POSTCARD #206: DELHI CHIANG MAI FLIGHT: Hop, skip, jump and I’m back in Thailand; arrival on the Delhi flight; four hours flying time and transit at Bangkok for the Chiang Mai flight, one hour flying time. It’s only been two weeks since I was last here, the memory I have of it replaced by what it is now as if it were just a moment ago. I step into present time with a sweeping recognition of everything in the surroundings of the straight route taken in the direction of Transit Desk East – perspective effect down the very long passageway leading to a vanishing point. Boarding time for the Chiang Mai flight 30 mins from now. Speed walking along the same moving walkway I walked along only two weeks ago. Same high frequency sound piercing and resonating in my head. Same flashing red light: “end of the walkway”, as we change from one walkway to the next.
Same rush to get there; swept along in the urgency of the crowd and caught up in thinking it’s necessary to jump ahead of perceived obstructions in the mind; typically the group tours from Southern China, huddled together, first time away from home, the young and the old holding on to each other and blocking the passageway leading to the transit desk. I hear an official voice calling out in Chinese while I’m experiencing push-and-shove collisions with small rucksacks, elbows and full body contact with these small beings from a different planet; unfamiliar toothpaste smells.
I feel like I’m in someone else’s life; I’ve stepped out of my own life and into someone else’s, having to squeeze through the gaps in the crush, thrust, force, push and stretch-through long-arm reach to the desk – passport held in fingertips… and the Thai ground-staff member takes it just before the Chinese group leader pushes in front of me and slaps down two handfuls of passports. How lucky is that! The ground-staff member standing on a box above eye level facing the crowd, dressed in Chinese costume and is speaking Chinese at extraordinary high volume, splitting my headache in pieces. Necessary, to help the surging crowd, who are having difficulty filling in their landing form, and she’s holding up a sample; the blue form, and pointing to it so the people in the back can see and know what to look for.
She stops and looks down at me, the odd man out, sits down, opens my passport, sees the landing form is complete and then a very strange thing happens: elbows on the table, she lowers her head and starts massaging her long ear lobes between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. I simply don’t recognize this gesture; the first time I’ve ever seen it. Then I know what it is; I see the tiny hole puncture in one stretched out earlobe as the finger/thumb combination wriggles the soft worm-like ear appendage flesh piece around and a small grimace as she looks at me with one eye, asking to confirm my name, gives me the in-transit passenger C.I.Q status sticker. Below on the desk before her are the heavy Chinese earrings that go with the costume.
I’m through and into the single lane then the two yellow footprints on the floor where I have to stand and look at the camera, click. Passport pages turning then thump and just in time, Chiang Mai flight boarding now. I get through to the head of the queue and show my 4 years out-of-date gold card which still works. I don’t want to ask them about validity… back into a flying machine, find my seat and deep breathing exercise to slow down the fast forward momentum of the mind playing out the stories, and fading away.
It’s good to have an end to journey toward;
but it’s the journey that matters, in the end.
[Ursula K. Le Guin]