I Dropped Out Of College And Moved To China

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On December 22nd, 2018 I walked out of what is likely the last classroom I will ever enter. I decided to drop out of school and leave the University of Wisconsin-Madison halfway through my senior year. A decision some people, mainly the elderly, have had a difficult time understanding. They can’t wrap their heads around why I would drop out of a great school when I am so close to finishing.

I began the school year with the intent on graduating but found out early on that due to the combination of transferring schools, and not really knowing what the fuck I was supposed to be studying, I was going to be few credits shy of graduating in the spring. After learning that the decision to drop out was easy. There was no way in hell I was coming back to school for a 5th semester. Absolutely not. After having spent my summer in NYC, as well as part of last spring in China, working as Donnie’s intern, being back on campus felt like an utter waste of time. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be back working at Barstool, and half-assing my way through an English degree was only preventing me from getting there.

(This pretty much sums up how productive senior year was going)

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I’m gonna be honest when I packed up and left campus I wasn’t exactly sure if I still had any kind of internship/job at Barstool. By leaving NYC at the end of the summer and returning to school there was a risk of losing the opportunity. I had been in contact with Donnie, and we were working out a plan on coming back but I had no real confirmation it would go through. Regardless I knew there was no point in finish school. In this day in age, I feel that getting a college degree is more of a cultural right of passage more so than a necessity to living a successful life. 

As mentioned, I was majoring in English, more specifically creative writing. Don’t get me wrong. I loved it. I pretty much just read poems and wrote stories about pirates for course work. While I’m sure it’s a useful degree if you want to teach kindergarten, I had no plans in doing so, and I sure as hell didn’t need to be taking on more debt in order to read poems and write mediocre stories about pirates. That I can do for free. If worse came to worst and Barstool hadn’t worked out, my plan B was to move to France and work in restaurants for a few years to really try an hone my cooking skills.

Thankfully, everything did work out, and I’m back in China with Donnie. I’m not a full-time employee yet and nothing is guaranteed, but I’m one step closer and that’s all that really matters. China is its own beast, and I couldn’t be more excited to be back over on the other side of the world. We have a lot of crazy content coming your way. So Make sure you subscribe to Donnie’s new youtube channel if you haven’t already.

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P.S

Before I left the states I got fucked up with my best friend from high school and had my own version of a graduation ceremony. So no, now I really don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not finishing school.

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Donny the Dolphin Trainer

Donny the Dolphin Trainer

For those of you who don’t know I’m currently in Shanghai, China. I got an internship working for a little company called Barstool Sports. Ever heard of em? I report directly to The Wonton Don, Barstool’s foreign correspondent. He’s known for his segments “Whoa That’s Weird” where he brings to light the stranger side of Asian culture. From eating penis fish to blacking out at taco bell Donnie’s Does it all.

He’s the inventor of the suisey, a suit/jersey combo for all those who want to support their favorite team while still remaining dressed for the occasion. It’s perfect for a Weddings or Bar Mitzvahs. It might not be quite ready for Quinceaneras yet. The Spanish prefer a worn poncho with a stiff pair of leather chaps, plus most are soccer fans, and like all fans of that sport they prefer to watch the game naked with a thumb up their ass.

Personally, I think the best thing my boss has done is coin the phrase “It’s better to be off the beaten path than to be on the path beating off.” I couldn’t agree more. That quote has helped me stay moving throughout my travels.

It may look like my boss’s day job is just to cranks hoons and rips trodas, but I have a feeling there’s a lot more to it than that. I am very excited to be working for him, he’s a big J jerno and I’m a small i intern. I have a lot to learn.

I know I’ve been slacking on the blogs. For the thirty or so people who actually read them fear not, the kid is back. There’s quite a gap between this blog and my last post. Forty-eight days to be exact. A lot has happened in those 48 days. Tons and tons of content, like cutting the heads off chickens in a remote Himalayan village content. I was going to pick up where I left off last and do a chronological recap, but the shit that happened last night is too good to wait on. I’ll share this quick story and from there I’ll write a few more posts detailing the events from the past month or so. Let’s roll.

Donnie is in Thailand for a few days, so I’ve been on my own editing some of his videos and getting to know my new neighborhood until he returns. He put me in touch with a few of his friends and they invited me to a networking party last night. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but they told me there was going to be free booze and food. It doesn’t take much to get me excited, put the word “free” infront of anything and I’ll be there. But put it in front of boozeor food and I’ll be sprinting my ass over.

I arrived at the event and immediately felt out of place. The people there were all young professionals in the tech industry. A lot of wanna be millennial billionaire types. Sports coats, sneakers, and raw denim jeans, that kind of thing. I, on the other hand, waltzed in wearing my hiking boots and a lightweight Seaworld aquarium jacket. (Look, when you’re backpacking around the world you don’t have the luxury of having a diverse wardrobe. You’re going for function, not fashion.) I immediately felt underdressed, but little did I know that Shanghai had just opened an aquarium not far from where we were. A western guy walked up to me and asked

“Hey man, do you work at the aquarium or something?”

Go with it dude, you’ve seen Blackfish. Pull some orca facts outta your ass and you’re golden.

“Uhh– yes. Yes, I do. In fact, I’m one of the dolphin trainers they brought in from Seaworld in California.” I pointed to the logo on my jacket as if it would help reinforce my bullshit.

“I’m Donny nice to meet you.”

“Alex, likewise man.”

We chatted for a few minutes, he turned out to be a pretty legit dude. I ended up telling him who I really was and what I was actually doing here. He told me the dolphin trainer story was much more interesting, and I should stick with it. I agreed. As the night progressed I became “Donny the dolphin trainer.” It has a pretty nice ring to it, don’t ya think?

After a few more IPAs I was on top my marine biology game.

“Yeah you know–– the documentary Blackfish really killed us in California. Things started to get a bit hairy with all the protests, so we packed up and moved the show out here.”

“No, whales actually prefer to be kept in captivity, they are less likely to be attacked by sharks or catch a virus. Being locked in an outrageously small tank is great for their sensitive immune systems.”

“Did you know that dolphins can actually turn into whales if they eat enough fish?”

