Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Flying Ferang

A journal entry from Pod

I have spent the last month learning to ride a moped. It's a scary experience for me, but I have had a lot of support and only a few days ago, I rode back from Saladan in the most awful rain, feeling utterly confident.

However....the bike was not working well, it made a strange noise, the brakes were dicky, and I had real problems getting it started. The other day in Kantiang Bay I could not get it to start, so I went and found the Simply Life owner, from whom I have rented the bike on a monthly basis. She advised me to pull out the choke to it's max and sure enough, it started.

Mr "D" my friend and neighbour told me in no uncertain terms it was a crap bike and if I learnt to ride it, I could ride anything. He also advised me to get it serviced, but I never did. There was always something I wanted to do, somewhere I wanted to go. I did not know and forgot to ask which repair man to use. Excuses, excuses, fact is I am ignorant of machines and naively believed that as long as it was running it was O.K.

Four days ago, I wanted to ride to the pier for my morning coffee and quiet time. As usual the bike would not start so I pulled the choke to max and was rewarded with a roar! I put it into second gear and it shot off. I went through the posts and despite my attempts to brake, we carried on. Before you could say "Vroom vroom" we headed straight for sea wall at about 20km per hour.

Trajectory: through the posts

I real*eyesed we were going in, there was no stopping this scenario. We sailed into the air, and dived into the sea in a sort of magnified moment out of time that still replays in my mind. I landed sitting in one of the three tyres which at that stage were floating in the half tide (they have since disappeared) Somehow I managed to throw myself off the bike mid air, but left my right leg out sideways still pressing hopelessly on the brake pedal.

Point of entry

Strangely, I felt no fear going in, just a sort of surrender. As I sat there in the sea, the water to my waist, the bike now silent, I asked myself curiously "I wonder what happens now?" Then I remembered my camera, still in my bum bag and in the sea. I took the bag off and rescued the camera.

A young woman had seen the whole thing, and came to help me get out. It was a struggle. My neighbours appeared and a young man wheeled my bike out of the water, taking it under the bridge and around the other side. Of course people stopped and a small group gathered. I smiled and flapped my arms "Flying Ferang"

Some instinct told me it was vitally important to remain calm and composed with these people, so I refused offers of doctors and hospitals, and limped into my house to call Mr "D" Luckily he was at home, just down the road, still in bed and rather surprised "Hey "Mr "D"....., where are you? I've just driven my bike into the sea" He was there within minutes and took charge, allowing me time to do a quick healing on my leg and shed a few shocked private tears.

My bike was wheeled a few doors down the road to the local "bike man" and within three hours it was back on the road and running better than ever. Cost: 480THB (£7.30)

The moped was in such bad shape before the swim, that I suspect it was either a suicide attempt or a last ditch effort to get some TLC. With new brakes, a new front tyre (the old one was bald) new oil as it had less that 10mls in it and a new ball bearing somewhere, she purrs gratefully. I did a victory lap round the town, and then spent two days off, in a strangely dislocated and grateful state of awareness. The worst had finally happened and it was not so bad.

I feel very blessed. Not two foot away from the tyres is a large piece of concrete. I could have landed on that. I could have hit the large metal pipe that spans the estuary. The tide could have been out. Any number of things could have been far worse. My camera is functioning perfectly. My leg is much better, though still stiff.

Once again, I am reminded of the huge disparity between Thailand and the U.K. Perhaps laws would have stopped me being able to rent such a wreck in England, but accidents happen even when everything is functioning well.

No doubt the locals murmur "Stand clear" when they see me coming, but I have received nods and smiles too, as I ride past.

Most of all, no police, no insurance, no forms to fill in, no stress, no punishment.

I feel much more confident just living now, because I know that I can make a mistake and it will just be rectified. In the U.K if I make a mistake, even unknowingly, there is always a punishment, usually financial. I never real*eyesed before what stress that created in my life.

So I fully understand why my soul created this escapade for me and kept me safe throughout. I will never ride an un-serviced moped again and I am letting go of the unconscious worrying about life that I have always carried.

It has also been the cause of much merriment too, so have a laugh and celebrate for me and with me.

Monday, 19 May 2008

If bugs are terrorists then I'm George Bush

A journal entry from Pod

The rains bring the mosquitoes. Bearing this in mind, I went to the Aqua Bar the day before yesterday to connect to the the Internet. I wore my long baggy trousers to cover my legs and a small top, the rest of my exposed body was lathered in Citronella and Eucalyptus oil (my own, tried and tested non chemical anti mozzie concoction)

Within ten minutes I was feeling the unmistakable sting of mozzie bites on the back of my legs. I hurried home, took off my clothes and applied my Aspivenin suction kit (I am aware that if I was seen doing this on CCTV in the UK I would be arrested as a heroin addict) but it works, if you can reach the spot.

Next morning, I asked a resident long time ex pat, Mr D* if mosquitoes can get you through your clothes. "Oh yes," he replied, "if it is thin sarong material they can, and they can live in your clothes too" (AHHHH activate fear mode!)

