Archive for the 'Thailand' Category

Thai Beach Resort Pool Deck Flashback

I was sitting in a lounge chair of a cheesy beach resort, sipping a fruity drink with a twisty straw and a flower AND a friggin umbrella, resting my sun-scorched skin and listening to my ipod and generally doing everything one ought to do in a Thai beach town, when I looked across the pool deck and saw this father and daughter. Real pink, real British, having a conversation straight off the Friends and Family ESL book companion CD: “Have you got on your sun cream?” “Yes, I put it on this morning.” “You ought to reapply; ask mum for the bottle.”

And I kinda smiled to myself, staring out and thinking about nothing really, watching this dad rub sun block across his daughter’s shoulders and back, when I had a flash of, “Man, I remember that.” So I wrote this—which is far more introduction than one ought to ever give a poem, let alone one written on an iPhone.

Can you remember the feel
of your father’s hands?—
When you were young,
they’d close around yours,
their massiveness a cave
of callouses and rough patches
that turned dark
when you flew inside.

You could live there,
you’d thought,
blind against that rock
when you crossed the street,
when he’d reach behind the driver’s seat
of that tin-drum car
and click your seatbelt shut;
when he’d rub on the sun block,
all those hardened places
scratching against
your smooth
in the summertime,
on the swim deck,
where you’d laid on your belly
with your friends and he’d said,
“These are the happiest days of your life,”

You’d felt something small
and crushing coming.

And it’s not so smooth now, is it?
It’s sun-spotted and speckled
with moles they want to scrap off
and biopsy;
it’s red and wrinkled
like deep drought ditches
in the morning,
in the mirror,
all of the mirrors of the world,
all the cheap hotel rooms
that have become your homeland
and you can’t believe it was ever smooth,
that you were ever young.

You can’t remember the last time
you held your father’s hand
and felt like you could get lost inside—
a bat flapping
its song against the rock.

Bumrungrad, 8th Wonder of the World

Look closely—that security guard is SMILING

I’ve got a new travel activity to recommend to all Americans: getting a friggin medical check-up at friggin Bumrungrad.

Okay, so maybe not all Americans, just those who aren’t Congressmen or insanely wealthy. But for the rest of yous, the 99%ers—you need to get on this. It’s more mind-blowing than Machu Picchu, more culturally enlightening than the Vatican, steeped in more WTF-age than riding reliable, affordable public transit in fill-in-the-blank Western European city, when you begin to realize what’s actually possible in the world and how your Americanness has caused you settle.

Behold Bumrungrad: 8th Wonder of the World.

Bumrungrad Hospital is a big glittery hospital in Bangkok and the first place most Southeast Asian expats with medical insurance hope to get whisked off to in the event of one of those horrible, limb-mangling accidents that seem to come along with living in this part of the world. It’s the stuff of expat folklore: gleaming facilities, attentive doctors, phalanxes of nurses, fucking fresh-cut flowers in your private hospital room and on-site Starbucks.

Friends had recommended going there for a comprehensive health screening, the Big Mac of annual physicals, and seeing as though I both worked like a motherfuck this summer and hadn’t had an annual physical in like four annuals, I decided to treat myself. I booked a Regular health check-up package, though with a liver function panel, chest X-ray, stool exam AND a PAP, there was nothing really “regular” about it. For shits and giggles and an extra $30, I tacked on a thyroid level test, another thing I’m supposed to do every year but hadn’t in several.

It was my first morning in Bangkok. After Malaysia, I was more prepared for the plunge-into-wealth-and-consumerism that trips to the developed world now entail. I sat outside a money exchange house, waiting for it to open (it was only 7:30; did Bangkok not get the memo about the Asian world opening up shop at 6am?), before giving up and grabbing a motorbike across town. We weaved through the law-abiding, lane-driving, car-ridden traffic (ah) and the air felt cold and dry (ah) and I thought, Shit, I must really be living somewhere intense if Bangkok feels like a mellow, comfortable city.

After twenty minutes of high-rises and stoplights people actually stopped at, we pulled up in front of what looked like a 4-star hotel—valets and mirrored pillars and pruned shrubbery. I giggled.