“We’ve got a few Orcas, the most famous being Tilikum, and a pod of pink fin dolphins coming in from Thailand.” (If anyone had seen Blackfish they’d know Tilikum is dead as fuck. Thank god they don’t have Netflix in this country. Shoutout to my Boy Xi Jinping! Keep censoring the internet, my man.)

“Dolphins and whales shit out of their blowholes… that's what you see spewing out when they surface.”

“Before I was a dolphin trainer I worked on a Japanese whaling boat. So I’ve seen all sides of the business. Form killing whales to training dolphins I know it all!”

“ Dolphins are like turtles on speed. If you gave a turtle some Adderall it would physically morph into a dolphin. Trust me on that, I’m a scientist.”

“Oh yeah, business is great here. The best part is once a whale or dolphin dies we just give it to the government and the whole city eats.”

Those were my go-to lines for the night. I wouldn’t try them on westerners though. They probably would have seen through my bullshit. I stuck to Asians for it’s much easier to convince someone you swim with dolphins for a living when they speak little to no English. The typical response to any statement I made was

“Dolphin? Wooow so speeecial!”

Or

“Ahh, I wike fishhh!”

As the night was winding down I ran back into Alex, we were having a beer on the terrace when two young Asian guys came up to us and asked

“Yo, either of you got a light?”

“Sorry sir, I do not.” Replied Alex respectfully.

“Sir? Did you just call me sir? DON’T fucking call me sir! I’m a twenty-two-year-old kid!”

“Relax dude, I call every adult male in a business situation sir.”

“I’ve been here for ten years. I know about every industry in China. Steal, auto, textile. You name it I fucking know it!” Ranted this twenty-two-year-old Asian kid.

“Oh really? Every industry? How about the aquarium industry.”

“Aquiru — ”

Alex didn’t give the kid any time to finish his thought as he continued on with my intro.

“You see this is my friend Donny, he just got flown out here to run the dolphin program at the new aquarium — ”

I jumped right in.

“That’s right boys, I just got to town. As my friend mentioned I’m one of the new trainers. We’re getting the tanks all set up for the big show. Are you two interested in swimming with some dolphins?”

I decided because this kid was so confident that he knew every industry in China, and because he freaked the fuck out when Alex called him sir that he deserved to be taught a little lesson.

“That would be amazing! Like you could take us inside the park?” They asked with wide eyes.

“Inside the park? Hell, I can take you into the Goddamn tank if you’d like! I’ll tell you what, if you guys come to the front gate at say, 5:30 AM on Monday, I’ll give you a private tour, and let you swim with the dolphins before we open the park to the public.”

“No way?! That would be so sick man! Do we need to bring anything?”

“Wear a swimsuit and bring a towel. Be there at 5:30 AM sharp, front gate. Ask the security guard for Donny the American trainer. He’ll call me, and I’ll come down.”

“Can I bring my sister?”

“Sure thing man, bring the whole fucking family! Just don’t be late.”

I watched as they both set reminders on their phones to be at the aquarium at 5:30 AM on Monday morning. They even wrote “Donny Dolphin Trainer” down as the event title.

Alex and I walked away and burst into laughter. I hope to God those two get up dumb early on Monday morning dressed in swimsuits only to realize that they got duped by “Donny the Dolphin Trainer.”

I don’t think I’m ready to drop this bit yet. Nah, I like being a dolphin trainer, I might even make a fake badge for the aquarium and go for a swim with the orcas myself.

I’ll be in Shanghai working with Donnie for the next month. Go check his shit out on Instagram/twitter @TheWantonDon and on https://www.barstoolsports.com/videos/donnie-does

Peace Peace Peace

-Donny

SHANGHAI, April 14th, 2018

"Nah it's cool bro, I'm shaun whites cousin"

"Nah it's cool bro, I'm shaun whites cousin"

I have found my beach, finally. It feels nice considering a week ago I was in full blown winter in South Korea for the Olympic games. Boy, I had quite the week. You wouldn’t believe how easy it was for me to scheme my way around there. Here’s the recap.

If you read my last blog post you’d know that going into the Olympics I had been telling everyone that I was on the United States curling team. When I arrived in South Korea I continued to ride that wave hard with the locals. I was taking pictures and dishing out high fives left and right. I’m not sure if they actually believed I was an athlete, or if they were just excited to see a white guy with blonde hair and blue eyes in their small town. Either way, my mug has to be well represented on some South Korean Facebook pages by now.

Although a success with the locals, I quickly realized using the whole “I’m an athlete” card to get exclusive access around the games wasn’t going to work. The real athletes were all decked out in matching Nike gear and had extensive credentials hanging around their necks. I, on the other hand, had a puffy winter coat that I snagged from a street vendor for ten bucks and a hat with the Olympic rings on it. My game plan was going to have to change.

I met my boy Lucas, who is interning for NBC sports, in Gangwon. He hooked me up with a guest pass that granted me access to media village, where he was living, for the day. Little did I know that that simple piece of plastic was about to get me into the most restricted areas of the games.

Lucas and I had time to kill before we attended the opening ceremony that night, so he showed me around town. We grabbed a few beers then headed off to Olympic Park. I have to say witnessing an Olympic opening ceremony in person is one of the highlights of my life thus far. I sat next to a guy who told me he’d been to every Olympics since Sydney, and that this was his favorite. Hold up fam. You’ve been to every fucking Olympics since Sydney? By my count, that’s ten. Who the hell are you bro? I thought the Olympics were something you get to see once in your life if you’re lucky.

He told me he was from Morocco, so I’m going to go ahead and assume he’s either a very successful camel merchant or an international drug lord. Either way, he said this was the best ceremony he’d seen, and I believe him. That show was electric. When that caldron burst into flames signaling the start of the games I nearly shit my pants.

I was joined by another fellow fraternity brother, Sam Lubeck, a few days later. Once he arrived I left my life as a journo, living on Lucas’s couch in media village, and switched to an Airbnb right on the beach. I know, life is tough.

Gangwon is a popping beach town in the summer but a frozen wasteland in the winter, so we got the room on the low. Our beds were made up with American Flag sheets and comforters. (Mr. Joon must have known we were coming.) Since I didn’t have any USA gear with me I happily removed my stars and stripes pillowcase and used it as a flag for all the events we attended.

