Wednesday, November 25, 2009
A Giant Leap Forward
When Little Qui stepped over the threshold of her new home she had no idea what a grand adventure she had begun.
Red Ball II
~ I saw him! I was at the bicycle shop across the street from the Primary school when it let out at 2:45. I feared I might not recognize him. But in the time it took to blink, There he was. You cannot miss him. But I must continue first....
Dear Leigh, I finally made it back to Chiang Mai. I arrived last night.
I walked up to the village store this morning to get food. Word spread quickly through Pong Yaeng that I was back and I was greeted warmly at each stop. Kuhn Aong at the Post Office Bar mixed me a gin and tonic as a welcome home gift. I did not have the heart to tell him that it was not an ideal beverage for 8 am. I went through the motions of picking up my mail. This time looming election pamphlets.
The best part of my walk to the village was running into “THE” boy. I have not seen him the last two times I have been here and Niran was not helpful in explaining anything about what had happened to him. I had more or less given up on seeing him again and believed the family had moved away or worse, been picked up and deported. So I was relieved when I saw his mother on the side of the road loading up her motor bike rack with a basket of cabbages, alone. I hoped this meant the children were finally in school.
But walking back I heard a rustling in the low scrub that lines the road, a whacking sound like a whip or bamboo stick being used to beat down thick brush. It sounded like heavy work, but curiously I couldn't see anyone doing it. Then I heard a ferocious and terrifying roar. It was not that I was afraid but that I recognized this attempt to put fear into my heart as the sound of a child trying to sound terrifying. The boy popped out of the weeds standing only a head taller than the stalks in a move to take me by surprise. I was indeed taken aback. On his head was the red ball that I had returned to him this summer. It was completely deflated and inverted into itself forming a giant bowl which he wore as a helmet. His bamboo stick was a sword and his enemies the tall grass and weeds. He slayed them all with great gusto and shouted something at me that I did not understand but that sounded like “Death to Invading Farang.”
I feared for my life. I am normally not afraid of children, but I was completely convinced that he meant to slay a dragon and if I was mistaken for one, I was the fool. So I kept walking hoping that if I pretended to ignore him, he would not line me up in his sights or whack me. After a couple of bends in the road I reasoned with myself that it was silly to be afraid of a child, so I turned around to head back towards him, but I was too late and was passed by the mother and son on their motorcycle. Her boy was standing on the seat like one would stand inside a military jeep, leaning against his mother's back holding her shoulder like he was hanging onto the windshield and he held himself as if viewing troops. He was riding his jeep to battle. He held his stick out with one arm and his red helmet down on his head with the other whizzed down the mountain at a dizzying speed. Every time I see this boy I am clutched with fear, but I must admit, he was grand.
I am fairly certain that someday he will be a famous general and lead a coup here in Thailand.
Mae Sa Ban Doi
I have returned to Mae Sa Ban DOi. It is warm and dry. The Songkran festival starts tomorrow and I am excited. Children, teens, and even grown men are playing with water everywhere. In the same way that fireworks reduce men to boys, so too water pistols. Buckets and bazooka water guns are everywhere.
I did have an encounter with the boy. I saw him yesterday from the Post Bar. He was playing in the creek below. but when I noticed him, I was in the middle of a serious conversation with Kuhn Aong about my electricity. He explained that I can now pay our utility bill at the post office and so we were sorting through six months of undelivered mail looking for my latest bill. I did not have the heart to tell him that Kuhn Vecharee already takes care of this through international internet auto bill pay, fearing that such a revelation would cause Kuhn Aong to give up hope. So I played along. After he was satisfied that the Thai government was certainly inefficient for never charging farang for electricity he let me go with an armful of undelivered newspapers and junk mail that he thought might be useful to me in painting.
I was laden with paper when the little boy jumped out from behind a huge mail drop receptacle which is positioned prominently in front of the bamboo shack post office. It is made of iron and looks like a sumo sugar dispenser. It is certainly large enough to adequately hold the volume of mail generated, in say, all of Manhattan in its tall hollow body. If all of Pong Yaeng is someday washed off the mountain I know certainly that this postal edifice will survive with the two or three letters laying safely in its bottom. Maybe with my lost letter to Grandma. Anyway, I was indeed completely taken by surprised when the lad ambushed me in the appropriate Song Kran ritual of welcoming the spring rains by hurling approximately 5cups of water in my face from his inverted red rubber ball helmet which now was his SongKran bucket.
He ran away before I could wipe the water out of my eyes.