The Traveler’s Quiz For Those Who Like Traveling Or Want To Find Out If They Like Traveling Or Should Travel

After making it past the first 48 hours of my arrival, it was time to get out of my comfort zone and immerse myself in my new surroundings. Eating new foods, making friends, seeing the sights are all part of the adventure and it was important that I head out into the blistering sunshine of the Philippines and make some memories. Below is a self-assessment quiz I prepared to make sure I was making the most of my trip in Tacloban City. Feel free to take the quiz and adapt it to yourself and your own trips to find out what type of traveler you are. There are a total of 12 questions, each one has aΒ bestΒ answer that is worth 1 point (or more if stated). For reference, my answers are listed on the bottom.

1. It’s been a few days since you’ve arrived in this new place. How is your jet lag?

A. No matter how much I sleep I’m always tired

B. I wake up and sleep at a reasonable time

C. I’m up all night and sleep until 4th meal

2. You are the only one in line to buy a delicious muffin and a small boy covered in dirt and sadness approaches you asking for change. Do you give him some pesos?

A. Yes, he is a child in need!

B. No, he is a street urchin

3. After giving him change, several seconds later a small girl approaches and asks for change is well. What’s taking the bread lady so long to get you a muffin? What do you do?

A. Give her money too. Exchange rate is in your favor by a long shot, why not help those in need?

B. How many more children are waiting in the shadows? You stare at the bread lady and ignore the small child while inwardly hearing your heart harden into granite

C. Yell at her until she goes away

4. Have you made friends with the locals?

A. Yes

B. No

5. Do you remember all their names?

A. Of course

B. No

6. Ok, list their names. (Each name is a point, max 4 points)

1. ____________________________

2. ____________________________

3. ____________________________

4. ____________________________

7. Have you taken public transportation by yourself?

A. Yes, it took some time, but I finally figured it out!

B. No, I will walk the entire way if I have to

C. If it’s too far to walk, I’m not going

D. What if I get kidnapped?

8. On your way to the mall, a jeepney (public transport) picks you up. You give the driver 50 pesos for your 13 peso trip, but he short changes you giving you back only 22. What do you do?

A. Confront him confidently about your fare

B. Accept your fate

C. Sit quietly considering an alternate braver version of yourself that would have confronted the driver

D. B & C

9. Have you gotten lost at least once?

A. No, I don’t leave my hostel

B. Yes, I get lost everyday…

C. Yes, it’s a part of the adventure!

10. It’s after 9pm, it’s extremely dark, and you think the long unfamiliar street to your right will take you to your hostel. On the other side of the street is an old shirtless man with a rickshaw who could safely transport you home. You approach him but he charges you a heinous price of 50 pesos instead of the standard 10 peso fare. What do you do? (10 pesos = 25 cents)

A. It’s late out and it’s not safe to walk home by yourself. You pay the old man 50 pesos for peace of mind.

B. You call him a bitter old man to his face

C. You stubbornly refuse the egregious price gouging on principle alone head, and hoof it down the dark, unfamiliar street trusting your sense of direction and the denizens of the night

D. You sleep outside where you stand

11. Have you tried picking up any words or phrases from the locals?

A. I studied Spanish in high school, that should count for enough

B. I tried but I can’t remember anything…

C. I speak English and if they don’t understand I speak it louder

D. Of course, Tagalog seems really interesting

12. Are you having a fun time?

A. Yeh! πŸ˜€

B. I want to go home πŸ˜₯

Answers: 1. B, 2. A, 3.A, 4.A, 5.A, 6.’Answers Vary’, 7.A, 8.A, 9.C, 10.A, 11.D, 12.A

Your Score:

Score Rubric:

0-3 points: The Don’t Travel.

4-6 points: The Parent/Guardian Required

7-9 points: The Adventure Curious

10-12 points: The Reincarnation of Ferdinand Magellan

13-15 points: The Interstellar

Andrew’s Answers: 1.B, 2.A, 3.B, 4.A, 5.A, 6.Mr Castillo/Denise/Denise’s friend, her name starts with an ‘A’ I think, 7.A, 8.D, 9.C, 10.C, 11.A, 12.A

Andrew’s Score: 9.5

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First 48 Hours of Travel Checklist

Traveling to a new place can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re traveling by yourself and don’t know anyone where you’re going. To help alleviate my stress, I made a checklist of general tasks and goals I needed to accomplish in the first 48 hours of my trip in order to ensure a smooth transition and a good time. As long as I could check off everything on the list, I wouldn’t have any problems in the most crucial time frame of the trip.

I’ve been pretty busy with hospital duties lately to post much, but here is a copy of the list I made and filled out over a week ago. If you’re planning a similar trip like mine, feel free to use it!

