I had a conversation about the weather with someone about 6 weeks ago. We talked about how hot it had been and that the new season was on the horizon. I told him that I honestly could not imagine the heat ever ending, or that it could actually be cold, as some people had told me. But he insisted that one day in October, I would wake up and the wind will have shifted overnight, and the sky will be bluer, and the air much cooler. Well, October came and went, but it seems that now in November, the wind has indeed shifted, bringing with it a new season. I don't know what to call this new season. It's not like any fall I've ever experienced, and it certainly is nothing like winter, but it is definitely different, and most importantly, cooler. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the weather in Chiang Rai Thailand right now is perfect, in the shade. This opens up a lot of potential for residents here. Now people can consider gathering outdoors and engaging in activity at any time of day! Imagine that!
So, along with the change in season has come a change for all of us to the next stage in culture shock: acceptance. I think all four of us feel completely comfortable navigating our way through our host country and city, meeting new people, encountering new situations and living here has become more of a joy and less of something to endure. Thus we have been very busy having fun lately. To wit:
On Saturday, we had arrangements to revisit the elephant sanctuary that I wrote about previously. The word was that they just received their elephants and were sufficiently adjusted to their new home to have a couple visitors. So a small group of us drove out to Elephant Valley Thailand to celebrate with the owners, Jack and Brigit. We spent half a day observing these four magnificent creatures eating bamboo and tall grass, throwing leaves around, trumpeting and stomping in the mud, and generally looking very comfortable and happy. We even had a chance to feed them some bananas, their favorite food. It was fantastic to see the development of the sanctuary, the infrastructure, the rehabilitation of the land, and the introduction of the elephants all finally coming together into a beautiful, harmoniously working system.
That same day, our lovely friend Irena, bless her heart, came to our house to watch the kids while Jess and I had a night on the town for my birthday celebration. We had heard that there was a little cafe downtown featuring live jazz, and since all live music had been cancelled for the mourning period of 30 days, this was even more of a treat, because it was an exception to the ban. Le Petit Cafe was a perfect place to start our evening. It was dark, intimate, and friendly. In fact, when the band got on stage, the singer noticed the two farang sitting in the back, and asked us (through the microphone) "Do you speak Thai?" We shook our heads "no" so she proceeded to translate everything she had said in English, which, it turns out, was an explanation of how the music they were going to play had been composed by the king as a lament about being away from his wife. It was a bit embarrassing to be singled out in front of everyone, but at the same time, we felt very welcomed and accepted too.
After Le Petit Cafe, we headed into the part of the city that is known for it's mostly farang bars. We went only because we had been hearing about these places for the past 4 months and hadn't ever visited this area, so it was a perfect time to find out what it was like. And now that we know, we don't have to go back....it was that underwhelming. Nevertheless, we had fun because we were together, having intelligent adult conversation uninterrupted by children for the first time in a long time. And there was beer.
Then, on Sunday night, we went out to a delicious dinner with Irena and our other friends Ady, Sandy and their beautiful daughter. Who knew you could get life-changingly delicious barbecue ribs in Chiang Rai??? Another place we had heard about since we arrived was 71 degrees Celsius, a small but very popular restaurant not far from our house. It is deservedly famous for its ribs, but also features cocktails and salads. I didn't find out about the salads first hand, but I can vouch for the reputation of the ribs. For a few minutes, I had to close my eyes and just let the rolling waves of taste-pleasure wash through my brain as their house-made chili sauce dribbled down my chin and the cold Singha sat waiting for me to add it to the mix of delicate flavors in my mouth. And when the meat fest was over, we indulged in a fantastic chocolate cake made fresh by Ady.
Finally, at Radd's request. we walked across the bridge by the Loy Krathong festival to take in the carnival lights, as well as the lights from the floating krathongs moving peacefully along the current of the Kok River. It was a poetic ending to my Thai birthday weekend. One for the books, to be sure.
And so it is that we move into stage 3, where things are a bit easier and time moves a bit faster and our eventual departure from this beautiful place is considered with a bit more reluctance on everyone's part. Ahh but there are more good times ahead, so why waste time considering such thoughts? Better to sit outside,
considering and feeling the cool breeze now and appreciating it for its respite from the heat, but also for its temporal nature. When the winds blow us back to Montana, we will have time to look back and marvel at each moment we were given here. Then we will allow ourselves to feel sadness at its passing so quickly - but only for a moment.