Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Time Out of Joint
In mid July I put all rational thinking aside and flew to France for my mother's 80th birthday reunion. That I could do this- leave my poor village schools where not a single student or teacher has ventured beyond Southeast Asia - jet a quarter of the way around the globe on Friday night and be back in my classroom teaching alphabet sounds 10 days later at 9 am (after taking the 12 hour night bus from Bangkok and arriving at my house at 7am)- seems so perversely miraculous I should be on the cover of National Geographic as Traveler of the Year. But of course the planes I took were chock full of fellow travelers, as were the buses, trains, and subways; the highways were crowded. My exploits, though as bizarre as a three headed goat to my Thai friends, remain utterly ho hum to a select population in the 21st century world. By the way, here is an interesting graphic on the percentage, by state, of passports held :
Passports Notice any correlation to the voting habits? Hmmmm...
As I traveled I read one of Patrick O'Brian's wonderful Aubrey novels set in the Napoleonic wars; While I made my 10 hour traverse over vast stretches of Asia and Eastern Europe, Captain Aubrey and his sidekick Maturin were enduring the seas and oceans, out of touch for months, in the end covering less ground than I. Me? I went to sleep in Bangkok and woke up in Paris.
This is the farmhouse complex where most of my family stayed in Brittany.
Here is a photo I took in Bangkok:
And here is the city of Quimper, near where we stayed:
There are commonalities- both countries have farming down and both love eating and conviviality. Here is a French farm plot outside my uncle's house:
Not quite the hand planted rice fields back home...
To be with family, most I'd hadn't seen for 17 years, conferred such a sense of satisfaction and joy, I had hardly a breath to pause or reflect. Seeing Conor and every single other relation (including Sabine!) was an immeasurable blessing beyond wealth or status or anything else I can imagine.
If it was simply a choice of France or the US, I would choose the former, since I do believe in things like eating well and slowly, in a citizen's right to health care, in reading and philosophy (the bookstores in France are worth beholding). If I were 25 or 30 I would claw and dig until I found a way to live there for at least a few years. But at this stage of my life I feel pressed to move beyond, to places that are more raggedy and tumbledown. It is probably my inescapable hobo calling. Whenever the sidewalks are just right and the weeds are all plucked, I find myself wanting to "light out for the Territory". So lugging my bag through the grimy, ridiculously humid and hot, alleyways of Bangkok to the bus station and back to Isaan felt darn good Monday afternoon.
Here is a map of where I went: