December 9, 2005

Once again I found myself sitting in a bar at SeaTac International Airport waiting for a flight nursing a double Jack on the rocks and thinking about the past and the future. Thinking about might-have-beens and perfect-worlds. Unlike the last time I was here, I was looking forward to leaving. In front of me were three weeks in Thailand. Three weeks of warmth, friendly people, good food, and the wedding of a good friend of mine. I wanted three months instead of three weeks and the contrast between June and now was striking to me as I sat on my stool at the bar. The thought of how things might be now if things had been different in June ran through my head occasionally, but was mostly blotted out by the prospect of Thailand. For the fourth time in five years I was spending the winter holidays in a place other than the United States. In 2001 I ventured out to Nepal on my first real foreign excursion and fell in love with the country. In 2002 I was lazy in Central America. In 2003 I was fortunate enough to experience the cross roads of cultures that is the Middle East. Three weeks didn't seem even remotely enough time to see a country like Thailand, especially given that it is the approximate size of Texas, though far more diverse. I had a sketch of where I wanted to go, but not much else. A few towns, a few sites, but mostly an open plan: Go and do what feels right. The only firm rule I made was to minimize the amount of time I spent on buses and trains, even if it meant I saw a smaller portion of the country.

I finished my drink and ordered another, hoping to improve my chances at sleeping on the long flight across the Pacific to Taipei. In June I drank to hide from the past and from myself. Now, I was drinking for the far less dramatic effect of sleep. I was happy to be leaving the country alone and setting out for a tropical land without much baggage, either physical or spiritual. I was happy to have the opportunity to experience a new culture, a new land, a new people. I was happy to have the chance to learn something new about myself and my own culture by immersing myself in something other than what would be called normal here. In every way was this session at a bar in SeaTac different from the last.