Now, up until this point in my trip I had been lone wolfing it around Northern Thailand, with the exception of bumping into a few friends who were studying abroad in Bangkok. As you can imagine whenever I went out with a group of fellow travelers, usually batshit crazy Australians, I was always cautious not to get too boozed up. Well, that all changed when Sam came. I finally had a drinking buddy who I knew would have my back if shit went down.

In South Korea, they sell beer like we sell soda. By the goddamn liter. Plus, they have a distilled alcohol called soju which only runs you a buck a bottle. It gives you a far worse hangover than any flavored brunettes, but hey it’s literally one dollar, so I can’t really complain. We also discovered that any bar would add soju to your beer for free if you asked. Ha! Free Irish car bombs? Yeah, we’ll take six.

The first event we attended was the Women’s Halfpipe Finals. The mountain was around an hour or so away from our Airbnb so we hit the road early to catch the shuttle from town. Before we left Sam asked the million-dollar question.

“So are we like boozing for this or–”

“I mean we are at the Olympics annnd it’s kinda cold out. Few beers and a little soju couldn’t hurt.”

After convincing ourselves that we weren’t total degenerates for drinking at nine in the morning we set out for the convenience store, loaded up on beer and soju, then headed out to the mountain.

I had a can of beer stuffed in each of my coat pockets as we approached the metal detector at the security gate. As expected, the thing beeped like crazy. This caused the security guard to begin waving his wand around my body. As he moved it across my coat pocket it started to beep. I pulled out a coin and said

“Lo siento, forgot to take this out.”

He moved to the next pocket. Beep. Beep. Beep.

“Oh, shit more coins. I have a lot of coins bro. Big collection. It’s gonna keep beeping.”

“Not coin.” He said.

“Yes coin.” I insisted.

He didn’t seem to know what to do next, so he let me pass without much of a fuss. This should begin to paint a picture of how much of a joke security was. Once we were in the park, we scoped out a spot to stand and watch. We had general admission tickets, but being a couple of big ballers we wanted to get as close to the action as possible. We found a small gap in the fencing and passed through without a problem. We began walking towards the left side of the half pipe when we were stopped by a Korean security guard.

“No no sirs, medical staff only! You go sis ways.”

She ushered us into the section where all the members of the media were standing. Perfectly fine with us. We watched Chloe Kim stomp down an outstanding run to take home the gold. I was two feet away from her as she came into the fan section to celebrate. I was standing so close to her parents that I felt like a member of their family. I turned to her dad and said

“Congrats Dad, she did it! I’m so proud!”

I then proceeded to try to give him a hug. He didn’t even notice me, I’m sure he was more concerned with the fact that his daughter had just won a gold medal. He could now be satisfied that her career choice to be a snowboarder wasn’t all for nothing. Finally, he had something tangible to rub in all those other parents faces who said

“Oh, snowboarding? That’s nice but is that really going to get her anywhere in life?”

Yes, yes, it will. How’s your son doing as an accountant? Oh, he got a gold star for being employee of the month? Well, my daughter has a fucking gold medal. Eat that bitch.

After the podium ceremony, Sam and I began to make our way out when we heard the announcer say

“And up next we have the Men’s Halfpipe Qualifiers!”

We both looked at each other knowing that there was no chance we were leaving quite yet. Thankfully we still had some soju left to keep us warm as we waited for the mens heats to begin.

The crowd had thinned out, and I suggested to Sam that we go try to climb up the right side of the half pipe to get a better vantage point for the competition. We made it halfway up the slope with no problem. Aside from the fact that every other person there was a cameraman and was wearing the same spiked boots they use to climb Mt. Everest we fit in perfectly fine.

We stood right next to a French-Canadian photographer. He began ranting to us about how there was a young Canadian boarder who had no pictures of himself in competition, and that he was on a mission to give him that perfect shot.

“Eh, you know zee Americaans they have plenty of goud pictures, zey make it every time. Our Canadien may not have another chance at Les Jeux Olympiques, I must get zee shot. He wears zee number two bib.”

Sam and I looked at each other confused. We both knew that Shaun White wore number the two bib, not whatever Canadian kid this guy was talking about.

That has to be up there as one of the more Canadian things I’ve seen. This guy’s sole mission was to get a picture of some Canadian kid and he didn’t even know his fucking number! Instead, he was about to snap pics of Shaun White, the exact “American who always makes it” that he had referenced earlier. I felt like I should say something.

“Eh sorrey monsieur, I think you’re mistaken. Shaun White wears number two. I’m pretty sure he’s our golden boy, not yours.”

“Eh, really? Mais merd! Thank you, my friend. I must figure this out rapidement. It would be quite embarrassing for me to present his family a picture of Shaun White!”

Yeah dude, no shit. How the hell did you get this job anyway? Did tree planting not work out?

Sam and I watched the riders warm up for around half an hour. During which my soon to be “cousin” Shaun White took a break on the lip of the pipe about twenty feet away and gave us a little fist pump.

Literally, five minutes before the event was about to commence a security guard walked past us. He did a double take, realized there was no way in hell we were supposed to be standing there, and proceeded to walk back toward us.

“Who are you guys with? This is a restricted area, for cameramen only.”

Shit this one speaks English. Now we’re fucked. It’s one thing to get by when they have no way of understanding what you’re saying. You can just push your way past acting like you belong, but this is going to be a little trickier. Better think fast kid.

“I’m Shaun White’s cousin,” I said, flashing my meaningless badge in his direction.

“He said we could watch from here.”

He thought about what I had just told him for a second then said.

“Nope, I’m sorry. You guys need to go down to the family section.”

Family section? That doesn’t sound half bad, but let’s see if there’s any chance we can stay here. I mean these are the best seats in the fucking house.

We walked a little farther down towards the base of the pipe, hoping he would keep walking up and not see us, but he did. He turned around and yelled.

“Hey, Shaun White. Family section! Now!”

Hahaha, no way, did he just call us Shaun White? That’s awesome. Aight, I guess the family section is fine.

It turned out to be more than fine because Shaun White walked right past us after his run and dapped me up. Stay cool he’s your cousin remember? Act like you’ve been here before. I couldn’t stay cool, I bust into a stuttered USA chant and yelled

“Holy shit! Holy shit!”

