Land of a Thousand Smiles + 2

Looking back on Tuesday, October 2nd:

Back to bustling Bangkok again. For breakfast, we eat chicken curry, around 7:30am. Our concept of time is muddled, or non-existent. We take a taxi to Mo Chit, the Northeastern bus station and are bound for Chiayaphum. A mud house and a man named Isara await us there. Our taxi driver, Ton, was eager to learn English and wanted us to help him. So the car ride became a classroom and through broken English and limited Thai we tried to understand each other. The second Thai person to say I have a good Thai accent, little trace of English in my words. We talked about family life, Chiayaphum’s landscape, and riding fast on motorbikes (he has a 1000 cc!). Ton and I exchanged contact info and will meet up when I’m in Bangkok to give each other language lessons. Bows of respect (wai). 7 hours on a bus to Chiayaphum, making frequent stops at food stands along the way.

We’ve been traveling for two days straight now. Feeling unsettled, uprooted. Displacement dampens, then revives my spirit. Adjusting to the rhythm of my new life. For two or three days I am active–moving, exploring, meeting new people, learning, feeling, every single moment. Then for one or two days I travel, am sedentary. My pace lightens. I write and reflect–collecting images, restoring memories, extracting meaning. This is a dream life for me. Living, passionately and actively, then meditating, reflecting, making sense of it all. I am realizing how much I love talking to people, discovering them. I am so profoundly interested in everyone’s different stories. I am learning so much about so many people–an appreciation and curiosity for all cultures, not just Thais. Languages are the windows to understanding and I want to open them all, to air out my space.

By trying to understand others, Mel and I have developed a deep understanding of one another. We are partners, perfect complements. Together, we practice speaking French and Thai, on the beach, on the bus, on the train, with people. We are wide-eyed and receptive. Overflowing with gratitude.

Walking the streets of Chiayaphum, I am an outsider, I am the minority, and I am thrilled to be here, to be given to perspective. As we wait outside of a 711 because we can not find the truck station, we witness the Land of Smiles unfolding before us. We are the beneficiaries. Looking confused and conspicuously pale-skinned, we are warmed by a crowd that starts to form around us. Employees and customers and random passerbys step up to offer information, a few words in English, anything they can do to help. Everyone takes time to get a look at us and to share a smile. The children giggle and bury their faces in their mothers’ dresses, then look back at us again. We do not go unnoticed or unacknowledged. We are both spectators and a spectacle.

Isara picked us up to take us to Ban Sai Roong (The Rainbow Community) around 8pm. We talked over a bowl of congee soup and realized we had common ground, that our dreams run parallel. Isara is a generous, light-hearted, lovable man with bright ideas for a better world. He told us he has 10,000 friends all over Thailand, and if ever we are hungry or need somewhere to sleep, to call him and he will work something out. As we drove out of the city and up a mountain to the village of Ta Ma Fai Wan, I felt my heart jump. Ban Sai Roong is magical.

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