Thursday, June 27, 2013

Finding Home In A Buddhist Tiger Temple

Some dreams speak louder than others with an inflection that lets you know this is the real deal.
When my daughter was very young she wore a cheetah costume everywhere she went.  It was her cousin's dance costume and my daughter wore it when it was way too big all the way until the ankle elastics  tried desperately to hold on to her kneecaps.  Her room was done in cheetahs and she slept with a stuffed tiger at night.  We chased down tiger exhibits in every city we lived and she would cling to the protective fence telling me how one day she would be inside playing with the tigers.
Her declaration of mingling with big cats didn't spark and fade like most little girl imaginings but grew brighter, more determined every year.  There were dreams of zoo helping, rescue missions, and research on African charities that aid tigers.  Recent summers were consumed calculating expenses to see how much she would have to save to afford a wildlife adventure. But, like most teen girls, savings were sacrificed at the first sight of an amazing handbag.  Then along came her graduation trip to Thailand and she discovered that in this magical place tigers roamed free.  
Within a day she had tracked down a Buddhist Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Province.
 She researched to be sure this was not a tourist trap of drugged cats, that the facility was not on a world watch group, and that she could be assured interaction with the tigers.  With only one day free to spend outside of Bangkok, she chose the jungle over the pristine Thai beaches. 
Over the past 18 years I have listened to my child's words with love and enthusiasm, have cherished her quirky habits and have always encouraged her to follow her dreams.  I have learned the nuances that separate interest from true drive in her voice.  Watching her realize this life long dream I couldn't help but see my baby at five romping around in that cheetah costume, playfully growling and raising a paw with a big smile on her face.  And now, as we played with the tiger cubs together, I knew she was home.
Some friends asked if I was scared allowing her to be so close to such a dangerous animal.  I wasn't. I realized as she was being photographed lounging atop a full grown tiger, it was two years ago to the day that she was in Fort Worth, Texas, at Cook Children's Hospital prepping for open heart surgery.  That was the beast that scared me the most and she tamed it.  She is fearless when it matters, gentle when it is necessary.  I knew the tigers would recognize this in her like akin souls finding each other at long last.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Falling In Love With Bangkok

I have fallen in love with Bangkok. Head over heels, swooning heart, and bedazzled eyes in love! 
This city is ALIVE, vibrant, and oh so polite! It's also subliminally hyper-active.  The hustle and bustle never dies down.  When the day shift ends, the nightlife begins. Street food vendors triple in force to offer simple delicacies from sweet rice cakes to thick squid grilled just enough to sear the tentacles.  As the dinner crowd wanes and bars close up, fresh faces take over and carry Bangkok's night into dawn. 
Long before I rise in the morning, early dawn street vendors prepare breakfast, offering crispy fish in baskets, bright green guava in cellophane bags, and deep frying meat satay poked onto skewers.  The streets are a cacophony of smells that mingle into motorbike fumes and bake in the rising sun.  
All of Bangkok seems to work in circular cooperation.  From street vendors to transportation, there is a respect for constant movement, the need to get the nitty gritty done, and to do so without complaining.
Life in Bangkok is not a spectator sport.  Life here demands interaction. Tourism in this great city is no exception. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Market Fever

Bangkok has no shortage of markets.  I am a seasoned bargain hunter, a self-proclaimed "deal whisperer", but Bangkok has put my endurance skills to the test!  With sweltering heat and miles of merchandise, I am no match for local endurance.  But I get a little stronger every day.

Not only are deals loaded into wholesale markets, but individual retailers sprout out of sidewalk crevices at all hours of the day and night. With an exchange rate that highly favors the American dollar, deals here are so cheap one can almost feel guilty. Almost.
I dove right in to the market lifestyle.  Overwhelming at first, the labyrinth of stall-lined alleys, makeshift galleries, and swirling smells of city life and street food quickly settle into acceptance.  I marveled at just how much one 5x20 space can hold! Two essential survival facts: There is no luxury of personal space in Bangkok- and pedestrians do not have the right of way.  Western indignities are not welcome here and polite Thai manners are contagious.  (A mutual respect model from which Americans could learn a ALOT!)
Mannequins come to Bangkok to relive their glory days. It's a comical mix of vintage faces, carnival-like expressions and random body parts strewn about.  It's flea market kitsch meets House of Horrors.
My favorite market so far is Khao San Road in the Old City.  Amongst the trendy goods and jewelry shops, are true artisans offering high quality handmade goods at unbelievable prices. While my daughter opted for artist tees with offbeat pics, I buried myself in a Nepali woolen shop where I was worried I might have to be surgically extracted.
The only downfall to Bangkok markets in the summer months is that the weather is unfathomably hot!  Sweat will happen by the buckets and constant hydration is a first aid must!  Pineapple slices and fresh fruit drinks are readily available and highly recommended.  I have perspired my way through Pratunuam, Khao San, Siam Fashion City and Chinatown so far this week.  With the weekend mega markets starting tomorrow, I think I will opt for the indoor air-conditioned luxury of the MBK market today.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Anchors Aweigh!

This is it!  The graduation weekend is here! Family has arrived, rehearsal is done, the big show is tomorrow morning and then I have officially reached that pinnacle of raising a teenager: the high school diploma!  The chains of high school drama, district boundaries, and attendance mandates have been flung off and the brave new world seems suddenly wide open with possibilities!
My daughter has already been to 90% of the US and Canada so when thinking of the ultimate graduation celebration destination we chose Thailand.  This time next week my daughter and I will be somewhere in the sky jetting off to meet Hubby who will be working in Bangkok.  Hubby has filled our heads with the sights and sounds of this exotic city and we are ready to leave behind the familiar for the great unknown.
With a 22 hour flight in my near future I have planned a very special anchor project that travels light with minimal fuss.  Yep- it's time to unfurl the travel cross stitch pack and needlework my way to the other side of the world.  In prep for a November art show in Galveston, I have designed an historical sampler centered with a giant anchor and southern charm.  (Sneak peeks to come in future posts.)
Anchors are iconic coastal life and ring in the summer with a promise of new memories and colossal adventures.  Now that Baby Girl is 18 and a high school graduate, a new chapter in our relationship begins.  I see her as a young adult about to set out on her life journey- one that includes the dreams of far off places, making a difference and discovering a new world to call her own.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Teal

Twelve years of school are winding to a close, college acceptance has been achieved, and vacation plans are now pen marked on the summer calendar.  Relatives will be arriving this week for graduation celebrations and laughter will replace the hectic hurry of the school year.  The squalor in the parlor has been neatly tidied and I am left to contemplate the simple joys in front of me.
Teal has always been my serenity color.  It calms me.  Soothing as the sea and crisp as line-dried linen, I could swim in this color forever.  It is the siren shade of fresh starts and reminds me that I have two months before Baby Girl leaves home and starts her new life three hundred miles west in San Antonio.  I think of all the blessings that have paved her path and I am so thankful for the journey of motherhood. Teal was Baby Girl's nursery color eighteen years ago, so perhaps it's no coincidence I am craving this color palette today.
She is wood and crystal.  Stubborn, like her father, and beautiful (like her mother- snicker snicker snortle!)- she is a simple country girl with the complexity of prisms in sunlight. I don't worry about her going off to college because she is a traveler at heart- a student of the world and she is not one content to be confined.  I know letting her go is the beginning to her own spectacular journey.  So for the days and weeks ahead I will enjoy the simplicity, wander our vacation world, and enjoy every moment alongside the teal waters under the rotund Texas sun.