The following day that same meaningless badge got us into the back entrance of hockey arena and down to the locker rooms. We walked right past the Swedish team as they were finishing practice.

Honestly, fuck Gary Bettman for deciding this would be the year the NHL would not send their players to the Olympics. We could have walked right past Henrik Lundqvist and the Sedin twins but no, we had to settle for the no-namers. Still unreal just to be down there, but fuck you Bettman.

We went to the USA vs. Slovenia game later that night, and once again we were able to walk down to where the media interviews the players after the game with no problems at all.

The Koreans run the opposite of a tight ship when it comes to security. It’s a loose ship. Like falling to pieces everyone onboard is going to drown, loose. They even mistook us for Athletes on our last day.

Sam was wearing his USA jersey and without us saying anything the guard opened the gate and said

“Ahh athletes, come sis ways.”

It was that easy.

We had the incredible opportunity to actually meet Shaun White while we were saying goodbye to our friend at the NBC studio. We were just in the right place at the right time. He happened to be finishing up an interview as we were leaving, so we snapped a quick picture, chatted for a few minutes then parted ways. I didn’t mention to him that we were long lost cousins. I thought it might creep him out a little.

There really wasn’t much left to see in the countryside so we decided we would spend our last night in Seoul. On the train, Sam and I were pretty convinced that we never had to step foot in South Korea again. Well that all changed once we got to the big city. Seoul was dope AF. Bright LEDs illuminated every inch of the streets. I felt like I was in an A$AP Rocky music video. Every little alley had something exciting to offer, and the food was incredible.

That picture we took with Shaun ended up getting us free drinks at almost every bar we hit. I would whip out my phone and say

“Yea we’re Shaun White’s cousins, he just won a gold medal and wants a place to celebrate. If you give us free drinks we will tweet out the name of this bar and tell everyone to come.”

It worked like a charm. However, I made the mistake of telling a guy sitting next to us at one bar that Sam was actually Shaun White. The guy lit up, instantly ordering us drinks. Unfortunately, the bar was crowded and those drinks took a painfully long five-minutes to arrive. Which gave the Korean dude plenty of time to Google “Shaun White” and realize he had been duped by two jackass kids. By the time the drinks showed up he wanted nothing to do with us.

In all fairness, we didn’t ask for him to by us drinks, that was his suggestion. At the very least he can feel good about himself knowing he helped a few college guys stretch their dollars that much further.

We woke up the next morning knowing that Seoul had not seen the last of us. It was a funky city. I’m sad I didn’t have the time to make it to any K-pop karaoke bars and sing my heart out. I will definitely be back. I’m also sad I didn’t get a chance to make it north, to the other Korea.

However, I did see the North’s cheerleading squad and that was creepy enough. They were brainwashed robots. I quietly watched them get chaperoned around by their guards from a safe distance. I wish I could have helped one of them defect but that would probably have resulted in me getting shot, and folks, I’m no hero.

I’m currently using the sunny beaches of Southern Thailand to relax and plan my next adventure. I’m not sure what that will be, but I think it’s time I leave this country. I’ve spent a little over a month here, and I feel that I have seen enough of it. Until next time.

Peace Peace Peace

Donny

On the goddamn Beach, Krabi Thailand, Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Becoming Jedi: a Week Living With the Jungle Monks

Becoming Jedi: a Week Living With the Jungle Monks

I am currently twenty-thousand-some feet in the sky aboard a flight bound for South Korea. I spent the past six days off the gird living with a bunch of monks at a forest Monastery in northern Thailand. Here’s the recap.

I set out to find the monastery last Wednesday, January 31st. I caught the first van headed North at ten in the morning. I sat shotgun, of course. Once a big baller always a big baller. I was told to notify the driver that I was looking for the forest monastery and he would know where to drop me. I had a four-hour drive through the mountain pass ahead of me, giving me plenty of time to mentally prepare for my quest.

Around eighty kilometers before Mae Hong Song the driver pulled to the side of the road and said

“O.K, you stop.”

I didn’t see any monastery, just mountains to my left and mountains to my right. Confused I asked

“Monastery where. I no see?”

Yes, that’s how I talk now. My English has gotten significantly worse since I’ve been here. I’ve become so accustomed to hearing shitty English that it has begun to rub off on me. I’ll be speaking to someone and mid-sentence I will think why the fuck am I speaking English like a struggling foreigner, this is my native tongue I know how to speak it.

He pointed to the right and said

“Thousand meter you walk.”

Right, I guess it’s called the forest monastery for a reason. I strapped on my pack and began to hike my way along the path he pointed out. I walked for ten minutes then bang! The path opened up to reveal the grounds of the monastery. It was a beautiful oasis consisting of fish ponds, banana trees, coconut palms, and lush gardens. There were jagged cliffs to my left and a vast jungle to my right.

Side note, I am not exactly sure what the difference is between a jungle and a forest. I should have paid closer attention in high school biology when Mr. Krause was droning on about biospheres. Forget the technical term, it was a forest with tropical plants surrounded by mountains. Cool as fuck.

When I arrived at the monastery gates I was greeted by a woman dressed in all white. She never formally introduced herself, so I will refer to her as “the caretaker.” She gestured for me to sit down in a chair opposite her desk and began to walk me through the rules and schedule of the monastery.

I was to be dressed from head to toe in white. If I did not have white clothes they would be provided for me.

I was to participate in all meditation session. There would be three per day, each lasting an hour and fifty minutes.

I was expected to wake up at six in the morning to take part in the rice offering for the monks, breakfast would follow at six-thirty. There would be only two meals served per day. No food was to be consumed past noon. Meat was forbidden in the monastery, I was to go completely vegan for the remainder of my stay there.

I was responsible for keeping my clothes clean and for doing my dishes, these were to be done by hand. It was expected that I help sweep leaves in the garden for an hour a day following afternoon meditation.

The Monks’ living quarters were separated from the common area by a river, I was not to cross over to their side past eight o’clock in the evening. I had an idea that’s when the monks would go into the caves to hone their levitation and shapeshifting skills. I’m not exactly sure though, I didn’t have the balls to crossover there at night. The caretaker told me there were spirits and ghosts that watched over the monastery and cursed those who broke the rules. Alright fam, say no more. I’m not fucking with any Buddha curses. I’ll happily stay on my side of the river past dark and practice levitating objects in my own room.

