We asked for it. It’s definitely been an adventure.
It feels like there are moments in life where if you pause, you can see that disentangling the strands will make sense and eventually fit into the complex mosaic of a story. But right now, a muddled mess of new experiences, celebrations, gratitude, and natural disasters.
Obie’s 12th Birthday
Rewind to October 2, Obie’s 12th birthday. It was a pretty epic day. Order of celebrations:
- 8:30 am. Wake up to home-like breakfast of corn pancakes and bacon. Slightly burnt and unsightly because we made the bacon in a wok and the gas stove doesn’t go to low. But still, like home.
- 9:00-10:30 am. Play video games with friends from home. Read texts and get calls from afar. Obie feels loved and remembered.
- 11:30 am-1:00 pm. Try out new drama class. A success! Discover a 3D printing cafe and eat a celebratory coconut dessert with Obie's picture on it.
- 1:30 pm. Head to the biggest mall in Chiang Mai. Go to a Chinese hot pot restaurant that offers so many surprises!
- Free manicures while you are waiting for your table.
- Kids get light-up wands.
- Food delivered by robots on wheels.
- Noodle guy does burning man-like dance in front of the table.
- Human-size stuffies placed at every table where someone doesn’t have a date so they won’t feel lonely.
- Birthday song by staff with flashing lights
- 3:00 pm. Next to the restaurant is a huge arcade. Marvel at parents’ inner competitive streaks in Air Hockey.
- 5:00 pm. Home for birthday cake.
- 7:00 pm. Obie and Chris special time at the Sunday night market, where Obie gets to choose his present: a little elephant personalized with his name and the number ’12.’
Now if that wasn’t an adventure of a day…
We had read enough translated articles from a Chiang Mai news site to know there was a chance the Ping River was going to flood, but I suppose we just didn’t believe it. Even though our house is a block from the river. Even as we obsessively watched the numbers of the river height steadily rising.
It started after we fell asleep following Obie's birthday celebration. At 1am, Chris and I wake up to a text from our AirBnB hosts and thus began the never-ending night into morning. We may have to evacuate. 3am – Chris goes out to check the river level. Definitely still rising. 4am – We definitely have to evacuate. Chris and I start packing. 5am – wake up the kids and the AirBnB hosts come over. Kids exhausted, lying on the couches, Chris helping our hosts move furniture to the second floor, turn off breakers, get the house ready for the coming flood.
The plan was that we would have an extended breakfast at a fancy hotel buffet (one where we could sit for 4+ hours) and then the AirBnb hosts would take us to another of their properties where we could wait out the flood and the post-flood maintenance. Arrive at 6 am. We sit. Eat first course, second course, so many courses – drawing out time, side eyes from waiters wondering when these disheveled farangs will leave.
As we wait, we watch reports in on flooding, and suddenly, we see that the road to our fancy hotel has also flooded. I walk out to the front and see this.
Now up until now, we hadn’t really felt much. It all seemed rather orderly and scientific. At this point, the faint jangles of alarm bells in my head. We cannot get stuck at this hotel. We call our Air BnB hosts to pick us up NOW.
They arrive. And proceed to tell us they got it wrong and that their tenants at the other house are not leaving until the next day. So now we have to find a hotel. Mind you, it is teeming rain. Onlookers line the streets, watching the water levels rising. Thankfully, we exit the flood zone and arrive in the old city and hop from one hotel to another in a downpour to find one with space for a family of 5 (not easy to find!). We stay there for the night. It has a pool and a lady who serves mango with sticky rice stationed in front. Everyone is tired, grumpy, relieved, and some of us would best be described as delirious.
I am writing now a day later from our new temporary home. It feels like we are starting over – getting to know a new neighborhood, where the markets are, how to get filtered water, etc. But that’s ok.
It’s Yom Kippur morning. I paused, meditated, thought about how far from home we are and what life would be like during these holy days in a place more familiar.
I’ve been sitting with this thought of the nature of knowing. How the kids – for the first time in their lives – get to see that we (Chris and I) really don’t know what we are doing. They witness us navigate neighborhoods, transport, cultural mis/communications, unfamiliar sites, and natural disasters, observing their parents’ previously held omniscience slowly dissipate. We of course try to provide a safely held space for this emerging realization. And yet, the realization seems a universal one, not relegated to the kids among us. Of slowly disentangling the illusion of knowing and wondering what the fallen facades might lead to.