More bloody ghosts!

Let’s change pace again – no pics or pith…just words before I forget them.

There’s something about Thailand that mashes up my subconscious like a banana in a blender.

My sweet Thai dreams last night were again haunted by weirdness and spirits from the past.

It wasn’t a bad thing, and the haunting this time was not in a clanky chain “lock you in the house” or “muddy footprint 👣 at the bedroom door”scary kinda way – more in a “ooo look I found a secret place” kinda way.

No cryptic messages or foreboding of any form.

Hmm in retrospect I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to have routine visitations. It always seems to happen here.

What the Hell is going on in this brain of mine lately?

So anyway – it went something like this : I was talking to a unknown guy in a house I was renting (I think) and we were talking/arguing about rent or cleaning or something stupid like that; I saw someone I knew just walk on by – a former housemate – and I was trying to talk to her. She didn’t answer, but just walked on quickly, turning around the corner of the house.

A little annoyed, I followed and turned left onto a long misty pathway lined with tall green trees and covered in vines – all backlit theatrically with a shimmery golden light- and then boom! there they all were! A long scattered line of figures stretched out the path before me, all just hanging about, chatting to each other and doing their own thing.

Then I realised they were mostly people I knew that had passed away.

My Mom was there! She was the first one I saw, just standing on the corner in her hospital gown. She looked right at me but didn’t seem to see me, busy talking to someone else. It was Mom of 20 years ago, before the dementia and strokes robbed her of movement, expression and speech.

So I kept walking, super curious now but strangely not surprised to see her.

Behind Mom, there was an old childhood crush of mine (who is still alive Thank God) – I called out her name and rushed over to hug her close – weird but even as I write this I can still feel her on my fingertips; it’s so weird – a lingering sense of the small bones of her spine and toned back muscles from where my hands touched her.

She didn’t speak but just hugged me back.

I let go and kept on walking.

Further along that weirdly lit road were other people from my past – aunts and uncles, friends and long dead distant relatives, some barely remembered from childhood. All dead and gone now but most I hadn’t thought about for a long long time.

Curiouser and curiouser! (thanks Alice). I simply walked past them all, down along the pathway, acknowledged their existence but still none of them seemed to see me.

There were strangers there as well but they were background players – all blurred edges and gossamer-like, in a perpetual soft focus a bit like the aliens at the end of Close Encounters.

I kept walking slowly down that golden gravel path into what could have been a perfect Bali sunset.

No it wasn’t like a movie or in slomo or all dramatic and shit. It just was.

I just walked as far as I felt I could but didn’t see anyone else I knew.

Then I simply woke up – instantly and with a silent WTF and the tingling sensory echo of that hug on my fingertips.

I am now quickly tapping this out before I forget the finer detail that I’m already losing so I’ll pretty it up later.

Let me head off some questions.

No Dad wasn’t there, which made me sad in the dream.

How did I feel? Confused, then happy, then elated (esp when I saw B)

What did they say? Nothing to me, at least – they we’re all engaged with each other.

How did I feel on waking?

Happysad.

It’s the lingering feeling on my fingertips that has me puzzled. Did this actually happen?

Did I travel backwards or forwards in time, space , whatever? Did I die a little? Was it the future?

I love a good crazyarse unexplained dream!

Anyhoo pull that apart, dream therapists and psych buds!

Weirded me out a bit I gotta say.

Later.

🙂

*SPOOKY UPDATE :

So I fly out of KL for Sydney late at 11.40pm, window seat, surrounded by massive purpling storm clouds snarling with angry lightning teeth, and the start of a monsoonal rainstorm hammering on the outside glass of my tiny window.

The packed jet takes forever to taxi out to the runway…waiting waiting waiting. It seems we are driving to Sydney, not flying.

The serious guy in front of me is shifty : I get a bad vibe from him and he is constantly looking around, avoiding the stewards, signalling other passengers, changing seats, and just doing things…wrong.

Upsetting the carefully scripted protocols of normal airline travel.

Rules are rules.

It puts me on edge and I watch him carefully.

Finally we reach the end of the taxiway, the jet turns onto the brightly lit strip, a long unending row of gently strobing runway lights stretching out into infinity.

As we turn the angle of the lights change, and with the smears of oil and rain on the window blurring reality, the whole runway shifts like a kaleidoscope; spins and settles then finally transforms into a sparkling golden pathway of diffused light.

I get a very bad feeling about this – hits me instantly in the pit of my stomach with a sharp stab of recognition.

This could be my dream!

Shit. That ain’t good.

The captain guns the engines. With a jolt we’re away fast and picking up speed. I’m smashed back into my seat with that glorious acceleration but my eyes are flicking from the runway lights to the guy in the seat ahead and back.