I rode an elevator up to the Welcome Center, where a man pressed his palms together and bowed while another man whisked a big rolley chair out and seated me behind this massive desk, the Bangkok skyline stretching out in the floor-to-ceiling windows behind. I felt like a millionaire about to open a bank account. The man behind the desk asked me a few stock questions, clicked my photo, asked me to please wait just a quick moment while they printed my health card. He returned in about two minutes, apologizing graciously for the delay.

Yes, that’s a koi fish pond.

Things got more ridiculous when I rode the elevator up to the next floor, where smooth-voiced receptionists confirmed my information, directed me to the cashier (who accepted US dollars), and whisked me back to start my blood work. What was happening? Why wasn’t I being ignored? Where were the surly receptionists with mile-long fingernails who couldn’t tell me how much my co-pay was? Where were the screaming children and tired single moms and the junkie freaking out and the random bleeding dude who wasn’t bleeding bad enough to be triaged and so was whimpering mournfully like a dog in the corner?

It reminded me of the first time I went to a non-Oakland-public-school and had an actual PE class. Like, with equipment and uniforms and planned units on specific sports and activities I was expected to partipate in. Wasn’t PE sit-on-the-bench-and-kick-it hour? I’d been confused but intrigued by this sudden plunge into functionality. Like, was this how the rest of the world acted?

I had the same kind of thoughts in Bumrungrad. Why wasn’t I waiting? Why was I at all moments being accompanied by someone, some smiling nurse who was answering my questions and efficiently-but-not-hurriedly directing me this way and that?

After I finished my blood work, the nurse handed me a juice box, “You can finish your fast now.” How nice, I thought. I’ve been fasting for 12 hours, so yeah, I could really go for a juice, thank you.

But the real kicker came when she led me to the next room where there was no shit a breakfast buffet. Like, bananas and yogurt and sweet buns and coffee and tea and more juice and a choice of whole or skimmed milk. I stocked up. I stocked up like a fucking white trash kid who’d snuck into Sizzler. I’d like to blame it on the fasting but that’s bullshit—in moments like these, our true natures emerge, and there I was balancing two bowls, a steaming cup of coffee and another juice box.

After scarfing down my breakfast, I got poked and podded by an OB-GYN who talked like a female version of the oh-sexy-girlfriend exchange student from Sixteen Candles (“vagina feel very gooooood“) and instructed me to do twenty Kegel exercises per day (“very good for the woooooman“). By the time they led to the next room, where they gave a key to a locker in which there was a little linen suit and slippers, I was semi-hysterical with giggles, in that way that trashy people who suddenly find themselves in un-trashy environments are. I used to work in a fine-dining restaurant that attracted a lot of these types and I was only mildly embarrassed to feel that same shit-eating grin stretching across my own face—only mildly because I was so damn happy.

So after the chest x-ray I went back to the breakfast buffet room to wait for my test results. As in, the test results that would be ready in ten minutes as opposed to FOUR FUCKING DAYS, if I called this automated number and successfully navigated the maze of prompts that seemed to lead in a tail-eating circle. I poured myself another cup of coffee and surveyed all the other patients—wealthy Asians with milky skin, wealthy Middle Easterners with scarves and iPhones, wealthy Westerners with blue jeans and bemused expressions. And me.

I started humming—“Blood checked, stool checked, everything checked, Oh you fancy huh? You fancy huh?”

Like any proper World Wonder, Bumrungrad is a testament to what the human will and intellect can execute when properly harnessed. It opens your mind, expands the possibilities, takes your breath away then checks to see that the breath is recovered in a healthy and age-appropriate interval.

But I’m no fool—this was health care for the 1%, which I happen to be a part of in Thailand. Maybe health care is this good in the States, if you’re like the President or Bill Gates. But still, it’s a fucking experience to step on to the other side, to feel what things could be like—to feel fancy, huh?

“The River That Empties Into The Ocean”: Glimpse Piece #2

Wax refugees from Khao Lan

So. Finally, finally, nearly a year after I originally landed on this continent, the second piece for my Glimpse project was published. You can check it out here.

The piece depicts my trip to the Thai border, where I searched for the remains for an old refugee camp my friends’ family passed through. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ll recognize part of the journey. What I didn’t write about at the time—because I knew I wanted to save it for this piece—was the strangely fortuitous meeting that occurred after I’d returned to Cambodia, made entirely possible by this blog. (Hey, I still may not have monetized this thing, but at least I’m getting something out of it!)