The caretaker also encouraged me to remain silent, aside from when speaking with a monk, during my stay at the monastery. If you really wished to speak you could talk with the other guests who did not sport a badge that read “SILENT.” However, the “talkers” were few and far between and they were not a crew I was interested in joining. If you were a “talker” your clout level amongst the monks dropped to zero.

Finally, I was told that everything in the monastery operated on a bell system. When it was time to eat or begin a meditation session the pledge monk would ring a loud bell, signaling to everyone on the grounds that they had ten minutes to report to the main hall.

Once the caretaker finished her schpeel I took my vow of silence, dawned my white clothes, and began my plunge into monkism.

After I changed into my whites I was shown to my sleeping quarters. The room was pretty basic. Roof, walls, door, and floor. Noting more than the essentials required to keep the elements, and creatures of the jungle at bay.

Monks don’t sleep on beds. Oh no, that would be far too comfortable. Instead, they use a sleeping mat. Which is basically an elongated yoga mat. (All this time and I had no idea my yoga mat could also double as a bed! You learn something new every day.) They say sleeping on a hard surface is good for the back. I don’t know who they are but I highly doubt they’ve spent an extended period of time sleeping on a cement floor. There’s gotta be some kind of threshold of hardness where it becomes counterproductive, I think I found it.

If you didn’t know any better you could easily confuse this place with an insane asylum. Everyone was dressed in the same white jumpsuit. In between meditation session, we would be spread out across the grounds. Some would be sitting on the lawn, a few would be meditating around the ponds, and the others would be slowly pacing back and forth lost in thought. The only sounds you would hear came from the surrounding wilderness. Suddenly, the bell would begin to ring and everyone would snap out of whatever it was they were doing and begin slowly walking to the main hall like a pack of zombies. It felt like something out of Shutter Island.

After breakfast, which consisted of a healthy portion of sticky rice and boiled vegetables, we began the first meditation session. The teacher monk would give a lesson about meditation for fifteen minutes then we would set off on “walking meditation” around the garden.

Walking meditation is basically a game of “how slow can we walk today”. A walk that would have normally taken me no more than fifteen minutes to complete was drawn out to last an hour. At that time in the morning, the fog was still thick. It would slowly roll off the water as we walked, eventually clearing to reveal the mountain in the distance. It had a very eerie, zen vibe. Once we finished our loop we returned to the main hall for a half-hour of sitting meditation.

The hardest part about this was trying to sit Thai style. That’s crisscross applesauce for those who aren’t familiar.

I think the last time I sat cross-legged was in kindergarten, this fucking hurt like hell. If you really wanted to you could meditate on a chair, but then you’d be one of the “chair people” and like the “talkers” it was a cloutless crew. I figured I came here to live like a monk, so fuck it I might as well go all in. When it became too painful I would switch to a half kneeling position.

I continued that half-ass kneeling position until the third day when the teacher monk told us that when he first started his training his master made him sit cross-legged every night for a week straight until he learned not to feel pain. Fuck. I felt like a huge bitch after he said that. If he could sit cross-legged for nine hours a night without moving or sleeping you can buck up and do it for thirty fucking minutes.

After sitting meditation, we moved into lying meditation for the remaining twenty minutes. Since I wasn’t exactly getting my REM sleep at night lying meditation usually turned into nap time.

When one of the other students asked,

“What do I do if I begin to fall asleep?” The teacher monk laughed and said

“Don’t worry, sleeping meditation O.K too”

Alright man, if you say so, you’re the master. Not to toot my own horn but I was pretty fucking good at this form of meditation, and I thoroughly enjoyed the twenty-minute mid-morning nap.

By the time sleeping meditation ended it was around ten o’clock. We had thirty minutes of free time. This was supposed to be used to practice meditation on your own, but for me, it usually equated to houndin’ around the monastery grounds as there was plenty of prime exploring to be done.

The bell would sound at ten-thirty to commence lunch. Like breakfast, we had a food offering for the monks and then we got to eat our fill. Good idea to load up at lunch because this was the last food you’d see until breakfast the following morning. Lunch was rice with, you guessed it, vegetables!

Honestly, the food wasn’t bad, and now I can finally check “being a vegan” off the list of things I never have to do again in my life. It’s up there with “staying at the Grand Oasis Cancun for a college spring break” and “calculus.”

After lunch, we repeated the same meditation sequence as in the morning. The only difference being the walk. The monks would lead us through the mountain instead of around the garden.

This was awesome. We weren’t supposed to get lost in observing what was around us but c’mon, you can’t put a suburban boy in the jungle and not expect him to be lost in wonder. The monks get to do that walk every day for the rest of their lives. I, on the other hand, barely have the opportunity to see mountains let alone walk through one in the middle of the fucking jungle.

My curiosity was especially peaked after one of the Master teachers told me a story about how fifteen years ago, before the monastery was constructed, he was walking on the same trail as part of a month-long walking meditation trip through the jungle. He said that one night when he was meditating a tiger walked right up to him and remained within an arm’s reach for fifteen long minutes before losing finally losing interest in him and continuing on its way. The master said he remained completely still the whole time, going into a deep meditative state, barely breathing.

Are you fucking kidding me?! Face to face with a fucking tiger and this dude had the power to stay completely still and continue meditating? If that was me I would have been like Yup, this is it. This is how I die. Mauled to death by a tiger. Serves me right for walking through the fucking jungle in the middle of the night with nothing more than a bed sheet on my body.

If that’s not some real-life Jedi shit then I don’t know what is. So yeah, I got distracted on our jungle walks every now and then. Sorry, I was on the lookout for tigers.

The evening session began at six. Unlike the morning and afternoon sessions, evening meditation didn’t have a walking portion. That was replaced with chanting. Not really sure what I was saying during this, but it sounded intense so I yelled that shit with some fervor in my voice.

I repeated this sequence for six days. All in all, it was a great experience. I’m not gonna lie not talking for that long started to fuck with my head. The first two days were the hardest. By day three I started to figure it out, but by the fifth day, I was ready to go. Too much of a good thing is bad. I needed to get out of there, drop a few F-bombs, eat a plate of meat, and drink a beer. I left on day six, catching a fourteen-hour long night bus to return to Bangkok. Giving me a day to spare before I had to catch the flight that I am currently on.