First 24 hours

[X] Get to airport at least 2 hours before your flight leaves

[X] Board airplane (mine was China Air)

[X] Do the math on sleep schedule to reduce jet lag

[X] Go into the plane bathroom before take off and switch into flip flops and pajamas in preparation for +16hr flight

[ ] Don’t be the only non-Chinese person on the flight

[X] Turn off all electronic equipment in preparation for take off

[X] Watch 21 Jump Street

[X] Watch Magic in the Moonlight

[X] Contemplate life while stretching your legs

[ ] Finish Guardians of the Galaxy

[X] Watch Shawshank Redemption

[X] Contemplate life again

[X] Land in Taiwan

[ ] Don’t get lost in the airport

[X] Board flight to Philippines

[X] Contemplate life for a third time

[X] Land in Manila, Philippines

[X] Change into normal people clothes in the bathroom

[ ] Remember to have packed deodorant before you arrive because Philippines is hot and humid and most certainly DO NOT sell any deodorant whatsoever and you have BO after flying for 20 hours in your pajamas

[X] Change USD into Pesos

[X] Walk to Terminal 2 from Terminal 1, because that’s where your connecting flight is

[X] Get to Terminal 2 and wait for bus to Terminal 3 because that’s actually where your flight is

[X] Obtain ticket from Manila to Tacloban City

[ ] Don’t get charged ridiculous amount of money for luggage

[ ] Depart Manila for Tacloban City at 230pm

[ ] Don’t get delayed in Manila airport for 7 hours

[X] Buy SIM card for your international phone in Manila airport

[ ] Have a working battery for said international phone

[X] Explore the airport

[X] Email your Philippines contacts to get ride to your hostel when you land in Tacloban

[ ] DON’T mistakenly book two different rides to pick you up when you land at the airport

[X] Eventually take off

[ ] Stay awake for safety presentation

[X] Land in Tacloban City

[ ] Have only one ride to take you to your hostel

[X] Get to hostel

[X] Sleep

Second 24 hours

[X] Wake up naturally covered in sweat

[X] Realize it’s 6am and that’s you’re new normal wake up time from now on

[X] Shower

[ ] Have heated water

[X] Find a working battery for your phone

[ ] Remember to eat breakfast

[X] Call your main contact with your now working phone

[X] Get picked up and taken to the grand opening of a mall to meet the congressman of Tacloban City of the district for some reason

[X] Sit in a car by yourself for an hour while reading your Kindle while you wait for something to happen

[ ] Be confident about the decisions you’ve made up until this point

[X] Get taken into the crowded mall

[X] Meet the congressman

[X] Find out that your main Cornell contact is in fact the congressman of the entire district that everyone knows and is not some guy hooking you up with a volunteer spot

[X] Meet and shake hands with many members of his staff

[ ] Remember at least one of their names

[X] See Miss Philippines

[ ] Woo Miss Philippines

[ ] Get Miss Philippines’s number

[X] Get dropped off at your hostel

[X] Get told that if you want to go anywhere you can just text to get a personal driver to take you there

[ ] Have a plan for the next day

[X] Study Chinese

[X] Binge watch episodes of New Girl on Netflix

[ ] Don’t be lazy and explore the downtown area at night

[ ] Get a good understanding of what common foods are eaten in the country

[ ] Have a plan for the next day

[X] Watch more New Girl

[X] Get a text that explains your plan for the next day

[X] Big sigh of relief

[X] Take second shower of the day

[X] Feel really tired

[X] Check clock and find out it’s only 830pm

[ ] Text Miss Philippines ‘good night’

[X] Pass out

Matching: Chapter 6

Upon crossing the threshold of the manager’s office and with the door closed behind them, Kay could discern a tone shift in the bald man. He maintained the same politeness and joviality when first seen waltzing into the reception area, but gravity appeared to have gotten a firmer grasp of his being and the impenetrable layer of cheer common the attendants that Kay found overwhelming became more bearable and welcoming in the welcoming demur standing before him. Looking around he saw pictures of the bald man’s family, various plaques, photographs of the facility featuring him standing alongside whom Kay assumed to be very important men. On his shelf sat a simple cactus with an open flower; a plant he had never seen before and imagined it to be imported from beyond their borders.

Kay was offered a seat before the bald man sat down, provided a glass of water and innumerable other amenities that he politely turned down, and given another introductory speech, albeit a more concise one. The bald man, introduced as Mr. Jay, and likewise seen in his bronze name plate on his desk and on several certifications on the wall, folded his hands in polite expectation in anticipation of Kay beginning the conversation. Upon closer inspection, the lines of his face were more prominent and striking now that they had left the dull lighting of the reception area. His face looked as if cast from stone, having been eroded slowly year after year, but with the strange quality of still conveying an atmosphere of congeniality like a strong cologne that hung about the air and stung the senses. It took a few moments for Kay to take it all in before coming to the question he intended to ask.

β€œCan you tell me about…” he only had a chance to say, before Mr. Jay quickly interjected.

β€œMy apologies. I have been spending a lot of time with the water pumps today, dreadfully loud down there, and my hearing has been off. Would you mind speaking up?”

