The 104 Steps
The view here is beautiful. Awe-some in its original context. I’m on a steep hill, and I can see the ocean stretching out in front of me, until it meets the horizon many kilometres in the distance. Directly in front of me are the roofs of various bungalows, in the greens, aquas and greys that are most common here. And then there are the palm trees and other assorted jungle greenery interspersed between. I keep meaning to go down to the beach but haven’t made it yet. Partly (ok, mainly) because it’s 104 steps down to the road, and a whole load more to the beach. It makes for a good view, but also a cardio workout that’s a bit excessive in the heat.
Sometimes when I don’t catch an idea at the time, I imagine it like a missed telephone call; ideas that are ‘friendly’ will call back, and ideas like unwanted sales calls won’t bother me again. But in fact, usually not answering the call of an idea at the time – and capturing it, somehow, in the moment – means that the hundreds of telemarketers calling my mind quite drown out the few good ideas that I have.
Road to Nowhere
One of the experiences I most love on the island is driving along the coast road late in the evening. The roads are quiet, I rarely pass another vehicle, and I can hear the sea lapping at the sand only metres from me and the bike. There’s a strong fragrant smell of what (I think) is Jasmine in the air – I seek it out in the day, but I only seem to smell it at this time. There’s a breeze and the night air is cool around me. I ride down the road, loving my life.
Another Day, Another Embarrassing Lesson
I’m staying at a stop-gap bungalow while I find somewhere longer-term. The rooms are basic, the wifi doesn’t work, and no-one turned up to give me breakfast – I’ve been composing my first one-star Trip Advisor review all day. I finally catch the Thai woman who runs the place, and indicate some of my concerns. She pours out her anxieties, that the small resort has been sold, shows me the email to Agoda where she tried to cancel my booking that they ignored, and says she is just waiting for the new owner to take control any minute. My annoyance is extinguished in full when she offers to drive me and my heavy suitcase to my new place, something I’ve been fretting about how to do. I walk away remembering you never know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Whilst I know it’s all about your norm group, sometimes in Thailand, with so many delicate, petite, caramel-cream women around me, many of whom have a dab hand with eye make-up, I can feel clumsy and oafish. Hardly tall, for the first time I am at eye-height or taller than many. Attending a University to study Thai, surrounded by 18-22 year olds, only compounded this. I suddenly have a much better idea of what it’s like to be different, stick out, be a minority. It’s a salutary lesson given how uncomfortable and visible I feel despite not being at all persecuted. Experience is a solid teacher.
Last night I had a nightmare, which I think was down to the small (but unusual) amount of alcohol I drank with dinner. My dream seemed to be about losing my integrity, as I was escaping from some ‘baddie’ and had to leave someone behind in order to get myself away. Of course, there’s nothing more boring than hearing about other people’s dreams.
The crickets were so loud this morning at my bungalow, I had to leave and come to a coffee shop for some peace and quiet. Last night a huge toad or frog hopped across the road in front of my bike, its eyes shining in the darkness. In the week, I saw the desiccated body of a small, dead grass snake next to the yoga hall. A friend recently got stung by a jellyfish in the sea. There are always dogs that run wild in the streets, and yesterday I had a thin cat mewl piteously on my balcony for a while, until I told her I didn’t have any food in the house to feed me, let alone her.
By now I’m crying, throat tight with the effort of holding the sobs back, my breath close to hyperventilation. The anaesthetic hasn’t taken hold yet, but she’s cutting into my nail and finger. There’s blood, and the pain, building on three sharp injections into my sensitive finger, is immense. Another nurse has her arms across my body, holding me down. Finally, through tears and shame I say stop. Enough. The situation doesn’t feel right. The nurse with the blade looks at me with blank indifference, with a dash of scorn. And the nurse with a bit more English, speaking as if I’m a child, suggests I come back in when the antibiotics have worked and the infection has gone, as it might be less painful to do this then. No s*** Sherlock.
Living the Cliché
Sweat beads on my body, a sheen of dew that models are provided with in photo shoots, but I could really do without. The humidity on the island is so intense that at times it feels like a steam room. I love getting on my scooter to ride for a while, as it feels so much cooler than standing still. The air is thick and hot, as if you’re in a kind of soup. There’s a reason why the that phrase has become a cliché in writing. It’s true.
The Wrong Side of the Hammock
Today I’m feeling antsy, angry, fidgety, scrunchy. I don’t know why. I want to do something, take action. Have an argument. Slip my skin and disappear into the sea. It’s the kind of mood where I like to spar in Krav Maga, as the need to be very present – or get hit – helped me move past it. Of course, sometimes the (gentle) pain of a well-placed (gentle) blow is welcome too in this mood. I haven’t always made my best decisions when I feel like this. I’m not fit for company. Better stay in the hammock until it passes.
Early Morning Call
I woke up at 5 am because something was beeping in my room, something that I couldn’t then find. So that was annoying, stumbling round the room throwing things out of bags in order to find what was making the noise when I couldn’t even pinpoint the source. I wasn’t even sure if it was something that belonged to me, as I’m subletting again, and the current tenant has a number of bags and boxes here. Eventually I gave up and went back to bed, putting the blanket over my head and my ear plugs in. It had stopped when my alarm went off an hour later. I never found out what it was.
A Terrible Battle
It’s me against them. They’re everywhere. The conflict’s raged for days, and they’re testing my limits. I started with psychological warfare, but they’re too wily for me. I try to limit the casualties, as being a vegetarian I try not to kill stuff, but they’re fast and determined and keep waging surprise attacks in different quarters. I’m going to have to bring out the big guns soon. And all for something that individually is smaller than my little fingernail. Ants.