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April 9, 2005 -
Ban Krud, Thailand.
Finally! A new journal entry.
I’m writing it in an air conditioned cabin in a very hot Thailand, in the village of Ban Krud, the one that I wrote about in the book. It’s been seven months since I did one of these journal entries and I’m not even going to try to fill in the details of my life during the missing months. I mean, it’s not a book and there are no rules. It’s a website, my website, and I can do whatever I want. Right? So what I want to do is a quick summary. It’ll be kind of “journally,” the sort of writing I actually don’t like to read; but I feel obligated to catch everybody up on my life, but not motivated enough to make it a great read.
(A short aside: Writing is my profession, but it isn’t my favorite thing to do. In fact, it’s way down on the list, somewhere below washing dishes but above climbing mountains and vacuuming. Oh, sure, there are moments when I love writing………but I’m certainly not one of those writers who has to write. I’d much rather talk. So how come I have a website with dated journal entries………….and how come I included my e-mail address in the book and promised everyone I’d write back? I’m not known for my well-thought-out decisions.
Having said that, I must add that putting my e-mail address in the book has enriched my life tremendously. I love hearing from readers, met and unmet. As a consummate voyeur who has already done my part of sharing myself in the book, your stories feed my soul and keep me connected to interesting people all over the world. What fun I’ve been having during the past months meeting (literally) people across the US……people I would never have met had it not been for the web site and e-mail address in the book One night in January, for example, I renewed a friendship and stayed with Kaye and Joel in Phoenix. I first met them when I did my book tour in 2001. They had read NOMAD after hearing my interview on the Diane Rehm show (end of May, 2001) and invited me to stay with them when I passed through. I did………and we stayed in touch. In January of 2005, the three of us had a Turkish dinner with four unmet e-mailers…….Karen, a teacher just back from her fourth visit to Beijing; Loraine, a writer/traveler who is doing a book about travels with her dogs; Diloylo, a young woman from Turkey and her husband, Roy, and two of her friends and her mom. Diloylo coordinated the meal. What fun to meet people I’d never have known.That’s the kind of thing I’ve been doing and loving it. The end of the aside.)
My months in the US and Mexico (September through January) were busy. Before I get to the US though, I have to repeat that my three months in Guatemala were fantastic as Melissa and I got to know little Cris, who was two months old when the adoption agency handed him to Melissa in the hotel lobby. Melissa and I also had a chance to bond over this magical little boy………and that was pretty incredible.
When I got back to the US from Guatemala in August, I visited Jan in Seattle, and Mitch and Melissa and Cris in NY where they were vacationing. I stayed a while with my brother and his wife, Margaret, in Orange, CT., and my friend, Gera, in Norwalk. I had a fantastic month on Chappaquidick Island on Martha’s Vineyard (thanks to Kari Amazeen and Annie Floyd and no thanks to the car that I had bought which died on me) and another beautiful month in Sandy Clark’s condo in Hood River, Oregon. I even had some special days in Burnaby, BC, at Joan Lee’s school before the US election. (I took a train up from Portland, voted in Seattle on the way back, and mourned the results in Oregon.) And then I went off to Mexico where Jan and Bill got married on December 4th in Zihuatenejo. It was a beautiful wedding (55 people came down). They’re a great couple.
When I went to the States after the wedding, I visited friends in So.CA; and then I headed out to Leupp, Arizona, where I spent a month getting to know kids and adults of the Navaho Nation. I had been invited by Danielle Richards, a teacher in the Star School, and I stayed part of the time with Brenda and Loren and their three kids (Brittany, Illiana, and Tai) on the reservation. It was an honor to be a part of a Navaho family that still respected the traditions and customs of their heritage.
I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Jan’s new husband Bill’s family (they had graciously invited me for Christmas) when the tsunami hit. Although none of my friends in Indonesia or Thailand or India were affected, my connection to that part of the world made it a very personal loss for me.
And now…..I am in Thailand with my friend Jill. We were supposed to have flown to Nepal (after a gluttonous, glorious week with Lars and Nirin in Nantes, France), but the day before our flight left, the king closed down the country…..no flights, no internet, no telephones. They were about to have a civil war. So we flew to Bangkok instead of Kathmandu.
As most of you know, I don’t usually travel with anyone. But one day a couple of years ago, I got a letter from Jill Crisci who said, “If you ever have a layover in Newark, let me know. I live near the airport and we could have a meal together.” We did. Then two years later, Jill wrote again. She was ready to quit her job and travel. Did I want a travel companion. Sure, why not. We met again and struggled to make a plan. We were both excited when we decided on Nepal…..and disappointed when it didn’t happen.
The highlights of our two months here were two villages, one a remote Hmong village in Thailand and the other a Lao Lu village in Laos. We stayed around a week in each village, living with families, enjoying their warmth and generosity, and sharing their lives. We also had a chance to spend a few hours teaching in the Vientiane International School in Laos (our Servas host, Pat Hallinan, is a teacher there). To those of you out there who are teachers, the international schools are a wonderful way to travel and work at the same time. (Have a look at the ISS website.)
We had planned to stay in Northeast Thailand, find a house to rent, and settle in. It didn’t happen. Satit Kingpudsa, our Servas host in Nakornratchasima, tried to find us something, but in the end, he helped us call Fon in Ban Krud to say we were headed her way…..that is, about six hours south of Bangkok by bus. (I wrote about Fon and this place in the Thailand chapter of the book.)
We are being wonderfully lazy, reading, swimming, and eating ho mok, among other things. I am also trying to lose weight, do yoga (Jill does it every day!), and let my hair go natural white. I’ve been dying it dark blond since I was 35, and it is now about two inches long all the way around, ¾ white with light blond tips…..light blond because the dye is mostly washed out. My next haircut, before I fly to Nantes and then the States, is going to be a crew cut where I tell the barber to cut off all the “tips” so that I end up all white! I am already at the point where I cannot recognize the person who looks back at me in the mirror. Besides the altered hair color, I’ve lost some weight, which seems to show mostly in my face, creating many more wrinkles than my pudgy face had.
When we leave Thailand on May 12th, we are flying to Nantes where Jill and I are planning to cook a birthday dinner for Lars (45 years). We’ve decided to make lots of little tastes……….a sort of Asian tapas. Things like Vietnamese spring rolls, mu shu vegetables wrapped in cabbage leaves, chicken sate, dim sum (Tibetan style), fish cakes with a slice of cucumber, and more. We think we’ll finish with small cups of phad thai and green curry with shrimp. Small portions of everything. Nirin is going to do dessert. (I have to confess that I still don’t trust that ho mok can be cooked successfully outside of Thailand! I’m afraid to try it, though it would be a wonderful addition to the birthday dinner.)
That’s it for now. I’ll be back in…..two? four? six? months. I don’t know. No promises. But I will be back. Sawahdee ka.