When I arrived on your shores, I felt more despair and helplessness than I’ve ever felt. I was grieving and angry. But your sweet welcome instantly put a smile on my face. I sat in an outdoor restaurant with my back to a busy alley where motorbikes and tuk tuks were whizzing by while I drank a large beer that came already wrapped in a coozy. And I felt like things would be okay. You’ve shown me that you can go through several lifetimes of suffering and still be good people.
Over the course of the next several days, you helped me see that grief and sadness doesn’t have to defeat you. You welcomed me and you treated me with respect and kindness. Your generous spirit was in the smiles of the kids that walked past us. And in the tenacity of the cab driver that spent 30 minutes using Google Translate to try to communicate with us. It was in all the amazing recommendations a local gave us in Bangkok without expecting anything in return. It was in the guidance of the man whose name I’ll never know who helped us cross several busy intersections with a bemused smile on his face. It was perhaps something insignificant, but I’ll never forget him.
You’re not perfect, but you take care of yourself. I noticed that when I saw a homeless beggar pick up a tissue from the sidewalk and throw it away. You love and respect yourself, and you work hard to keep yourself looking good. That’s why during a 3-day long festival in Chiang Mai, with nothing but street food, I was hard-pressed to find litter anywhere. And even though I’ve always told myself that I couldn’t live in a place that is too hot and that doesn’t have a great system of public transportation, this always happens when you fall in love. Things you thought were deal breakers just don’t seem that important when you meet the right one.
You’re beautiful and you feel like home. Literally and figuratively. Your palm trees and makeshift conveniences remind me of the country where I was born. When I walk through your tiny towns and villages, with a lush green backdrop of nearby mountains, I’m reminded of childhood. It reminds me of home when you brew fresh coffee and fry bananas and put condensed milk on everything. But more than that, it’s a feeling. Because the way you treat me makes me feel like I’m already family.
You’ve shown me that no matter how dire or unpleasant my circumstances, I should be that guy helping two strangers cross the road with a smile on my face. Because it’s easy to be angry and mean-spirited; it’s even kind of fun. But you make me want to be a better person. Because you’ve shown me that you can face anything with kindness and warmth.
That could take a while though; I love being a bitch. But I feel comfortable enough with you to admit that, and I trust that you’ll love me anyway. The ladyboys of the Chiang Mai Cabaret would certainly love me anyway.
I love you, Thailand, because you’ve given me hope and filled me with endless joy. I come from a world where I can’t even trust my own neighbors. So giving me the gift of trust is more meaningful and important to me than anything else. Only a few short days into my trip, I already trusted you enough to eat sushi from a cart in the street. And my trust was rewarded; that sushi was delicious. Just like every meal in your country that is so good that it lingers in your memory for days.
I’ve fallen so deeply in love with you that I’m afraid all other places are now ruined. I can no longer imagine my life outside of your lush green spaces and your bustling city streets. I don’t know how I’ll be able to go back to any other city now that I know you. But I’ll be back here; I don’t think I can stay away.
Totally smitten with you,
(The gnome prefers the snowy landscapes of Scandinavia, but he’ll live.)