I will land in Seoul, South Korea in a few hours and from there rip the bullet train to PyeongChang.

I’ve been telling people I am going to South Korea for the winter Olympics for the past three weeks when asked about my travel plans. The two responses I typically get are:

“Hun? Olympics? Wait, summer? Winter? That’s this year?”

or

“Oh, wow! What event are you competing in?”

Both answers are absolutely absurd. The former I can kind of understand, we’re in Thailand where it’s ninety-five degrees, and the majority of people I’ve met have been traveling for extended periods of time. They aren’t exactly caught up with current events. Still though, pull your head out of your ass. Yes, it’s an Olympic year, they come every two, alternating between winter and summer.

The latter is just fucking ridiculous. You really think if I was competing in the most prestigious sporting event in the world I would be sitting at some hostel two weeks before crushing beers with you? Not a chance. I would probably be training at elevation somewhere, getting ready to take home some hardware.

I have been asked if I am competing so often that I at this point I’ve just started to go with it.

“Yup, I’m on the curling team. Third broom. I’m the best sweeper east of the Mississippi. Pretty prestigious. You want me to sign something? Too bad, no time. I have a fucking gold medal to win. Now get out of my fucking way.”

I’m dying to cross paths with another Russian so I can say

“I’ve been training really hard but I feel like I’m just not quite there. Any chance you have some of that secret stuff your boys used lying around?”

I doubt they’d find that joke funny, but then again, I don’t think they find anything funny. Jack Callahan said it best

“They’re Russian. They get shot if they smile.”

Well, now they get no shot at winning any medals. Prosti.

I’m going to be very close to North Korea and boy am I tempted to toe the line. I jussstt want to put a foot in. That would be the ultimate hound. Keep your head on a swivel Lil Kim, I’m coming.

Peace Peace Peace

Donny

In the air, somewhere between Thailand and South Korea, 11:30 AM, Febuary 8th

The lion, the Witch, and the Ladyboy

The lion, the Witch, and the Ladyboy

I am still patiently awaiting the shipment of the “Vikings NFC Champions” T-shirts to arrive in Thailand. I will straight up tackle a small impoverished child to get my hands on one of those.

I am currently in Pai. A small mountain town a few hours North of Chiang Mai. My time spent in Chiang Mai was interesting, to say the least. Here’s a quick recap.

I got off the train and walked about half a mile into town without much of a plan as to where I was going to stay for the next few days. I stumbled upon a guest house in the middle of old town and figured it was as good as any place to shack up for the first night.

I asked the owner how much it was for a night stay and he told me three-hundred Baht, which is roughly nine USD. Really not that much, but being on a tight budget I said something along the lines of

“How about you let me stay for free, and in return I’ll do a little cleaning here n’ there and make this place look like less of a shithole?”

He seemed to understand what I was trying to say and handed me a set of keys. Then a big smile came across his face and he said, as if I had just signed my life away,

You my volunteer now!”

Right then and there I should have noticed the sly smile and the way he said “volunteer” and been like oh fuck, what did I get myself into. But I didn’t. Instead, I shrugged it off saying

“Sure man, whatever you say,” and proceeded on with my day.

Two nights passed without him having asked me to do a single thing. I was beginning to feel bad about not having done any work, but figured I’d stay one more night. If he didn’t approach me with a task by then I’d go and see what he wanted me to do.

In the meantime, I had heard that it was very easy for white guys with blonde hair like me to get acting jobs in Thailand, so I began to put out some feelers on Facebook for potential job offers. Within a few hours, a man by the name of Ann contacted me claiming he was a “talent agent”. He offered to buy me dinner, and tell me about possible acting opportunities. I figured a free dinner couldn’t hurt, so I took him up on his offer.

I quickly found out that he was anything but an agent.

The job he described to me was something along the lines of a male beauty contest. He described it as Miss America but for male tourists. He began to show me pictures of the show. They were all photos of him with a bunch of shirtless dudes flexing pretty hard.

Nope. Not for me. When I was thinking about an acting job I had in mind starring in like a Thai Sprite commercial, or maybe even being the poster boy for a local beer company. You know something with a bit of pizzazz. His offer didn’t seem to have any of that.

I have nothing against male pageants, I mean to each his own, but this seemed to be a borderline ladyboy drag show, I was out.

Now, if any of you reading this fall on the more sensitive side of the spectrum and get triggered by my use of the word Ladyboy. Don’t be. They fucking call themselves that. I have had multiple walk up to me and say

“Hello, I am Ladyboy nice to meet you.”

To which I usually respond

“Oh, cool nice to meet you too.”

I then proceeded to respectfully walk/run away. Why? Because it’s 2018 and if you want to be a ladyboy then be a fucking ladyboy, I couldn’t care less about how you choose to live your life. Just know that you won’t be able to pull a fast one on me. You can try, but I will see those knuckles and Adam’s apple coming from a mile away. I’m not falling for it.

I thanked Ann for the dinner and told him I would be in touch if I was ever interested in taking part in his Pageant. I don’t plan on contacting him again, but hey who knows, times might get tough.

I returned to my guest house and went to bed early. I was prepared to do the “cleaning” I had promised the owner first thing the next morning.

When I awoke, I found the owner and asked what needed to be done. He smiled again and said

Ahh yess, you volunteer! Come with me.”

I was thinking I’d be sweeping up some dust and maybe moving some furniture around. Nope, I was way off.

Instead, he had me moving the bones of a goddamn temple across town. Bags of cement, window frames, unhinged doors, that kind of shit. It took me the better part of a day to complete.

I think the workers could tell I was only good for being a mule because when I asked if they wanted actual help building the temple they laughed in my face. Honestly, good call on their part. I’m pretty lousy with a hammer, but moving bricks around, that I can do.

I may have been better off just paying the nine dollars a night, but hey I got a good workout, and my labor helped in the rebuilding of an ancient temple. That has to count for something, right?

Apparently, the owner of the guest house though I was a great worker because he told me his cousin’s friend’s Dad was looking for help on his farm about thirty minutes outside of the city. In exchange for a few hours of farmwork a day he would provide me with three square meals and a place to sleep.

