Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stars and Scars

Today I was a small child. My mother taught me to weave and fed me small candies as I watched. I sat in the sunshine playing Uno with my sisters and the youngest obviously cheated. She bent the rules and her cards and the mat we sat on as she wriggled and squirmed in delight.

We played football in the mud and got ourselves filthy before each of us was sent off to bathe. We clambered out of the shower and immediately started to play again, before our Mother called us back into the house to eat. We sat with legs sprawled slurping up noodles and each of us splattered our shirts with yellow sauce. I ate with my fingers and licked each one happily to savor every moment of flavor. Then we ran back down the steep driveway to find Da Phoam and To Phay to play. We gathered in a garden and pretended to be animals of every type. First, we were elephants with bellowing trunks, then monkeys scampering up all of the trees. Then we were chickens and dogs and lions and frogs and many other animals I didn't know the name of but still pretended to be, running around the dirt and clambering on all fours.

Then we played a little duck-duck-goose and hand-clapping games as a grandmother silently looked on. She sat with her loom, weaving a bright blue shirt and her husband made fun of my skirt as it kept falling while chasing the other children around. We tired of our frolicking and came back to my house, where the older children were playing Uno once more. Each of the toddlers sat in the lap of an elder and we played until the sun finally set.

Then I say on a blanket in my Uncle's company, watching the moon rise and the birth of the stars. I asked, in wide eyed wonder, the names of the constellations in Karen and he brought out his grandfather to teach us. We sat drinking tea and stargazing for what seemed but a minute but soon I was being told it was time for bed.

So we climbed back up the driveway and I changed into pajamas before saying goodnight to my family and lying down in bed.

I hope tomorrow morning that I don't wake up as a 20 year old again. I like being this small very much.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Colors of Tired Fingers

My 5 year old sister's hands are stained bright blue from the pastel she clutches. Green streaks adorn her wrists and her cuticles are red from smearing the oily shades. My own nails are a leafy green at the tips from stripping pumpkin vines to make curry this morning and the pads of my fingers smart and swell from the nicking stab of the needle I grasped, clumsily, embroidering a shirt with white seeds. My mother's hands moved far more deftly, stitching succinctly, and no throbbing stab wounds emerged on her careful, callused digits. Her nails are short, cut off by her husband this afternoon, except for the left thumb which she uses to cut thread.

We sit on the floor of the kitchen with the wind faintly breezing through the cracks in the bamboo walls, as a daughter slurps on melon, which drips down her face and neck and arms. Its sticky orange residue clings to her tawny skin and almost seems to glow in the fractured gloaming light. Her uncle lies by the fire, his sooty fingers leaving a trail of smudge as he reads his translated Bible, occasionally tends to the coals. His face is so close to the pages, I can't imagine how he reads them, but every now and then he smiles and looks to us, happily around.

Outside, I hear my Father, lazily fixing his scooter, with the grime and oil of engine sinking into his etched palms. The starter isn't starting, the gasline may be broken, but between his thumbs and eyes and skills he'll soon have it purring away. He was working silently as I arrived in the village, nonplussed by the gargantuan truck which bore me and its sweaty palmed owner whose knuckles had turned white as we clambered along dirt roads, up and over the many and rugged mountains. He just stood up slowly and welcomed me, smiling, offering out his hand for me to greet and said 'Da Bleu.'

Monday, April 27, 2009

Switchbacks and Sticky Rice

Today was a fantastic merry-go-round of an adventure. We woke up at 6, to leave our apartments at 7, to make it to the bus station for the 8 am bus to Mae Hung Son. We remarkably arrived at the station with time to spare, only to find out that our bus wasn't going to leave until 9! So we spent a solid hour and a half stocking up on snacks for our 7 hour journey...

When we finally piled into the smallish bus, we found ourselves whizzing North into the mountains. We stopped a lot to pick up what seemed to be an impossible number of people and at our fullest, we had 43 people in a bus with 28 seats, including a baby, a TV, 2 charming French backpackers, an enormous spare tyre, monks galore and a bus conductor. We went through the Thai countryside with the wind rushing through our hair, as all the windows and both the doors were wide open and gloriously ushering in the breeze. I had my first goosebumps since coming to Thailand and shivered ecstatically as I watched the winding horizon of rice paddies slip into the clouds.

A little girl sat in front of me and another to her right. Both had painted toenails, which they wiggled in their mothers' laps. A woman standing near me, with teeth rotten out from beetle nut, peered curiously at my giggles as Johnny and I talked and talked and talked. We waltzed our way from juice to swingsets, from origami to youTube to Chaaaaaarlie; all while spinning a glistening web of conversation with we basked in and glowed azure amongst the drowsy travellers surrounding. We ate sticky rice and green beans and cabbage and pork and these crazy Thai desserts called 'mini sun marbles.' The sun filled our mouths and our hearts and our dreams - though not for long. When I fell asleep with my head out the window, Johnny awoke and pulled me inside. Dreaming in the wind while mountains race by is dangerous.

But I woke up to switchbacks and fabulous PINE TREES, the sour smell of forest and the delight of craggy cliffs. We peltered up and over countless mountains, dropping 400m, rising 200m, falling 300m, climbing 600m. Altitude became irrelevant as I soared into elation and threw my hands in the air for anticipation of the plummet over the oncoming winding bend.Then the cramp of the seats got to me and I moved backward in the now emptier bus, to drape myself over the enormous spare tyre and nap between those backpacks and legs of travellers loved and unknown.

I awoke to a screech - a brake? Confusion. Reverse. The conductor hops out. Returning to the smile of the driver, so reckless, he carried a road-killed snake twisted up in to a knot. It hung limp like the bags spilling out of the luggage racks and we threw it in a bag - for dinner? We went on our way.