So, what was I doing out there on the road?
Well, it started off as it should… life in the islands was a non-stop party. People from all over the world, sun, fun, ocean, good food, good clubs… standard operating procedure. I did things like learn to ride a motorbike in a tropical rainstorm on muddy roads, ate fried bugs… (grasshoppers, maggots, locusts… yum.) I attended a Full Moon Party, I celebrated the Thai New Year, which is a five day water fight all over the place, the streets, stores, bars, everywhere… water. I stayed with local families and met great kids. I climbed rocks to secet waterfalls. I went scuba diving and tried to find a whale shark, but had no luck, I got really sick, I got better. I went to four islands over a period of two months…
[Motorbiking in the rain on Koh Pha Ngan… so insanely wet we had to stop… note the river in the background that was a road…]
[Songkran (Thai New Year) all wet with the kids… Good times…]
[Early morning, Koh Lanta, Thailand]
[Koh Samui, Thailand]
[Rollin’ with the homies… Koh Samui, Thailand]
[Hiking/climbing to a Lagoon at Railey Beach. I would like it noted that I did this climb barefoot. Yeah, I am an animal.]
[At Maya Bay… home of ‘The Beach’, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand]
[15 meters of visibility, Koh Tao, Thailand]
[Night diving on Koh Tao. There are not words to describe this experience.]
I was traveling with a crazy assortment of people, Aussies, Swedes, Brits, Irish, Kiwis, Israelis and even an American or two. It was great. But I was starting to really miss… something. I left behind a great boyfriend and my fabulous pets (yes, even those goofy dogs are fabulous when you are missing home…) but I still did not want to go back. I could not figure out what was wrong in my brain, so I did what we all do, I ignored it and went north.
I headed up to Chiang Mai via Bangkok and was all set to enjoy the jungles of northern Thailand, but then our train got stopped by a flood which wiped out the entire railway system north of Bangkok. Bummer. Had to take a bus the long way around. But still got there. I played around in Chiang Mai and then headed to Pai, even further north (get an atlas you goof balls…) Pai was like summer camp gone wild and it was great fun and craziness… trekking, waterfalls, motorbike mishaps, agricultural adventures, more good food, swimming, sunning, good folks.
[The Life of Pai… or Life in Pai… The Israeli-Kiwi-British-American Posse.]
[Pai… This cow had an attitude problem… I straightened her out.]
Still something was amiss.
My visa was about to expire so I went to Burma to re-enter Thailand and avoid prison (a noble goal, I believe.) Back in Thailand I felt… lost. Do not get me wrong. I LOVE THAILAND. It is fabulous there, the people are fabulous, the food is fabulous the weather, the shopping… you get the point. But something was not quite right. I decided to make a change of venue and see if my outlook improved. I went to Lao.
I have always wanted to see a truly communist (or really in correct terms, socialist) state. I got to. Lao is awesome. It is weird. It is contradictory. It is very Asian and very French. It is very close to China. They sell only one kind of beer there, from the state-run beer company Beer Lao. The Lao people are lovely. They are even smaller than the Thai people. They are also calmer and more laid back than the Thai. I stayed with a Lao family in a tiny village in the far north of the country called Mong Noi. To get there from Thailand I took a two day boat trip down the Mekong River, a three hour bus ride up into the high country and then another two hour boat ride to the village of Mong Noi. And bear in mind I am not talking Greyhounds and speedboats… I mean rickety-assed vans and “long boats” (like rickety-assed canoes) and “slow boats” (do you really need an explanation here?) But it was worth it all.
[Our hostess Vanh (pronounced like Juan) who let us stay with her family in Mong Noi.]
[Rollin’ on the River… Lao…]
[Summer vacation comes to Lao as well… Pure joy.]
I met kids who showed me how to deal with the UXO (unexploded objects) left over from the US’ secret carpet bombing campaign of Lao and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. (“No cows, no walk” is the general rule as you do not want to be the one who steps on a land mine or a uxo and if the cows are okay you should be too.) I was taken to a cave where a ten year old boy explained that his family and several other village families had hid there duing the war, but they were all killed in the bombing. He told the story like it was a history report. I will not teach the Vietnam War the same way again.
[Our tour guide… Never underestimate what you can learn from kids…]
[Check out his shirt. No. Really. Check it out.]
I woke up one morning in Mong Noi and realized it was June 10. Perhaps this was why I had been feeling so weird… it was graduation day for Sparks High School Class of 2006. I had made a promise that I would be there for that graduation. And for the first time in a really long time I realized that I was not going to keep my promise. I didn’t know how to tell any of the people I was with what was wrong… they simply would not understand… I was not going to see Pee Wee in her cap and gown… Not going to be able to give Cory Olsen a shovel to ride into the future.. Not going to be able to hear Curtis say, “Ms. Lev-IN…” on more time… Not going to see all my little freshmen… Athena, Brandi, Yvette, Jenny, Kansas, Nichols Vincent, Kyle, Luis… walk across the stage at Lawlor.
That was a sucky day for me.
But there I was in northern Lao. There was no power except for generator power (which they saved all day just to watch the World Cup games at night.) There was no phone. There was no computer. I was totally cut off from my old world.
It was one of those experiences that you would have to actaully experience to ever understand the feeling.
But on June 10, 2006… my heart was in Northern Nevada. Who would have thought it?
[Tomorrow’s installment: Discover how I got over myself and went back to Thailand… sort of.]