With the publication of this piece, I’ve officially completed the Glimpse Correspondent program. As such, I was asked to write a few words about my experience. What I basically told him was how incredibly valuable the program was to me. Getting the clips was nice, getting a stipend was nice, but what it really came down to was the editorial guidance. Sarah hashed through some insanely deep-level edits with me, giving me the kind of feedback you usually have to pay a lot of fucking money for.

I was gonna come out here and do the project regardless—I’d already booked my tickets when I’d heard my project was accepted—but it would have ended up being a much different project if it hadn’t been for all the support and guidance I received. I think the process pushed me to grow a lot, both creatively and personally. And I secretly kind of doubt I’d be back out here now if that hadn’t happened.

So read up! It’s mega long, so grab some coffee and get comfy. Then tell me what you think—and what you for real think, not what you polite think. [Insert smiley face]

On The Road to Nowhere: Finding an Anti-Place, Part 3

Mai Rut. Mai Rood. You couldn’t even be sure of the name, and you sure as hell couldn’t be sure of the history. But it existed, that was the important part, and I was going to find it.

I sat on the back of a motorbike and scanned the landscape. The town of Mai Rut was 5km from the main highway, and there’d actually been a motorbike driver, waiting on the platform in the shade for someone like me to set off a blue pick-up truck. Thailand was otherwise devoid of motorbike drivers; although a break from the constant barrage of “La-dee, moto-bike!” was refreshing, I kept finding myself needing a motorbike and finding none. But one appeared just when I needed it, and I suppose that’s how Thailand worked for me, how I’ll come to think of those three days spent along the border.

I’d seen footage of Mai Rut, at the Bophana Audiovisual Center, from an old French newsreel. I could piece together bits and pieces, stray words, but mostly it was a study in the visual, squinting at the screen and trying to memorize every little bit of earth. I knew I’d later try and find the place, what was left of the place, and this was the best clue I was going to get. (It was silly, but I kept scanning the faces too, as though I’d happen to see the two people I knew in the crowd, as though that would be a clue too.)

And now I was there, or whizzing through there, and there was nothing but trees and grass and the odd clearing. We moved too fast; I didn’t know how to tell the motorbike driver what I was looking for, or even to slow down, so I just let him drive, let us move through the landscape of lost stories.

He left me off at the end of the road, where earth gave way to water and boats bobbed and nets hung, flies buzzing over sheets of fish and the smell of fish, fish, drying in the sun. Houses stood on stilts and streets of cement had been made. This was the town, not the remains of the camp, which must have been somewhere outside of the town, fenced off by barbed wire the camera kept focusing on and off of, a beat-you-over-the-head kind of metaphor but a metaphor nonetheless, in a newsreel, which I could appreciate. This was not it, but it was the closest I was going to get.

Mai Rood was a quiet little fishing town with not a lot going on. People sat in doorways. Children ran naked, grinned and disappeared. Women sat cutting fish, and men reeled in the nets from painted wooden boats. Dogs sniffed at the sand, littered and muddy; a man picked at the wounds that covered his body, little scabs that spoke of disease and something else, a language I didn’t understand.

I looked at the faces—many of them were Khmer, obviously Khmer. There’s a brown to pure Khmer skin, while Thai has more of a yellow glow. I thought of what the man at the guesthouse in Trat had told me, how a lot of the Cambodian refugees had stayed once their camps had closed, resettled in Thailand.

Like him, there were stories trapped in these people—or rather, trapped in the incommunicable space between me and them. They held answers, and if I could have sat with them, listened to them, I could have pieced together an approximation of another story, trapped in a different incommunicable space, the one between live and death—the story I had come to understand.

In the picture my friends have from Mai Rut, there’s my friend, a newborn in his mother’s arms. His mother looks like the woman I knew, strong and sturdy and alive, and his father like the man I knew, small and frail and dark. Beside them were two little girls who looked nothing like my friends’ parents—different features, much too dark-skinned.

“Who are these girls?”

“Some girls that came over with us. They were orphans. Or their parents said they were orphans. so they could come to the US. Or maybe my parents said they were their kids too.”

“But they look nothing like you guys.”

He shrugged. “So what happened to them?” I ask.

Shrugged again. “They probably had family here already, and met up with them once we got here.”

“Have you ever tried to find them?”

“No,” he answered kind of far-away, as though the thought had never occurred to him.