His throat had grown dry all of a sudden. Kay grabbed the glass of water and managed a gulp before clearing his throat and starting again.

β€œWhat is the purpose of these revitalization centers? Why do they and Matching really exist? When I think about it, the answers seem really obvious, but I can’t help but think there’s something else behind it all. Something I’m not seeing.”

Mr. Jay sat for a moment silently before answering, which gave Kay time to acknowledge the childishness of his question and berate himself for not having phrased it better.

Having articulated the direction he wished it to go, Mr. Jay cleared his throat and began, β€œNow that’s a loaded a question. I suppose I should first ask you why you think they exist.”

This was not the response he had in mind, especially from someone of his station in the industry itself. Nevertheless, he took little time in responding.

β€œI’m not ignorant to all the supposed perks of them. I’ve been here before as kid when it was still a spa and before it was renovated into this Revitalization Center.”

Mr. Jay sat mouth resting behind clasped hands and elbows resting against the hard wood surface of his desk. He looked at intently as Kay spoke, hanging on every word. This arrested attention in turn arrested Kay’s and he had to focus his eyes to just below his gaze to keep from being intimidated.

β€œThe spa was where I came often with my parents and it was a great way to relax and keep in touch with my friends when when they came with their families. Before it used to be only five spas, all pumped from the same spring just outside the city. I’m not sure what happened next but then a new trend came out and everyone started flocking to these new centers that promised all these new features. Lines are ridiculous and I can’t go as much as I could and the family trips stopped. It became less about relaxing and more about providing services we don’t need, or ones I don’t think the spa needed to offer, especially revitalization surgeries. I’ve never been into an Enlightenment Chamber, but the premise seems absurd…no offense.”

β€œNone taken,” Mr. Jay chuckled. β€œPlease go on.”

β€œMy point is, our city was known for its spas and now its known for this. Now, with the right credentials, you could walk in one way and you leave as somebody else the next…”

Kay finally felt that he was drifting from answering the question he himself posed. Furthermore, he was talking about his childhood to a complete stranger without any inhibition in what he was saying. Mr. Jay looked like someone he could trust and could speak openly to, but even Kay couldn’t tell what was going through his mind or what agenda he had in bringing him to his personal office. He paused for a moment and started again.

β€œMatching is supposed to make our city better and promote growth. By the time you graduated high school, your potential was measured and your future honed all with the promise of efficiency. By the time you were to graduate college, you were placed in another tier-based system and the most qualified people are Matched, given the most fitting look needed for a job. Jobs now only hire those that reflect a particular face and people are ensured the jobs and wages the deserve without the hassles of a market based on 100% bias thus eliminating bias. Is that right?”

Mr. Jay took a moment to make sure Kay had finished speaking before taking a deep breath before releasing a self-controlled chuckle. β€œMay I speak plainly Mr. Kay? I think I understand what your question is.” he answered.

β€œOf course. Please tell me.”

β€œWell to do so, I’ll need to tell you a bit about about the history of the center and myself. By the sight and sound of it, it doesn’t seem like you believe what you’ve been hearing from everyone else to be the answer you’re looking for. Mr. Kay, the goal of each and every Revitalization Center is to rejuvenate ones mind, body, and soul. It’s in our motto: Relaxation, Enlightenment, and Revitalization. Relaxation in our spas reinvigorates the body, enlightenment provides an environment for your brain to synchronize even more with the rest of your body, but the soul, well one’s soul is given material form through our revitalization process. That in a nut shell, Mr. Kay, is what we, Center #4, do and everything we strive to do. That is what we tell customers, new employees, and recite to anyone who visits from any of the other Centers. You name the people, that’s what we tell them.

β€œBut back to reality Mr. Kay. Those researchers you hear so much about, those hidden away in a lab bending and unbending the elements to make your skin softer and your mind stronger, those statisticians up in their offices toiling over the numbers, balancing them out to inform the public that everything’s working, even the unknown forces putting there are beyond both my understanding and yours, they may as well occupy the peaks of Mt. Olympus, so far are they removed from us and so strong is their well that puts everything in place. Now, this isn’t meant to be as melodramatic as it may sound. I am a manager at Center #4 where you currently sit and you appear to me, as I see it, a curious soon to be Matched student trying to understand a backwards system that tries to fix bias with more bias as some would see as fighting fire with fire.You say you fear the loss of the city’s history. As someone well in their 50s that train of thought is no different from anyone who gets to be my age. This city, and all cities as I see it, are drunkards to a bottle and just as quick to forget the past. ”

The air of the office seemed light and Kay began to sweat now hanging on every word Mr. Jay now spoke.

