Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Swift as a Coursing River

Friday was my final day of languages classes, and this is how it began: At 5 AM, with Disney music and an inspirational speech from Sam Borchard. That was the only thing that could possibly have gotten me and Megan out of bed, considering we had disembarked from the midnight vegetable van barely 4 hours beforehand. Yet somehow we roused ourselves, gathered ropes, harnesses, and anchor-building gear, and zoomed off towards Doi Suthep in the early dawn.

Aside: It's so hard to believe that I haven't put up a blog post in a month. I am truly sorry that I've been so un-vigilant about exporting my daily adventures. Actually, I have been blogging, just not about myself -- if you are really curious, you can stay updated on what's going on in my work life (which is essentially my whole life) by checking recent additions to our website, or by becoming a fan of CMRCA on Facebook.

To put things in perspective, I haven't had a day off since early October. Of course, "not having a day off" could mean anything from moving into my new apartment (more accurately, room) to taking fifty 13- and 14-year-olds from Dubai climbing, caving, and rappelling for the day... r MC-ing a bouldering competition on the now-deserted site of a national flower exhibition that was held by royal decree in 2006... Or spending a dozen dusty hours terracing belay platforms at the base of the main cliff at Crazy Horse... Or designing a team-building-with-GPS scavenger hunt for Thai meeting and convention planners on the grounds of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, one of the most exquisite resort hotels in Southeast Asia.

This isn't complaining; this is BRAGGING! I have the coolest life EVER!!!! But here in Thailand it often seems like people are either doing nothing, or they are trying to do everything. And if you happen to work for one or two of those "everything" people, you barely have time to sleep, let alone write in your journal, let alone translate that into something suitable for the internet. Still, I promise to be more communicative in the coming weeks. I owe a lot to anyone who cares about what I'm doing from day to day way over here in Southeast Asia.

Anyway, Sam and Megan and I zoomed towards the mountain on our motorbikes, knowing that whatever happened next, their final 9-or-so hours in Chiang Mai would be well spent. We had discovered the waterfall two days earlier on a jaunt up to the mountain's famous temple, Wat Doi Suthep, which I can just barely see from the west-facing window of my new room. Standing near the spill-off point of the second of three successive 30+ foot cascades, peering over the edge to try and see what happened to the water down below, either Megan or Sam had said "I just wish we could rappel off this." Then we had one of those fatefully epic moments that foolish adventurers know so well: We had no excuse not to rappel off it.

So that was how we came to be standing there again about 36 hours later, as the sun rose, setting up an anchor that redirected to one side of the falls in hopes of not getting the rope wet (ha, ha). We did two consecutive rappels, using a tightly-woven cluster of bamboo trees as our second anchor, and lowering through ferns and spray into a thigh-deep pool to finish. Mostly because he wanted to, Sam rappelled down INSIDE the final waterfall and got ridiculously wet; Megan and I took the drier route off to the side because she is smart and reasonable, and because I had to go to language class immediately afterwards.

Leaving Sam and Megan to dry out the rope and enjoy the morning, I leapt on my motorbike and zoomed away towards Payap University, where my language class is held. However, I got on the wrong circular Superhighway (the Chiang Mai road systems are a bit confusing) and ended up overshooting the University by one Superhighway intersection. This meant I had to backtrack. But the way I had to backtrack happened to be the same way I had commuted to Payap for the first six weeks of my time here, when I lived out in the village.

As I passed all the familiar landmarks (the prominent billboards that marked the place I used to get off the yellow Songthaeow, the elementary school and apartment buildings that I would walk past on the days I came to Payap early to be on Skype) I was momentarily transported back to my first day of language classes, when I rode the Songthaeow all the way to the big market in Chiang Mai because I had no idea where I was, or where I was going.

Now I was heading to my last day of language classes. Lucky I took the wrong highway. Time is as swift as a coursing river, and most days I find it hard to keep track -- but for those final five minutes of the drive to Payap, I was fully aware of how much 2 months had changed.

Extra credit: What song did Sam play to inspire me and Megan out of bed in the morning?