Farming? Now that sounds a little more up my alley. I figured it would be a great way to learn about the origins of the food I’d been eating and really connect with some locals. I was picturing harvesting exotic fruits, feeding chickens, shearing sheep, genuine, cool farm shit. I accepted immediately.

The owner of the guest house told me the farmer would arrive that night to pick me up. I packed my bags and got ready to send it.

Things were suspect from the beginning. I met the farmer, a big Polish guy who went by the name Kuba, at the bus station. He was waiting for me with two mopeds. He pointed to the one on the right and said

This one you.”

Now, I’ve ridden mopeds before but that was in America, where we drive on the right side of the road. Here in Thailand, they drive on the left like a bunch of sociopaths. Night had also fallen and I had a forty-pound backpack on, so you can understand why I was a bit wary to drive thirty-some minutes into the countryside.

My nerves were slightly calmed when Kuba offered to carry my pack for me. The sense of calm didn’t last long for he grabbed my camelbak, which weighs at best three pounds when full of water. You’re fucking kidding me man. You’re a seasoned Thai motorist and you’re offering to carry an empty camelbak while leaving the kid whos never driven in this strange land with a massive top heavy backpack… Gee thanks!

I didn’t have much of a choice so I strapped on my backpack, hopped on the bike and went full steam ahead into the dark of night. I had to constantly remind myself to stay on the left side of the road, but aside from some minor back pain I had no real problems. Traffic was light and we made it to the farm in just over thirty-minutes.

Apparently, “farm” has a very loose definition in this country because the place where I ended up couldn’t have been further from one. There were no sheep, no chickens, nothing. In fact, the only animal around, aside from the pet dog, was the neighbor’s rooster that woke me up with its crow at four-in-the-fucking-morning.

I was later told the neighbor uses his rooster in underground cockfighting matches. I’m sure if I stayed around long enough my 4:00 AM alarm clock would have eventually been permanently silenced.

Kuba was no farmer, and his “farm” was nothing more than a big construction site in the middle of a rice field. Still a very cool part of the countryside, I’m happy I had the opportunity to see it. I put a solid day’s work in then bounced. It wasn’t for me. I was expecting to be farming but instead was sanding floors and painting walls.

I hitched a ride back to Chiang Mai with a German guy named Daniel. We puttered along slowly, as we were two big guys with backpacks on one small moped. We made it to the city center safe and sound. I spent another two days there, during which, I had the opportunity to fuck around in an elephant sanctuary. Houndin’ through the jungle with a pack of elephants is an experience that I can’t describe in words, it was surreal.

From Chiang Mai I caught a bus North to Pai, where I am now. It’s a great little town tucked away in the mountains. I rented a mountain bike for three bucks and have been skrtin’ through all kinds of trails with my French friend, Arnaux. I’m a big fan of the French. They know how to hound.

I’ve been hearing tales of a Monastery in the forest that anyone can stay in for free for up to ten days. Legend has it if you go you have to follow the exact practices of the Buddhist monks. That means you dress in a robe, do a lot of meditating and stay on a strict diet. Oh ya, you’re also not allowed to talk. For ten days.

Sounds like some Bruce Wayne Batman/Avatar/Jedi shit. I’m so in. I was also told that it brings good luck to your mom, so at the very least maybe she’ll have a great week.

I guess this one’s for you mom. Just know that if you find a hundred bucks on the ground or win a scratch off it wasn’t due to chance or fate, but rather because your son is somewhere deep in a forest cavern kicking it with a bunch of monks.

I may be off the grid for a few days so don’t worry if you don’t hear from me. I’m not dead, I’m just learning how to use the force, bend water and move with the shadows.

Peace Peace Peace

Donny

Tuesday, January 30th 5:44 PM Pai, Thailand.

An American, a Canadian, and a Russian Walk Into a Bar

An American, a Canadian, and a Russian Walk Into a Bar

I am five days into my trip and figured it was due time for a quick update. I still haven’t contracted malaria, been robbed, or woken up with a Mike Tyson tattoo on my face so I’d say things are off to a good start. Here’s the recap of my first few days in the Kingdom.

Getting to Thailand was one of the best experiences of my life. If you have the opportunity to fly with Qatar, do it. I would get on one of their planes again just to stay onboard and fly back and forth, it was that good. I spent the majority of the first flight shooting the shit with the stewards in the galley. I learned like five languages, tried several exotic fruits, and was given a free bottle of whiskey. The flight could have lasted thirty hours and I would have loved every minute of it.

We’re over here dragging doctors off planes while they’re letting me sip whiskey, eat blueberries and play cards with the crew… American Airlines could learn a thing or two about customer service from Qatar.

Being one of the wealthiest countries in the world I was expecting big things from Qatar’s airport, and Doha International did not disappoint. They provided private sleeping rooms for no additional charge. Nice ones too, 1,000+ thread count sheets. Classy shit. Also, they would have provided me with a free guided tour of the city had my layover been longer than six hours. But the best part of the airport had to be the bathrooms. Each stall came equipped with a “toilet wiper.”

Now, if you’re thinking what the hell is a toilet wiper, they’re exactly what they sound like. Literally, the bathroom was full of guys whose sole job was to wipe the toilets off after every use. They weren’t half-assing their wipes either, these guys were professionals. We’re talking full spray, wipe, and flush all done in less than ten seconds. I felt like a king, it was fucking awesome.

It’s nice to see all that oil money being put to good use.

My plane from Qatar to Bangkok had two stories. I was able to get upgraded to the upper deck by simply asking

“yo can I sit up top with the big ballers?”

The slightly malnourished but well coiffed man working the behind the counter took one hard look at me and knew I meant business. He clicked a few keys on his computer and boom! I was in the high roller club. It was that easy.

Talk about luxury. I had enough leg room for three people and was only a stone’s throw away from the full in-flight bar which provided unlimited drinks at no cost.

Did I deserve any of it? Absolutely not. But that didn’t stop me from taking full advantage of the perks. I walked up those stairs with my head held arrogantly high. Just before I got to the top I looked down at a guy around my age sitting in the front row on the lower deck. I could tell he wanted to be walking up those stairs like I was. I looked deep into his eyes and mouthed

Sorry man, big ballers only.

