…And then we took Chris & Jenn to Chiang Mai, just in time for the Loi Krathong light festival! Chiang Mai is the city of parties–they love to celebrate every holiday, and they love to have celebrations continue for days or weeks longer than the rest of the country.
Can you also see how many million people were around us? That was not as amazing, I have to say.
There was something really beautiful, though, in the anticipation of it all. You had to hold the lantern while the heat filled it, and then it just lifted away so gracefully. It is a representation of sins being sent off, similar to the scape goat that was sent out of the Jewish communities to carry the sin of the whole group off into the wilderness. Even amongst the large crowds, there was a sense of community as everyone collectively sought restoration. It reminds us how similar we are as people, as souls; how similar our aches and faults and pains really are.
Sometimes Asians like to pose for photos. Jenn had the idea of copying the odd poses that we saw. Nevermind that we didn’t get the pose exactly right, and the bottom of her foot, aimed directly at my face, would actually be the equivalent of flipping me off in this country.
Amidst quite a few days of shopping and eating good food, we did a few tourist-y things. We climbed Doi Suthep, a big mountain West of Chiang Mai, with a large temple at the top. We also went to the Night Safari, where I absolutely loved seeing the giraffes, zebras, and squirrel monkeys. We got to pet some, including the elephants.
A favorite was visiting the snake farm. It was terrifying. It started with a tour to see the caged snakes–some of which were still lacking some security.
Do you see the two ginormous pythons in this cage? They were as big around as my thigh, slithering around while the rusty lock hung loose.
Other cages were locked, with the key hooked just around the side. All we needed were a group not as terrified as we were to start a new kind of tourist attraction.
After looking around, we went to the “show” — two locals playing with venomous snakes while one commentated to the Rocky theme. All the while, a sign hung above reading, “While, The Show, Please be Seated! If There is any danger, We will not be responsible.”
They faked out the crowd and threw a rope at us. I screamed. In my defense, they had already swung a King cobra and python at us, so it wasn’t too far beyond them to actually throw a snake!
We had a really wonderful time with Chris & Jenn visiting. It was overwhelming in some ways: I kept telling them that this is our Narnia, which we’ve experienced wholly and described to the best of our ability while no one has experienced it with us; they are left to our descriptions and photos and perspectives.
And although their coming in some ways made it all more real, it also made us much more vulnerable. We moved our lives here; and our work, our home, our town have all become very personal. They’ve become a choice.
I must say, though–it was the best good bye ever, and probably will always stand to be. I didn’t have to shed one tear knowing that I was only saying goodbye for four weeks, when I’ll be given another hug in another airport with more family around us!