Things I love:
Watching people take selfies. This brings me endless delight and entertainment, especially if he or she or they have a selfie stick. So oblivious to what people around them might think! So unabashed in cuteness and adorable pouty faces! I could watch for hours because he or she or they will never look up and see me staring. I walked out to a waterfall with my sister and we watched as a tourist, a girl from China, paused every few steps or so to take another selfie.
Waking up on a train. I remember Solo waking up on a train once when he was two or three, and saying, as soon as his eyes were open, “I’m on a train!” It’s a beautiful feeling: My bed has been moving all through the night and I am somewhere else now.
Driving a motorbike through jungle streets at night in Thailand. The scented flowers send out their fragrance at night, and around every curve you are greeted by a new wave of beauty.
When my landlord and his wife come over, he nearly always turns to me and says, “Ampa (his wife) looks beautiful today, doesn’t she?” They are in their sixties and nearly inseparable.
Flowers. Have I said that already? All the trees in Thailand are flowering. Everywhere I look, my eyes rest on beauty.
My sister came and visited for nearly four weeks. First she stayed at our house, and then at the end of her visit we went journeying together, just the two of us, something we haven’t done before. We went to Ko Chang, an island in the Gulf of Thailand with remarkable mountains and jungle. We rode motorbikes in the jungle, we swam in the sea and in a waterfall pool, and we kayaked out to watch the sunset nearby a ridge of mountain. It was beautiful and we had some laughing fits, the kind I only have with my sister and brother, the silent, can’t get a breath laughs. I feel thankful and full to the brim of love for her.
I did have an accident and I do have a warning for you. I’ve been driving a scooter or small motorbike for seven years, and I laid my bike down for the first time on the island. We reached the island in the afternoon, rented bikes, and headed out to find ourselves the perfect beach/hut combination, one that would be the cheapest it could be. After looking through a few beaches, we headed on to Lonely Beach, reached by a curvy, hilly road. I live in Pai, and have driven curves many times. Night fell, it started raining and we slowed down. We reached the top of hill where a van was parked halfway down with its flashers going. I only had time to wonder why it was stopped there before my wheels slipped right out from under me and I was skidding down the road. I jumped right up. “Is there an oil slick?” I asked the world at large, somewhat in shock. A French traveler (was he a French angel?) ran over to help lift my bike up. “You are very lucky,” he said. “It is just the road, the road is so slippery. Better to walk it down, your bike is fine.” It was pouring on us and it was night. The road was so slippery it felt like we could slip in our shoes. All along the road, people were stopped under trees, not even wanting to drive with the road like that. People were taking turns driving, in case the car or bike going down the hill couldn’t stop. So Becca and I got on our bikes and walked them down the hill, paddling our cute little legs on either side. On our way down we heard another crash and skid as another driver laid his bike down. It was freaky. I was only a little banged up- scraped elbow, scraped ankle, a big bruise on my leg. My shoulder was sore for a few days. So, my warning is to watch those island roads. When people say they are slippery, they are not joking! I had no idea a road could be like that.
We took it very carefully from then on, not driving if it was raining, and the rest of our three days were without further incident, until the end of our very frugal trip, when I returned the motorbike and they charged me for every scratch. I may have cried. But that was not the majority of our trip: the majority was good food and watching waves, slow mornings and fire shows in the evenings, talking together and laughing.
One thing we love doing is imagining people’s response to silly or clumsy things we do. For instance, we were in Chatuchak market in Bangkok before we went to Ko Chang, and I declared that I needed coffee. Becca pointed out a sign for coffee and we followed it, finding a cute little café with an espresso machine and a few benches. The woman at the café told us to take a seat and so I did, on one of the benches along the wall. Right away, she came back to me apologetically. “Sorry! This is a table!” I had sat on the table. Becca and I laughed about that for a very long time, imagining someone walking into a café in Canada and taking a seat on the table, then just sitting and waiting for her coffee.
When we left, there were terns flying beside the ferry. It was a beautiful time.
I said goodbye to Becca, waved her taxi off, and went intrepidly to shop for mattresses in Bangkok. Why I needed to do it in Bangkok and not in my town is a quality/cost issue. I’ll spare you the details.
Sometimes I squint my eyes and try to see Bangkok as the exotic place it is, the way I may have first seen it. But I adjust to things too quickly and it is all normal. Ordinary but exquisite. I saw an old woman watering her potted plants next to a busy street and felt inspired by her dedication to them. My own potted plants and tiny square of garden have been suffering.
I took a river taxi, then a sky train, and then got on a motorcycle taxi, which, happily, was my very favorite kind of motorcycle taxi ride. It was the kind where we ride on the sidewalk and pay little attention to traffic laws, squeezing between cars in spaces where we can’t possibly fit, but we do. I loved it!
And then he dropped me off at Ikea and I felt the instant ice of fear in my stomach. I took a deep breath. “You can do this, Rachel.” And I took a halting step forward. The irony of this is not lost on me. I am happy on a motorbike taxi in busy city streets and scared of large stores. But I overcame my fear, it was a success and soon I was on the train home, to rejoin the chaos and wells of love that my family consists of: playing music, fighting, laughing, singing, dancing.
More on that next time.
PS. Happy Mother's Day! And it's my birthday too! It's going to be a good day.