Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A year ago: Mom's B-day

I wrote this on my mom's birthday last year.
July 19, 2010
Beach about 80 kms north of Nha Trang, Vietnam
"It was the emeralds and turquoise blues that drew me in, that and the honey-colored sand. It's all so vibrant that the colors fight to get my attention. In the distance, a faded mountain, sandy summits with brown-green peaks. Then nothing but a line of sea. littered with boats. The boats seem meticulously placed, as if pin-dropped like the 2-man vessel on the board game, Battleship. A cool summer breeze hits my face along with a hot musty draft, breathing it all in, slowly.
As I sat eating lunch, I realized what drew me in, the colors, the wind, the honey-sand and blue-white waves. My mother was calling me to celebrate her 43rd birthday with her. It sounds almost dumb even while writing it, but part of me likes to believe that somehow, somewhere my mom is able to invite me to experience things. Call to my heart and hope I respond with gratitude. I was thinking about things we'd do for my mom's birthdays. We loved going out to eat as a family. I remember going to Macaroni Grill or Red Robin with her. I loved sitting there with her, watching her converse, always smiling, watching her turquoise-blue eyes flicker with the hanging lights. We'd hum and haw and talk about good times. I absolutely adored my mother and now she's not here anymore. Currently, I find myself wandering on a bicycle, the reason not necessary intentional, but maybe I'm trying to find my way back to someplace that will give it all meaning. Maybe this emerald and turquoise blue sea is just a view, or maybe she's been here all along. Among the humble hosts and selfless gratitude that have lead me safely on this path, or among the breathtaking views and hidden discoveries. And her eyes shine on mine from the sea. Those honey-sand mountains her flesh, the brown of the distant mountains, her hair. Maybe I'm supposed to listen to her more, let her whisper her stories into my ear, like the ones she whispered to me as a child to send me off to sleep, the stories that are becoming my own. Follow her guidance, so I don't get lost. Listen and i will answer the best way I know how. Be patient and I will find a way back to her. I don't have a candle for you or a birthday cake, but I have the sea breeze and the color of your eyes right in front of me. Happy Birthday Mom!"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A year ago: Biking in Lao

A year ago, I took a tour of SE Asia. I traveled via bicycle from Saigon, Vietnam to Bangkok, Thailand.

Crossing the Vietnam/Lao border into Lao

The border crossing was simple. It was bittersweet leaving old Vietnam behind. Many monuments/relics/stations from the war a faint reminder of a soured past.

Lao immediately gave me a welcoming smile. Everyone yelled "Bai Bai" as I journeyed a few meters from the border. I smiled and said hello and they repeated their "Bai bais". It was like I was the conductor of a parade. Kids would run out full-throttle, jumping in the air with big smiles on their faces with hands eagerly waving in the air.

I picked up the Lao greeting "Sa Bai Dee"! The hooting and jumping and hollering of the children made the 40 km go by in a breeze and I could feel the adrenaline surging through my blood. The landscape brought veins of stretched fields of palms and jungle, all leading to rocky-topped mountains filled with roads and needed exploration. A serenity filled the air. A modern Garden of Eden is what it felt like. Houses on stilts, blue roofs brighter than the sky. Streams and rocks, pastures and road-side water buffalo.

It rained and I took cover under what was intended to be a gasoline pumping station, but for now made the perfect shelter. I gave thanks to the man that owned the facility, it seemed connected to his living quarters, and smiled on my way out. A run in with a plastic bottle in the road made me almost biff it as I was waving at a big group of locals at a coffee shop before getting laughed at as I stumbled back to a normal ride. Smiles of the Lao people make it all better, their upper crescent is contagious. My smile could reach the moon.

Sapon to Donghen, Lao

I'm biking in Eden. The butterflies flutter beside me, doing acrobatics right in front of my eyes, four coming together and then dispersing in a mad dash (practical aerial artists!). Three different colored, flying in parallels, like Sleeping Beauty's three fairy godmothers. It's the butterflies that constantly remind me of the journey, staying within the moment, struck by the beauty of the land, the greenness of the grass, the trees, the red of the clay dirt, the blues of the sky; the rooftops, the paint, the pastels of the butterflies, the greys of the distant rock, browns of waterfalls, skin sun kissed, wooden beams, whites of the smiling children. Brightly painted spiritual flowers, road markers, long roads stretching, mirages, tree silhouetted shadows, workers in the fields waving. Amazing.

Biking in Lao from Brandon Patterson on Vimeo.