Guestest With The Bestest, Part II
And away we go with the next effort in this month of big, bright, beautiful guest posts on Go Pink Boots. This one comes all the way from Tak, Thailand, courtesy of my friend Ken Klein, who I met over a decade ago in a writers group in State College, PA. Ken and I took to each other pretty immediately, and when he decided to live full-time in Thailand I knew it wouldn’t be long until I visited him there. Those three weeks I spent exploring the country were, to use a hackneyed phrase, life-changing. I think my obsession with travel was born in during that time, and for that alone I owe Ken infinite thanks.
Want to visit Thailand? You’d do well to begin by reading his guidebook about the country, or any of his novels set there. In addition, he’s written a profoundly affecting book, The Dementia Handbook, about his parents’ struggle with the condition. He’s happy to send electronic copies gratis – or answer questions about the land he loves so much – so feel free to hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And away we go:
Total tumult. Previously placid waters were draining lower, forming a whirlpool, being sucked down the pipes of life. My dying business joined my near extinct marriage adding to the woes of having my not-too-gracefully aging, eccentric parents move to State College. An exclamation point came in a spot incidentally found on an x-ray and six months in a state of “we always thought this was suspicious” with no confirmed diagnosis.
Assuming the worst, life became pleasantly surreal as I slowed to enjoying everything around me, the flirtation of a cool breeze caressing my face, ruffling a leaf as it passed by. The uncertainty of tomorrow is the opportunity of today. If there is no breeze, you better love the stillness.
As fate had it and Shawshank Redemption said it, my going down the drain phase passed and I, “…came out clean on the other side” as my cancer scare was merely that and the ensuing swirl found me relocating to Thailand. “… Get busy living or get busy dying,” Shawshank said. An apt metaphor for my life in Thailand, though I really have no idea what the heck it means. I delight in the joyful nature of the people as I attempt to learn the thinking that veils an exotic culture and way of viewing life, which can puzzle a curious observer while defying my limits of linguistic abilities.
A Thai agrarian village is centered in family. My Thai wife has a large extended family. Her dad has ten siblings. A gathering can include over a hundred people, a large percent of our Mayberry-like prairie town home.
Jill Gleeson came to see. After visiting the ancient ruins of Sukhothai, absorbing the pacific tranquility of being surrounded by rice fields, a longtail boat trip up the river to a secluded hilltop Wat and a blessing from the monk, which led her to descend with emotional tears streaming, hanging-out in the village where life does not swirl but slowly drifts, as my aunt makes papaya salad in her grass-roofed open air storefront, we lingered – and sensing the centuries old understanding that “this is what life should be,” – Jill was touched.
There is dignity to the people. Though unable to read or write, my rice-farming father-in-law is proud and strong, visibly warm and certain. Jill, worldly and accomplished, felt it instantly, telling this poor farmer that she was “honored to meet him.”
Jill continued on from here to Chiang Mai and then out to the islands, all part of the charms here, but I am glad that she could experience my Thailand, off the tourist trails where there are waterfalls to relax under and forest temples where the ever welcoming monks might just light up the sweat lodge if you visit.
And yes, that is an invitation to friends of Jill to come and experience the daily life of rural Thailand. Accommodations in our small nearby city are excellent and reasonable. For me, Thailand is far more than a place, but a way of thinking. I know, one day, Jill will be back.
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