Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gone Native


I wonder if I lived a past life—or several— in the tropics. There is such a profound sense of being held by the embrace of place that I wonder why I just don’t back my bags and move to Thailand or Bali or Kerala, India. After living in the enclosed world of hotel rooms with cold air outside, I simply am a different human being here in Bangkok staying at my friend Zukhra’s pitch-perfect place out of the hub-bub and overlooking a river. That isolated sense of self, with all its doubts, insecurities, narcissistic obsessions, that fixed noun of ego, gives way to some flowing, fluid verb of conscious, but not self-conscious self.

Part of it is the temperature. The border guard of skin relaxes its vigil and the boundary between inside and outside thaws until you don’t know where self stops and world starts. The sounds of the birds and insects carries one along the river of a larger living being than the shopping-malled bill-boarded image-aware commodified human community. One is simply a happy cell in a happy confluence of larger cells, a step in some exquisite dance and a note in some vibrant polyphonic music of sound and motion.

It’s a sensuous world, with cool water cleansing the sweat-drenched body, the burst of flavor fresh fruit releases, the Thai spices tickling the tongue. The simplicity of shorts and flip-flops suits me well and always has. And then if there’s water nearby— a lake, a pool, a river, well, that’s paradise on top of paradise.

As for the city, it is utterly insane, not the glitzy corporate-built and sponsored and planned high-rises of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Singapore and such, but the overflow of humans gathering from the countryside and bringing their ten-foot square of vegetable stall with them. Traffic is sheer chaos and the streets are teeming like a roaring river of humanity. It’s essential the same type of slap-dash Asian city I knew 40 years ago and though anything but comfortable, I like it. Today rode on the back of a motorcycle without helmet weaving around the stalled cars to get to the school where I was to teach and it just felt so alive, so refreshing, so much damn fun!

And then back to my other native home, the Orff workshop. 30 International School teachers and refreshing to have men again in the mix and to teach without a translator. And also feels good to have many Thai amidst the Americans, Brits, Australians. As well as a Cuban and Brazilian. At the end of the day, back to this lovely home, sitting outside on the porch with a cold beer, watching the boats on the river below floating by and caressed by a cool evening breeze. What did I do to deserve this?

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