May 21, 2023
Martin Amis died today. Esophagus cancer, like his friend Hitchens, another writer who lived life intensely. Not sure what is worse, cancer or dementia. I would want to have the choice to let go before cancer consumes my body or I lose my mind.
But it was not this loss for the literary world or thoughts about dead that that got me to update the journal. I was just tormented by procrastination and after waking up from a short nap this afternoon, I prepared a cup of coffee, sat down in the couch, and started writing.
We are in Hua Hin. We, as in Natalia, Marina, Woland and I. Marina arrived on Thursday morning to Bangkok after having finished her exams; she is officially done with secondary school. We drove here on Friday. The days are quite hot, particularly in the morning before the land breeze kicks in. Still, it has been a pleasant weekend. Today, Natalia, Woland and I went for a long walk at the beach early in the morning. Marina joined us for breakfast, which for me involved orange juice, coffee and congee with pork. We spent the morning reading at the beach with some intermissions swimming, trying to cooldown, though the sea temperature was also unusually high. A double negroni with ice late morning was more effective. Webb Chiles reports having successfully prepared a negroni with vodka after his last sailing trip, but I still prefer mine with gin.
Only in the last week or so I have been able to decompress. Mid-February to mid-May was a period of intense work that also involved traveling. February 27-March 2nd I was in Tunisia; March 3rd-18th in Morocco; April 7-13 in Vienna; April 15-28 in Phuket; and April 29th-May 12th in Nouakchott. Tunisia was a waste of time. The country has become an autocracy and I don’t have plans to go there until there are elections and a new government. Morocco, while a monarchy, has a functioning government and a competent bureaucracy. When I am working there, I have the feeling of being contributing to something; things move, even if slowly.
In Vienna I wasn’t working for the government but delivering a training for staff from the ministries of finance and labor in countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Natalia decided to join me, and we enjoyed time together at night (including an opera night – “The Return of Eulises”), and over a weekend when we visited Schonbroon Palace. We stayed at the lovely Hotel Marmont in downtown. They have an excellent French restaurant in the roof-top with a oval bar overlooking the city. We both liked Vienna, which is consistently ranked as one of the best cities in terms of quality of life; and if the quality of tap water is a good indicator, then the ranking is accurate. The trip to Vienna was also an opportunity to have dinner with my mentor and friend Robert Holzmann and his wife Chantale. Robert is now the Governor of the Central Bank of Austria. We often disagree over policies, but I respect his intellect and moral integrity.
We returned from Austria on the 14th and Marina arrived to Bangkok the following day. She spent two weeks with me in Phuket studying for her IB exams (Woland was also there, and Natalia the first few days). She went back to DC on the 28th and I flew to Mauritina via Istanbul on the 29th. Mauritania was a completely different experience. A large country but with most of its territory right in the middle of the desert, the Western Sahara. Since independence in 1960 it has been plagued by coups and military rulers. The first fair, democratic, election took place just before COVID19. The country is not only dry because of the desert; on top of this the commercialization and consumption of ethanol are llegal. For me it was an opportunity to detox; no gin or wine while working there. This natural experiment allowed me to prove that I am not an alcoholic since I didn’t experience any of the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS): anxiety, shakiness, sweating, problems sleeping, vomiting, fast heart rate, a mild fever, or delirium tremends. But I also didn’t experience any improvement with my health or productivity.
In between trips, I was at home immersed in the writing of reports and policy papers. As I have written here before, formal wage employees can slack off from time to time and still get their salary deposited in their bank account every two weeks or at the end of the month. We, self-employed workers, are only paid when we deliver; no productivity loss is allowed. But wage employment is becoming an archaic form or work. The future is self-employment which has the advantage of more flexibility in terms of where and how to work. I’ve worked remotely while living in ANTARES and I hope, one day, I will be able to do it while living in BEHEMOTH.
Things haven’t been easy for BEHEMOTH. It became impossible to buy a new engine at a reasonable price and within a reasonable time frame. Two months ago it was decided to repair the old engine. According to the last update I received from Jesus, the manager of the boat yard, the engine was taken out and they are working on it. He told me it would be ready within 2 to 3 weeks which is around now. I will follow up early this week and hope the saga will soon come to an end. I will be in Ecuador in early July and would like to stop by Cartagena before coming back to Thailand.
Tomorrow Monday, we drive back to Bangkok. Tuesday, Marina, Woland and I will continue the trip to Kho Pha-ngan where I rented a house on the northern part of the island. I will be working from there for the next two weeks while Marina enjoys some free time. She is now enrolled in a neurosciences major at UC San Diego and has to take a couple of placement tests for mathematics and English before May 31st, but other than that she is free.
I hope the next update won’t take as long as this one.
Below is a sample of random pics. @ I Love Paris in CDG airport waiting for the plane to Tunis; my terrace at the Villa Mandarine in Morocco; the bar at the Villa Mandarine; Votivkirche in Vienna; Opera in Vienna (Wagner); Natalia in Vienna; Gustav Klimt; Marina in Phuket (two pics); waiting for my plane to Nouakchott in Istanbul airport; visiting a gallery in Nouakchott (I bought the yellow box); the beach at Nouakchott.