I write this from inside the plane. I am almost in Doha. Two of my 3 flights are almost done. I slept the entire time in both of them. They are usually narcotic to me. Buses, trains, planes any means of transport. This time it was not so much the effect of the plane but probably the accumulated emotion caused not only by my leg, the fever but especially by saying goodbye to my little place in front of the Mekong. I surely will miss the jack trees, the palm trees, the communal tables, the Mekong, the tropical Muesli, the Pad Thai and the sunsets. But what overwhelms me is not and probably will never be a place, for me it is always about the people.
As I hopped around in my crutches being followed by the whole of Mut Mee staff and some guests who became friends a cascade of tears streamed down my face. I feel so much love for this people. I have so much to be thankful for.
Ian who had spent 11 hours with me in Hospital and had come every day since to see me brought me a set of gifts. A package for the trip, three amulets and bracelets for me to give people.
” You are a giver my dear.”
What better gift could be given to me? They are beautiful simple bracelets I could put in the arms of those I love. The generosity of such a gift is indescribable. And so it was that a day before my departure I put a bracelet around the arm of every single friend I made. Every time I did I explained the origin of the gift and I “wayed” in the Buddhist Thai style.
Doing it to my friends from the Kitchen was the most moving as every single way was followed by a clumsy hug where I tried to not fall nor drop my crutches. every single one was followed by kisses and tears.
And then this morning the ladies who work in the Kitchen presented me with a T-shirt of Nong Khai. These wonderful women who work in the Kitchen Tia, Joy, Noy, Wii, Pook, kung, Man, Yong and Gaew do not make much money, they do not have spare money and yet they tipped in to get me a gift. The t-shirt was covered in messages in a foreign language to them so that I could understand. The amount of thought that went into this moved me beyond belief. While I was left in my room reading the shirt I sobbed. On the top it read “Memories are a treasure of the mind”. As I read this message I knew that that had been written by the always smiling Yong (who had once offered to rescue me from the rapist). I have never seen Yong not dressed in white, I had never seen her without a smile and not spreading joy around. Yong seems to be quite spiritual and very connected to Buddhism. Yong’s message was the most philosophical the others were pure emotion.
Then I got from Pook a handmade bag. A bag made of Mut Mee (which is a type of fabric). These bags are meticulously made selling one would be the equivalent of approximately one quarter of Pook’s monthly salary. She gave me one as a gift. A bag made by someone who worked with me at Mut Mee made of Mut Mee!!! More tears.
Wii as I was about to go showed up with a bag full of Guava which she knew was my favourite fruit.
My very dear friend Michal hearing about my accident hoped on a bus for 18 hours to come and meet me. I love Michal for her eternal willingness to question her own knowledge and assumptions. i love her for being the kind of person who pays attentions to the details. We had met in India in Mc Leod, we drove together in that bus that had an accident where a man died. We have had a million Palestinian Israeli talks. We travelled together after that accident until I left ( against her advice) India. She has taught me more Hebrew and about Israeli music then all of all my other friends together. We have laughed about every surreal situation to the point of exhaustion. Now on hearing about my accident she hoped on several buses for several hours to be able to see me… To be able to help me pack, shower, laugh and of course find whose fault it was that I broke my foot 🙂 I still think it is hers since if she had been more persuading I would just never have left India 🙂
As I was about to go I suddenly lost it. i started to sob uncontrollably. San, toothless homeless, also showed up to say goodbye. Julian filmed the whole parade. A handicapped hoping about being followed by all this loving people. i hugged and hugged and kissed people. As we made our way out and I saw all of my friends there, I saw Tia ( who is always so reserved) waiting in front of the Pavilion for me. Behind her was the Mekong. Next to me Nick carried my bags. As I enter the van I see my last last glimpse of the sunsets I have gotten used to admire everyday. It somehow seems so insignificant that my eyes go back to all these people who are there.
People who have not travelled for a while don’t imagine how profound can be the links you developed on the road. As I stood there I felt enormous love and gratitude. I felt part of it. Part of that little village where even the ex homeless guy bakes me a gift and shows up to say goodbye.
That place is mine not because I was born there, not because I married someone who had to be there. that place was mine because it is where people know me for what I am. They know me with all of my tears, insecurities, flaws. That place became mine because I connected to the people.
Nick takes me to the airport and flies with me to Bangkok. I don’t know how I would have done without him. Once I reach Qatar Airways, he waits for me to be checked in and for a wheel chair to take me to yet another flight. He hugs me and when I thank him he tells me to not be silly he would not have offered to come if he did not mean it. ” It was a nice road trip! if I had not come many other people would have. Tomorrow I ll be back to Mut Mee.”
In my last email I wrote I was certain I would meet other strangers who would help. I was right. As I am introduced to Udom, the man who is in charge of driving my Wheel chair he smiles and says:
” Do not worry Madam I will take care of you until you are inside of the airplane.”
I put my hands in a sincere “way” and say a fragile, exhausted ” Kopum ka” (Thank you).
He does as promised, he cruises the messiness and rush hour of the airport making sure nothing and no one inadvertently hits my foot. He wonders if I need to go to the bathroom, or drink, or have a coffee. And when he finally puts me on the plane he wishes me a good trip, a speedy recovery and a fast return to Thailand.
I have by now managed to get myself together. And I put my hands confidently in front of my chess and in that Kopum ka I thank the whole of Thailand. I thank every person I have met in Asia.
I have been living my life in the illusion of being open. I used to feel covered but always open to letting people go in. Yet I was always afraid of being hurt. Always afraid of being abandoned. So when they would penetrate me within I would freak out.
Leaving a PhD, a marriage, a life and crossing borders aimlessly crushed me so many times in so many ways. Weirdly enough when all broke down I found out that it is just better to be fragile all the time. In Portuguese we say ” a flor da pele” which literally means in the flower of skin. But I visualise it as being in a sense without skin, being raw without protections. It is a softer way of being. It is a scary way of being. You undress yourself of all the clothes, all the fears, and vulnerabilities you have accumulated through life. And then you stand there naked with all of the wounds, and marks, and broken parts. Then you just are. It is just so good to just be.
As I put my hands in way and thank Udom he is for me the embodiment of all of this transformation that has started to take place on me.
Udom is for me Asia and I thank it.
Kopum KA 🙂