Tuesday, June. 30, 10:10 PM
Chiang Rai, Thailand
Song: Everything you do is a Balloon, by Boards of Canada. (****** I’d give this one 6 stars if iTunes permitted it!) Also Oscar See Through Red Eye, magnifico!
I’m proud to report that I’ve been diligently practicing my touch-typing on the Mavis Beacon software every day for a week! (That sentence took me ~2min, my average is still only 8wpm!) But it’s a start!
Tonight I’m doing this blog in lieu of my regular lessons – no looking at the keys! And let me type that this is much harder!
Since last time I’ve finished up at Amee Doyer’s Farm, five glorious days of light work and gentle introspection. Two of those days I actually spent goofing off, but all’s good and nobody missed me… a benefit of being alone and self-guided.
On Friday I needed to use the net, so I borrowed a motorbike, taught myself to use a clutch and gears on the fly, and drove 30km to Chiang Dao, the closest access point. It was exhilarating to cruise through the beautiful misty hills, enjoying the teak homes and gnarly tree branch country architecture… hands down some of my favorite to date. After 3 hours of sweet and sour information collection, I was both content to learn that this month’s apartment sublet worked out (phew!), but also sad to learn of Michael Jackson’s passing away, as well as getting one-month’s notice from Poonam, one of my two other ‘permanent’ roommates. (So the hunt continues… permanent Roomie needed for Aug. 1!)
Natural splendor fills the region surrounding Chiang Dao, with national parks, hot springs, caves, waterfalls and hiking everywhere you look. One such sign for Chiang Dao Cave particularly caught my attention, so instead of heading back to the rice paddies I took the access road leading towards an especially fantastic misty mountain. The foot of the mountain brimmed with sacred Buddhist goodness: ancient wats reminiscent of the famously mysterious ruins at Ankgor in Cambodia, a 5-headed white dragon temple, a moat filled with impossibly beautiful turquoise water and hundreds of the biggest koi I’ve ever seen, giant golden buddhas (of course), but best of all… the set of steps covered by a 7-tiered roof leading into the open mouth of the sleeping limestone giant.
I’ve never been inside a proper cave. Scratch that… I’ve been in caves, but I’ve never walked in the pitch dark, guided by a man with kerosene lantern, through over a full kilometer of cavernous goodness like this. Navigating through the cave network, my guide showed me stone buddhas, a hermit, thousands of bats, and just about every figment one can imagine seeing in the endless cascades of exquisitely lamp-lit limestone, among them elephants, monkeys, hands, hearts, lungs, and a giant turtle.
Time (and patience) check: that’s 529 words in an hour. Let’s see… almost 9WPM! That’s a big almost… oh well… slowly but surely! I’ve gotta say, though, what an extreme pleasure and privilege and to have the time to take on this long-delayed chore of learning to type. And the real beauty is how much time it will save me in the long run when I can just type type type away, no eyes needed! Ah, the multitasking I’ll be able to do! Haha, that’s another skill, rather virtuous behavior I’m trying to learn: doing just ONE THING at a time, with complete attention, and NOT falling into my usual no-time-having-borne habit of perpetual multi-tasking. I must frequently repeat my mantra: I’m right here. (Not there, or in two places at once!)
After my spunkeling, light grocery shopping at the market, Thai iced tea sipping out of a plastic bag – love it!, and my day’s sequel to countryside cruising, I returned to the farm to begin Oil Production 101. Typing… patience… wearing… thin… Fast forward… For the next few days I made 30 gallons of niger oil, chased pigs, foraged to make fruit smoothies, partied with the chickens, did housekeeping in preparation of a clean exit, revisited my buffalo friends, geeked-out with my music, and had a generally awesome time.
Sunday I had another adventure/big day out. Walked into town, aiming to visit the local hot springs, another first. In a restaurant, while asking for directions, I met some great day-tripping Thai folks: Upares, Nid and Mr/Mrs Suchart Srisuk (ages 5o-80, who all laughed and smiled so darn easily that I felt like the old kook in the bunch!) They took me along on a ride in their SUV to visit Dri Sang Wang Waterfall in Pha Dang National Park, then to an enlightened Monk and his Cave 30km away (he wasn’t home but his cave was one of the most resonant and peaceful places I’ve ever been), and finally we soaked in Pong Arng Hot Springs. They dropped me off where they found me, and my walk home I got soy milk to make banana/mango/watermelon shakes, and beer for later. I drank 1/2 s banana shake, went into food coma/napped, little Souit (hill-tribe boy) woke me for dinner, we ate, I went back into the food coma. (Perfect Sunday!) Woke when Amy called to coordinate our rendezvous in Chiang Mai, did my weekly iPhoto unload and backup, packed, cleaned, and watched the Anniversary Party (written by and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh/Alan Cumming.) I was so pleased with the film, as shortly before departing New York I attended a talk with Cumming at the Cornell Club in which he discussed the film and his acting/directorial process. It was one of those truly magical, Complete days… of leisure, whimsical adventure, spiritual vibration, simple culinary delights, over-indulgences, naps, entertainment with a dash of culture, geek love… pure Bliss!
Next morning I jumped on back of the songteaw (and hung on for dear life the entire 30km back to Chiang Dao), where I hopped on the connecting bus bound for Chiang Mai to meet Amy. It was lovely to see her and swap stories from our respective weeks on different farms. After a while we set out and found the Happy Hippy House, a psychedelic tattoo-shop cum party house, where the owner/spritely artist-in-residence let us sleep in his extra room. Loved it, loved him and his friends, loved Chiang Mai (again, as usual!) Today we hopped on a long bus to Chiang Rai, 200 km north, where I type from Farm #3… ADVENTURE1 CLIMBING PARK AND GARDEN. Stay tuned, right here, for more blah blah!
(2 hrs, 20min… good session!)