travel

hua hin hello

By now, I may accurately say that I’ve had a coffee each place my feet have touched the earth (and also where they haven’t, though I would not recommend airplane java except under dire circumstances).

Welcome to Hua Hin.

This beachy coffee experience featured a blended ice mocha… Usually, I’m more of a latte or Americano gal, but this morning, I could not find any of the usual coffee shops near our hostel. On a whim (and on the edge of a headache that shames me into admitting how coffee-spoiled I am), I tried a little bamboo beverage shack. In case you ever come to Thailand, be sure to order less sugar. They tend to make drinks sweet!

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…also: hello, hot season!

In case you’re wondering if I live by the ocean (sadly, I don’t!), my friends and I went south for a few days. It’s been so muggy in the mountains, and even with the water festival, cooling down is a minute-to-minute task, around which your entire day revolves. So we hit the beach.

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The breeze was amazing after the stagnant hot!

Also, actually being at the beach made me remember one of the first things I had to get used to living here: how Thai scenery, anywhere in the country, tricks you into thinking there is a beach nearby. To my untrained eyes, even the freshwater-fed jungles of the north look like there should be a saltwater bay, preferably with mermaids, within a five-minute walk. So it was refreshing both mentally and physically to truly be on the water this week!

My favorite experience of the week was biking along the shore and around the island, in which we had a few near brushes with death — it appears that a lack of respect for bicyclists is a multicultural phenomenon — and laughed our heads off staging accidents in front of hilarious signs.

all hail the bikers…

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We found a crazy ombre dragon lizard!

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We even biked around a rice paddy or two.

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Some days, I ache for home and the temperate forests of Kentucky, my bluegrass hills and mahogany horses and perfect paved roads. The gaudiness of this world — the overbright tropical flowers, the birds with excessive orange plumage and funny crimson-and-yellow spots on their chests, even the lizards with their wild iridescent tails, and the unknown jeweled foliage of the jungles… I resented it for a long time. I asked of life a simple white canvas, and it handed me a rainbow explosion. We so stubbornly want what we want, like children without the capacity to rightly value priceless artifacts. But it seems, finally, my soul has found rest in this tangled, brilliant world. It’s different, but it’s become a different I can love.

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Finally, in case you’re in need some beachy tunes to go with that coffee…

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biovignette

exoskeletal collision

She stumbles out the sliding glass door to the back porch, trips over the rocking chair, and suddenly absorbs the deliciously uncomfortable warmth of the August midmorning. They will never suspect her destination. And so she escapes.

2008-01-01 00.00.00-1The bicycle is a refurbished tie-dyed multi-hand-me-down and actually her sister’s. She manhandles it into the back of the car and ponders the existence of adjectives meaning “of August” — > “Augustinian” … “the Augustinian midmorning” …? “That’s having to do with St. Augustine,” she sing-songs aloud, sliding into the hot leather seat and shoving an orchard apple into her mouth. The apple is crunchy, too sappy sweet. It is not autumn, not yet, and the apples don’t bite like the (Augustinian) wind doesn’t. Not yet.

After gunning down the highway, indie rock blaring out the open windows, she arrives at the first park. It fails her: no bike paths. So she does quiet bookish things at a wooden table and watches ducks. With its great orangey bill, one lone white duck nips its wings clean, feather by feather.  It exhausts her to watch. Yet she lingers until her apple is down to the core. Then she cycles back to her car and tries again.

Though known for its running trails, the second park surprises: a Green Way, sanctioned by the city, that mosies by not only main roads but also rivers, fields, and endless rows of corn. It is not autumn yet. But as she kicks her bike into gear and pedals into the heart of a corn maze, she can almost imagine that it is.2008-01-01 00.00.00-3

She has escaped the house and also most of the lonesome musings in her head of old concert photos, of shut-down coffeeshops, of jotted-up private notebooks, of abandoned stuffed animals, of lost song contests, of graduations… She has escaped most everything except for the barefooted pedaling, the fallish longing for fiery leaves and spicy smells in the air, and the constant thwacking of bugs with hard shells against her damp forehead. One thought of the three rises to her consciousness: the harder she pedals into the golden afternoon, the harder the bug thwacks.

“Exoskeleton,” she says out loud. Third grade teacher taught her that one. She even remembers the picture: a roundwinged black beetle crawling along a green leaf. He looked curious to her with the explorative antennae and bulgy eyeballs, and she wonders now if the kind of bugs that keep hitting her are at all friendly-looking like that. The spider on the bottom of her bike — she knows he clings there still, braving the wind with angry-eyed fierceness — is certainly not.

DSCN1693What do we have? Endoskeletons? Imagine if we were born with exoskeletons, how funny we would look… she thinks. There would be far fewer babies in the world. And she supposes God thought about that, when he gave humans kind surfaces and bugs, particularly evil spiders, harsh ones. She always intuited he had favorite creations, and this seems now to prove it to her.

Most suddenly, God’s favoritism feels as factual to her as the clothes clamped damply on her legs, as the bobby pins stuck in her scalp, as the gravity fighting her over whether or not she will reach the top of the next hill. Oxygen hanging low in her lungs, she pedals harder. It is fact, she thinks. Thwack, thwack, thwack. And she coasts down the big dip in the trail, her heart riding the elevator up to her throat…

The last bend in the cornfields spills her out into the main park again, and she cycles to a standstill, legs straddling either side of the bike. She does not sweat, so she always tells herself, something her high school best friend always told her: “Girls don’t sweat; they glisten.” Now, under one of the last August suns of the year, she glistens profusely. It is quite hot.DSCN1692

A car lingers on the edge of the main road outside the park. Within the car, an old lady pinches at a white bread sandwich, alternately eating the pinches and adjusting her wide brim hat in the rearview mirror. She calls out hello to the girl on the bike and waves and flings crumbs out the window. A gold band gleams on her left ring finger.

As the girl pedals back to her car, she imagines that the old lady also has escaped on this hot, road-hungry day. Possibly because she too thinks too much. She too gets bitten by bugs. She too bears old old memories. She too has realized: “We are God’s favorites.” And it is with an ennobling sense of superiority that the girl finds a twig and bends by her bike to relocate, gently, the ferocious, little spider.

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