It has been adventurous, delicious, and very, very hot. Weather in the 40's, averaging around 106 degrees Fahrenheit, for the Americans. Fortunately in Pai, where it was hot like that, it cooled down at night and we may have even pulled a sheet over us.
Yesterday on the bus from Pai to Chiang Mai, I sat with a baby sleeping against my side, looking out into bamboo forests. It is the dry season, and there were controlled burns, so sometimes we would whirl around a corner and see flames among the bamboo, smoke hiding the road until we came through it. It has been hazy since we arrived, though, the haze of pollution and no rain or wind, and the sun was a perfect orange disk in the sky as we traveled on the bus.
There were a few Rain Trees, scattered here and there. I think the Rain Tree is my favorite tree now. A Saman tree, is another name for it. It looks like a huge umbrella, with small pink fluffy flowers on its leaves. They smell like heaven, but the Saman trees here and in India are so huge that you couldn't get your nose anywhere near the flowers if you tried. Still, they arch over the roads protectively, and that is just as good.
Everything was dried out and withered. I wonder if there is whooping, here, when the first rains come. Singing? Dancing? Sometimes the first rains of monsoon are like that, in India, when it is so hot and they finally bring their cooling. I listened to Kid A talking with Cate. They noticed a water slide at a carnival, and he said, "Oh, I love water slides! My friend Danny made us the best water slide. Do you remember Danny?" he asked her. "He was from Scotland."
The slide he was talking about was a large piece of linoleum that our friend set on the side of a sand bag slope at a beach shack in Goa. He ran buckets of water down it while the kids flew down, shrieking. Eventually somebody found a hose, and a steady trickle of knobby kneed kids waited their turns, when they were being well behaved, and pushed past each other, when they weren't.
It is amazing to me that this is my son's impression of a water slide. Sometimes he just amazes me, my oldest child, suddenly so different. I returned to our guest house room today, when we were checking out, to give it one last search (always a good idea) and found him placing the remote control carefully beside the TV. "I was cleaning up," he explained, and as I looked around, I saw that he had made the bed and straightened the towels. As we left the room he carefully placed a piece of trash in the trash basket. Who is this child?
Or the other night, when we were at the Sunday Walking Market in Chiang Mai, a beautiful market of hand crafts and food, and he wanted to find out how much the little poached quail eggs were, so he could try them. I watched him speak to the woman at the stall so politely, and he looked like a grown up, suddenly, like he wasn't my seven-year-old son. He listened to her seriously, his wide deer-like eyes trained on her face, and then handed her the money. He came back to our table and ate one of the eggs. "Hmmm," he said. "It tastes slightly more bitter than a chicken egg. But it's good!" I just stared at him, I couldn't get enough of him.
And Leafy, the other night, when we walked back to our guest house in the finally cool evening. He was overflowing, for some reason. He just couldn't stop giggling, and when there were disco lights in the street and Chinua stopped to dance, Leafy stayed for a long time after, unable to keep himself from dancing his little groove in a circle of colored lights. Sometimes, lately, he runs and every four steps he flings his arms out and jumps, like he's trying to fly.
And YaYa, dreaming of owning her own elephant. Finding more animals to fall in love with. "I just need to say one last goodbye," she said, when we started to walk away from an elephant that we met on the side of the road. She ran back and gave the elephant's leg a little hug.
We are learning about a new place, thinking of returning to North America, taking each day as it comes. In our guest house in Pai, I would get up and pray in the morning, sitting by the river which was so low and sluggish. I would bring back homemade yogurt and scones from a bakery, and we would drink soy milk. The best you've ever tasted. I bought tiffins, little chinese style lunch containers, and brought home street food for lunch. Wide noodles with chicken, spicy rice. I'm trying to keep from using styrofoam, but the street food is so much cheaper, and then take away is so much easier. We had bubble tea on the side of one dusty road. We eat whole mangoes. Marvel at them.
One day we went to an organic farm outside of Pai. The lady there took us on a tour, and we saw the bungalows they have built, the nurseries, the mango orchards. She showed us where they ride bikes to run the pump from the well, to water the garden, or fill the washing machine. It was lovely. The kind Thai woman who showed us around stopped in front of a gigantic swing and pushed the kids, one by one. People here are very kind.
It has also been hard. Traveling with children just is. Last night we had an encounter with a stressed-out guest house manager who wanted us to keep our children from crying. Keeping Solo from crying when he is tired after a long bus ride is something that I don't yet have the magic button for. We've never had it before in Thailand or India, this kind of interaction. I cried, of course. Chinua was wonderfully diplomatic.
Soon Song Kran will start; the amazing Thai water festival, when everyone throw water on each other for three to six days. I say three to six because there were young children on the roads yesterday, unable to keep themselves from starting. I can't wait, since it has just occurred to me that a city-wide, multiple-day water fight may just be the coolest thing my kids will ever encounter.