He advised me to spray my clothes cupboard regularly as mosquitoes live in dark places and then when they come out and suck your blood it is only to lay eggs and die. He also said that it is not wise to sleep in the same room you keep your clothes in. (so I could have put on my own mosquitoes) Lovely..........RED ALERT!

Last night I noticed rather a lot of mosquitoes in my bathroom which is warm and humid and has no window. So I lit an anti mosquito coil which smoked on top of the toilet tank.

I also lit one in my room, I thought that they just discouraged mosquitoes but when one crashed into my bed and died, I real*eyesed they may be more powerful (can't read the packet as it is in Thai)

When I went to the toilet, the floor was covered in dead mosquitoes. More died in my room, not little ones but big b******s with yellow striped bodies, rigged for silent running.

I went to sleep feeling terrorized unable to leave any part of my body exposed. And when I awoke this morning and found a flea in my bed, that was it. I felt despair. I made a coffee and wondered how to be safe.

Suddenly I heard the loudest fracas outside my room. I opened the window to see a group of mynah birds attacking each other. "Do you mind?" I heard myself say in a total Mary Poppins voice. They flew off, but several minutes later it started again.

This time I just opened the door, kept quiet and watched. Then I just giggled....

As I watched, all the birds went for each other, until some of them surrendered and lay down. Then when all those that were attacked had lain down the aggressors lay on their backs and they continued to screech and act ferocious.

When they felt vanquished the whole group would get to their feet and start again.

It looked very fierce with open shrieking beaks, but no bird was physically hurt. I can only assume it is the start of the mating season, because I have seen them strutting round with their heads down and their plumage puffed like the pigeons do. But at least pigeons have some dignity, mynah birds are definitely the clowns of the avian world.

I don't know how long it would have lasted if a cat had not appeared on the scene, but I managed to get a shot of them; they were totally oblivious to me. Two of them are actually playing dead in the photo, but flew off very quickly.

I have cleaned and cleaned today. Sprayed my mattress with poison and let it dry. Put my sheets and pillows out in the sun hoping that the heat would kill anything that moves.

I have done all this with a lightness of heart, brought about by the comical antics of the mynah birds.

Good thing too, because when I went to the 7/11 and asked for chemical help with my flea, they just laughed and subconsciously scratched themselves. The Thai word for flea is "mad"

Saturday, 10 May 2008

There Be Dragons

A journal entry by Pod

In olden times, before the globe was circumnavigated, ancient maps bore the words "There Be Dragons" in the unknown and unexplored areas of the world. Dragons are scary creatures but their fire burns away the parts of you that are no longer necessary to your survival.

Last night I watched "La Vie En Rose" the story of Edith Piaf. Gosh* if ever a soul wanted to experience the agony of loss, it was little Edith with her big heart. In a final interview she spoke with an honest simplicity about Love being the central theme of her life, which was truly remarkable considering she lost everyone she loved, usually in traumatic circumstances.

I started to weep as she screamed out the name of her lover, killed in a plane crash. It was downhill from then on; the final song, "Je Ne Regret Rien" dragged me into my emotional compost heap, and I began a weepathon that has continued periodically throughout this morning.

I too am experiencing the pain of loss. The loss of my wonderful friends in England. I have been so blessed to have the most amazing people in my life, who have loved me and supported me unconditionally. My sudden decision to leave England permanently was a shock to all of them, but they never once tried to make me change my mind; instead they bravely held their pain in check and did all they could to assist me. They loved me enough to let me go because they knew me well. I know some of them miss me very much.

Because of my imminent departure, I experienced a wave of love from people who perhaps felt it was their last chance to love me and tell me how much I had helped them. It was beautiful, a bit like dying perhaps, but I was sad too because all their love was not enough to make me stay and that felt as if I was betraying them in some way.

I will, of course, see them again, I plan periodic trips back to stock up on supplies and have a change of scenery. Some will come and stay here with me; already two of them have made firm plans to travel to Kantiang Bay in the next 9 months. Nevertheless my heart knows their absence from my everyday life.

It takes some time and effort to build good trusting friendships doesn't it? You know the sort where you really listen to each other, affirm each other and love each other enough to blow away the bull**** and remember the loving truth beneath. Friendships where you have spent cosy evenings with a bottle of wine, telling each other your herstory/history, trusting each other with the contents of your emotional closet.

Some of my friends have been rungs on the ladder that allowed me to climb out of despair.

These qualities are still there in my friendships, but due to time differences, busy lives and the dynamics of ?,000 miles apart, they are not available to me in the same, easy, spontaneous way. I am living a different life with different challenges in a very different environment and I am responsible for the consequences of my choices. If I sometimes feel lonely, then so be it. That is the price I will pay. The scary part for me is that I will not be able to create that sort of friendship here in Thailand because it is such a transient place. People just move on.

It's not all roses you know. There are thorns and today I am right in the middle of the briar patch pulling them out of my heart.