What a strange day today has been. Let me start from the beginning....
I awoke with the sun streaming through the large window of my hostel room. I wiped my eyes and peered around...still no one to be seen. I rolled out the yoga matt my dad sent to me and decided to dedicate 40 minutes to myself. Beads of sweat ran down my back as I stretched, meditated and contorted my body in the positions I could remember from those classes at Abhyasa Yoga on the Lisburn Road. I thought of Hannah my yogi friend and the instructors who had helped guide my practice for the past two years.
In that moment alone in my room, I was the teacher. I was the student.
After joining my hands to praise my short practice, I whispered 'Namaste' and bowed, with sweat pouring down the matt. It was going to be a scorcher. It's rainy season here, but today was the first day in weeks apparently that not a drop left the skies.
I made my way to the showers and rejoiced in the ice cold water (they don't have hot water in the pipes because who would be mad enough to want warm water in this weather??) and by the time I made it back to my room, a familiar layer of sweat had formulated on my hairline.
After grooming, dressing, and spritzing on a lovely coat of bugspray (now used as my new perfume) I packed my bag, grabbed my camera and headed down to the kitchen to whip up a quick breakfast. I knew my sole mission for the day was to take more photos/videos and to buy a converter for my UK plugs.
There was a new girl at the front desk and she immediately greeted me with,
I was shocked because the other woman who I met the first day there didn't speak much and her English wasn't very strong.
"Hello! How are ya?" I said in response. But before she could answer, some more customers came down the stairs to check out and she was 'click-clacking' away on the computer.
I toasted some bread and took one of my bananas out of the fridge. A light layer of veg oil on the bread (because who likes dry toast??) and sliced banana was going to have to do for the time being.
As I sat at the kitchen table ready to dig in, the Hostel girl came over and began to chat away.
"So what's your plan for the day?" she asked...genuinely curious as to what this curly haired brown girl was going to rustle up in Bangkok.
"I need to find a power adapter for my UK plugs," I tried to explain.
She didn't understand at first, so I whipped out one of my cords from my backpack to show her and with an "ahhhhh I see", she handed me a map and gave me excellent directions to the nearest mall. She even highlighted my route and told me I'd have to take the "sky train" (overground train system) to get there.
I thanked her, wolfed down my humble meal and set out into the blaze of Bangkok.
I walked for ages, snapping random sights and crossing under many bridges until I found the right path to the train station. I always doubt my sense of direction, but eventually I made it. I ordered a ticket to the National Stadium (the closest stop to the mall) and climbed the four sets of staircases to where the train picked up. I mentally thanked the heavens for giving me the experiences of the DC Metro and NYC Subway systems to help navigate this mode of transportation.
I had always seen videos of people in India and China boarding trains...ramming themselves on top of eachother to fit in a cabin. Today...I was living it. A sardine in a giant metal tube floating in the sky. It was great! I was able to catch glimpses of the city whizzing past below and of some rivers winding parallel to the trainline structure.
After 15 or so minutes of swaying in the sky, I reached my destination. I hopped off (more like got sucked out with the throng of people) and floated down the stairs to the streets below. I had no clue where I was going despite the Hostel Girl's lovely directions and marked map route. But I had a feeling a sign would point me in the right direction. And literally....one did. I saw a sign for 'TESCO-LOTUS'. I had no clue what that meant and I had to cross some dodgy streets to get to it, but the name 'Tesco' reminded me of Belfast and I was craving the familiar.
Lo and Behold it was a giant mall! Let me tell you, I've realized that in every country...the one thing that you come to learn is, all malls are the same. A food court. Stalls in the middle of the walkways. Electronics stores. Makeup counters. Jewelry people. It was all there. and for the first time I felt like this place wasn't so different after all.
I hate shopping. I hate malls. But this....this I could do. I wound my way through the different floors; catching escalators upwards and upwards until I found an 'Office Mart'. It didn't take long before I found exactly what I needed. A plug for my UK devices. I also wrangled a tiny flashlight, some batteries for it, and a pack for my insulin pump (which was seeming to be getting lower and lower on battery power).
After checking my bounty out at the counter, I made my way to a beauty shop to find some essentials for my curly locks. No one told me being a Black woman with natural hair in Asia would be such a challenge. I had tried finding oils and creams for my mangled 'do the day I had arrives, but no such luck! Thankfully I found a shop with argon oil and avocado hair cream so I splurged and bought the both of them.
I spent a good hour just looking around the mall, feeling like I had a moment to just breath and turn my brain off. There was a room for thai massages and even an area for people to play video games in the mall. Very peculiar.
After I felt like my brain had been shut off enough, I made my way back out into the hustle and bustle. More motorcycles zoomed by. The rev made my heart flutter. There's something intoxicating about seeing people fly by so effortlessly and recklessly on two wheels. People rode on the sidewalks causing me to side step as I shot video footage. I laughed. Eventually I would get used to this.
I made my way back to the Sky station and my stomach began to rumble. Time to get back to the hostel ASAP so I could charge my laptop and camera batteries and make some dinner. I was pleading with the forest gods above to let me meet people tonight. OH man I was craving some good, long conversation....be careful what you wish for.
I boarded my train and got rammed to the side walls of the metal tube. I didn't mind, my legs were tired and I liked being held up by the force of the people on their commutes home. A throng of boys dressed in military garb boarded and they began to talk over each other. Their noses were deep into their phones and vide games. I began to wonder if they were even listening to eachother. Two boys in front of me were laughing and chatting lovingly and I decided to take a snap with my camera. They didn't notice.