Glad I wore the brown pants today.

Deep breath.

Get ready for anything.

Here we go…

*it was all ok in the end. The shifty guy was just a nervous flyer, just too much caffeine for me and we easily avoided the storms. Got home fine although I was on edge all the way.

**really should’nt have had that last coffee before leaving Chiang Mai.

***see couldn’t help myself – had to turn it into a story 🙂

…cages

So, how ’bout this ‘freedom’ thing that all the cool kids are talking about lately – WTF is that about?

<warning – this is a bit random and ranty as I’m having a day – continue at own risk>

Freedom to travel, do, see, taste what you please when you want to without any real consequence or interference from anyone (well a minimum of interference anyway – gotta keep it legal, kids).

Immersing yourself in this freedom is so totally addictive that once you get a taste, you’re basically fucked for normal life (whatever that is).

While only dipping my toes in it for the past few years; gaining some confidence in the safe, yellow-streaked, floating Disney-bandaid end of the kiddies pool –  the recent experience in Antarctica has really thrown me howling off the highboard into the freezing alien blue-black depths of the grown-up area.

So electrifying to move outside of what is considered normal.

When you consciously remove yourself from the polite but suffocating grip of ‘society’, an awareness develops of the boundaries of the cage society itself has become.

It’s just a control mechanism after all.

Making a choice to chew through the cage bars and squeeze out into a really real world: experience this in all of its fleshy, sweaty, squelchy and uncomfortable forms is what revitalises the flagging spirit, jolts the compromised soul back to life.

So terrifying to move outside of what is considered safe.

Is this really being free?

Having virtually endless choice and relative freedom of action can be daunting.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns.

So the cage door opens, the once wild animal inside fears to come out at first; unaccustomed to this new experience of choice it keeps diving back into the safe dark corners of the cage.

It could be happy there forever if it doesn’t know of any other existence.

This happens time and time again.

Until it doesn’t, or the animal remembers.

Free.

Of the first cage, at least, and once you are out you will never willingly go back in.

Leading a life limited by an external agent isn’t really freedom anyway.

These cows aren’t free, just in a larger cage than most.

Their cage of choice is survival driven : food, water and a safe place.

Are they happy?

Probably, at least as as happy as cows can be, but free? No I don’t think so, they probably don’t care as long as their basic physical needs are met.

Humans want all this and so much more more. Food, water, a home, safety, a loving partner, a family – a purpose. We also dare demand to be happy.

So what about an internal cage, or an emotional cage?

How do we escape from something of our own creation? (Created either consciously or unconsciously).

No idea!

I’m not a cow, obviously, so I can only speak for me : my cage of choice is an emotional mind.

It has many warm, safe and secure hiding places but it’s really a trap: like a black hole exerting enormous emotional gravity it drags you inside and keeps you there – it takes enormous efforts to escape.

Exhausting.

So much easier to go with the flow – dive back in, cut yourself off, internalise everything. So warm and safe and familiar.

Mmm cosy…

It’s hard to escape from yourself sometimes and stay outside in the world.

Blah blah blah blah blah …

OK that sounds a little (totally) wanky/crazy (I really shouldn’t reread this stuff) but things like this have been on my mind lately and I’ve talked about this before for sure.

Choice is hard. Adulting is hard. Freedom is hard.

Meh. Again I know I’m fortunate blah blah blah and it’s the current price I’m paying for my life choices.

Choice! Talk about spoilt!

Too many paths I can take, too many roads to travel. How to know which one is right long term or even right for now?

This current paralysis that comes with next level freedom halted my forward motion recently and has caused a massive stumble and a lot of self doubt.

It’s kinda still happening at the moment: presented by many forks in the road I’m lost, the maps in Chinese and my damn iPhone battery is dead.

I’m quite confused.

How do you make a decision on where to aim your life’s arrow when it’s a target rich environment and your aim is bouncing all over the freaking place.

Book that flight? This month or next month? Move to a new country? Move to a new state? Take that job? Don’t take that job? Buy a car? Buy a motorcycle? Where will I live? Stay or go? Call her or not?

Bounce.

Reality check: Watching the finite resource of my bank balance dwindle steadily is sobering and drags me back to the present.

Then safe Jamie returns – ‘hmmm better nail down that spending some more. No more travel. No diving. Cheapest options. Take any job they offer you. Eat cheap. Don’t rock the boat. Go back to Dubbo. Suck it up. Get back to work’

Shut up, safe Jamie.

Bounce.

Two new job opportunities – once back in the familiar cage, one just outside but not far.

One on the horizon but months away.

Bounce.

Can’t someone just tell me what the ‘right’ thing to do is please?