β€œTimes have changed and you let slip that there was part of yourself and your youth left here prior to the renovations. I get that better than most. Believe it or not, I used to work here prior to the renovations. I haven’t always occupied this position nor was I matched into this position right after college. You look surprised that you may not recognize me. Well that may be for a number of reasons. For one, I was 18 when I started working for the spa that stood before this one. My main job was in the pump room attending to the main and only pipe at the time that brought the ground water in from outside the city. It was dirty and exhausting work, but I loved what it for what it was. The clinks and puffs and wooshes of the boiler room, the seclusion from the hustling and bustling that happened over my head, and above all else, the earthy smell the basement used to have. It was the smell you’d have to leave the city get a whiff of nowadays. Sure the heat of the machinery was brutal during summer months, but there was no other feeling like hopping in the cold bath after everyone had left and then soaking in the hottest pool in the building, all to yourself. I was a shy one back in the day and that set-up suited me perfectly and it continued this way for 20 years with no change.”

Mr. Jay eyes shined as he reminisced and his stare seemed to go beyond where Kay was sitting. Looking through him, he was envisioning and trying to capture what once was, where he used to be before. It was a fleeting memory and the images were blurrier than the last time he recalled it, but the imagined sounds and smells enhanced the images and he smile serenely at the feeling.

β€œAs you know, the time finally came when the spa and its property owned by the family I worked for was bought out. The building was demolished only for this, one of many identical pillars all under the same ownership, to rise from many similar ashes. This was my only job and my livelihood depended on it, but luckily for me I was given an opportunity to continue as the assistant to the engineer in charge of replacing the old system with the new. Working under him, I helped put together the new integrated pump system that would connect to new ground water reservoirs and even learned about the new minerals that we would be adding to the water to do wonderful things like reverse aging. This was way beyond what I was doing as the pump boy tending to pipes and doing the laundry. Over time, Center #4 grew larger and larger and, as demand for its services grew each day, the number of Centers began to grow. Lucky for me, however, the space beneath the building was my own time capsule, resistant to change and a constant reminder of why I liked working here.”

β€œAnd why do you like working here?” Kay asked.

β€œBecause it makes people happy.” was Mr. Jay’s reply. β€œYep. Just as things have been going on above your head all this time, I’ve been going about below your feet trying to please every man and woman who walks through that revolving glass door,” he joked.

β€œWell,” he continued. β€œAs you mentioned, with the glowing success of the new spas, it didn’t take long for Enlightenment to be added. Soon surgical centers were added on as well. Before long, someone came up with an idea that started out small but grew like wildfire: β€œWhy not integrate surgeries into the process”. I don’t use this word often, literally everyone took to revitalization centers for not only the relaxation and enlightenment, but face revitalization as well. Now I’m not sure where the transition happened either, but eventually Matching started out at one center, then later it was sponsored by one business in conjunction with a school and then I’m not sure what happened exactly but it blew up, but not like the other fads did. It blew up and the dust blew all over the city and the country, settling into the minds of those important enough to integrate it. Poof, just like that, Matching appeared and took hold. In terms of my life, the mechanic who trained me was whisked off to expand and integrate the pumping systems across all other centers and I took his spot eventually moving up administratively as well.”

β€œIs that it?” Kay asked, expecting more from the story.

β€œIn a nutshell, that’s it. I’m merely a mortal that works in the system. I can’t tell you more than what I’ve seen and been told myself.”

β€œHow did you end up in your position now?” Kay asked.

β€œFollowing his leave, I was given the chance to rise from my previous position dwelling underground with the pipes and pumps and be promoted to the face of all aspects of Center #4. In order to do so, however, I had to adopt the face that the company mandated.”

Kay slouched in his chair finally catching up to the real ending of the story, β€œAnd you took the job?”

β€œAnd I took the job,” was Mr. Jay’s response.

β€œBut why? Why do it? You were happy where you were. More so, why change the face you had before when the people who you were serving wouldn’t even know the real you?” asked Kay, unable to hold back all the questions that flew into his mind with the intense empathy he felt for the man who knew his own struggles.

β€œMr. Kay, do you see my cactus over there?”

β€œI saw it when I came in. What about it?”

β€œWhat’s interesting about cacti is that their needles are in fact leaves that have evolved a different shape to adapt to the harsh arid environment of the desert. Their needles, crafted by selection, reduce the amount of water that could be dried out compared to plants with normal leaves in desert conditions. Tiny pores in the leaves that allow gases and water to enter and exit the plant remain closed during the day when it’s extremely hot to prevent evaporation. So, how does a cactus thrive? Well, in the day it uses the sunlight to kickstart its inner processes but only when night falls will it open these pores to allow gases to pass through and complete its cycle without risking losing its valuable water.”

β€œWhat does this have to do about Matching?”

β€œTimes change Mr. Kay. The pump room may look the same except with more pipes, but who knows what will happen in the future. Maybe something will come along and make the spa portion obsolete, then I would be out of the job. I couldn’t stay locked up in the basement forever, I would have eventually dried up and withered away. I needed to experience the light for myself in order to be more complete and continue serving the people who I’ve tasked myself with serving all these years. I had to open my leaves at some point, even if it meant giving up who I once was in order to grow.”