That plane could have crash landed right then and there and I would have died a very happy man.

When I arrived in Bangkok things got off to a rough start. Finding my hostel was easier said than done. I spent the better part of an hour walking through back alleys and side streets asking everyone in sight where the hell “Warm White Hostel” was. They all seemed to think it was in a different spot.

Fifty meter that way, you find.”

“No no ten meter that way, take left, you find.”

“Ahh yes go over bridge, climb big wall, twenty paces east, you find.”

“Tuk-tuk take you there two-hundred Baht.”

I was on my own for this one. Eventually, I figured out that my cab had dropped me off on the wrong side of town. I found another traveler headed to the same area and split a cab with him. He was able to point me in the right direction and I was finally able to check in, put my bags down, and have a rest.

I’m calling the Hostel I spent the last four nights in “The Circus” — not because it’s been a crazy party or anything but because the people I lived with literally could all have been members in a traveling circus.

The first guys I met were Tim and Alliston, two brothers from South Africa. These two were cool as fuck. Kinda hard not to be when you grew up wrestling sharks and fighting lions in your free time.

Next, we have Alexi, a heavyset middle-aged man from Russia with a thick black beard and even thicker accent. Alexi was a tank, and at first, he scared the shit out of me. He had a nasty looking scar right between his brows. Guy looked like he crawled straight out of Chernobyl. He was tough. I’m talking hand roll your own cigarettes, no filter, tough. I was waiting for him to whip out a fifth of vodka and slam it down at any moment.

Aside from the terrifying accent and psychopathic appearance, Alexi turned out to be a really nice guy who wouldn’t have hurt a fly. Although, he was having some troubles with his girlfriend. They were only two days into their trip and he told me he was about ready to throw her off the roof.

I thought he may have been being a bit rash, but then I had the pleasure to meet his girlfriend and it all made sense. I wanted to throw her off the roof after only a two-minute conversation. (Alexi if you’re reading this, hang in there man.)

Finally, we have the Canadians, Duncan, and Willam, and no that’s not William misspelled, he’s just a Canadian with a Canadian ass name.

I couldn’t help but laugh when they told me they were tree planters in Ontariowhen I asked what they did for work. Fucking tree planters. I’m sorrey but that’s about as Canadian as it gets. I mean I’ve heard of lumberjacks but tree planters, that’s a first.

These guys were seasoned storytellers. I guess when you spend half the year single-handedly reforesting the North American wilderness and the other half traveling around the world you’re bound to have quite a few unique experiences to share. They told me all about life as anti-lumberjacks, and from what I got it’s basically a bunch of dudes running through the woods throwing trees into the ground. Not sure how well I’d fare at that job. I worked as a gardener for one summer and thought planting a few flowers here and there was hard work. I can’t imagine trying to plant an entire forest. Much respect.

Bangkok was fun but four days in that urban jungle is all you really need. The palaces are beautiful, the street food is out of this world, but shit gets weird real fast. We’re talking ladyboy weird. Somethings you see just can’t be unseen. Time to bounce.

I’m currently on a train headed twelve hours North to Chiang Mai where the airs a little cleaner and the beers a little cheaper.

I’m not gonna lie when I purchased a ticket for a “sleeper train” I had the assumption that I would have like a bed or someshit to sleep on. Not exactly the case. I do have a bed but it was designed so a Thai, who on average are much smaller than us Americans, could sleep comfortably.

I’m basically going to be balled up for the next twelve hours in my seat and you know what? That’s totally fine. Could be worse actually. Some people don’t even get seats, they just have to hang onto the outside of the train car. Not even kidding. I’m looking out the window right now and there’s a friendly looking Thai man just chilling there. I couldn’t tell you how old he is, could be twenty could be eighty, literally impossible to tell. The Thai age extremely well. I need to get my hands on whatever creams and potions they’re using because that shit works.

I’m not sure what the North has in store for me but I am ready for whatever comes my way.

Peace Peace Peace

Donny

Written on Sunday, January 21st 1:20 AM somewhere between Bangkok and Chiang Mai

So It Begins

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So It Begins

 Welcome to The beginning of "The College Cook World Tour!" For those of you who don't know, I will be spending the next four months houndin my way across South East Asia. This blog will serve as a way to keep people updated on my adventures and to let my parents know I'm still alive. The content here is going to give you a raw, unfiltered, and uncut look into my day-to-day life, what you see is what you get, no BS.

The goal of my trip is to learn as much about Asian cuisine and culture as possible by eating anything and going anywhere. Do I have a plan? Nope, not really. But hey, do you think Albert Einstein had a plan when he started throwing formulas together? I doubt it. I think we can all agree that everything turned out relatively well for him. Or how about Neil Armstrong? Pretty sure he said, "Fuck it! I'll just go to space and see what happens." Guess what he found? The goddamn Moon. You ever heard of it?

I will be taking a few classes online this semester, so I will be free to move about as I please. If there's a freighter boat headed to Japan that I can stow away on, you bet your ass I'll be on it. Train going East? Yup, see ya there. Motorcycle trip down the coast of Vietnam? Sure thing. Hot air balloon ride to India? I don't even think that exists but if it does I'll do it. I think you get my point, there's nothing I won't try and no place I won't go, except North Korea, that's a no-no.

Unless Dennis Rodman somehow pops into my life and brings me with him on his next visit to play a little 1v1 with Kim, I'm not crossing that border. Something about the possibility of earning 10 years of hard labor and never seeing my loved ones again doesn't exactly give me the warm fuzzies inside. However, I have heard nothing but great things about the other countries in this region, and so far the locals have been extremely welcoming!

If anyone is worried about my safety after reading this don't fret. Know that I won't do anything Guy Feiri wouldn't do. That man, and his incredible frosted tips, has been all over the place. I've been watching his show for years now and have compiled a detailed set of travel notes such as: always wear an oversized bowling shit, make sure to keep your white Oakley sunglasses perched on the back of your head, fist bump everyone who feeds you, and make sure to yell "bro that was killer!" at the end of every meal, even if the food is complete shit. 

All joking aside I promised my Mom I'd make it home sometime in May in one piece, and that's a promise I intend to keep.

Peace Peace Peace

Donny 

Friday, Jan 19th, 6:47 AM Bangkok, Thailand. 

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