Maybe it’s just the sleepless nights lately or the excessive caffeine intake stressing me out a bit. A couple of challenging days just gone for sure.

Maybe its being challenged on my lifestyle choices by my daughters mother last night – she only ever contacts me when she wants money or just to remind me how useless a father I am or just to unload a hateful text rant about <insert anything about my life>.

I’ve blocked her so many times before but she manages to find open channels to make me feel like a piece of shit. It gets her off I think.

She’s a bit of a cunty person like that.

Anyway.

Hi Renee… 😉

<wow breaking new ground here blog wise – the ‘c’ word and slagging the ex – feel free to unfollow me>

Lately though it’s doubts and thoughts and questions like “Holy WTF !!!!  What am I doing? Who have I become? Where’s the middle management career public servant/overplanner who had a plan A, B and C. and a solid course plotted for the future.

Sorry – he can’t come to the phone right now.  Please leave a message.

I kinda miss that guy sometimes, even though it was just an illusion of control (which was ultimately holding me back) it was still a warm comforting illusion.

Another cage to escape from.

The core of the frustration that I just realised I’m venting today is that I don’t like having to rely on other people and right now, I kinda have to.

Independence is all great and that,  but it can become a barrier to growth as well – learning to open up and let people in is a necessity both in a practical and an emotional sense- this very thing has just cost me another relationship I think.

A cage of indépendance but locking people OUT rather than me in.

Man, too much of a stretch – I’m digging my way out of this rabbit hole now!!

Anyway, shaking off some of this paralysis, today Ive booked a flight home’ (wherever the fuck that is now), booked my Cabling Endosements (look Ma, I’m a Licensed Data Cabler now) 4 days course in Melbourne for early June, let the AAD know when I’m available for Medical And Psych testing (yep still shortlisted), got my dental work done (clean bill of health and no real work to be done), and just had a nice breakfast at The Larder – waaay too much coffee.

I’ll come back to this later after a calming walk and a think….maybe edit this mess and make this less freaking weird.

Too many random thoughts at the moment.

too many coffees :/

* as it turns out, a 2 hour motorcycle ride up into the mountains was all I needed to clear the head.

** I think I will buy another motorbike when I get back to Australia.

homecoming…

I’m back where I started 11 months ago and the only thing that’s changed is me.

Leaving Chiang Mai on Monday was just another flight, just another airport and I guess didn’t really even register as a “this is over” moment as far as my travels for 2016 was concerned. I’d tried not to dwell on it but the shadow of real life was a threatening figure looming over my sometimes forced positivity.

Fake it til you make it, remember?

So my AirAsia X plane out of Chiang Mai was 3.5 hours late, which gave me about 15 minutes to make my connection to Sydney at Kuala Lumpur International – just enough time to run to thru the transfer hall, 2 security checkpoints, and quite literally to the opposite end of the terminal. I made it without breaking a sweat. Settling into my economy seat, surrounded by young families and crying babies, it occurred to me how lucky that I made the plane. It also dawned that there was no way my bag would and so I had a 7 hour flight to prepare myself for the inevitable.

Arrival in Australia was a bleary, early morning red-eye experience as I was jolted awake by a dazzling dawn over Lake Ayre and its tributaries, which was either full of water or deathly dry (I couldn’t tell), reflecting the early morning sunlight and melting my corneas as I yawned and glanced out the window.

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Drifting in and out of snooze mode, I was aware of the aircraft coming to life around me but tried to imagine I was elsewhere – back in Chiang Dao listening to the morning rain, or in Tunis listening to the 5am call to prayer. Here the 5am call was a crying baby and a hawking cough from my neighbor. 

Something inside me was off but I didn’t catch it at the time. 

Flying in over Sydney I usually get a patriotic buzz about seeing tiny Botany Bay, the miniature Harbour Bridge and the toy Opera House sweeping by, but this time it left me cold. Flat. Nothing was coming through and I was completely numb. 

“Weird” I thought, gazing out at the city below and wrote it off to lack of sleep. Sydney grew larger and more substantial, until finally the wheels hit tarmac and with an anticlimactic puff of smoke I was back.

Sydney Airport was as bad as I’d remembered – expansive, crowded, unfriendly; efficient but largely uninteresting. Smiling photoshopped Australians glared at me from the advertising posters, inviting me to come and swim with dolphins, or climb a mountain. Customer service, politeness and good manners vanished. Anonymous Uniforms yelled rudely at people.  Airport security, black domed cameras and warning signs were everywhere. “Don’t do this – Don’t do that. Don’t stand here. Warning Warning Warning. Fear, Fear, Fear…The terrorists are coming”.  I could already feel the doeskin jackboots of fear and oppression that New South Wales wears proudly pressing down on my throat and chest.

