Thursday, January 21, 2010

One Step Back

The day before yesterday was a free day for the group--our last official day! Most people traveled to see an elephant show and take a ride on the elephants, but Mike and I hung back to explore the city. (Melissa, aren't you proud of us?) We slept in and took a tuk-tuk to Dor Dek, the store where VCDF (see previous post) kids sell their arts and crafts. The money goes straight back to the kids, and their artwork--from necklaces to cards to large prints--was truly beautiful.

We walked to the city park, tucked away in the corner of Chiang Mai's original city walls. The park was about the size of Rittenhouse Square, and there were small ponds and elaborate white walkways over them. We rented a large bamboo mat for about 25 cents and plopped ourselves down with books, pens, and paper--our perfect afternoon. I laid on the mat looking up at the sky, my husband's silhouette set against the backdrop of the blue sky and the tree above us that dropped large yellow flower blossoms onto us whenever it wanted. A woman walked by and sold us bags of ice cold pineapple and watermelon for 30 cents a bag. The world felt perfect.

A few yards away, a Western man wearing only a pair of shorts plopped himself down in full sunlight and opened a book. He was alone, but soon joined by another. A third and fourth joined a few minutes later, now a small gang of white skin and hairy backs. A week ago, I wouldn't have thought anything of them. I already miss that naivete. One of them I'd seen the night before walking into the corridor of gay bars where he would have sat and played Connect Four or Jenga at a table with a teenage boy to create a sense of relationship before making his selection for the night.

Ugh. I rolled over on the mat and stared at another side of the park. Beside the water, an older man and a young girl stood on the bank of the pond feeding pigeons. He was with a young Thai girl, and a Thai-English dictionary rested on the mat at their feet. His mouth moved with simple words, and he gestured across the pond and at a few pigeons fighting for the crumbs.

Now, I hate birds. I really hate birds. I hate pigeons and seagulls most of all. Every time this park's scavenging flock of pigeons in the park flew from one spot of grass to another, I shuddered. The fact that someone nearby me was feeding them ("What is he thinking?!" I yelled at Mike) was bad enough. But a sex tourist!? A sex tourist feeding pigeons near my perfect afternoon in the park. Are you freaking kidding me??

I was angry at him. Angry at him for ruining my perfect afternoon in my perfect little life with my perfect husband. How dare he! How dare he fly all the way to Thailand just for some false sense of companionship and acceptance?! In fact, how dare all of these men be so terrible and create an issue so traumatic and heartbreaking that the reality of it came screaming into my life last May in a way I couldn't forget! How dare they be such hopeless people preying on such innocent women, little girls, and young boys! Come to think of it, how dare God ask us to leave our comfortable apartment and spend two weeks on pathetic excuses for beds? How dare he ask us to give up everything perfect we'd been working for to change our lives and get involved with such a hopeless issue!


More blossoms fell as I pressed my forehead hard into the mat beneath me, praying the steady pattern of the bamboo's weave would press some reasonableness through my skull and right into my brain. Or maybe what I need more of is a little more foolishness. Either way, we have a feeling we're in for the ride of our lives.