Matching: Chapter 5

The smiling concierge, somewhat surprised by the bluntness of its delivery and the age of the deliverer, let slip an eyebrow out of its normal track, but quickly reassumed her composure. International travelers weren’t allowed out of their district so he must undoubtedly be one of the few locals left in the city that have yet to embrace the new generation. It had been a long time since she had given an introductory speech, but there was no doubt that her memory was robust, elocution excellent, and her overall ability infallible. She replied with an even greater smile, β€œI would be happy to tell you more. The history of our Center, Center 4, is rather fascinating. It was originally a one-story day spa prior to the Matching program’s inaugural year, but has since been renovated with 12 more floors to accommodate all needs and ensure relaxation, enlightenment, and revitalization. The second through fourth floor houses our spas equipped with 24 state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled, saunas fed by all-natural spring water pumped over 1000 meters underground from several reservoirs in and out of the city. For more information about each sauna room please consult this pamphlet right here that details the chemistry that goes into enhancing the 24 different saunas, 4 of which are seasonal-based, and 2 of which are of the newer formula that are said to extend your life (this will require VIP membership to access). Floors five and six include our five-star restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a computer room, resting chambers, massage parlors, foot baths, bedrooms, and more. These floors encompass the relaxation portion of Center 4.

Here the smiling concierge paused to catch her breath. Kay, mistaking this pause for the end of her speech, made an attempt to ask a more specific question, but was soon cut off by a second wind.

β€œFloors seven through nine house over 120 chambers promoting full enlightenment of the individual. Our goal is to not only relax your body but rejuvenate your mind. Each mind is different and our center strives for a personalized experience suited to your needs. As such, each chamber self-calibrates to each person upon entering and, after sitting down, the room transforms into an entire new world manifested specifically for you. Each surface of the room, including the floor and ceiling, is equipped with sensor and speaker-laden monitors that displays images, play music, and even emit waves specific to your brain wave frequency; all of this coalesces in a perfectly-synced symphony to strengthen your mind. Each individual’s experience is specific to the user and each session is different from the last. Our mind is constantly moving and changing and each experience in our research-tested facility reflects that.” This second portion was spoken by the smiling concierge with charming alacrity and an air of self-approbation. Her speech halted once more, not for breath, but to let the meaning of her words and the magic of her eloquence sink in. Half a meter across the the glossy marble counter Kay did his best to conceal his irritated boredom.

The smiling concierge the quickly segued with β€œAs for floors 10 through 12, the revitalization rooms are….” only to be interrupted by Kay speaking in β€œYes, about the revitalization rooms. Matching. How and why did they start?”

A strand of hair from the smiling concierges perfectly-made bun released itself from its constraints and fell squarely in the center of her forehead. She dipped her head backwards to put it back in it’s rightful place but also to mask her frustrated demeanor, exasperated that her speech was cut short so abruptly. Upon resuming eye contact with Kay, her face maintained its perkiness and her smile reflected light from the hanging crystals, a flashing dimness. She politely requested a moment to better assist him, pulled out a walkie-talkie as if out thin air, and mumbled several words before placing it back in its unknown space and again requesting a moment for assistance to arrive, positively cheerful all the while.

Within 10 seconds a bald man in attire similar to that of the concierges, yet wholly different in its commanding tightness and what appeared to be an extra layer of fabric on top or below it all. By his general appearance he looked at least 40 (he was actually 60) and although one glance at his creased forehead would indicate extreme vexation and the presence of a scowl not far below, however, his countenance was wholly untarnished, his eyes jolly, and his smile enchanting. The bald man strolled briskly up to the smiling woman and conversed excitedly for a moment. Kay was then greeted in a similarly long and polite speech by the man who, upon closer inspection of his name tag was the manager, escorted away from desk and the smiling woman whose attention was now turned to a patron requesting full mind and body rejuvenation package. The electric birds chirped happily.

Matching: Chapter 4

Kay thought of Vee and wasn’t sure if he would even recognize him after the fact. He wondered whether he would give up his own physical identity just for easier access to…well everything. Jobs, a wife, social networking, all would make life easier overall, all fitting to the mold in spite of it all, but a very safe road with the least obstacles. Kay thought of his place; his grades were good and his family affluent enough; he hadn’t checked his letter of placement but he was sure his place was enviable. His condition was his only physical obstacle, but others claimed it to be a non-issue for him. What remained was his own obstinacy and his desire to make do without and see how far he could go. This did not curb the anxiety of the consequences.

