March 2021 (Printed title in The Local Newspaper as Memory trip)
"I'm in love with cities I've never been to & people I've never met."- John Green
Remember traveling? The late night flights, or early mornings depending on which side of 4 AM you are on. I can hear my alarm clock now, blaring with immediacy... a device that was proficient in The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.
Remember airport bars? Remember jetlag? In your home time zone, it’s whatever time it is and now you have to ‘time change math’ the hours.
Remember clinking drinks with strangers who are now your good friends?
Remember hauling ass through the airport, sort of lost, but thank God for the kind samaritan who takes you under her wing to get you where you need to go?
Remember gulping unencumbered maskless breaths…tripping over your sloppy self as you fumble through your carry-on, mid-sprint...JUST barely making your first flight?
“Where the f*ck is my boarding pass?”
It’s almost painful to look at pictures from a time before COVID-19; a time when we could all be together, just as people, doing “peopley” things. I’ve been looking back at some old photos from trips my boyfriend Jeff and I had taken in recent years to remember how it felt to be that free.
We didn’t know it back then, but Thailand would become one of our very favorite places on Earth.
Our good friend Steph drove us to the airport as good friends used to do.
Once she dropped us off, we went straight to the Chickie’s and Pete’s in the Philadelphia Airport. It was an exciting time- The Eagles just won the Super Bowl one week prior and we were celebrating the launch of our trip with big ass beers and fried food, as we all used to do.
Thirty hours later, we landed in the tiniest airport that we had ever seen, on the island of Koh Samui.
It was about 8:30 AM there, but we had no idea what time we felt like it was. We spotted a small group of fellow travelers, who did not speak english, munching on chips and sipping cold ones. Pointing to their beers, we asked through body language where they got them from. They gestured to what looked like a closet across the way, but we trusted it. Once we came back with our beers, we raised our cans and simply said “cheers!” Excited by this, they ran over to clink cans with us and to share their chips. Friendship happened and all it took was a small group of travelers, ten minutes, five beers, two bags of chips and one word.
One night, we spent the night in, hanging out at our hostel. There were seven of us- Me and Jeff, the two Norwegian girls on their gap year, a couple from Germany and the Bermese guy who ran the place, Mass (pronounced Mah-ss). We drank. We laughed. We mimicked each other’s accents. We sang our countries’ Happy Birthday songs to Mass because it just so happened to be his twenty-seventh birthday, as we found out. Jeff and I debunked myths that all Americans owned cattle and guns. We talked some more, and sang some more, and drank a lot more and laughed until we couldn’t stand. And then we all stumbled back to our rooms.
Every morning for breakfast, we visited with “Catfish Lady”. She had the very best food and it cost us a whopping $1.50 USD for us both to eat whatever we wanted from her stand. On the first day, we were given the smallest fish of the catch- We will prove ourselves. In addition to the catfish, we ordered a banana leaf pouch stuffed with our curiosity. On day two, we were one of the first people to arrive. We tried something else that was new to us and also her catfish on a stick. On the third day, we had proven ourselves and she threw in a special sauce with our amply sized catfish. By the end of the week, we were regulars- she expected us to come and we expected her to be there. We had only ever communicated through hand signals, smiles, coins and the two Thai phrases that we knew best- “Hello” and “Thank you”.
Picture 7, 8 & 9:
The night market sprawled far beyond what we could see. Tightly packed vendors lined both sides of the long and winding road. The lights; The colors; The smells! The pots and pouches and skewers and slurps won us over. It was the most magnificent and beautiful place for a girl who ate everything. I ate my first grasshopper there. I ate my first chicken heart there. I ate my first fried fish chips there. I ate one of everything that would fit in my stomach there.
What is it that makes me smile when I look at these pictures? I thought that it was the newness and the adventure that I missed so much this last year of COVID- In part, I believe it is. In fact, it’s remembering when the clinks, the drinks, the undefined food tastings and the encounters of happenstance were the sparks of our days and nights. I see now, that it is the freedom that we had to just live that I am missing. I remember all of the small interactions and those are what I miss, what we are all missing. It is the living part of being alive that we are missing. It is the living to eat rather than eating to live that we are missing. It’s the strangers, the hugs, the high fives, the drinks, chips, cheers, Happy Birthday songs, catfish on skewers, and being tightly packed together that we are missing. It’s US, being together and remembering how to be “peopley”, that we are missing.