Tag Archives: writing

A reason to love

This post was written as an assignment for a writing course I am currently doing (and enjoying): 15 Days of Writing True.

Category: A reason to love

This photo of my husband and I was a ‘selfie’ snapped on a recent trip to Thailand, on a khlong boat en route to Pratunam in Bangkok.

I hadn’t wanted to travel by boat. It was hot, muggy, and I wished my husband would just hop into a cab with me. I resented our different views around money and convenience in that moment.

We were in Bangkok, where I’d spent some time in previously. It was my husband’s first visit to the city. I hadn’t seen *everything*, but I thought I knew something about getting around.

On this day we had just checked in to this apartment, with a few hours to go before we were due to go for dinner on a boat. I had made a reservation online and was anxious that we get there on time. At the apartment, I realised the BTS (train) station was further away than I’d thought it would be. I sent a message to the guy who owned the Airbnb apartment we were staying at to ask him what the best way to get to our destination was. He made a few suggestions, including catching a ‘ferry’ behind our condo.

I’d never heard of any other boat service which operated outside of the ones on the Chao Phraya River, and looking around it seemed unlikely to me that there would be boats of any sort around where we were.

But we walked out to find it, and we found it quicker than I expected us to. It was a little dirty and confusing. I saw no clear signs, certainly not for English speakers. No staff. No foreigners. No ticketing system. I looked online for answers which I did not find. A boat arrived, and then another … from the opposite direction. The boats were so speedy, the people who got on and off so nimble. A lady we approached told us in halting English the direction that we should take and that it would take roughly 40 minutes to get to where we wanted to go (after which we would still have to transit to other mediums of transport).

It felt too hard and unnecessary – so I suggested trying out the boat another time. (Secretly, I didn’t mind if we didn’t).

We took a taxi to the BTS station that night.

The next day, my husband suggested a walk by the water. So after breakfast we walked back there, passing a live fire drill (complete with real fire and extinguishers) on the way. This time we crossed the bridge to the other side and kept walking alongside the canal.

My ears felt strange. Then I realised it was quiet and peaceful. Just across the road were tall skyscrapers, luxurious condos, the sound of traffic … here, life by the river followed an entirely different rhythm. We walked past a few street hawkers, who didn’t interact with us as hawkers in more touristy areas do – they simply stood by their stalls without trying to sell us anything. We saw men working with electrical equipment, efficiently but seemingly totally relaxed – some had no safety goggles on. Every few steps we experienced something else. A plant garden which took me by surprise. Beautiful graffiti. Rubbish floating in the canal. Little eateries, with delicious aromas. Makeshift homes.

I think now of the best word to describe it all, and unexpectedly the word that emerges is ‘harmony’, which is not to say that I don’t think people there struggle or face challenges. But somehow, the air carried no feeling of tension or strife.

I saw people who lived and worked peacefully, quietly, hidden away in a corner of this huge metropolis. I wondered about them, and I wondered about what I’d do, how I’d live, in their shoes. I gazed at the lovely bunches of pink bougainvillea which someone had thought to line the sides of the smelly canal with.

Beauty in the midst of imperfection.

I walked on, next to my husband. I was enjoying the walk by this stage, but I knew that if I’d come alone, I wouldn’t have had the courage to keep walking on.

Eventually, we got to the next jetty, diagonally across the road from the one we’d walked to the day before. When our boat arrived, it was surprisingly easy to get on. It was entirely fuss-free, despite the clear fact that no one here spoke fluent English, and neither of us spoke Thai beyond a few very basic phrases. The boat was fast, yet calming. Most on the boat appeared to be locals, and accepting of us as foreigners. Whenever the water level got high, people at the sides pulled on ropes to raise plastic sheets on both sides of the boat up, keeping us all dry. I marvelled yet again at the resourcefulness and simplicity in this city. We got to the central area in 15 minutes. The ride had cost us, in our local currency, 50 cents.

My husband grinned quite a lot. He loved it. And I realised what we had almost missed out on when I was focusing on convenience, what I thought was best, pride, etc. I realised I had enjoyed the boat experience too … a little adventure I would never have discovered and experienced without him.

Advertisements

A new January

We can’t control the sea but we can learn to ride the waves.
~ Said a few wise people

img_1210

Happy new year, everyone (or no one?) :-) I have no idea who still reads or subscribes to this blog, but I was told recently that treehousekitchen showed up as a hit in a Google search for Tessa Kiros’s ceviche (first page!). Somehow, that piece of news winked at me ;-) Thanks, Kath, what a fun email to receive.

I spent a bit of time clicking around on the internet yesterday. Peeking at blogs I used to enjoy reading. Some still brought a sense of delight; others were dull with marketing; many seemed to have hit Pause or Stop sometime around 2013.

