The air is heavy. Liz, Tony and I venture out into the humid night to my favorite part of Suphan, the bustling, pungent food market. As we walk, sometimes side by side, sometimes in a line depending on what the sidewalk will allow, we gab on about life, with that comfort and trust that good friends share. Sometimes it’s serious and we are needed by each other for advice and support, other times we laugh all the way there. Every walk I reattempt a British accent, Tony is from England. I still have not perfected it. We have learned to focus on each other rather than the city surrounding us. The route is known by our feet and so we focus our minds on the companionships around us.
I turn my attention for a second on a building that we are passing. There is nothing spectacular about it. For a second I feel envious of those peers of mine who are teaching in areas that are the epitome of Thailand. Those places that are tropical and have beaches for miles. Suphan Buri is a city of no distinct beauty. Sometimes nature helps with the warm hues of sunrises and sunsets but the city I see every day is made up of large concrete buildings that were built because of their practicality not their charm. There are water stains on most of these buildings as though the buildings, too, have to perspire in order to keep cool and survive. Chicken wire covers many of the windows and balconies. The main intersection has a miniature Time Square or Piccadilly Square resemblance. However the dilapidated state of the enormous advertisements transforms this resemblance into one that would only exist at the end of the world.
As we pass a lovely 7-Eleven the fruit lady that Liz frequents waves at us with vigor, a huge smile covering her face. I interpret this wave as a slap in the face and I dive back into the conversation. Before I know it we are rounding the corner to the market. We can smell it before we see it. The sweet, spicy aromas, that have become a predictable part of the day, flow into our sensitive nostrils. I remind myself to appreciate this, sometimes painful scent.
The elephant continues walking in front of us. I have become mesmerized. Before I know it my legs have brought me to its side. I look into its eyes. They are not frightened They are comfortable, even content. It sticks its trunk in the direction of the food cart of its choice as though ordering its food. The street vendor looks at it and begins saying something to the owner, but I find myself drowning out the noise and focusing on the majestic, patient, beautiful creature in front of me. The tuffs of hair coming out of its ears and the wrinkles that consume its face and body make him look like an old man, but his eyes and size suggest youth. My appreciation for this animal comes naturally, there is no need for reminding.
Strawberry Yogurt smoothie in hand we head home. I find myself thinking “I’m in Thailand,” as though I need a pinch to distinguish the difference between reality and dreams.