February 19, 2013

memories that stick



I would like to believe myself a keeper of many memories. I am not. I am really bad at remembering, and I’m not talking about those blackout moments (which are not even a lot, okay). I’m talking about those sobering day-to-day details, the stuff you emphasize when someone asks you, “How was your day?” I forget that stuff easily. Which is not to say I didn’t care for them. I just need to write them down or else it gets swept away into the lower echelons of some etherworld where things go to die.

When you’re in a new place for a limited amount of time, you know better than anyone that there is an expiration date. Your desire to want to remember EVERYTHING burns your core, because you know that when you return home, all you will have are your memories. (Pictures capture moments. Memories capture stories.) So this blog post is more for me than it is for you, because if I don’t write down my experiences, it may as well have never happened. It’s kind of like if you don’t Instagram your meal, did it even exist?

Here are some highlights of my forty-six days in Chiang Mai:

On January 31st, my editor and I went on a tour of the various street food vendors in Chiang Mai (there are a lot), which meant I ate a lot. Some of the stuff I tried were cold chicken feet salad (gross), squid on sticks (meh), and coconut pancakes (yum). At the end, we had a glass (glass, not shot) of Thai rum that we washed down with a tiny tiny tiny mango slice. I think I nearly died.

On February 2nd, I went to a ball hockey tournament, the first-ever in Chiang Mai, for a feature I was writing about expat sports teams. A couple of the players were Canadians (of course) who said they never expected to find the sport here, but thanks to a couple die-hards, a hockey team was born. They all shared sweet sentiments about playing shinny as a kid, and said it’s nice to feel at home when you’re not at home. I get that.

On February 10th, I went to Chiang Rai to see the magnificent White Temple and the mysterious Black House. I had unknowingly set myself up for a real study in contrasts, that of heaven and hell. The White Temple, when viewed at just the right angle against the sun, was like looking at a warm bright light. The Black House was a house of artfully crafted horrors—animal bones, dangling skins, hanging heads—the stuff beautiful nightmares are made of.

On February 12th, I met a young Thai man who recently got out of jail for murder. In his words, he had no choice but to get back at this man who had killed his best friend. So he purchased a gun and avenged. He told me he has no regrets.

On February 17th, I spent the day with an elephant named Kristina. She just gave birth to a baby elephant named Sky. Some of these gentle giants had been rescued from abuse, from neglect, from horrible camps. The most rewarding part of the day was seeing how much love the mahouts (elephant owners) had for these elephants. They loved them so much they called them their brothers and sisters. The flirty ones called them their girlfriends.