Why so much paranoia? So many rules and regulations? After the freedoms of the road, this was becoming stifling already.

As some aussie ex-pat army guy told me in a dentists waiting room in Thailand a while back,  “We are a nation of laws and need all this to safeguard ourselves from the terrorists.”

No dude sorry Australia isn’t a “nation of laws”, that’s stolen from America and you are confused. Australia seems to becoming a backward nation of ignorant, drunken, racist fools masquerading as “aussie larrikins”, of slow expensive internet, extraordinary taxation, human rights abuses, poverty, homelessness, corruption,  overpriced real estate, and rubbish overrated food. Of course I didn’t actually SAY this to him – but I thought it at him real hard while smiling politely and trying to disengage.

Fingers crossed, I waited in the baggage area for my backpack. Who knew? I might have gotten lucky and the bag made it. A waify Japanese lady had the gall to take out her phone in the baggage claim area and a pompous slicked-back-hair uniformed guy (who could’nt even be bothered to go over to her or check that she spoke English) screamed at her across the hall to “put the phone down” like it was an automatic weapon or a knife and he was Supercop. She of course ignored him which further fueled his rage, and so the saga continued.So rude and unnecessary.  The carousel stopped, the passengers for the next flight started arriving. Still my bag didn’t appear.

Dang it.

Naturally the airline had lost my bag somewhere between Chiang Mai and Sydney.

After 11 months of travel through countless dodgy airports and several dangerous countries, it took an Australian crew to lose my bag.

Coming in through Immigration/Customs was easy (electronic passports make it a 5 minute thing) after which I had to do the mandatory “lost my bag” reporting at a desk where the Aussie “larrikin” (who couldn’t be bothered to tuck in his shirt or brush his hair) barely smiled, nor glanced at me or even said “G’day Mate”.

So feeling strangely calm – numb – I wandered through the airport, caught a train into Central Station, and listened to the sudden clutter of English conversation that invaded my headspace. It’s amazing how much you tune in and out to other peoples conversations. The luxury of not hearing English spoken everywhere was gone and the Aussie accent was like a powerdrill boring painfully into my brain.

It still didn’t feel real. I was in a homecoming state of denial and culture shock.

Of course Sydney started picking my pockets immediately : $20 for an Opel card, $4 train fares, $3 for bottled water, 2 bananas and a takeaway coffee $10. My last $100 was disappearing fast. 

I picked a dirty cheaparse hostel ($34 a night) close to Central, went into Police Headquarters in Parramatta to pick up some gear for work next week (meeting my new managers and doing some schmooze groundwork for my return to work)  and then wandered into the city to meet my good friend Kate for a drink at some inner city bars.

Walking between the bars I realised how pretty Sydney can be, especially at night. This time of year is lovely and for a change the city didn’t disgust me. It was a fun way to end the evening but after 3 drinks  ( $30+ – thanks Kate) I was slightly hammered.

The next morning, after stepping over a few random backpackers on the hostel floor, a 7.18am (what an odd time) train to Dubbo – 6 hours – would give me time to reframe all the negativity that I’d been projecting over the last 24 hours. It was time well spent.

Some meditation, reframing, read my books, peace. ahhh.

6 hours later.

Alighting from the train at Dubbo train station just after lunch was very, very strange.

As I walked down to Church Street Cafe to get my regular Americano, nothing had changed:  the streets, the smells, the sounds –  all instantly familiar. Little gangs of aboriginal kids roamed the streets on bikes and scooters, a few scattered drunks were camped under the shady trees in Victora Park, a young kid called me a “white cunt” before I’d even made it to the main street.

Ahhh. Now it felt real. Too real.

It was like the past year hadn’t happened.

I bumped into many people I knew and they seemed genuinely happy to see me, which was a welcome surprise and helped. But I’m struggling. Everything reminds me of Jen here. So far, at least. I wasn’t expecting it to hurt so much. The last few years came flooding back. The house, walking past Jens old work, then my workplace, my normal walking path home. Magpies. Jasmine. Hayfever. Cats Eye burrs and stickers, familiar and painful. Sorting through all this and discarding what will hurt the most is going to be hard. It was good to see the housemates though and the weather is great.

I went to see Mum in the Hi Care facility and she recognised me at least, but the dementia now has upped its game and robbed her of coherent speech – her tongue is constantly flicking in and our making everything messy – communication is hard but I think she understood I was back.

Coming back has been harder than I’d imagined and I’d drank myself to sleep last night with the last of my duty free Jamesons, feeling adrift in the world.

This feeling is still with me today, and its Thursday. A deep detachment and numbness that I can’t shake. I don’t belong here.

