Yesterday Marjan and I hired taxi to take us on a day trip to visit Mae Hong Son, the nearby capital of the province. During the hours-long ride along winding roads through the hills I had plenty of time to stare out the window and think. I realized that I’ve only been in Thailand for about 10 days, but it feels like 2 months. It’s like being a kid again, when Saturday afternoons are the main unit of measure, when a 3-hour car ride is broken down into 10-minute intervals of, “Are we there yet?”, when each day is a highly complex learning experience, and when 2 months – a summer – well, you can’t even fathom the concept of the end of summer when it has just begun. I guess the key is the lack of monotony. As a kid you’re constantly learning new things, partially because you lack experience and partially because you’re constantly changing and growing – as are your friends. When each moment may reveal some momentous insight, time slows down.
I remember when I moved back to New York from Hungary, I was struck by how *boring* New York had become. This city that had so enthralled me when I moved there back in the mid-90’s had turned mundane. After years of trying to (as they say) get the magic back, I realized my perspective had changed in a way I hadn’t realized. In Budapest, even after I became an old pro (more or less) and fell into routines of work/eat/drink/sleep, I was constantly learning new things. With my fairly broken Hungarian, any interaction was either a challenge or an opportunity for me to practice. Every trip DrC and I took out to the countryside, to visit his parents in Zanka or grandmother/aunts/cousins in Kecel or other places, I learned something new about the country or culture or DrC or…. But New York offered no such enveloping challenge. If I wanted to visit a new part of Brooklyn, I’d HopStop it, jump on the train, and go. Simple. No problems communicating. I knew what to expect in the local deli. I understood how the trains and buses worked.
But I digress. I suppose what I’m saying is that I thrive on being a foreigner, a stranger, on feeling pleasantly overwhelmed. If I don’t have constant, multi-faceted opportunities to learn new things and to figure things out, I get BORED. So here I am, thinking, “If I extended my trip by another 10 days, I could visit Siem Reap *and* parts of southern Cambodia. Hmmm…”