I received a piece of fan mail last week in conjunction with my "new blog column" announcement. This woman said she'd been watching me perform for the past seven years. She mentioned she felt like she got to know me more from reading my blogs - than in all the years as a spectator of my music . She thanked me for sharing myself, and encouraged me to continue writing and playing music. It was both touching and humbling to think she took the time to acknowledge me in this way. Thank you kind lady. Here are two more stories from SE Asia, for you and anyone else who's reading, listening and watching.
The longboat dropped us off at the debris-riddled Tonsai coast. The beach was covered in sharp coral, sand bags, garbage and wood pieces from the Tsunami destruction ten years ago. We climbed out of the boat with all our luggage on our backs and waded through the water to get to dry land. The four-star treatment stops here, in Southern Thailand.
I discovered our bungalow has no electricity (before 5 p.m.), no wi-fi, and this morning, no hot water in town for coffee. I set my boundaries with Sue Ann on my three travel absolutes: coffee, wi-fi, and electricity.
Aside from the debris, Tonsai is raw and beautiful. It's the ugliest of the three beaches on this peninsula. If your child was this ugly -- she'd be a prom queen.
When we first arrived we booked a guide for tomorrow's rock climbing excursion. I'm a novice and Sue Ann is an out-of-practice expert, so I'm a little nervous. We walked from the climbers' camp to see Railay Beach- a magic place from Sue Ann's memory bank of yesteryear. The guide pointed us to the forest. Unbeknownst to me, my first jungle trek was about to begin. In flip flops. I have this thing that happens when I'm tense. My shoulders creep up to my earlobes and my hips lock. This posture doesn't make hiking or trekking easy. There were power lines dangling everywhere, even strewn on the ground. There were monkeys in the trees and a cacophony of loud bug squeaks, chirps and squawks. At times, I think my shoulders crept as high as my cheekbones.
Oh, did I mention the millipedes?
Near the end of the trek, there was no more dry land. We had to wade through a creek for a least a half mile. I was surprised and impressed at how long I could hold my breath. When we finally arrived in Railay, it changed quite a bit from Sue Ann's memory bank. No longer the hidden paradise for the world's best climbers, it's now covered with high-end resorts, built up to the lip of the ocean. Still beautiful, and striking to my eyes.
"You have too much furniture on you" said Na, my rock climbing guide. He of course was referring to my ensemble. Straw hat, neck scarf, long pants, I do not look like your average climber. In fact, I've gotten more sun on this trip in a week then say the past five years. When I was seventeen years old, my older brother gave me some of the best advice of my life. "Stay out of the sun... from now on" he said. And I did.
I'm writing this from my front porch bungalow. We are still in Southern Thailand. I just cracked open my third can of "Nescafe latte". It's cold and sugary. Who knows what's in it, as the label is in Thai. I methodically polish the can top with tissue, and I'm reminded of another tidbit of family advice, this time from my Uncle Sal. "Always wash off your can tops. The workers like to piss on them". I'm not sure why the Italians and the Jews are so suspicious. Well, I can understand why the Jews are - but the Italians? Perhaps it's just the mistrustful nature of the human mind. Nonetheless, I take heed and wipe down every single can.
Sue Ann was in heaven yesterday. Climbing away like a masterful gymnast. Me on the other hand, I was a bit like Humpty Dumpty. On my third treacherous climb (this being my first "real" rock experience), I was screaming from the mountain top to Na. "Ok, I'm done! The harness is pinching my vagina, please let me down!!" He wouldn't. "I can't go any further, I've no where to put my hands!" Na says, "You pay 800 baht to climb, it's 800 baht to come down!" It is a metaphor for life. You really don't think you can go any further, you're convinced, yet somehow with a little help from a new friend, you figure it out. I did finish the climb and touched the silver ring where the top rope attaches to the mountain top. I also screamed the entire way down, as I swooped through the air legs and arms flying free, suspended by my harness. When I touched ground, I ran to Na and gave him a hug. It was a lesson and a moment I won't soon forget.