Life is strange nowadays, but strange in a nice twisty kind of way.
It is nice to meet Amy’s mom and dad again when they come to see her and we go together on Monday night to eat dinner at the church so that they can meet our Thai pastor and his delightful family. We eat crabs and talk about jobs and places to visit in Mae Hong Son. Later that evening, I find out that some IGo friends are traveling through on their way to the border and stop in to say hi to them and chat for a while.
The next day we go out to eat again with Amy’s parents. Amy and I need some photos for the IGo newsletter so we take shots in a rice field as the sun goes down. Coming home, I find a nice, jolly toad posing perfectly in front of the house.
Wednesday is quite normal. Amy’s dad goes to Chiang Mai. In the evening, I check out the walking street that is open because of the Aukwa festival that is just starting in Mae Sariang and then go home to enjoy my supper with Amy and her mom.
The next morning, I wake up to a message from Amy, who has gone over to where her mom is staying, “My parents both have Covid.”
I try to shake the sleep from my eyes. Surely, she must be kidding. “I wish,” she replies.
And so begins another Covid whirlwind. Thankfully, the restrictions are not nearly what they were a year ago. Amy and I isolate, but we still leave the house for supplies. Amy brings food to her mom in her rooms and buys a huge box of Covid tests. We make plans and then change them, and make them again and then change them. Finally, Amy and her mom leave on Saturday for Chiang Mai to see a doctor there.
In the meantime, I bake and read and study Karen and play my ocarina and watch the moon rise over the valley and call my mom and watch the ants climb up the papaya tree behind the house and eat pumpkin pie for breakfast since I made two and I am the only one who eats them. Is there something like eating too much pumpkin pie, I wonder?
Isolating can be difficult, but it can also be just what the doctor ordered. Especially when it includes pumpkin pie.
On Sunday, after taking my 4th Covid test, I go to church. This too, is just what the Doctor ordered. We sing worship songs in Thai that were some of the first songs I learned in Thailand and the words cut to my heart and pull tears from an aching part inside of me. Our pastor preaches on Matthew 11:28 and 29, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He talks about different kinds of burdens and the need to rest. I feel God speaking to that aching part of my soul again and the words I hear are beautiful.
In the evening, I don my mask and go to see what Aukwa is like by now. Aukwa is a festival celebrating the end of Buddhist Lent, but it is uniquely Mae Sariang. During Aukwa, the streets are lit up with lanterns, hundreds of small shops selling food and other items pop up beside the road, and there are musical competitions, shows and dances, a mini marathon and hundreds of other activities. It is sort of like Yoder Heritage Day at home. But different. Aukwa lasts for about 9 days, with the main activities happening the last three days.
It is colorful and bright and sparkling.
One of my students, Happy, sings in the competition, so I sit on the front steps of the police station beside another student, Achira, and wait for Happy’s song. Achira’s dad has a big bag of peanuts. Here, he says, holding out the bag. Have some.
So, I painstakingly crack open boiled peanuts and munch on them as I wait. Soon they move on, kindly leaving the bag of peanuts with me. An hour later, I see a friend I haven’t seen for over a year. He is with another friend and has moved back to the area after living in Chiang Mai for a year. They sit down and we try to chat for a while over the blare of the singing.
I don’t get home until close to 11. This is a Mae Sariang that I have never seen before. The quiet, sleepy town nestled in the valley has suddenly become a buzz of activity and late-night revelry. Even from my home 3 kilometers away from the city center, I can hear the music throbbing into the wee hours.
The next day I munch on more pumpkin pie before leaving to tutor some students.
I feel rested and at peace. Rest for me isn’t always just flopping down on a bed and doing nothing. Sometimes it means doing something different for a while. Sometimes it means fleeing into the mountains for a time to savor the silence and the cool air. Sometimes it might mean walking aimlessly by yourself through crowds or finding a seat and watching the throngs of people around you. Sometimes it means squatting down and watching ants for a while, or baking something just for fun.
Especially when its pumpkin pie.