Languid. It had rained steadily and heavily for 5 days and once the storms passed everything was steamy and lethargic: the air, the water, the ground, the trees, the mountains. Moisture enveloped everything. The air was thick, the smallest movement barely detectable. The laundry hung damp, limp and listless.
Languid. The people I work with tend to their families and their own lives on weekends and I am left to tend to and nurture my aloneness. Saturdays are my days to head down the mountain to the markets and shops. The song-taews that run between my village and the city down the hill run inconsistently and I have yet to figure them out. The first passes my house around 7 every morning and I’ve learned over time that the last one leaves my village at 3:30 The last ride back up the mountain to home is at 5 PM. On weekends I try to get some laundry done soon after I wake so that’s it’s hung out and I’m set to go soon after that. But by 9 o’clock the song-taews seem to evaporate and I’m left waiting. There is no schedule, no consistent timetable to tell me when the next one will appear. Instead I just have to be disposed to wait. I have waited 15 minutes, a half an hour, an hour, two hours and more for this ride. My computer has to be put away, my front door has to be locked, my shoes need to be on so that I can dart to the road’s edge at a moment’s notice. I sit on the plastic chair on my patio reading or fussing over a crossword puzzle and I listen for the distinctive whirr of the diesel engine approaching from behind the hidden corner. This trip is my only scheduled activity for the day, for the weekend really, my only something-to-look-forward-to. It takes me away from myself and puts me among people. It is my chance to be slightly anonymous for a few hours.
Languid. Beginning on Wednesdays I start making a list of the things I need and want to buy. Food and necessities and treats to befriend me and comfort me throughout the week. I walk around the city exploring, stopping into shops along the way. I discovered a small store that sells only rice, different colors and varieties, including Jasmine and brown.
There’s a store just down from there with a large Health Food sign out front. I was excited when I spotted it, but quickly found that it sells nothing but frozen sausages and meatballs (pork, chicken, fish), nothing that a health food store back home would sell. I learned that the shops closest to the bus stop, the ones that cater to the local Burmese population, are more expensive than the supermarket a kilometer away. On a volunteer’s budget I don’t mind the extra walk. I happened upon a little restaurant that has homemade egg noodles for its soups and have now made that my go-to lunch stop. Little discoveries, little explorations mixed in with the weekly routine and these outings keep things interesting for me. As the morning wears on I wearily amble through the markets and look for just the right stalls to purchase the eggplants and the okra, the shitakes and the wood ears, the baby corn and the purple sweet potatoes. I don’t rush, it’s too hot as the sun peaks and my purchases weight me down. Plus, I have nothing else to do.
Languid. The song-taews from all over this narrow, sparsely populated province collect in a cramped and crowded dead end alley across the street from the market. Vendors ring the parking area and last minute purchases can be made. Rural villagers, some Thai Buddhist, some Thai Muslim, some Burmese, laden with packages of food and necessities, carrying bundles of flowers and bags of fish crowd into this alley and onto the buses that will take them back home. I join them now each weekend. I smile at my fellow travelers, nodding my sa-wat-dii, krap and anxiously wait for the song-taew to move and allow a needed breeze to infiltrate the back of the truck. Once home I unpack my treasures, mop my brow with an already sodden handkerchief and plop onto the hammock on the patio. With my bottle of water on the floor next to me I’ll jot down some notes on my experiences and I’ll read a few more chapters from whatever book I’m sluggishly getting through and I am grateful for my non-eventful day.