So here’s an old post I wrote about camping in Tak a couple months ago. It was one of those poetic experiences that I couldn’t wait to come home and write about. I got so stressed about finding away to adaquatly communicate my experience and haven’t written since. Yesterday I decided to just chill out about it and now here it is…..
As I sway with the winding, mountain carved road, watching rain drizzle down the windshield while listening to Bruce Springsteen, memories of driving along the Columbia River flash through my mind. A shout from the front seat, “CRAZY! ARE YOU HAPPY?” reminds me that I am in my new home, with a family I venture to call my own on an adventure into the wild and out of my comfort zone.
We are crammed into a pick up truck driving to the sixth tallest waterfall in the world at the edge of Tak province. The ride there reminded me so much of Washington and Oregon that my heart did a little flutter every time I saw a tree with yellow leaves falling to the ground. I feel like I have found the magical space that exists between my two homes, where the scenery of the home I grew up in and the confusion and adventures of the home I now reside in come together as one.
During the ride two of the women asked me if I was mao rot. At first I thought she was asking if I drink and drive. Figuring this was just a random question, I merely giggled and shook my hand, “no, no.” When my coteacher asked me again, I thought she was asking if I was drunk at this moment, a question I took slight offence to considering it was 10 AM. Realizing I don’t understand we resort to our usual bout of charades to communicate the message. After she points to the road, wiggles her head back and forth and pretends to vomit, I realize she’s asking if I’m car sick. Nope, stomach of steel, I respond, more or less. The youngest kid, though was mao rot and proved this by vomiting all over the dashboard and windshield. Winding through the road watching the bag of vomit my coteacher held in the air sway with the road, did put my stomach of steel to the test.
Eventually we reach the waterfall, sleep in tents and do all the fun camping things that I had hoped for, but these don’t seem to be the events that imprint my memory, except for when PiMuan has a few evening drinks and slinks around on all fours announcing, “I am a tiger.” What does imprint my memory are the journeys. The long car rides and the stops along the way. Shortly after conquering the waterfall I felt myself growing anxious to reload the car and see what new adventures would unfold.
On the way home we stop for some prime photo opportunities. After one such stop, PiMuan gets back in the car, complains about not having a wide lens and announces, “Now, we go to Myanmar.” @#$!#!@$@#%#$%#$%! Is all I can manage to think in response. I explain that I am prohibited from going and am told, “Ok, no problem.” But what does that mean!?!? No problem, we won’t go, or no problem we will go anyway. Eventually I start to see signs that say Thailand Myanmar Friendship Bridge 3 kilometers and really start to panic. I wonder what kind of scene I’m going to have to make to avoid crossing and note various escape routes from the vehicle. At the base of the bridge PiMuan turns right and parks the car. I get out the car and walk in circles until my breathing returns to normal, barely resisting the urge to kiss the ground. I feel much better being out of the car but am still not ready to rest my anxiety. PiMuan takes me along the border to explain the surroundings. My anxiety quickly turns to gratefulness. Taking in the juxtaposition between the two countries with PiMuan allows me the opportunity to ask and have answered many of the burning questions that flood my mind.
We continue our drive home, racing the night, hoping we’ll get to sleep at a decent hour before waking to teach in the morning. I notice that the kids who once quivered at my smile have started to warm up to me. I’m starting to answer questions like, “Are there choppers in America?” and “What does cocktail mean?” And when the youngest vigorously jiggles my stomach and calls me fat I feel like I have finally made some real progress on integrating into family life. It is at this time that I break the news that though the name may be fitting, my real name is Kelsi, not Crazy. My family finds it hilarious that they have been calling me Crazy for a year now and we spend a good half hour of the car ride practicing, “Kellllsssiiiiii.” Of all the English lessons I’ve taught this one seemed to have the most impact.. Every now and again I’d start to dose off to be awakened by a whispering of someone in the car practicing “Kellllsssiiii, Kelllssssiiii,”
As with so many of my experiences here, the actual purpose of the trip has little to do with the experience and the memory of the trip. The waterfall was beautiful, camping was fun, seeing Thailand through the eyes of a Thai was better. Learning that home now is wherever it finds me and that my concept of family is ever widening was just as good.