My past couple of weeks have passed in a haze of the work-hard-play-hard variety, strings of twelve-hour shifts at my restaurant job buffered by long, languid beach days, hammock lazing and brunch dates with friends. I’ve settled into Broome, into the easy rhythm of this small and isolated tourist town. Living in Broome feels very much like living in a bubble. The space between Broome and anywhere else approaching a significant population is so far, so vast, that sometimes I imagine Broome almost as a mirage, an oasis surrounded by Outback. Still, despite the ambience of disconnection that prevails here, despite the distance and lack of any real updates in the news reports, one place has held onto my thoughts all week: Bangkok.
I first saw the news about the Erawan shrine blast after work, a half-hour or so after the bombing occurred. I felt sick. Something about this disaster hit home especially hard for me. When I was living in Rayong last year, weekends away in Bangkok became part of my usual routine. I was teaching in Thailand when its most recent round of protests flared up, and I visited Bangkok regularly (and felt safe, always) as the government braced itself for an oncoming coup. Even in a city used to political turmoil, this bomb that killed twenty is unprecedented. The news shocked me.
When I rode home from work the night of the bombing, I paused at a rustling in the bush alongside the road. It was a wallaby. We locked eyes for a few seconds until it retreated back into the security of the shrub. The moment was fleeting but overwhelming. I was struck by the intensity of my being here, in this small town in Western Australia, and the enormity of the gulf that separates my life in Broome from that which I lived in Thailand, from my friends and former students in and around Bangkok, from the victims of the bomb and their loved ones. I was struck most of all by the small magic of my moment with the wallaby and by the fact that only a couple of hours before, one passing moment had changed everything so entirely for so many people in Bangkok.
This year has been particularly full of such moments. In April, I waited anxiously to hear from two friends who were in the middle of trekking to Everest Base Camp when the earthquake rocked Nepal. (The wait was long, but thankfully, they survived.) In July, my dog back home had to be put down unexpectedly. Over the past month, several of my friends and coworkers have lost their parents. The incidents range in gravity and in their closeness to my own life, but they have all been reminders.
This week, I’m sending my love to Bangkok. I’m sending my love to my friends and students in the city, to Wang Chan where I taught, to the whole of Thailand. This week, I’m thinking of Bangkok, but I’m also thinking of my loved ones elsewhere. These are the moments that make me long for home and for all of my homes away from home most, the moments that remind me to call my family, to reply to those messages in my inbox and schedule some Facetime dates. It’s too easy to fall out of touch in this travel life, living in bubbles like Broome. It’s too easy to take each other for granted, to let the magic of the little moments pass by without our notice. I hurt for Bangkok and for the people of Thailand, but I will honor this silver lining, this reminder to appreciate everyday moments a little longer and to love a little harder.
For now, I’m sending all of my best to you, Bangkok. I can’t wait to see you again.
I’m (finally!) making my way through the last sections of Anna Karenina. I love it more and more with every chapter, but with books collected from travel piling up in the corner next to my backpack, I’m getting excited to dig into some new reads. Suggestions, anyone?
I’m still very much on a Falls Fest kick, with a whole lot of Børns and Birds of Tokyo setting the soundtrack for my past couple of weeks. My sister and I failed to score any tickets in the lottery, but I’ll be up early tomorrow to try for the last release of general admission tickets to the festival. Wish me luck!
& Feeling Inspired by…
Celeste Brash’s “The Accidental Hitchhiker” made for one of my favorite reads this week. In travel, I think we’ve all confronted those moments of reconciling genuine and profound connections between people you meet with the reality of their motivations.