POSTCARD#66: Phuket: It was nearly the end of M’s school holiday and she hadn’t had much experience of the ‘beash’ (beach: her mispronunciation of the ch/sh sound). So the three of us decided to take her to the seaside, got on a flight to Phuket, 1 hour 50 minutes from Chiang Mai and some of that time spent speaking in English and making jokes about the ch/sh sound: washing TV (watching TV). I asked her when she’s ‘washing’ TV does she uses BREEZE detergent, is that a good one? Hahaha, etc. No, Toong-Ting, I wash TV with MAGICLEAN because it’s anti-bacterial… (there’s a kind of one-upmanship developing, now she’s past her 10th birthday). Arrived in the early afternoon, lumpy chunks of land rising from the sea, seen from the plane window. Busy airport, flights from all parts of the world arrive and depart, waves roll in from the ocean and drift back out. There’s an Aeroflot jumbo jet arriving at the gate next to ours, direct flight from Moscow, and signs in Russian everywhere in the airport. In the town too, also Russian travel agents, Russian car rentals, Russian laundries, Russian restaurants, and guided tours for Russian tourists with Russian guides – they’re more noticeable than other Caucasians; large human beings who don’t smile at all.
Coming in by bus from the airport to the Centara Hotel at Karon beach (a hotel catering for families with children), M sitting with me in the front seat behind the driver, and she seems unusually quiet – busy with the iPad. I ask her if she’s okay… mm-hmm, (like I’m doing something quite complex, don’t bother me right now). We’re going round and round on these circular roads; signs for the airport keep coming up. The bus driver chatting with Jiab and M’s mum, saying it’s because it’s an island, the GPS brings you around in a circle and all the roads lead back to the point of origin. Nowhere else to go, limited land space, commercial potential of everything examined, evaluated, exploited to within an inch of its life. All to create another crescent shaped beach, same palm trees, same everything.
It was then I noticed there was this slightly dizzy feeling; a lot of up-and-down and around on cliff roads to get nowhere in particular because everywhere in Phuket looks exactly like the place you’ve just arrived from and the same as the place you’re going. And M turns to her mum, says something that mum can’t hear, has to repeat it; I hear it as cha-ooap (cha is a future indicator, ooap means to be sick). The recognition of it comes slowly; I see the driver’s eyes in the rear-view mirror looking at us with alarm… M shouts out cha-ooap! She’s going to be sick – there’s a rush and fumbling among the passengers on the bus to find a plastic bag… shouted instructions on how to hold the bag and how to lean forward. But she wasn’t sick, soon we were in the hotel and everything got back to something resembling familiarity.
Now it all looks pretty exotic here. A lot of Russians and if I look away from the grim expressions, I can really get to appreciate the lovely deep resonant tones of the language. The tsunami of December 26, 2004 was a visiting catastrophe, came and went and the memory of it now is like biblical karma. We don’t like to think of it… gone is gone. Could be we are the only Thai group in the hotel – I’m not Thai but identify more with them than Westerners here, and really amazed at the long story of what has led to this, dependent arising, and the karma that’s brought me into this situation ~ [to be continued]
For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear and complex… karma acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. Furthermore, present actions need not be determined by past actions. In other words, there is free will, although its range is somewhat dictated by the past. The nature of this freedom is symbolized in an image used by the early Buddhists: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction. [Thanissaro Bhikkhu]