And I thought of that picture and wondered if I had it, if I could show it to these people, even without a common language, and if anyone would have known or remembered. I wondered what the hell that would accomplish anyway, other than confirming that it had all actually happened. I wondered what the hell I was even doing there, what I was looking for, what any of it was, let alone what it meant.

I wandered.

Closest thing to a remnant I found: Red Cross symbol on a lamppost back along the main highway

On The Road to Nowhere: Finding an Anti-Place, Part 2

Our pick-up truck bounded down the smooth pavement, creating a muggy breeze. We moved down a strip of the coast, a highway and a shade of green I think I’ll forever associate with Thailand, and that’s the place the people came through. It was 30 years ago and there’s not a lot left—unless you know where to look.

I didn’t. I kept craning my neck through the grating of the covered truck bed, trying to catch a sign for Khao Lan. I was lucky, I discovered, in that a giggly group of five teenage girls with straw mats and beach towels were getting off at Khao Lan as well. They’d spend the entire 40-minute ride squealing and chatting and texting. When we glided to an easy stop, they pointed and exclaimed to me, “Khao Lan!”

We trundled off, stood on the swampy roadside of a military checkpoint. “Beach?” one of the girls asked me shyly.

“Museum,” I replied.

“Museum,” she repeated softly. The word caused a buzz among her friends. “Museum!” one of them exclaimed assuredly, and pointed to a white structure obscured by the green.

I thanked them with a small bow of my head—I hadn’t learned “thank you” in Thai—and watched them disappear down the road.

The museum was modern, diagonal columns and a glass skylight structure that didn’t at all seem to fit the landscape. The adjoining parking lot was empty and the museum gates locked.

The guard at the military checkpoint back on the road made an eating motion. He pointed to his watch, held up one finger. I nodded and wandered back down towards the museum grounds, thinking how strangely simple it was, how much you could communicate without words, without a common language, just signs and gestures and hints, a smile and a bow.

Green signs were stuck amid the grasses, and those communicated a lot less. Were they marking something related to the camp that had once stood there? I couldn’t be sure, but photographed them just in case.

I walked deeper into the grounds. A buzz grew from the trees like a living thing, like it weren’t the product of a living thing, a million unseen insects, but an animal in and of itself. It whined and hissed and followed me down the road.

There were beaten bits of earth, what had once been a road. Chunks of cement remained, with earth growing back up around it, like a scab before it peels. There were clearings in the grass, and I tried to figure out if they were remains or something used for farming, the stray huts I could spot off between the trees.

But I walked further and found translated markers—something, not in a common language, but my language, a scribble I could understand. I held my breath and tried to imagine tents and roads and some 90,000 people.

I couldn’t. It was just wind and rubble, stairs to nowhere and the earth growing back up around.

The museum was open by the time I got back, and I slid off my shoes and stepped inside. A lone female attendant smiled at me and went back to sweeping the floor.

The museum was strange. It was mostly a tribute to the Queen, a tribute to her goodwill as evidenced by her selfless saving of Cambodian refugees. Everything was framed in that context—photographs of a glamorous white-skinned woman walking through a city of tents in a white suit, a floppy sun hat and Jackie-O sunglasses. She crouched beside the thin and sick, bellies swollen and eyes dulled, a look of practiced concern. She sat before a group of children, an opened book in her hands: The children listened rapt, the words of the Queen forever imprinted in their minds.

Subtext: Thailand is the only country in SE Asia to have never officially fallen under imperalist control.

But still, she’d done a good thing, a damn good thing. The museum included three life-size scenes that reminded me of wildlife dioramas, the kind my best friend meticulously restores, repainting eyes and gluing on fake fur.

Wax Cambodian figures, their bodies worn and their faces contorted by grief, stood in varying poses of despair, before a painting of thick jungle, more faces and bodies coming through the trees. Other scenes depicted varying elements of camp life: cooking pots of rice, a white woman holding a stethoscope to the chest of a small wax infant. The dark Cambodian bodies grew plumper, more solid.

I wondered if that’s what it’d looked like—the emergence from the woods and the camp life. I thought of the newsreel footage of camps I’d seen, the faces in the camps, and decided it was worse.

(“You’ve seen The Killing Fields?” Lisa asked my mom once. My mom said yes. Lisa nodded. “It was much worse.”)