I know now that this place isn’t my home, Dubbo and Australia.

I am not where I’m supposed to be.

This isn’t a homecoming: its just another stage of a larger journey I’d never realised I was on.

Early days yet I guess. Lets see how work goes on Monday.

 

**airline found my bag!!!!! shipping it to Dubbo from KL “in a few days”. Fingers crossed eh?

 

 

reframe…

“Whats Next?” is a big question that’s been driving me forward for a while now.

 Sometimes you can provide the answer, but most times you cant and the universe decides on your behalf. For me, circumstances back home have aligned unexpectedly to give me a small window to return and cut short my year of travel.

Its been 2 weeks of anxiety, sleeplessness and indecision but I’ve made the call to head back to Australia, even though I still have 8 weeks of “make a decision” time before the deadline to return to my old job lapses.

My reluctance to walk back into the cage of my old life and relinquish this magnificent freedom is manifesting itself physically and mentally. I’ve been sick, tired, happy, depressed – every emotion struggling for dominance. If it wasn’t for the planned 2 week safety net of Chiang Mai to settle my head down I’d be lost. Being able to prepare for reemergence into the real world is invaluable especially when you’ve been existing in an absolute freedom dream state, living for almost a year abroad. The comfortable calm that this city brings me is immediate.

Chiang Mai has been the place that I gather my strength after this rollercoaster year – get my chipped tooth fixed and some overdue dental work , a new tattoo, read a few good books, see a few films, catch up with friends, and meditate on lessons learned over the course of the year.

A friend asked me a few days back what has changed about myself in the past year, and I couldn’t really answer the question. It’s hard to pin down. I thought this would be a year of answers but I have only found more questions. The only thing I’m sure of is that I am not where I am supposed to be. 

What did surprise me is that when it was darkest, I found comfort and strength in a spiritualistic Faith I didn’t realise I had. 

*Notre Dame Cathedral minus Quasimodo.

Anyhow…I’m sure it’ll pass. 

Much like going to the dentist and distancing yourself from the pain, this week Ive completed the process of reentry in a numb,  detached state: contacting my old employer <shudder>, seeking accommodation, transport, flights, logistically getting from point A to point B etc etc ad nauseum. Inside I’m screaming at myself to stop this madness and head West again, but luckily the rational part is in control for a change and has made all the arrangements for reentry into what has become a new Global World Order in all of the worst possible ways.

I am extremely grateful to have had the chance to experience the world over the past year, meet amazing new friends and experience life fully but I am not ‘lucky’ as some have said. It was just good management. I planned and worked hard to save enough money to see me through the year, then tried to roll with the punches as they landed. It was a massive gamble, but it wasn’t luck.

Now for some reason my ‘live to work’ ethic has flipped to ‘work to live’ completely and I’m embracing the concept. We all only get one life and it passes all too quickly. It’s for this very reason I’m never going to be trapped in a meaningless job nor rot in an office ever again.

But as of today, unlimited freedom-wise, it’s done. At least for a little while.

This is my last Sunday in Chiang Mai and Monday afternoon I fly out.

In a week I go back to work.

There is a longer term plan however and this is a temporary means to an end. That has been the only thing keeping me on track. Rationalisation and reframing the negative.

It’s not all bad – I’ll get to see my Mum, my beautiful daughter Isabel, and some of the few remaining friends that I feel close to. But that’s about it.

2016 has been a trial run with a mix of success and failure but more importantly it’s been a year of exponential personal growth.

2017 will be my year and I’m getting excited already.

Reframe. 

 More about Paris tomorrow.

rain…

Its been almost 24 hours of solid rain here in Chiang Mai and my third soaking by traffic this morning alone. It appears inevitable that no matter what I do today, I will get soaked.

Just as well that I wore the fancy swimming shorts.

I hadn’t even had my first coffee of the day  – 9am standing at the flooded road crossing waiting for a break in the traffic, just thinking about the rain and  – DOOSH – Tourist bus got me…DANG IT  (or words to that effect) had just crossed my mind before…DOOSH, DOOSH, DOOSH, DOOSH, DOOSH – a stream of tuktuks carrying gaggles of excited Chinese tourists careered on through the same water, almost drowning me. I fully expected to find a fish wriggling in my pocket.

After the first DOOSH, I was like ‘Grrrr’…then after the third DOOSH it was funny, and after the 6th DOOSH it was ridiculously funny.  Certainly lightened the mood and set me on my course for caffeine (and a warm towel).

Thailand has been an experience that I am totally thankful for however. I’m loving every moment.

