Of course the camera doesn’t work when you want it most.
When I found Little India in Singapore I liked it more than both India and the rest of Singapore – it’s cleaner and dirtier than the other locations, respectively, but life is still lived on the streets and the food’s still amazing. I stumbled onto the main street in Little India and saw that it was only half-open: police fences pushed cars into 1.5 of the lanes while the remaining half-lane and shoulder were reserved for a parade of some kind.
Have you heard of the Hindu festival Thaipusam? Well, that’s what it was. It’s a festival where people wear these intense gold headdresses that stand 3 feet above them and jut out a foot around in all directions, and they drag a kind of mobile alter behind them for miles around the city – all of the decorations supported or dragged by hooks jabbed into the follower’s skin. The people are decorated with flowers and rubbed with powder, and families will walk with them while dancing, singing, clapping and drumming the whole way. I’m guessing the festival is about devotion? Since my camera didn’t work, here’s a link to someone else’s page about the festival, with plenty of pictures: http://www.pbase.com/taicw/thaipusam
I wandered around the corner and found a little shop selling spiritual books and such, and the shopkeeper walked up and held out a gold bowl in front of me – in the bowl were a bunch of little paper flowers and when they’re unfolded they reveal a fortune. The one I chose reads, in part: “The pathway to peace is a single, positive thought away.” Well, I loved this fortune. There are so many ways to read it – a prescription for broader social good or for your own personal journey. It can be both an idea for long-term peace or an immediate intervention for when we’re pissed off at all the idiots around us. I read it like this for myself, personally: long term, I can find peace by pursuing a single, positive vision which is, at this point in my life, a vision of freedom. Short term, when I get cynical I can snap out of it with a thought.
Do you remember that yoga practice I hated? The one in the jungle where we were asked to keep our eyes closed the entire time? Well, at the end of class there’s a quiet period where everyone lays on their backs and meditates, like nap time in preschool, and I think you’re supposed to clear your mind but it never works with me. My mind wanders, I can’t help it. I didn’t find myself in an especially happy place during the meditations in Thailand because I think having your eyes closed is a load of crap (have I mentioned this yet?) and that class wasn’t any different until at the very end of the meditation this scene flashed into my head:
It was a night 13 months ago in Paris – Azure and I were with our two close friends (Autsy and Rob) in an apartment we rented on the top floor of the building and through the windows you could see it was snowing. Outside you could see the french flag flapping in the wind. You could see the Parisian rooftops, which are beautiful, and the sky painted purple from the city lights. Inside it was orange from candles, white painted walls and wood floors. It was a small apartment and so warm against the cold night… warm from candles and smoke and the big dinner we’d had earlier in the evening and probably some wine too. But what I remember about that moment was the peace that brushed the rooms, the music that came on was ‘218 Beverley’ by Manitoba. I remember it so clearly because it was the first time I’d ever heard the song, myself, and along with it I could hear all three of my roommates breathing sleepily. I know they probably didn’t hear the song, but I hope it got in their heads somehow, it stuck in mine.
The yoga instructor told us to start coming back to the room, to roll onto our sides. I held onto the memory as tight as possible – because you know how those things happen: when a memory flashes in your head, the whole thing arrives at the same time, just a flash and a smell and you’re left trying to figure out what to do with it… so I really only got to remember that night in Paris for a split second before being called back. I rolled onto my side and lost it, but as soon as I got home I turned on 218 Beverly and stared at the ceiling.
The song is on my website: http://www.mikewasheswindows.com/beverley.html
In Penang Azure asked me whether I believe in past lives. The answer surprised me, “Hell yes.” I can’t meditate for crap, but hell yes I believe in past lives. When I travel I spend way too much time thinking, “What was it like to live in such a place in such a time, back when there wasn’t X?” What was it like in Paris when Notre Dame was being built? or in the Alps when there wasn’t modern medicine? or in Northern Spain when your best defense was a wall? What did I do? Was I a merchant or a warrior or a woman or a king? Did I die young or live to be 80 or wash windows for a living? I love these questions. They’re questions I ask many times a day when I’m in a place where my ancestors might have lived centuries ago; I guess I consider myself a re-incarnation of them. This isn’t a belief I’ve developed over time, it’s just something I catch myself thinking.
So, this trip to Thailand. I loved it – the food and the experiences were travel at its best: things waiting for you across the world that in a thousand years of free-time you simply never could have imagined at home. But when it came down to it I didn’t feel what I described above – I could never ask myself “what was it like when I…” because there’s no Thai in my blood (unless there’s hidden drama somewhere in the past). I would go back, definitely. Heck, I know how to make peanut sauce now, and that’s something nobody can ever take away from me. But I think I belong to Europe in my heart.
The pictures are all up and organized – including pictures of my amazing hut on Ko Pha Ngan and the cooking class I took in Bangkok:
I made it safely back to Seattle, back to my family and Azure. My phone is up and running but hopefully I won’t have a car for a while. I begin coaching stuff TODAY and I’ll begin washing windows in early March – if you want to schedule then shoot me an email and I’ll get my calendar started.
Thanks for reading these things, they were fun to write.