For its oddity and drama, I wondered, if there were any other museums like this, that documented this particular snippet, this part of journey, this freeze-frame from the film reel of a movie you’ve never managed to see all of, keep catching out of sequence or coming in half-way through.

I stood barefoot in an empty museum of transience, while the earth outside slowly swallowed the remains of what was left, which wasn’t much at all. I tucked some crumbled bills into the donation box, slid my shoes back on, and stepped out into the heat.

On The Road to Nowhere: Finding an Anti-Place,Part 1

"We're on the road to nowhere..."

I rode, blue pick-up truck bouncing, through the lush green and muggy grey of a Thai highway. I was squeezed between a bucket of paint, a woman’s groceries and the soft squirming limbs of two small children. Men stood on rice stacks on the back of the trailer, clutching the grating as the breeze moved through their hair.

I was on the local “taxi,” domed trucks with wooden benches in the back, and I was on something of a mission—an anti-mission to find an anti-place, a futile mission to find the What’s Left of a transient moment, blue tents and barbed wire, where babies were born and fates were written in the dusty earth.

So it was more than a visa run. I’d come to the Trat province to find the remains of Mai Rut, a Cambodian refugee camp where my friends’ parents had escaped to, where one of my friends was born. I knew it was a somewhat fruitless endeavor; refugee camps are purposefully made from temporal materials. Still, I wanted to see it, or as close as it I could come to. It was an inbetween point, a turning point, where lives were changed. There’d be little left to find, and that was, I supposed, part of the point.

I’d gotten into the town of Trat the night before, still startled by the disparity between Thailand and Cambodia. I found the backpacker area, got a cheap room in a cute guesthouse. I’d proceeded to wander around, asking every guesthouse keeper and travel agent about where I could hire a tour guide. They looked at me like I was crazy. It was the one time I was ready to throw down some money to hire someone who knew the area, and I was getting nowhere.

“Why you want to go there?” the man at Pop Guesthouse asked, eying me carefully.

“I’m working on a project. My friend was born there.”

He shook his head. “There’s nothing there. Nothing to see.” It was the same answer I’d gotten from everyone else, but it felt like he was holding back. I paused a moment, then shrugged, said thanks anyway, and continued on.

I rounded a corner, to the block behind. After walking a bit, the same man poked his head out of a doorway. “Oh, hello again,” I smiled, confused as to how he’d gotten there.

He waved me over. He spread a map out on a table, pointed. “This Mai Rood,” he pointed. It was spelled differently, but sounded the same. “But nothing to see there.” He paused. “But here, Khao Lan,” his finger moved up the green spindle of coast, “there is a museum for the refugee.”

“A museum?” I asked, amazed.

He nodded. “For the Queen. She make the refugee camp for Cambodians.” He explained how to get there, wrote the name in Thai for me in my notebook.

I sensed my moment of opportunity.

“Did you live here then?”

He nodded.

“You were a little boy?” I asked.

“No, I was 18!”

“No!” I exclaimed, smiling. (Flattery gets you everywhere.) I paused. “Do you remember it?”

He nodded again. “Yes, I work on the border then. In my uncle’s orchard.” He pointed to a place right along the black line.

“There? Did you see a lot of people coming in?”

“Yes. A lot of people come through the orchard.” He stopped there. I tried to imagine it, to hold some kind of image of what that must have looked, been like—the first foreign eyes to see these people straggle out of four years of unthinkable misery.

We stood there in silence. “Most of the camps were up here, right?” I pointed to the Northern border.

He nodded again. “Yes, but here, not so many landmines. So it’s better.” He paused again, another muggy silence. “The people here, they come from Battambang, this way,” he drags his finger across the dim yellow of Cambodia’s eastern edge along the map. I nodded.

“Mai Rood, it’s a fishing town. Big town.” I nodded, waiting. “Many Cambodians live there,” he added briefly.


“Yes. Here too,” he pointed at the ground. “Trat too.”

“People from the camps? They stayed?”

He nodded again. We stood another moment. “Maybe I have picture somewhere. Maybe you want to see it.”

My eyes widened. “Definitely!”

“I have map too. I go look and bring it to your guesthouse. You stay—” and he named my guesthouse.

“Yeah,” I responded, amazed. What was this guy, the hospitality ninja?

“I see you earlier.” He paused. “Okay,” he folded up his map and smiled. That was it; we were done talking.

