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love and affection

“Chocolate and coffee”  I tell the shake lady. I have become accustomed to naming people after what they provide me.  “Pad Thai Lady and Shake Lady are only 2 of many examples. She hears this and her eyes widen.  She giggles to herself.  She can always count on me to create a new combination or flavor.  The blender goes and I cannot hear the chaos of the crowd behind me, only the ice, cocoa powder, and coffee being blended together into a blissful smoothie that will satisfy my need for something familiar and sweet.  As the blender stops, when the smoothie is the perfect consistency, she pours it into a plastic cup with a plastic bag handle.  Once the pouring is done she sticks her spoon enthusiastically into the blender in an anxious attempt to taste this new bliss I have created.

Something smooth wraps around my wrist and for a moment I am brought back to my familiar hometown, where in all likelihood this smooth texture is the hand of an acquaintance or old friend. I turn in anticipation, excited to see a familiar face.  He is familiar.  I know his eyes immediately, however he is not who I was expecting so I jump at the sight of his trunk wrapped around my arm.

One of my students has taken my wrist.  I look down.  She is analyzing my skin very carefully.  Eventually she looks away from my mosquito bitten arms and into my eyes.  She is now studying them absorbedly.  I smile and ask, “Can I help you?”  She smiles back at me.  She simply says “Suay.”   This translates to beautiful in Thai and I hear it often but this moment I felt as though she was not commenting on my white skin, or my western style, but on Kru Taylor.  My heart jumps as I giggle and keep walking to monitor the room.

My students have no fear of touching me.  They hug and poke my belly and hold my hands.  When I am in the classroom I expect affection and intrigue.  When I am outside of the classroom, however, I have come to expect very few touches of warmth or intimacy.

His eyes create a feeling of sympathy in me.  It is as though he is asking for help.  I want to help.  After a moment of frantically assessing the situation I recognize he will not let my arm free.  After another moment of talking to the elephant and patting his trunk and feeling superior that he has chosen me,  I realize that it is not the animal, but the owner who has selected me.  As I watch the owner pat the elephant’s ear I see that he has not wrapped around me on his own accord.  This is a trained act, in an attempt to get money from the foreigner at the food market.  My sympathy turns to a feeling of rejection as I try with more vigor to get the elephant’s trunk to release.  The owner puts his hands out begging and I simply shake my head with a hesitant smile as I continue to struggle to free myself.  Eventually the animal gets fed up with my poking and prodding his extremity and lets go.  I look at the Shake Lady and she simply shrugs and smiles as she blends her next smoothie.   I walk through a quiet side street and begin my journey home.

1 reply »

  1. Taylor, I totally love this story – you tell it beautifully. We also give people names the way you do, I just wish I had a local “Pad Thai Lady” today! All the best on your adventure, Terri

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