Me and Chairman Mao
  Living conditions.
I love living in Seattle: the weather's rarely too hot or too cold; the eight month drizzle that is fall, winter, and spring doesn't bother me; and, on a sunny day in the summer, I don't think anywhere in the US is prettier. Although I've heard Denver's nice, but it's in Colorado so Seattle wins. I mean seriously--Colorado? Has anything ever happened in or even come from Colorado? I mean, besides Coors, which isn't bad as far as cheap, watery, bland, mass-produced American lagers go. But when that's your claim to fame, well, you know ...

Anyway, that doesn't mean I don't sometimes reconsider my living situation. Like the other night, for example, as I sat in a bar two-hundred feet away from a white sand beach, listening to the waves break onto the shore with a crashing sound that always seems louder than it should be based on the size of the wave (I don't think waves ever really "lap," except maybe in lakes, which don't count because then you have "waves" not waves), drinking the sort of fruity, tropical drink you can only safely order when you are two-hundred feet away from a beach, and watching the sun hit the Andaman Sea, turning the sky into a pink and purple bruise, I thought to myself: "Why do I live in Seattle again?" (I'm not sure that sentence makes any sense, but I'm too lazy to go back and reread it--I'm on holiday, remember.)

Then, to remind myself, I simply looked down the front of my shirt--not a titillating experience, thankfully (ding!)--at my stomach, which is a shocking shade of scarlet, and think, "Oh yeah, that's why." Yes, it turns out that going from a Beijing winter, where for days and even weeks on end the high temperature doesn't crack freezing, to a Phuket spring, where 70 degrees Fahrenheit is likely considered freezing, is not so easy on the skin. Especially when the only "sunblock" you have is crappy Nivea stuff--Nivea, for some reason, seems to have a monopoly on sun products around here--which is about as useful as slathering yourself up with Crisco or butter or something, although at least with those last two you know you'll end up sunburned from the start. Plus, you'll probably taste good as well--especially if you add some garlic--so that's something, at least.

(Side note: You can't buy much in the way of sunscreen in Beijing, since they aren't big on the sun there. Not just because there's no beaches, but also because--Warning: factual information ahead!--in the olden days being dark or suntanned meant you spent your days working in the fields, which in turn meant you were a peasant, so people try to stay as light as possible. Which you'd think would mean lots of sunblock, but for some reason it doesn't. Weird. However, it does mean there are plenty of "whitening products"--Micheal Jackson would be thrilled, no doubt--available at every local drugstore, which is also sort of weird. Even weirder is the fact that the whitening process apparently involves a plain, scary looking white mask--think Mike Myers in Halloween--that you are supposed to wear around the house or something, which can also be picked up at local drugstores.)

Um, what was I saying? Oh, Phuket. And thinking. And sunburns. So yes, the sunburn sucks, but then again, sitting under a nice, wide umbrella all day long while reading whatever book you happen to pick up, drinking the occasional aforementioned fruity drink and taking periodic dips in the pool is not so bad, either ...
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