Thank you Big Green Bus, for drenching me at the traffic lights. It was a hoot. Thank you tuktuk drivers who delighted in hugging the curb to ensure I got more drenched  from the calf-deep rivers overflowing from the open drains, thank you waterproof laptop backpack for saving my phone and my macbook.

Thank you, immune system.

I’m house sitting another house here in Chiang Mai for 2 weeks before heading a looooong way West on the 21st of September. My days here are numbered. Flights booked, plans made. Bags packed. Affairs sorted.

This time its is closer to the old city, a lovely 3 storey family home, complete with 2 awesome cats and 2 not-so awesome snakes to feed and look after. Friends of friends have gone back to Europe for a time and needed someone to feed the animals. Its so good to sleep in a real bed again and have a place to come ‘home’ to , rather than a hostel. I’m so grateful and feel so lucky that these opportunities keep popping up. Sorta makes me feel I’m on the right path.

Chiang Mai is flooding and I’m now trapped in a cafe, so rather than wade through streets knee high with sewage, I’m determined to finish this latest entry, probably post it tomorrow or later today.

I do actually have some almost normal work to do – a while back I volunteered to be on a Committee as the IT Admin guy for Autismcarers.org back home – a wonderful organisation doing some great work but sorely in need of some assistance with their web site and content management. Time to step up I guess.

So I’ll finish that up then I’m going to hide at the local cinemas for the rest of the day.

And then maybe find an unbrella.

Later.

 

 

 

 

haunted…part 1

So much weird stuff has been happening over the past weeks in the house here that I just have to tell you about it.
Where to start: lets set the scene.

I’m house-sitting for a friend of a friend who has gone back to Scotland for 3 months (yep I lucked out). She has this lovely little townhouse just out near Wat Ram Pong.  Its a nice secure  2 story 2 bedroom terrace house just a little ways out of town, one of half dozen or so all connected by common walls and roof spaces, in a nice little almost-gated community. Safe and quiet (yeah so was 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville I hear you say)

Being slightly paranoid about security (occupational hazard),  I lock the front door by a solid metal latch on the inside when I go to bed as well as all the windows and the back door. The front door has the same kind of latch that I padlock with a dirty great padlock when I  leave the house.

So…safe as houses, right?

Maybe not.

Where am I going with this?

Lets go here: I haven’t slept well since leaving the U.S back in May (insomnia puts it mildly but its improving), and in the weeks I’ve been in the house here I wake up a lot. An awful lot. The usual things – odd noises, cats fighting, bumps and thumps and noises in the night. Usually it isn’t a huge issue as I read for a bit then go back to sleep.

Last week things got weird.

One rainy night after getting home from dinner, I went to bed earlyish. As the cleaner ( yep spoilt) had come that day the house was spotless so I carefully left my shoes at the door  (its customary here anyway). Climbed the 2 flights of darkened stairs to my room, closed the door and went to bed.

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Anyway I had the usual fitful night of tossing and turning and the usual waking up every few hours, but eventually I slept.

The next morning I awoke, grumpy, with the sun streaming into my room from the single unblocked -out window near my bed (the house owner has issues sleeping also and had put up black sheets of cardboard on the windows to block the sun).

Yawning like grumpy cat I stumbled out my door towards the bathroom and stopped :

There were footprints at my door!

Little, muddy barefoot footprints stopping right on the threshold of my bedroom door, and continuing on down the stair well. They were crystal clear .

“Shit. Ive been broken into” was my first thought so I grabbed my little K-bar pocketknife from the bedstand and checked the rooms on the way downstairs. I followed the dirty footprints down the stairs. each little print half the size of my clompy size 9.5’s. Everything looked fine – laptop, phone, bits and pieces – check. Nothing missing. And then I checked the front door.

Locked. Latched. From the inside.  Say what?

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RuhRoh – “Fuck – hes still here”.

K-bar in hand I checked the back door  (locked) , all the windows (locked and intact) , rooms (empty), under the beds (clown free), in the closets (nada). Nothing.

Just muddy kid sized footprints on the stairs in a house locked from the inside.

Rational mind kicked in – “Must have been me somehow”, or “maybe footprints from the cleaner that magically appeared after the floor was dry”. Yeah, that was it. Idiot.

The human mind is a wonderfully deceptive and creative thing. I managed to rationalise this weirdness away as something like that, and then put it out of my mind.

But since then, all the neighborhood dogs bark their heads off at me as I walk around. Even the cats avoid me now. It COULD just be my imagination.

Flash forward 3 days.

Same sleeplessness, odd noises at night and the usual tossing and turning. No more foot prints, but I get ready to head out for the day, gather my things, and head out the front door. Door wont open. Locked – from the OUTSIDE.

WTF? I checked the back. Same thing. Locked from the outside.

I couldn’t get out of the house! Locked in.

