There's something indescribably fun about wishing someone well as you pour water over their head, especially in forty degree weather, even when the ice cubes melted hours ago.
For the past week to ten days, I've been pretty down. As I kept telling D: my head is doing me head in. Questions have been swirling around like bats in a cave, about the past, the future, what I want, who I am, who I want to be when I grow up. Do I even want to grow up? Have I ever been allowed to not be a grownup?
I've been going from place to place -- from the beach to yoga, from my room to dinner, from the South to the North -- and the thoughts have joined me, happy to immerse themselves in the new surroundings along with their old rants and raves.
I get to Chiang Mai and spend a couple of days under a dark cloud, unable to shake off the sadness, the anger, the confusion I have been feeling since Koh Pan Ngan.
Then Song Kran,Thai New Year, explodes at me, at everyone and everything. Thousands of people line the streets armed with buckets, water guns, garbage cans all filled with water. The traffic is bumper to bumper and we are sitting ducks, asking to get soaked with an easy pull of the trigger a light flick of the wrist.
"We" is me and my Chiang Mai buddy and yoga teacher, JP. JP is originally from Canada but has been living in Southeast Asia for a few years. She is a talented and giving yoga teacher who is also a former pro mountainbiker and criminologist. Even on my worst days, her energy is infectious enough to pull me out of my room on more than one occasion (not an easy thing to do).
I hop on the back of her bright pink moped holding a giant torpedo water gun and am instantly transformed from self-pitying blob to Terminatrix. We make our way around the moat by the old city. Within four minutes of heading into the main street, we look as if we forgot to undress before taking a shower.
Two squealing women on a hot pink motorbike is the equivalent of a "Kick Me" sign taped to a nerd's back. It's wonderful to get goose bumps in the hot sun.
What a party!
Chiang Mai has been amazing. I'm sad to leave tomorrow, although D will be waiting on the other side!!!! Excited doesn't begin to describe how I feel.
I arrived in Chiang Mai in the middle of my crisis to open arms, warm-hearted souls and many a place where I felt comfortable enough to let my guard down. A couple of good chats, a herbal steam, a night of dancing at the Thai reggae bar and I've tured a corner. I find myself ploughing into Song Kran with a vengeance. What a place!
For the past two and a half months,I have been looking for a place where I could feel comfortable, put my bag down, unpack my things, rest; a place where I could experience new things, get to know Thailand a bit better, meet people I have things in common with. I almost skipped Chiang Mai -- like all my other decisions about where to go next, I bought my train ticket on a whim, without thinking it through or planning anything. I wanted to see J again, my friend from Koh Pan Ngan, and was hoping to catch her in Chiang Mai. When I emailed her the good news, however, it turned out that she was leaving for Laos the day before I arrived; we were going to miss each other by twenty-four hours.
Though J isn't here, part of her beautiful spirit has remained long enough to settle me into the guest house where she stayed, a homey place with a full kitchen; and hook me into the wonderful community she became a part of during her time here. From my first moments in Chiang Mai, I have felt safe and supported, almost as if I've been here before. In the end, J and I are meeting up in Laos on April 25th.
I almost didn't come to Chiang Mai, the place I've been trying to find since I flew out of Heathrow in February. I wish I was staying longer, that I had time to experience it on regular days when there are no celebrations going on, but I'm grateful to have made it for these ten days. On second thought, maybe this is exactly the time I needed to be here, to pull myself out of my navel-gazing rut and into the soaking wet celebration of renewal. Isn't there a saying about not knowing what you're looking for until you find it?
Next time you feel sad, consider turning on "No Woman No Cry" in Thai and jumping in the shower with your clothes on. Believe me, it does wonders.