Strolling in through the sliding doors with his hands in pockets and his head down, he found the reception floor of the center to be less crowded than he had imagined. This did not mean, however, that he didn’t have to fumble in line behind the winding rows of suited individuals, no doubt fresh from work, to get to the front counter. The room was spacious with a grand air about it all, meticulously planned to facilitate the greatest flow of individuals from check-in to the upper rings where maximum relaxation and life-changing revitalization awaited as promised. Kay moved quickly through the line, but glancing back the starting point of the line never changed, only his position did. As one person moved to the nearby elevators and ascended beyond view, and another appeared through the sliding glass entrance almost on cue; it was an illusion of movement as Kay’s place changed but no overall change seemed to take place. At very end, the efficiency at the service counters was to be commended in the men in women wearing ornate and colorful ties and bows as well as theirs smiles bursting from cheek to cheek as they assisted customers with the swiftness of an automotive assembly line. Ambling behind a woman with a habit dragging her feet walked transfixed on her phone, Kay was able to admire the beauty of the reception area that people did not dwell in very long. Crimson red and sun-swept yellow roses were paired in ornate vases that sat in his peripheral every way he turned, permeating his nostrils with an effervescent fragrance. Water color paintings depicted tranquil lakes and abandoned houses reclaimed by nature and glowing crystalline shards emerging from the ceiling and walls lit the room to a dimness reminiscent of stalactite-laden caverns and hot springs; all this further enhanced by the steady cascade of water along the walls behind the attendants at their counters. It was as if the entire building were a sinking submarine and everyone inside waited in languor for the water to rise above their heads. Along the shimmer of the glassy water he saw his reflection rippling in an out along the services of the wall and he imagined himself as perfect as his setting made him feel. He quickly shook the thought from his mind.

He was not long into his journey inside the Center but Kay found himself in a state of sedation, his mind now filled with trips beyond the city where trees still grew unabashed and tall and nature spoke with clear distinction enough. The crunch of the ground underneath, grass bending at the touch but slowly unfolding back up. Visions of the beach, waves crashing, breaking, frothing at the sand before laying out into a clear glassy film. The sun beat harshly at the nape of his neck where he neglected to put on sunscreen in defiance to his mother. It would prove a painful error later, but at the time it didn’t matter and he fell on the sand eyes closed and breathing heavily, unable to move from exhaustion. He could only hear the sound of the ocean and the irregular panting from his chest. Then came the beating of wings and chirp, chirp, chirping. The sun’s light was intense and he saw only darkness and red behind his eyelids. The chirping continued but now from a bird different from the original. He was gasping as if air was gone and his heart was ready to beat out of his chest. The chirping was now a shrill whistle that grew even louder. Why was that so irregular? Why was it so out of place? No air came and his heart shook. He opened his eyes.

He was at the front of the queue and as his vision seemed cloudy, as if in lower resolution and his sight was spotted with broken pixels floating around his vignette. Recovering himself from this momentary delirium he turned to see the stern face of a man behind him pointing with equal sternness to the far right. His eyesight trailed down the man’s finger, across the circular room, and up the hand of the concierge fervently waving him forward. Kay apologized to the man behind him and shuffled over embarrassedly to the Cheshire-like woman ahead. As he walked he once again heard the same bird calls from his trance. He looked over his shoulder and saw the man he had just apologized to being ushered forward by another smiling concierge.

Kay approached the smiling woman and tapped the counter awkwardly as he searched for the right phrasing to his question as she began what he imagined to be a normal intro to a wonderful establishment. He wasn’t sure where to begin but as he tried to think back to a time before the centers started popping up all over city he was surprised by his lack of insight. He only vaguely remembered the new government program that started implementing Matching at select schools and then only when it had become a national phenomenon. With no question dominating any other he could think of, he waited patiently for his gracious welcome to come to an end before starting simply with:

β€œWhat can you tell me about the Center?”

Continued at:Β https://nocountryforlaowai.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/matching-chapter-5/

Matching: Chapter 3

Kay’s conviction that the world was out to get him was not completely unfounded and had, at some time or another, been at the foreground of many of his contemporaries, contrary to what he might have thought, but could not hold a footing. Constant distraction indicative of those in their youths surrounded by the zeal of those all seeking to truly live as they should, however, pushed these contrary thoughts to the backs of their minds. Did these thoughts ever find their way again to the foreground of these prospering minds? Of course, but for lack of a catalyst to keep it there, as was the case with Kay with his condition, it came only in those solitary moments where we transfix on one thing to keep us grounded in the physical world while our mind wanders to other landscapes and other possibilities, only to be washed back like seaweed at high tide at regular intervals. A clump forms, bobbing back and forth breeching the surface for moments and washing back and forth, sometimes gaining mass, but untangling in equilibrium below the surface until being completely forgotten in the monotony of adulthood.

He believed himself incapable, near instilled it in himself, of making a decision on the issue. Flitting between both sides to a question no one else seemed to be asking and rarely finding respite in those around him, all seemingly on a different track. He maintained sufficient cheerful at most times until a polarizing body fully pushed him to embrace one side and he believed it his imperative to choose the other, like an impetuous child who cries for a toy then spurns it afterwards taking new pleasure in the idea rather than the object itself. Alas, we are all children in some respects, some more than others, and entering adulthood means dropping one’s hedonistic fancies either in exchange for new fancies representative of a new age or as a means of crafting a new identity.

