I have struggled to come to terms with how to continue writing this blog. It seems inappropriate to merely summarize each week’s events or even to focus on one single event. Each week seems to bring with it so many moments that I can’t simply choose just one and yet it seems unfair to merely skim over all of them. My solution—and it is not a perfect one—is to give you snapshots. Not snapshots in the traditional sense of the term. Snapshots, as in a brief description of some of the many moments that make up my every day. A short paragraph, a bundle of sentences, a list of words, that attempt to give you all a picture of some of the enticing, challenging, and wordless moments that are strung before me each day. Of course there will be some pictures that accompany this post, but they may have nothing to do with the descriptions that follow or precede it.
This is my first attempt, in what I hope is many more to come, of a post entitled Snapshots of Nan.
I sit by the river. I have come here on a whim. By myself. Nothing has prompted it except for the intuition to get on my bike and ride the ten minutes to the park in order to watch the sunset. I am grateful for following my instinct. The sky is lit up bright cotton candy pink and the clouds seem sketched into the sky as if they are in a painting. The water reflects blue and champagne pink and the light from the lamp just to my left draws a long yellow line along the rippling water. I can hear the grunts of men, all in unison as their boat draws into my sight. The boat is bright orange, and I can barely see the wood peak out from the water it is holding so many men in its thin perimeters. The men’s tanned arms all crank back and forth, back and forth—a synchronicity that is memorizing. The water slaps against the boat in perfect rhythm with their movements.
The sky lights up bright pink. Lightening. As the boat quickly continues past me, I am entranced with the scene before me. A long, thin orange painted boat full of men preparing for the annual boat race in October. The lights of restaurants twinkling in the fading evening light, their music softly coming through their windows, a strange mix of American and Thai pop. The clouds that light up a bright pink every 20 seconds or so, a light quickly flashing behind their deep enfolds.
I watch as the sky darkens. The sun, without my noticing, slips beneath the earth and I am left with the dark water, the sound of men’s arms moving together, and the sky flashing like a camera taking a picture.
“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore.”
I listen to the rise and fall of her voice, her small arms moving with the beat of the music. I have heard this song many times before—too many. And I have heard this little girl sing it about 15 times. She still gives me goosebumps. A quiet smile spreads across her face with each pause in the music. Her voice does not waver on the high notes and she doesn’t hesitate to belt out the final note that I have heard so many American girls fail to make sound good.
“I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage onnnnnnnn . . . “
This is her second language. I must tell myself that each and every time she takes the stage, just after lunch and before the afternoon classes. I am coaching this student of mine for an English competition, making sure her pronunciation is correct in each part and that her movements match the lyrics.
The child does not need coaching. She finishes. I simply nod my head, my skin tingling and my hair on end.
“Good, Pin. Very very good.”
Sweat runs down my legs. Leaves stick to them as I climb the rocks, my own hand slipping on my thigh as I try to press my body up each step at a time. I am tired. We have been climbing, the sun hitting our backs, for about a half hour now. It doesn’t seem like long, but with the blue sky and the afternoon heat, I can feel my body rapidly losing water. I pull out my water bottle. Normally this purple Nalgene would last me an entire day. Here, though, I can drink the whole thing in a single morning, sometimes a single hour, and still not have to pee afterwards. There is only a small amount left. I put it back in my bag. I want to save it for the descent down.
After a few more minutes of climbing over an unmarked trail full with leaves bigger than my head and grasshoppers that dance around our feet, we finally reach the top. Where is the entrance to the cave? I look around desperately. I do not want to have climbed all this way to simply go back down. And then there it is. A small hole in the rocks that leads into the ground, a green metal sign hangs above it written all in Thai. It must say: Here is the cave you just climbed up an entire mountain for. Enjoy the encroaching darkness.
There is a ladder that leads into the cave. Sam, a fellow PiAer, goes first. I go second. The distance between each rung is too great for my body and I must jump in between them to reach, letting my body teeter between each damp wooden hold. I reach the bottom. Boy, is it dark. And cold. Thank god. I turn on the flashlight on my phone. I knew there was a reason I brought my American phone along even though I knew I would never be able to make a call out here in remote countryside Thailand.
The walls are damp and the floor slick. We continue to walk further into the cave. It opens up into a large room and we climb a small hill, our sneakers slipping along the rocks. I feel as if I am in a Harry Potter movie. This simply cannot be real life. I want to go further but . . .
“We didn’t tell anyone we were coming here,” Haley says, already walking back to the ladder—the exit.
I stay a few minutes longer, letting the dull light of my iPhone shine on the walls of the cave. The walls go high above me and odd shapes jut out, a result of the artistic ability of water to soften and sculpt the rock. I shiver. My sweat is drying. My legs no longer feel slick. I turn and head to the ladder, an unwanted exit back to the afternoon sun.
He clings to my arm, burying his soft hair into my belly.
“Are you finished, Earth?”
He nods yes, handing me his worksheet. He pulls my arm harder.
Stamp approaches and hands me her worksheet. I take it with my free arm. Her bow is perfectly placed, just like the rest of the students. Even after lunch, all of the girls’ hair is immaculate. Not a bow out of a place. I wonder if someone sits on the steps of the classroom before class begins in the afternoon, retying elastics and ribbons in each one of their hair.
Stamp comes close to me now, placing her hands on either side of my stomach, ignoring the fact that another child is already clinging to me. She pats me, mutters something I cannot understand—Thai—giggles, and then smiles. She’s calling me fat, isn’t she? She pats me one more time and then leaves.
Earth wraps his arms around my middle, holding on so tight that I must loosen his small fingers only slightly so that I can breathe. I am a novelty to them—a bright shiny Barbie doll they can’t bring home.
“I picked her up at the warehouse,” See says to me as he points to the small kitten prancing around on the porch.
What warehouse and why he felt the need to bring her home I do not ask. I have learned here to not ask such frivolous details as this.
“She’s cute,” I say to See before I head upstairs.
Later I play with the kitten, petting her belly and feeling her tiny bones beneath her fragile skin and fur. We name her Iggy and I soon come to find I am slightly allergic to cats. My eyes itch and I sneeze a little as she hops into my lap each night.
These are my moments.