challenges, and the resilience (or not) of luggage are ones that I’ve read about there or have discussed with her via Skype.

I’m living a little vicariously through her on that front too, and thinking about how I absorb experiences while traveling, or even at any other time or place in my life, as well. I can think of various moments in my life where it was clear that I was more open to delays or inconveniences, because I was in a traveling frame of mind. There’s only so much you can rush to do, when faced with an annulled train, bad weather in Dallas, or a missing passport. Also, if the objective is to see/smell/taste/do something new, rather than to get to work/a yoga class/to bed at a certain time, you probably stand to benefit from a little serendipity.

The other day, Tweetdeck delivered to me great Core77 article (with two fantastic videos!) about the norry, primitive (in a resourceful and also steampunk kind of way) train used by an extended community in Cambodia. A good amount of both videos is footage showing what it’s like to ride on them, and so, a big fan of “wheee!”, I love it. The simplicity of the car is delicious, greenery is zipping by you, and everyone on the car with you is smiling.

Are there brakes? I believe so. But can one car get out of the way of another, going the opposite direction? Yes: the fascinating part is also the worrysome one. It’s one rail line, but there is more than one car using it at any given time. The solution? Watch the video below to find out.

Disassembly of the light, simple cars is swift. What seems to be the most important factor to me is that the cars need to maintain a slow enough pace so that they can spot an oncoming car in time for both of them to stop and make the decision about which car needs clear the way for the other.

Traffic light systems, driving laws, and complicated automobiles make such timing and decisions a matter of instinct, here in St. Paul. It all happens so fast. If I were to deal with a bamboo railroad in Saint Paul, I would get aggravated beyond belief. But if I were me in Cambodia, I imagine and hope that I’d have given myself plenty of time that day, with wiggle room on both ends.

Moving slowly. Allowing ample time. These are things that mean something entirely different in the lives we lead in Saint Paul, Minnesota these days.

Yesterday, Steve and I were driving to work, and he spied a piece of new, ephemeral public art (like this poster (?) that we spied a few years ago) on a wall. We’d passed before I could see it, and I vowed to look for it the next time I walked to or from work. I walked to work today and it was gone.

What I did get a good eyeful of today was this look-at-me magenta Oldsmobile. However, I do have some regret that yesterday, when I could have seen the poster, wasn’t a day that I walked to work.

While I keep mustering up the courage and the money to plan a longer trip, finally, I think it will be a good exercise to look for and savor moments, hours, or maybe even days where I can live like a traveler. What have you noticed in your neighborhood lately, that you were surprised to see, so close to home?

2 thoughts on “The beauty of the bamboo train

  1. Nice piece. Strangest thing in my neighbourhood? A scale model of Angkor Wat. It’s weird because we live next to Angkor Wat – as tourist attractions go it may be the most redundant in the world. It’s also not that good…

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