Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ramble on

So the last several weeks have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, but altogether experiences that I wouldn't change for the world. With people rolling in and out of our apartment complex everyday, you eventually start to develop relationships with the ones who stick around for a while. I must especially mention our friend John, with whom the four of us have been spending quite a bit of time. John is a 30- year old Swede who is currently on his 7th trip to Thailand. A very soft but eloquent speaker, John has been more than happy to play tour guide for us around Samui for the last week or so. A big part of the appeal of this island is that everyone we have met is so laid back and seems to take life as it comes to them. I'm 22 with little direction and an anxious mind, and I have found spending time with people like John to be extremely cathartic.

With John and his friend Aek, a local hippie, as our guides, we drove deep into the jungle along backroads that were so steep, the little motorbikes could barely handle it. There were literally some points where we would have been going faster walking along side the bikes than actually riding them. Soon after arriving at the restaurant however, it became apparent that our reward justified our perilous journey. As you step out onto the porch of the restaurant, the entire south side of the island is laid out before you. The surreality of the view is enough to stop your heart. At one end of the island, the aquamarine water is striped with long lines of waves slowly coming into the shore. At the other, the sun, tucked away behind a thick mist, is only evident by the light that is reflected off of the water. As the day progresses, the mist subsides, the sun shines through and if you look closely, dozens of small islands, or more appropriately, large rocks, rounded to show their age shoot out of the water. Small fires dot the island and the smoke that climbs into the sky only adds to the islands mysticism. Good friends and good drink accompanied the divine panorama, and as the sun dipped behind the rocky knuckles in the sea, I struggled to think of a better way to end the day.

The next night, we were introduced to one of Samui's big players. A formal mayor candidate and exceptional cook Lung Ruern or "uncle Ruern" is a kindly and sage old man who despite having a massive villa on the island, chooses to live on a small farm deep in the jungle. We were invited by him to enjoy a traditional Thai dinner which was, hands down, the best meal I have had in Thailand. Boiled chicken with leeks and a large vegetable similar to a cucumber stewed all day in a chicken broth was absolutely delicious, perhaps in part because it reminds you so much of back home. Also a fried duck dish with cilantro, lime, and fresh chili peppers that was absolutely second to none. As we sat around drinking and eating, Lung Ruern told stories of his experiences in Thailand, one of which I thought was so funny that I have to tell you.

About thirty years ago, a group of Christian missionaries was sent into the northern jungles of Thailand to teach the hill people about contraception and safe sex. They demonstrated to the men how to apply a condom by rolling one on to their fingers. A chorus of understanding "ooohs" and "ah-has" surely followed. The men then repeated the demonstration and the missionaries believed that their work was done. When they returned to the village three months later, all the women were pregnant. The missionaries were understandably confused. They soon realized that the men were using the condoms, but had taken the demonstration a bit too literally, by putting them on their index fingers during sex instead of their penises.

With the amount of time we have spent in this place, you would think that we know this island like the back of our hands. But in reality, we really do little else then sit and eat and drink with the friends that we have met so far. Some people may think that we are robbing ourselves of experiences this way. But I wouldnt trade these last few weeks in Koh Samui for anything in the world.
Brandon, on the other hand, may have a totally different perspective of this adventure. After several weeks in Samui, he was taken to the hospital for what Giulia and I initially just thought was a panic attack. We later discovered that he had Typhus fever, a disease caused by a small mite that usually occurs in 'unsanitary and cramped conditions. I think that sleeping four people to a room and two single beds would certainly qualify. He spent the next couple of weeks sober and depressed. Finally, he started to feel better and went out for a night on the town with John and some other friends. When everyone else went to sleep, Brandon wanted to go to an internet cafe to skype his brother, but he never made it. Just outside of where we were staying, he laid his motorbike down and crashed into two others that were parked on the street. He came home, covered in the worst road rash I had ever seen and hysterically asked us for more money so that he could pay off the cops instead of spending the night in jail, this was at about 5 in the morning. Convinced that he was going to jail and still obviously drunk, I was sure that another panic attack would ensue. But over the next hour or so, he calmed down and we even found out that the vast sums of money he would have to pay would be his only punishment for his stupidity.

As it stands right now, the four of us are sitting in his hospital room joking and laughing about what an idiot he was. He is lucky to be alive right now, and I think he realizes that, even though he laughs as though it's no big deal. He thinks that the experience will serve as a wake up call to him, and I certainly hope that is the case, because there are so many people that respect, admire and care for him that it would be a real pain in the ass to get them all together for a funeral.
Until next time, Sawadee Kop

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