May 16. 7pm
After another day of doing very little, my brother and I shared fruit smoothies at a nearby resort and returned to Sangthien just after 4. I had plans to meditate, read, write or plan ny life in the hour before sunset.
But I lay down for a minute and disappeared into a world of tangly dreams and woke up at 6.30. Quickly washing the sunscreen and sweat off my face, I headed to the bar where my brother was just setting up on stage. Good morning, he grinned. And I found a table and ordered my gin.
And now I sit here, beautiful Thai music filling the evening air, an additional electric fan providing breezes at this part of the bar, waves lapping in the darkness just over there, and I find I’m crying. What’s that about?
Disappointed in myself for sleeping so much, for not getting done the few things I had to do today.
But also an inexplicable and surprising sense of homesickness. At which point a familiar guitar chord starts up and my brother’s voice fills the bar with ‘I remember, when we used to sit, in the government yard in Trenchtown…’
And the tears stream down my face as he sings No Woman No Cry.
A song that I have cried over many times since I fist heard it at 15 years old, in my religious times, my student times, my married times, my difficult recent times. With always a different person, a different sadness, a different purpose.
And as I sat here with warm Thai breeze blowing through my hair, pink and turquoise lights illuminating the trees overhead, my little brother making music over there, I got a sense of the distance I have come to get here, the many sadnesses and fears that I used to feel, that have all gone, and that everything I think is important now will also be gone. The relief and grief to let each thing, each person, each worry and fear gently drop away, to stand bereft and empty with none of the safety of familiar pain, of work, of people or all the things that I have surrounded myself with to avoid the empty simple existence of me.
Just me. No purpose, no deadlines, no stress. And without all that I am such a small weak little thing. A childlike soul standing alone and unsupported in a warm Thai breeze. It is both beautiful and scary. And invites more bloody tears. While Thai families eat their shellfish salads and a group of guys laugh and the nimble waiters deliver trays of drinks, I sit on my table on my own, full of gratitude and sadness, that I get a glimpse of letting go. It takes time, which I have given myself. This is only my second full day here, it makes sense that after the blissful touristy excitement of yesterday, that once I was on my own long enough there would be sadness.
May 17th. 8.30am
And so I drank. We biked to ‘town’ – the couple of streets crammed with shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars under multicoloured lights and flags. The lady at Bananabar scolded my brother for something, laughed at him for something else, then brought us delicious vegan spring rolls and coconut curry and rice. Just magnificent food. And gin.
On the way back, warm night air swishing through our hair as the motorbike cruised gently through the dark jungle road, every now and then the sound of dance club beats can be heard and then the twirling lights and illuminated stars/hearts/jellyfish come into view to present a beach bar full of lights, music and people as one of the little oases of late night humanity in the dark insectful jungle. Gecko bar, Starlight bar, Naga bar…
We stopped at Audibar to say hi to the owner Audi, a small topless tattooed man who greeted us with warm sweaty hugs and another gin, which was somehow luminous blue, and had to be downed in one as my brother was late for his 10.30 recording appointment with Magan.
At Sangthien, without my brother, I joined the staff in the empty bar who were eating their staff meals and drinking rum. They continued their leisurely Thai conversations, and I smiled politely and sipped my rum as they laughed at each other’s jokes. The head waiter’s girlfriend was especially keen to keep topping up my glass, and we had a laugh about how Mao I was. ‘Just a little Mao,’ I protested, ‘Just Tipsy!’. ‘No, you Mao Maaaaak!’ they laughed.
And so the next two hours were spent with a handful of the Santhien family, one bottle of rum and one of brandy, and a lot of Google translate. They spent a while trying to explain what the noises in the night were. Frogs, grasshoppers and a very loud Ka Ka Ka Ka kaaaaaap right in the window above my bed at 4am, which we finally deduced was a Toucan. The lead singer talked about my brother’s tattoo – the Thai words for ‘Live in the Moment’ – and they shared some honest and awestruck opinions about how much they love him. That was nice.
And the drinking and laughing took away my sadness and I gratefully fell asleep just after 2am.
So now, having woken up in time for the breakfast buffet, I sip my black coffee and eat my toast and vegan spread and watch the sadness return. I accept this is part of the letting go and I am grateful for the time to allow it.
Lessons for today:
*Bike helmets don’t even exist on the island, just roll with it.
*Buy more mosquito spray. Seriously.
*When getting on the back of a motorbike, lift your foot VERY high to swing it over, or you’ll whack your ankle on the sticky out metal bit at the back and cause a world of indescribable pain (that your brother finds hilarious).
*I am not a size medium when buying shorts in Thailand. Everyone here is tiny, I’m clearly a large.
*Fundeee means goodnight and will be greeted with delightful smiles. FANdee means good girlfriend and will be met with confusion.
*Relax into the speedbumps and go with the flow. This is a good lesson for life and one I am reminded of many times a day.
*Our brains are wired for safety, not happiness, so when you feel like going back into familiar safe patterns, know that they are there to protect you from the new thing which might be scary, even if it is the thing that will make you happy.
My brother’s effortless motorbike riding
The endless supply of cool drinking water behind the bar to refill bottles
The little lizards that glide around on the walls outside my cabin
The fridge full of vegan snacks my brother brought over from Bangkok
The excellent wifi here
The people in Melksham who lovingly tell me to stop watching Council meetings and to enjoy my tropical adventure here