THAT freaked me out, and it took me a good 5 minutes to figure out how to take the screens off, put my hand through without cutting my wrists on the sharp aluminum framing, and open the outside latch to escape.

The shoe rack out front had been turned over, shoes everywhere. The 2 motorbikes out front had been rifled through, paper and plastic bags everywhere. But apart from the mess  – nothing.

OK…time to report in. MUST be thieves after all. I let the owner know, and my friend CB and they arranged to bring the housekeeper over to see if it had been her, or if she knew what was going on.

Jump forward to Wednesday afternoon.

A triumvirate of wise local women converge on the house, concerned about these happenings. After checking with the housekeeper and neighbors they came to the logical conclusion.  “A gang of thieves casing the place, right?”.

No.

I’m being haunted.

There is a playful but benign child spirit in the house, and it wants to play. This mischievous spirit is well known in the building and gets up to loads of trouble around the block. I hadn’t been formally introduced (as is the custom apparently) and this little poltergeist wanted to say ‘Hi’ and have some fun.

FML – of course. It all makes sense.

 

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The solution is easy – fix the little temple/alter out in the front yard (had been installed but neglected by a previous tenant), burn 9 incense sticks and put some of my favorite flowers in as an offering. Then just sit down quietly and have a little private greeting ceremony – introduce myself. Things would be ok!

Its easy to forget that spirits play such an important role in Asian society, like a favorite uncle just hanging is not a big deal. They embrace the concept completely and incorporate it into their lives as a matter of fact. Its a beautiful thing.

Westerners are so dismissive in relation to things like this, myself included. I WANT to believe in so many things, spirits and ghosts and suchness, but the scientific and so-called logical mind just wants to scoff and dismiss. I firmly believe there is more to the universe than what we can see or perceive at any level. There has to be.

But I am a total pussy when it comes to ghost stories. A complete sucker. Put me in a dark corridor at night alone and every creature and ghost Ive ever seen on the silver screen or TV is hiding in the shadows waiting just for me. Horror movies and ghost stories in particular freak the Hell out of me but I just cant get enough. 

I guess I believe in spirits at least as a form of indestructible energy in the universe.

Which would explain a lot.
THAT takes me into a discussion on religion (believe me no-one wants that to happen). I’m firmly an agnostic but jeez I’d love to be proved wrong. So where does that put me.  🙂

So to be sure, I’m looking for some incense today and little Casper and I will have a get together this evening. I also might buy a few new padlocks today as well just in case.

NOW – this all ties into some more weirdness that I mentioned a while back…the Nepalese Raven episode from a few years back.

This just keeps getting weirder and weirder…

Part 2  and the raven tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Cows! Pt 2

With an apocalyptic crack and a blinding flash a bolt of lightning hit the town dead centre of the tourist district and everything went dark. It was like a bomb had gone off – all shop lights, neon lights, ATMs, music, even the streetlights blinked out: only the gas and charcoal cookers from the food stalls provided any light at all. What was a noisily buzzing market milling with people and vendors collectively recoiled and then froze, eyes wide, looking at each other nervously.

Then came the wind as the storm front finally hit, tossing the food cart areas into chaos and blowing the cheap t-shirts and thin thai cotton dresses off their hangers, sending the shopkeepers scrambling.

Finally came the rain. Driven almost horizontally by the wind it tore through town in seconds, stripped leaves off trees, and shocked people into motion, sending them scurrying into the nearest shop or under the closest awning for shelter.

It was freaking awesome.

My first REAL tropical storm since Ive been here.

By this time I was completely soaked, which was nice following the heat and humidity of the trip up here. So I ducked into a crappy tshirt shop and waited out the storm.

The whole affair lasted about 15 minutes – torrential rain, driving wind, and intermittent lightning. And then like turning off a tap, it was done.

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Slowly, the people emerged from the doorways, and the shopkeepers assessed the damage. One by one, out came the emergency lanterns, torches hung on string, oil burners and even yellow and red candles, until the street and storefronts were eerily backlit by the flickering candles or harsh incandescent torchlights.

For the rest of the evening, the township functioned on candle power. Food stalls quickly sold out of food as the restaurants closed up. Some soldiered on, lighting candles and reducing the menu, but the majority gave up for the night. No coffee machines, no blenders, no ATMS. Luckily I’d grabbed a handful of bbq’d pork sticks and something that looked like chicken balls (was soy as it turned out) so I was set.

So that was my dramatic introduction to Pai. All I had to do now was find my hostel.