The internet, along with the rest of the world, is going through such revolutionary times. I mean, life has never ever stood still, but is it just me, or is change just happening faster and faster, more and more (in real life, and 1000x more ridiculously on the internet)? Looking through some older blogs and noticing the amount of change we have been through in a short length of time – just with the average style and quality of photographs on websites over the last seven years for instance – is amazing. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when you might have been the only one in a circle of friends who kept a ‘blog’ and ‘blogged’ on Saturday nights while everyone else was out getting pizza … now heaps of people have operated some kind of blog before and have, in fact, moved on to more significant endeavours.

Sitting down intentionally now to write (or even blog) feels slow and unnecessary; like attempting to knit myself a scarf when I could just buy one from a store. Or like doing something ‘unimportant’ when I could be reading emails or 200 social media updates instead.

I keep glancing up at the time, seeing the minutes tick by as I pause between thoughts and words. I hear a whisper of panic in my heart as I wonder if I always took so long to compose posts in the past, or whether this is taking longer because I am out of practice? And as the fear grows, other questions sprout. Can I do this? Should I do this? Is it going to at least change the world or something, for it to be worthwhile?

And as I write this, I smile with the sincere silliness of these questions.

Can’t we just cook*, blog, publish just for the simple desire of doing so? I ask myself.

And I shall leave it here today.

* Or, in this case, assemble – bagel halves, a full spread of cream cheese, slices of avocado and a fine vine-ripened tomato, smoked salmon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper – served alongside a generous pinch of micro-greens. 

Warming up

The great city is that which has the greatest man or woman: if it be a few ragged huts, it is still the greatest city in the whole world.
~ Walt Whitman

Have you ever had a travelling friend tell you about their trip and say “everything was so foreign”? I know I’ve said that about holidays I’ve gone on. Recently though, my friend S pointed out that really – it is the traveller who is the foreigner in a land of everything local. A good change of perspective for me!

Right now, I’m in bustling Asia. Singapore – sunny island of sparkling cars, fashionable folk, instant-everything and a unique old-style charm (though I feel this charm is gradually being eradicated now, with the fast pace at which this country is developing).

Even though I know that Singapore is one of the most rapidly-developing places in the world, I was still surprised to see the huge changes which have taken place since my last visit, e.g. Marina Bay Sands – shiny and sleek and big. Luxurious and top-end and arty.

So I know it may seem strange to say this. But even as I took in the awesome sight of these climbing buildings, polished floors, sparkling chandeliers and expensive shops, even as I fell in love with the world in all its building and creating glory – I had a sudden longing for wide open spaces and simplicity as I stood here, rolling my coins down this inverted dome (picture below). Know what I mean? Some people are true Big City Folk. I am not one of them. I love visiting big cities more than I love living in them.

And of course, one simply can’t talk about Singapore without simultaneously mentioning food. Food is Singapore’s heartbeat; beating hard and fuelling her people all night, all day. And though I rather detest this turn of phrase, the best way to describe what I see is: massive displays of food porn. Food here is bold, rampant and laid bare, designed to seduce and allure… I’m giving my eyes and stomach a much-needed rest today, following a few days of eating up (more posts to follow on those)!


Photo above © my friend John

But I will tell you a little about my first post-plane meal! Right after I arrived in Singapore on Saturday night, my beautiful friends drove us to Long Beach Seafood Restaurant where five of us devoured the following:

  • a 1.8kg chilli crab with man tou (golden, lightly-sweet buns) to mop up the flood of sauce (see above)- only one way to successfully eat crab: messily! With fingers!
  • tender chicken encased in a crisp shell and just enough lovely sweet and sour sauce, with a shower of quail eggs scattered on the side
  • sambal kang kong – one of my favourite ways to eat vegetables in Singapore. I’ve alarmed a Kiwi friend or two with the aroma of sambal/dried shrimps… but since these spices and smells were present in my childhood I like the pungent, fishy, spicy medley – unfortunately my words here don’t do the flavour justice
  • a claypot stew with tofu, fish, mushrooms and snow peas. Was nice to see more than one mushroom species used in this dish, and
  • post-dinner, we celebrated R’s birthday with an Awfully Chocolate cake (the name is as it was) after dinner, and I had some trouble wrenching my bottom from the chair afterwards… :-)

I suppose now would be a good time to say HELLO again, is anyone still here? When I wrote my last post, I was ready to close the door on a few things in my life – and as I write this post now I am aware that I am not continuing this blog as it was. There will be changes – though I will leave you to interpret those :-) I have closed a few big doors and seen other doors open for me, I am thrilled to pick up my pen again and would love to have you journey on with me!