Back at my stop. I got off the train and took more video as I made my way back down to the streets below. I tried to mentally retrace my steps to how I had gotten to this station...but that was hours ago...a lifetime in Bangkok time.
I whipped out my trusty map and as the wind nearly whisked it out of my hands, a woman came up to me and asked in perfect English if I was lost. My heart melted at her kindness. She pointed me in the right direction and gave me a pat on the back as I turned to follow the point of her finger.
Things began to look familiar. Ahhh I remember now. I snapped some photos of koi fish swimming in a fountain and more shots of the cityscape skyline. The sun had began to set. I sighed with relief as a cool breeze whisked away the muggyness of the sticky air.
Back at my hostel I saw the living room table full of people. My prayers had been answered. Folks. So many folks. and I aimed to speak to each and every one of them! but first...food o.o
I made a coconut cream spicy noodle dish with the meager kitchen utensils available and the smells made my stomach leap with excitement.
When I sat at the table to actually eat, the group of people had left except for the girl who worked at the hostel. She sat next to me and we talked about my day and what she does at university. Her English was beautiful. Broken and sweet. She said she doesn't get a chance to practice much, so I eagerly chatted away between mouthfuls of noodle and coconut cream.
A tall, skinny woman of color entered the doors and she sat down across from me and began to eat a banana with a fork and knife. I thought this funny...but I couldn't talk, I was nose deep in my own hodgepodge meal using a spoon to scoop noodles into my face.
She told me her name was Zina and she was from Australia. She was a teacher. I liked her vibe. She invited me to this "tall building with a bar at the top" that she read about in her lonely planet guide to Bangkok and asked if I wanted to join. Of COURSE I did. so I did.
We left and chatted more as we walked the few blocks to the Banyon Tree Hotel (check it out online ya'll...it's seriously shnazzy), we talked about what brought us to Thailand, travels, relationships and who we are as people. Conversation came naturally. She reminded me of my younger self...except she was 36 and way more graceful than I ever was. I liked that I had found another woman of color to hang out with. Both with heads full of curls and both drastically underdressed in bohemian garb for this fancy establishment. I could see the staff eyeing us down as e made our way up up and upwards to the bar on the roof of the building. After a 56 floor ascent in an elevator, there was more steps to be climbed until we finally saw our destination.
It was glorious. Two shabby ladies crashing a private party. Or so it seemed. But I didn't care. I met someone new and I was going to own this moment. There was a 360 degree view of this giant city and the lights twinkled in the distance. God this place reminds me of LA.
I ordered a peach mango margarita and she a ginger lychee mojito. The waitress brought us some light nibbles of pumpkin chips, wasabi balls, and peanuts. They paired nicely with our tiny drinks.
We conversed more about relationships and her recent travels to a "hippy" island that I "simply must check out!!" and I enjoyed every minute of it. I love hearing others' views of relationships and what love means to them. I could tell our views differed, but that was A-okay. She is a teacher who studied Science, so her life is rooted in facts and figures. And me, a woman of faith and blind belief in the unknown. I told her of horoscopes and the faults with Taurus men for my Sagittarius fire...and I think she enjoyed the mesh of nature and science.
We finished our drinks and cringed slightly at the 1,400 BAHT bill.
I asked the waitress to take our photo before we left and she hilariously over-snapped with both of our cameras. I like a person with vigor though.
We made the descent back down to Terra Firma and were greeted at the hostel with the same group at the table from earlier. All giddily drinking and having some good craic. Zina and I agreed to go to 7/11 to buy some booze so we could join in.
There was new Hostel staff on duty and they agreed to take us since they needed to do a run anyway. One was a woman with short hair, men's clothing and a jolly face. She introduced herslef as Ning and her friend--a tri-lingual girl with glossy black hair and kind eyes--introduced herself as "Tiny Finger" because she was the youngest of her siblings.
We drove the (very) short distance to the shop, got our bounty and headed back.
After a few drinking games and funny chats, we were well acquainted with Ben from Germany, His girlfriend Nitz from Israel, Chloe (who had been living at the hostel for 2 months because of bringing her jewelry company to Thailand) from Lyon France, Yan from Germany and his girlfriend with an "F" name that I still can't pronounce.
After hours of drinking, listening to music, having the cops come because of noise complaints, wine bottles exploding on the hostel wall and getting bitten by bugs out on the patio, most of the crew scattered for bed.
It was just Ben and I out back chatting in a calm bubble about life and his relationship with Nitz. I liked her. And I liked him. But as most men tend to do, he offloaded loads to me about his more recent feelings of doubt. All I could see and hear in his face was Tim. It freaked me out, but I stayed. I listened. I heard. and I chimed in when I felt necessary. I liked his honesty. I liked his insecurity. He seemed to know all the answers and what he wanted out of his life...but I don't think HE knows he knows it yet. Only time will tell.
The sky lightened and the sun rose. Time to end the holy moment we shared.
So here I am. Listening to the calls of the waking birds, my room fan creating grey noise in the distance. The crew seem to have a plan to go out tonight. I'm hoping to join them, but first I want to spend a day in the park. Walking barefoot and sitting under the shade of a tree. Maybe I'll pack a lunch, maybe I'll bring a book.
Goodnight everyone, and please remember to give your loved ones a hug and kiss for me. All this talk about relationships has got my head spinning. We need to appreciate what we have, show it when we love, and not be afraid of the great unknown.
but then again what do I know?
I'm still learning. I'm still hoping. I'm still healing.