All of these sentiments couldn’t have been anymore highlighted than in this moment as he watched his friend walk into a revitalization center where β€œRelaxation, Enlightenment, and Revitalization” were promised to all who entered. The country ran without fail with churches and temples relocated to the outskirts of the city like old relics, but a day without a revitalization center would surely have spelled problems for all for every minute they were closed. This tall cylindrical building, resembled a cigarette more than anything else, and was easily recognizable against the backdrop of the harsh geometry of the rest of the city. The Centers are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, including holidays. From Kay’s street view of the large quantity of people in the windows walking to and fro, this night, a Tuesday night of all days, was incredibly busy.

Kay’s right leg twitched. He had gone to the Centers before, mostly for appointments after his surgery as a child but had since weaned himself off the need to go. His reticence definitely didn’t rub off on his parents and he could count on their home to be completely vacant between the hours of 7 and 9 pm every other day, which he found to be his own form of a relaxation. Nevertheless, today their presence awaited him at home and he more than ever needed to calm his nerves. The calming oceanic blue of fading twilight had been overshadowed by nightfall and the moon following with it. The temperature outside began to drop and his shivering seemed to nullify any perception of twitching his leg might have done. Kay looked up at the sky; he saw himself as the moon and watched the clouds drift uniformly away, like a school of fish swimming frantically to no observable boundary in the foreground of space. As he faced the towering monolith that had just consumed his friend, the celestial light illuminated its back casting a foreboding shadow where Kay stood.

In testing life for answers, we often find them in the voice of others. In the midst of indecisiveness, our mind may still be bogged down by every detail, but also readily willing latch to a most favorable part and quickly construct an idealized reality of this decision. It feeds on these notions like a tic, growing fat with each word, and making one light headed to the bigger picture. As the leaves on the few trees on this street shrunk in the growing cold of the concrete city, Kay determined to hear the gospel as it may, and come to a decision for himself by the end of the night. At his position, the tip of the cigarette cast a shadow to the top of his shoulders. No Beatrice awaited him inside, but he believed some peace of mind at least could be found within the inner circles of the Center.

Matching: Chapter 2

The city encompassed 24 well-thought out well-defined squares. Between the towering concrete chapels that lined each street of the 10th district, people inside sat at their machine crafted oak pews, stared for hours at their monitors, and prayed for money originated from somewhere. All over, theses monuments lined roads of the city and the minds of its inhabitants with uncompromising zealotry; the streets the Earth, the top floors Heaven. On a night like this, one can just make out strips of twilight sandwiched between them with cross streets marked with a darkening blue X overhead as if to say: β€œThis is the place to be!”

As Kay made his journey home surrounded by a valley of concrete, he saw the path that lay before him as obscured. Cars hummed along mindlessly and the workings of the subway system underneath rumbled below his feet as he waited for the stop light to turn green. He couldn’t recall how he gotten to the light, only that his mind was lost in other business and that his legs had done all the thinking for him. Meanwhile, the winds grew stronger, tugging at the hems of pants as he waited. The stoplight was on a timer, one of many that meticulously calculated the appropriate amount of time for cars and people to wait. So he waited, collecting his thoughts, dwelling on intentions, and wondering whether he should just risk it between passing cars. His hesitation proved to be its own decision as the shadow of an individual appeared at his back having just caught up to him. This shadowed belonged to his classmate and close friend, Vee.

Vee’s bleach blonde hair was the only thing that stood out about him against his otherwise average appearance. Bleach blonde hair did set him apart from many boys his age, but was not so rare as to garner him praise for his rebellion. Approximately 1 out 42 students had dyed their hair in some fashion, either as a sign of independence or to assume the air and of those who did; Vee fell into the latter. He approached a brooding Kay hesitantly and almost turned with the green light in the other direction sensing an indignant wind about him, but opted to engage with his long time friend who has been suffering a long time.

Family, friends, loved ones in general, close as they may be as companions, are still subject to time and place in all affairs. Cold evening, lost in thought, and full of doubt, Kay stood dwelling over these things; his friend may not have been the last person he wanted to see, but he was certainly markedly closer to that rank at this particular crosswalk on this particular night. Vee stood by him catching up on the past day, the night ahead, and the days to come, all the while the mechanical pinging of the crosswalk signal mocked Kay throughout. At this time of the year his family seemed more distant than ever so he loathed to compare him to family, but with so many years behind them, he could hardly think of anyone closer. And yet, Kay found himself in the same conversations he’s been hearing more than ever with greater antipathy each time.

β€œI made it into a good tier. I think combined with my grades, I think I have a good shot at that new company that opened up close to District 10.”

β€œThat’s great,” Kay said between biting lips, β€œJust think of the opportunities.”

β€œThanks…I don’t see why you don’t check on yours for yourself.”

β€œI don’t see why I have to. I will be perfectly content as it is now, better yet, how it was before.” Kay replied obstinately.

β€œAre you still hung out about Matching?” Vee inquired cautiously as if trying to pet an angry dog.

