Yesterday there was a 7.0 earthquake in Northern Thailand and Myanmar and I just wanted to let everyone know that I am okay and haven’t been impacted at all. Today I am flying to Myanmar, but I have talked to my friend with family in the Myanmar and apparently the quake wasn’t even felt in the city I am flying to, so worst case scenario, I will spend 10 days in Yangon. I would rather deal with post-earthquake than the Thai authorities when my visa expires tomorrow. I will be safe – don’t worry.
Wanting the true jungle authenticity, we decided to sleep 4 people in a very small tent in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park. The camping site didn’t seem quite “jungle” enough for us – the prepared families with proper camping supplies were cramping our style so we decided to drag our tent into the forest with the dirt and the monkeys. Then some lady boys invited us to sit with them for drinks and snacks which were constantly interrupted by deer, moose, land leeches and giant porcupines running through the camp site. Our jungle located tent lost its charm when the sun went down and we had to find it by candle & moonlight. Sleeping on the dirt ground was the least of our worries, during the night Issac got bitten 3 times by land leeches and a worm crawled into Kenny’s mouth.
While on a short waterfall hike the next morning some monkeys ransacked our tent. We panicked to see clothes thrown all over but soon realized all that was missing was a bag of peanuts. Confused by the fact that our tent door had been zipped back up, we thankfully gathered our valuables from the mess.
Then we went on an extreme jungle hike.
After 3-4 hours of fantastic and challenging hiking, the path had too many unmarked routes with questionable markers until finally we were lost. I was with 3 boys and once I deemed their “path” decisions as reckless bushwhacking, I honestly started to get scared.
It was interesting to watch my mind deteriorate towards panic. It didn’t happen automatically – I was obviously uncomfortable and saying little things and luckily Trevor nicely said that “we should stay calm” which shifted my gears from “shit, we are seriously lost in the jungle” to a really interesting inner struggle to stay calm. I was picturing a time we got lost on our snowmobiles at dusk, what would happen if we got hurt, having to spend a night in the jungle and being scolded for clawing our way into the jungle without at least leaving a trail of bread crumbs. But alas, those things were not helpful so I quietly endured being frightened and over an hour later we found our way back onto a path.
When we crawled out of the canopied jungle into the sunlight we were praying for the side of the road but instead we got a beautiful observation tower to ourselves. The setting was a wild jungle that could have been Africa and it was surrounded with fresh elephant poop. Each of us were at intermittent stages of bleeding, muddy and bug bitten as we climbed the tower that gave the satisfaction of Mount Everest.
Finally we hitchhiked home and ended up tagging along on some Thai family’s holiday. They took us shopping and bought us ice cream.
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…is what I was thinking as I stood on a squatter toilet nearing the end of an interesting day.
The day was marked with many things that I love. I had an inspiring conversation about potential economic developments in Burma (Myanmar) with a friend I met at the Burmese Embassy. Next I went to Fight Night where I saw 3 knock outs in 7 matches. My friend from my boxing gym won the headlining match in the second round. Then I had dinner with Sophie and we went for drinks with a group of travelers. A French filmmaker and I discussed film and literature until 3AM and he got me thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t write off the film industry as a career path.
Yesterday when I reminded Mom of a time Grandpa almost ran over a cat, she said “Cats are a dime a dozen.” If somehow I am ever tricked into owning a cat as a pet, I will name him Dime.
I just rode a motorbike across town which I have decided to cut down on. To be recklessly brave or naïve is a luxury of youth has proven to diminish with time. It’s a killjoy to realize how important the people in my life are to me and how much I mean to them as I speed down the highway envisioning my own death.
The motorbike driver oddly reminded me of Dad and he gave me a helmet, so I went anyways.
This week there has been an epidemic of disgusting shrimp being put in my meals. They are dried salty shrimp smaller than a fingernail and they keep finding their way into my food – not sprinkled on top as something tolerable, but smashed up in my food with hundreds of tiny black eyes staring back at me. I said vegetarian when I ordered my papaya salad today (feeling kind of silly since it was a salad). Evidently shrimp are not regarded as a life form in Thailand because my salad is currently watching me blog.
I accidentally ended up at the Red Shirts Memorial Rally the other night – 10,000 Red Shirts, 4000 Police and dozens of trucks prepared to detain arrestees. I had stumbled through smaller Red Shirt rallies before and I have always been captivated with how aggressively they are portrayed by the media when they are actually quite kind. With the exception of political banter and photographs honouring victims, it felt like a fireworks celebration.Families sat together sharing food while kids fell asleep on their parents shoulders and everyone greeted us smiling without the intention of selling us anything. It was incredibly peaceful except for knowing what happened the year before. I couldn’t help picturing being trampled at the sound of a gunshot but the energy was memorizing enough that I couldn’t leave either.
It was inspirational to see so many people congregating in peace. Fireworks bare drinking and protests are fuelled by people joining the cause solely for the fight – this felt like a family reunion of 10,000. The smiles on the Red Shirts, the hesitation in the policemen’s eyes and the innocence of the children stripped away the politics and reminded me of how human we all are.
It is midterm week. Between caffeinated bursts of productivity I have been finding new sources of entertainment. I have a secret study spot at my school and the past 2 days I feel like I have been caught in a mild version of a freeze flash mob. A freeze flash mob is when a group of people secretly schedule a time and place to go to a public spot like a grocery store and freeze like an eerie scene from a movie. check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4GMXavfKPY
I study in the Masters area, I’m not supposed to be there – they just tolerate me. Over the past 2 days I think I have done more work than the entire floor combined. These people literally stand around and do nothing, groups of 4-10 people, for hours! Yesterday a girl sat down at my table beside the window and played with her nails for just under 2 hours. I timed her. If I am ever spotted near a window without being actively engaged in an activity, you can guarantee I am considering jumping out of it.
On a more amicable note, I found a cockroach in my bathroom. He scurried when I startled him and I was surprisingly pleased to see him. My love for cockroaches is really just a triumph over my hate for spiders but it also reminded me of Mexico. I used to sweep cockroaches up with a broom and I remember the time we found a tarantula in our car. Thailand is really quite civilized. All the insects and frogs are gathered and sold by street vendors – in Mexico they showed up dead in the pool.
We went to a haunted house or, actually it was a “Boutique Thriller Mall” with a live band. It looked stunning and they built up our anticipation by making us lock up our belongings up before entering and using a rope to hold our group together. Mostly, what terrified me is the over-employment tendency in Thailand. This city is stricken with unnecessary people standing at entrances and traffic cops guiding cars in straight lines. I was expecting at least a dozen Thai people jumping out, grabbing my limbs and compromising my personal boundaries. There was only one zombie at the end of the tour and when he stopped yelling at us I hadn’t figured out how to get out of the door, so he grunted “PUSHHHH”.