Of course I wanted to know more. Of course he knew more, more he wasn’t saying. But who was I to ask, to push? I’d already gotten far more than I otherwise would have.

I thought about the time it would take to coax the whole story out. I wondered for a moment if he’d ever even told it. Why should he, now, there, with me, a Western girl wandered in from the street? It would take months, I decided—at least that, and I don’t have that now. But if I really want to do this project, and really want to do it right, that’s what it’s going to take.

But for now I had all I was going to get. And it was a helluva lot more than I’d come with.

Border Crossing: Searching the Landscape for Clues

I’m staring through a bus window, scanning for clues.

A month in Phnom Penh and I’m finally leaving the city. I need a new visa, and I was planning to come to the Thai border anyway, to search for the remains of a refugee camp—as though the land could hold stories, or bits of stories; as though it could tell them and I’d be able to hear it.

I look out at the rumbly pavement, the lumbering trucks, the dusty shoulder and the green, green beyond. I don’t see any traces. I see thatched roofs and hammocks between the trees; I see bone-white cows laying in the dirt and houses perched on stilts like skinny legs. I see roadside petrol stands and carts of rubble with young boys sitting atop the heap, staring back through the window at me. I see palms reflected in still water.

Where did the people walk? Somewhere, once, there were paths, and this land saw it, was it. I’m along the Southeast of Cambodia, heading into the Thailand’s Trat Province. It wasn’t one of the main avenues for escape to Thailand—those were in the north—but enough people came this way for there to have been two refugee camps, from what I’ve been able to learn. And I see no traces of their journey.

How quickly, I think, the land swallows human traces. I think of the images of saw I Phnom Penh after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, a little less than four years after having been evacuated: it was rubble, crumble, weeds growing tall and stoplights swinging silent. It was surprising how quickly the earth could undo things.

I think of the accounts of refugees I’ve read. The danger was immense, especially for people already physically weakened by years of starvation and overwork. I think of Vietnamese soldiers, fake Khmer Rouge soldiers, Thai bandits, sleeping landmines—all that people risked to walk through this place that I’m gliding through, plexiglass and air-conditioning. And isn’t that the truth of it?—all I can know of it the warp in the window, the transparent reflection of my own face obscuring the landscape that once held answers, that maybe still does, maybe has its own recurrent dreams, of footsteps marching.

I think this as we climb through the Cardamom Mountains, bus heavy and wheezing. We arrive at the Thai border, our gaggle of Westerners clucking at the Immigration window. (Isn’t this the truth of it?) I buy a coffee; we pile into a different mini-bus and move away from Cambodia and deeper into Thailand.

And it’s different, very different, in a way that surprises me. Borders are usually blurry to me, cultures overlapping like a Venn Diagram. But this one, the contrasts seems stark.

It’s not just that everyone’s driving on the British side of the road, not just that the cars are all newer and shinier. The green is greener in Thailand, I think. There’s no trash on the sides of the road. The electrical wires extend in an orderly fashion, don’t tangle like dreadlocks. There’s more road signs, and they’re crisper, brighter, perkier.

After a month in Cambodia’s capital and five hours chugging through its countryside, Thailand strikes me as wealthy, lavishly wealthy—but something else too. Calm? Peaceful? Something emanates through the lushness, which seems unexplainably lusher than Cambodia. It reminds me of rich kid’s skin, how it seems to glow—how when I was young I learned to spot rich kids by their skin, and I remembering asking my Dad once, “Why do rich kids’ skin glow like that?” and he said, “Access to good health care.” And that made sense, logically, but still didn’t explain all of the glow, or why me and my friends didn’t have it.

And to me, Thailand glows in that way—gleams, even. I stare out at it, the ease and grace it permeates. I want to call it an innocence, but I don’t think it’s that. It’s a stability, I think, perhaps the result of having not been at war, wars. Is this the landscape of peace, of a place that’s managed to never be under the hold of imperialism, that’s maintained a precious degree (or illusion, depending on who you ask) of neutrality?

In comparison to Thailand, I begin to wonder if Cambodia’s landscape does bear wounds, bear a kind of witness—dulled and muted and hard to notice once your eyes have become adjusted to it, like a silhouette of mountains against the night’s sky. Will I be able to see it better when I cross back, the other direction?—what I have easily, automatically normalized.

I stare out the window, searching.

Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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