Donning my trusty headlamp (don’t leave home without one, kiddies), I wandered over a rickety bamboo bridge that spanned a swollen muddy river towards what I’d hoped was my hostel – the Darling View (it rated well on HostelWorld.com)

Perched on a hill overlooking the town and the valley itself, this turned out to be a surprisingly awesome hostel – $10 a night for a private room, a mattress on the floor (comfy though) and an electric fan – LUXURY! It was the value-adds that made this place though. Firstly it was massive! Shared rooms and dorms and private rooms all mashed together over several wonderful old-school teak constructed Thai buildings. It was designed to bring people together with large common spaces, guitars and campfires, and amazing views over the valley from the verandah. Perfect reading spot and in fact that’s how I ended my first night (and the second), on the verandah reading while the other backpackers partied downstairs. Not exactly social but hey, i needed my peace.

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So Day 1 – over. An early night and a good sleep was well overdue. Earplugs in – ready, steady, sleep.

Day 2 brought a brilliantly sunny day so I got up early and explored – riding out through the hills towards a secret hot spring (that was on all the maps anyway) …

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…on to the many beautiful waterfalls scattered around the valley, and some more of the twisting and turning mountain trails. Perfect.

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That evening the hostel was deserted, so more than just a little sunburnt I grabbed a beer and enjoyed the empty hostel, restringing one of the guitars to left handed mode and spending a while just musically doodleing on the balcony until the drunks returned.

Pai was so lovely and the local eateries were amazing, but even after 2 days it was wearing a little thin – especially as the power was out for over 24 hours. Plus too many drugged up partying european tourists at the hostel was becoming annoying. I  must be getting old but I’d had enough. No hot water or wifi? I’m so outta there.

Surveying the damage from the storm the next day, I realised the extent of the damage and why it had taken so long. The lightning strike had nailed a transformer and the wind had torn down almost an entire street of electrical lines. There were police and utility trucks everywhere trying to repair the damage.

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Day 3 –  Still no power, so I bailed, leaving early in the morning to beat the storms and bike back over the mountains.

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I forgot!…

…this is where the cows come in. They are creatures of magic.

Lets backtrack again.

When Jen and I were driving after dusk in Kakadu last year (yeah yeah I know – I’ll run out of Jen stories eventually), she was driving really really slow and a goddamned buffalo appeared out of nowhere right in the middle of the road. It has been standing bum towards us on the centre line and was for all intents and purposes invisible. If it hadn’t turned its head and looked at us we would have hit it up the bum. It freaked us out and that was before the accident.

Anyway, back to now.

After the uneventful ride up to Pai a few days before, I was getting a little cocky (which happened to be my nickname in primary school actually, but I digress). Taking photos on the bike while going round bends, trying new video apps, basically being a dick asking for an accident to happen. My super carefulness had disappeared.

It was then that reality decided to send me a wake up call.

I’d just done making a little time lapse video on the bendy bits of the road, pulled over and put the camera away, and decided to try to make up some time. Let try to speed this trip along a bit, so I floored it.

Scooters aren’t road bikes – they’re meant for flat well constructed roads. But its easy to fall into the trap of believing they are safer than they really are. So falling into complacency is a real killer – like not wearing a helmet, like riding in flip flops, shorts and tshirts (which I’m constantly bitching about then OTHER people do it). Plenty of people have died on this road as evidenced by the many memorials along the roadside (which I’d stupidly thought were bird feeders)

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ANYWAY…i was zooming down some amazing hairpin turns, overtaking cars and minivans, dodging the piles of cow manure on the road (that’s odd), and generally going just a little too fast.

The I came around a blind downhill bend at 60kmph and came across these little fuckers…

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…just sitting there in the middle of the road.

Flashbacks of the cow in NT and the buffalo in Kakadu came back, I hit the brakes and the scooter slid…and slid…and slid… finally skidding to a stop a few meters from these stupid bastard buffalo.

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Who just looked at me and blinked like the bovine morons they are.

I freaked out more than a little – heart pounding, eyes wide, a real stress reaction – an adrenaline rush but not in a good way.

RULE NO 1 : Don’t speed downhill on a scooter. They don’t stop well.

RULE NO 2 : Don’t be a dick on a motorbike.

RULE NO 3 : Cows are transdimensional creatures and can appear suddenly out of thin air.

Anyway after that I scooted back a little to regain some composure, check the skidmarks both on the road and in my pants, and took a few snapshots – quietly hoping a semi trailer would fly around the bend and take these fuckers out. It was not to be and they wouldn’t move even for vans and motorcycles that slowly drove around them and tooted their respective horns. I calmed down after a bit, put on my helmet, and sloowly scooted around them.

Luckily I’d worn my brown shorts today,

The rest of the trip was uneventful and the trip back down the mountains was even more fun, with more temples and townships and tourist stops.

A perfect trip…except for those cows.

Bastards.