β€œWith every mention of it.” Kay returned.

β€œBy your tone it doesn’t seem like you’ve changed your mind. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about it, especially from everyone at school.”

β€œSurprisingly more so at home, but it’s all the same at this rate.”

They both stood in silence as the light beeped.

β€œHonestly I’m not sure how we used to get along with out it. All the issues with finding work, constant debates about inequality, even the violence that ended because of Matching. It really does a lot of good and its something that wouldn’t have been possible before. With this technology we’re really living in a new age.”

β€œHow do we know this is the end all solution? How would anyone know? They never release any information about it and even if they did I would still suspect something.”

β€œWell, it seems to be working out doesn’t it? What use is there being cynical?” questioned Vee, annoyance at his friend finally starting to get the better of him.

β€œWhy not be? It started when we were young. It’s all we’ve ever known, probably all we’ll ever know if what they say is actually right. I guess in your mind we should put our best foot forward and figure it out along the way. I just want to take a step back from it all. We’re so engrossed in the same way of thinking about it and it’s been making me sick. Even these pills I have take, I stop taking them. They don’t make me feel any better. It’s just another thing people will tell you that works, but doesn’t. Our people like to hear what we want to hear and we’ve been lulled by the same words, it’s one of our biggest weaknesses and we’re willing to dismiss parts of our past for some future we probably won’t see. There are no steps back, we’re progressing into tomorrow as if there’s an end point where everything’s ideal while I don’t really know how things were before, if there wasn’t something better before or whether there can be an ideal anything. All of us, everyone, are just treated like children who keep running into an end table. To solve it they smooth the edges to make it hurt less rather than helping us avoid it altogether, or even get rid of the table completely.”

Vee caught himself himself staring at Kay at his outburst of feeling and quickly corrected it, while Kay, finding less control over his faculties than he imagined, turned away and wiped his forehead. It was damp despite the cold and his mouth was now dry from the cold air. Vee settled on the concrete as if the proper diction for his next phrase were written there. He settled on just speaking his mind, but Kay, feeling as if he had missed another cycle, started off down the avenue in hopes of catching a better-constructed light. Caught off-guard, Vee jogged to catch up finding Kay’s expression stern and lost in thought as he had often seen him. His barrier was up but Vee found courage in not having direct eye contact to speak out:

β€œKay, what is this really about? Why are you speaking in such absolutes about everything? I thought I had an idea but I’m starting to think that I don’t….You’re not making any sense and I can’t help if I don’t understand.”

Kay walked on considering and planning answers to concerns his companion could raise.

β€œThe system may not be perfect, but it works for now,” Vee continued. β€œI don’t have to be the person to tell you, it’s going to happen to everyone and will continue happening whether you like it or not. I don’t know what you’re going through, but you’ve got to at least open your mind to the idea or at least talk about it. ” he entreated. They continued walking briskly down the avenue while still avoiding eye contact. β€œI’m not in the same position, but I’m scared too. I’m changing myself for something I don’t entirely understand but that’s the way it is and I have to go with it. That’s a part of what’s expected. I won’t lose myself, at least I’ll try not to, but that’s the best I can say or do. Running away won’t change anything and avoiding the subject won’t stop it from happening eventually.”

To Kay it seemed as if he supplicating his approval than an actual answer. His mind remained stubborn but softened at his best friend’s sincere plea. In his youth, where the world was no more than a snow globe, he knew very little of the outside world and set himself at a higher place. To be contrary was his nature, but the intricacies of how and for what end kept him from readily responding.

The subway beneath his feet wound its way from railway to railway, twisting and turning in all directions at varying times and speeds at all times below him. Even the most common mode of transportation was above his head in understanding and could’ve been run by an invisible little demon opening and closing valves, heating and cooling the engine. Gears turning, meters whirring, an symphony of parts working in-sync all a part of this greater machine traveling at unmatched speeds while, above and below, this system, the world, and everything turns, has turned, and will turn on its own independent of man’s artifice. Why question Matching and not question everything else? That his life would be superficially different was a marginal issue when considering the grand path he imagined himself to be on, a story with obstacles but with no experiences to give a blade its edge, a bruise its burn, or hunger its craving. To go so far as to say β€œI’ve heard about that, I’ve read it somewhere” is the anthem of those who haven’t been anywhere. Where would he go?

He stopped and apologized out of deference to Vee and promised to give it more thought out. Whether it was sincere or not escaped both of them, but his friend accepted it as truth and they parted on friendly terms. His friend made his way into a nearby revitalization center and Kay resolved to stop thinking about the matter for the time being. As Vee settled into one of the relaxation chambers of the spa, he was initially crestfallen at the way his conversation with friend went, but was immediately comforted at its resolution. With this his understanding of the end of the encounter with his friend took on a more dulled edge as the heated water guided him into temporary slumber.

To Chapter 3: https://nocountryforlaowai.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/matching-chapter-3/