Our friends Mark & Emily are on a big quit-your-job-and-travel-the-world kind of trip. I just happened to catch Mark on instant messanger tonight and had a catch up with someone HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD. Before the internet it would have meant an expensive 3 minute phone call. Instead I had 40 minutes of chat and I could look up maps and sights for where they are right now.

Marko says: (7:25:23 PM)

11 million people in Chengdu, so not that big. ;-) Though they build these super-wide streets here, so it doesn't seem crowded. But the pollution is awful. You can't see the sun...Yeah, we're literaly one step behind the wrecking ball at all times here. There is almost no old China left.

They have been all over Thailand (narrowly missing the tsunami), Myanmar, Laos, India, Tibet etc. They had told amazing stories of the people, the places, the color, their volunteer work, and, of course, sickness (in email NOT a blog, tsk). Giving away warm clothes for beach wear, then dropping shorts to buy warm clothes again, and now they are on another cycle for warm clothes. Their idea of luxury is a double bed and flushing toilet (even manual – don’t ask if you don’t know what I mean). From their latest dispatch:

We set out from Delhi by a horrid night bus to Rajastan, a state that is simply everything and everyone foreign you've ever imagined in your entire life. Bedouins, Moghuls, gypsies, nomads, snake charmers, men brandishing sabers and scarabs, people looking as if they'd just stepped off a flying carpet or arrived in a caravan of tents, tea, and camels or errupted in a puff from a bottle to grant you three wishes, It is no stretch to call it storybook--it's like living and wandering through a childhood dreamland. Totally amazing...forts rising from the desert sands, gilded pallaces of the Maharaja, trains of camels, elephants ridden through the streets, and each village with entirely its own character. A Belgian friend we made in Myanmar warned us that India forces you to "confront the rude part of yourself." It's true, though it forces you to confront many other parts of yourself. Such as: You realize where your compassion gives way to callousness. You become cynical about religion and money. You wonder what power you have to affect anything in the world. You question how base can human beings be. You ponder whether all of this is where society is headed or where it's evolving from. It's as if all of life--cruelty, joy, sadness, hope, despair--occurs in one day and you pass through each of these one after the other.

They are on the home stretch, though I bet they wish I didn’t even use the phrase: due back June 3rd.

Marko says: (7:08:51 PM)

it is really simple, this life. My dad sent us pix of our house yesterday, and we started remembering all the complications of "real" life...

gayg says: (7:09:39 PM)

"real" life is overrated

Mark & Emily, look harder each day. You have to see more for the rest of us.