“People will tell you where they’ve been
They’ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself, you never really know” –Joni Mitchell
Greetings from beautiful Thailand! It‘s been a mere ten days since our plane left the ground and already so much has happened. Similar to our last stay, the decision to come to Chiang Mai is being confirmed by the universe with an unfolding of opportunities and challenges met. Jimmy and I easily slid back to speaking Thai (like babies, but still…), bought a scooter (navigating the streets requires nerves of steel), and found an apartment to rent (in our old building, the Narkonping-hereafter referred to as “The Ping”). Until our move in date, we are house and dog sitting in the suburbs of Chiang Mai. More on that later.
Positive vibrations abound. We have fled the rain and cold of Seattle and set out in search of new adventures. Looking back to the recent past, I realize that in order to make this a reality, there had to be a whole lot of “letting go.” It’s a process that continues to this day.
This is our third trip to The Kingdom, the first being our honeymoon three years ago, followed by a six month sabbatical in 2011. We had no idea how taken we would be with Southeast Asia, how at home we would feel. As an artist, I was always drawn west to Europe with its tradition of classical painting, sculpture, and architecture. All those marvelous cathedrals packed with putti! Asia was “foreign,” mysterious, and strange to me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered how comfortable I felt during that first trip to Thailand. Then after returning and living there for six months, my first impression proved lasting and true. We made friends, we studied the culture-discovered another version of ourselves. Both of us felt as if we had found a second home.
But this “letting go” business is not for the feint of heart. Despite all the excitement and anticipation, my fortitude and resolve was tested in ways I didn’t anticipate. Toward the end of preparations for our departure, I broke down and cried so often Jimmy stopped asking me why and simply took to patting me on the back sympathetically. It takes no small amount of courage to quit your job, find a new home for your doggie, sell all your furniture, and venture into the unknown. I feel like a trapeze artist who has to let go of the bar she’s holding so that she can grab the next. For just a moment, I am suspended in mid-air. I’m sure I will be missed at the Art Institute but equally sure my spot was filled faster than a hole in the sand. Not to mention the loved ones whose fortunes we cherish, abandoning our influence to the uncertain communication of Skype and email. It seems only natural to want your house in order before taking a long journey but despite our efforts, we left projects undone, mail unanswered, and a storage unit filled with who knows what.
Back in Chiang Mai, the third time around is so much easier. We know the layout of the city, how to order food, how to convert dollars to bahts. We are not surprised when people stare at us curiously or when we see a scooter riding down the wrong side of the street. What we forgot, at least for the first few days, was to carry tissues with you at all times. Bathrooms are plentiful here, toilet paper is not.
All in all, our return has been smooth. Carol, the American ex-pat who showed us the apartment at the Ping, offered to let us stay with her until we move in on the 15th. In exchange, we are house sitting and dog sitting while she makes her annual visa run. Jimmy and I find it somewhat incredible that we’ve ended up in a three bedroom house in the suburbs hanging out with a golden retriever named Jake. He’s a loveable galoot! Despite the deluxe accomodations, the neighborhood is a little strange. It reminds me of a bleached out version of Pleasantville and a lot of it is still under construction. Every morning at 8:00 sharp a small army of Thais arrive wearing matching purple shirts (the Thais love uniforms), wide brimmed straw hats underneath of which necks and shoulders are shrouded in fabric. The exception is the foreman who seems much younger than everyone else who wears dark sunglasses, is hatless, and talks on his cell phone a lot. Despite the purple shirt, his superior position seems obvious. They are working right across the small street in front of us and next to us on the right so we’re getting an education in the construction practices of Thais. It’s amazing. There are few power tools and much of the work is done by hand with the women squatting in small groups actually assembling rebar. And the bamboo scaffolding is something to behold. I find it truly surprising that anything in the building ends up straight. The workers seem pretty happy actually, staying as much as possible in the shade, and they smile at us when we come and go. Jake is a big hit with everybody.
Although we’ve enjoyed ourselves here, we miss the city life and culture. This house could be anywhere in the world really and the neighborhood as well. So tomorrow we are thinking of taking off to Chiang Dao for a few days. It’s a small village about an hour away. We will stay in a guest house boasting of an “attached bathroom,” ride up into the hills on our scooter, and eat the most delicious food. At night we will dream in both Thai and English.