Last week Abby needed to go to the immigration office in Chiang Mai to extend her visa, so we took the chance to do a little wandering. It was my favorite kind of trip: the kind where you eat at market stalls and talk to people all over the city about who you are and what your baby's name is and how delightful he is.

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We went to the Sunday Walking Street Market-- blocks and blocks of crafts and most importantly, food! These cute little sticky rice treats were yummy and got points for presentation. (Asia, I love you.)


There were many beverages. Here I'm happily holding sugar cane juice (it tastes different here than in India, I think. I don't know why) and mulberry juice. We had to keep hydrated, and we did so by trying every kind of beverage we saw.

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We also ate quail eggs. Delicious. 

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And there were more things than food. There were adorable high school boys busking in their school uniforms.  There were also blind men playing great music, but I didn't take a picture of them because I felt bad taking a picture of people who couldn't see me doing so.

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We also ate some pandan leaf-flavored ancient ice cream. I don't know why it's named that- it seems unfortunate. But it's actually pretty good. 

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The next morning we arrived at the immigration office at 6:30. We were bright and shiny. Perhaps. Isaac made a beautiful friend from Cambodia, named Ay. It's reason number 300 that I love Thailand: people who play with your baby at immigration. Reason number 301 is the fruit guy at immigration, selling fresh, chilled fruit.

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Here's lovely Abby on the songtaew as we left immigration and headed to the Warorot market.

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Inside a songtaew, and in the background, outside a songtaew.

There are these things that become large parts of my life in the different places I've lived in. In Thailand, it's the red car, the songtaew- a covered low pick up truck with benches that is a kind of taxi, or sometimes, almost like a bus. I hop on and off of them all day long when I'm in Chiang Mai, and I love them. I remember one time, I was riding with a two-month-old Isaac on a songtaew on an extremely hot day, and it filled with Thai people. Isaac was still little enough that he freaked out for various unknown reasons, and he started wailing, loudly.  One man took his hat off and fanned Isaac the whole time we were driving. It was lovely of him.

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Then we got to the Warorot market, where I saw the most neatly organized rambutans I've ever seen in my life. I love the Warorot market fiercely. I would love to live there. I'd curl up between the flowers and the snacks, try to keep my feet clear of the dried squid.

I blew my brain up in the Warorot market though, on another trip that I took this week, with Chinua, when we went in for Isaac's passport and items for the meditation center. I wanted to find vanilla beans and haven't been able to find any, but then I thought, Hey, I'll go to the Indian spice stall. So we went over and sure enough, there were vanilla beans, but what blew my brain up was speaking Thai with the Indian Thai owner of the stall. There are many Indian Thai people in Chiang Mai-- many of the cloth shop owners, for example. They speak perfect Thai, many of them were born here, and it only made sense to speak Thai with this man, but I was asking about Curry Patta in my never ending search for fresh curry leaves, and I switched to Hindi  to pronounce the names of spices in the middle of Thai sentences, and my brain sparked and then exploded.

"That was weird," I said to Chinua afterward. He agreed. 

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But back to my trip with Abby. There were snacks in abundance. 

I looked around to see what furniture I could find for the meditation center in the market, while Abby looked around at things to buy for people back home. Then we left and went off to look in gigantic home stores for furniture and cushions to price out.

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I took a lot of photos like this, to show Chinua. 

I had a minor freakout in one store. It was a big home store-- sort of an ugly copy of Ikea. We went through the store, looking for cushions or low seating, not finding anything affordable or interesting to us. Then we took an escalator up to a mostly empty display floor and I felt that familiar panic come on. Compiling Trees Tall as Mountains, I found myself vividly remembering that panic, which rarely enters my life now that I do most of my shopping in tiny shops or outdoor markets. But this floor full of empty couches was enough to trigger it. I muttered under my breath, I bit my nails, I talked to Abby about how sad it all was, all those couches with nobody sitting on them. Tables with fake stuff set on top of them. Ugly things that someone might take home, expecting them to help their life become more full, less sad. But in the end, it's just a thing, just an ugly couch. It can't change anything, it can't reach out and touch your hair when you most need it.

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I shudder even now, thinking of it. But we weren't done. We needed to go to the giant store that is like Home Depot and take more pictures of fridges and things. There were terrible light fixtures (I think we're going to make our own) and rows of things, many, many things.

Where does this panic come from? It's so mysterious to me. You think you're over something, and then you find yourself in a large store and it's right there to haunt you again. Weird. I'm just weird, that's all there is to it.

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Fortunately, I spend a very small portion in my life in places like that. I'm happy for the time I get to spend in little Japanese restaurants like this one.  

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Or eating corn on the cob in the back of a tuk tuk while wearing a baby. I grew up with corn sold on the side of the road in Canada (better corn than this, admittedly), but not with cooked corn sold on the street. What a great snack!

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So, like I said, Chinua and I also needed to go to Chiang Mai. Mighty Abby kept the kids for the two days that we were gone, so we had enough focus time to buy cushions, pillows, a fridge, and fans. Amazing us.  

The consulate was fun because we're friends with the Consul now, after going in so many times, for new passports for the kids, for notarizing forms, and now to register Isaac. He's from San Francisco, so we always chat about that, and this time I found out that he double majored in Japanese literature, so we talked about that too. Nothing cooler than a consul who knows his Japanese literature. I got some suggestions.

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And we found one more place that is a new favorite. It's called Thamel Coffee, after a district of Kathmandu in Nepal, and it's like being in Nepal for just a little while, in the middle of the Warorot market. It didn't have Nepali food- only Nepali decor and tea. It was Nepal and Thailand combined-- two favorite places for this mismatched, patchwork girl.