Showing posts with label Hawaii. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hawaii. Show all posts

The Long Road Home ...


*Hawaii*

I had visions of saying goodbye to my father, running a couple quick errands and heading home early in the afternoon, in order to pack, rest a little and perhaps take one last walk on the beach.  Well, that was the plan anyway.  It turned out to be a blustery day with frequent squalls and I didn’t get my walk.  So my visit ended as it began, with grey skies and strong winds.  On the whole the weather during my stay had been very cooperative with sunny skies and cool trade-winds, so no real complaints.

All things considered it was a good trip.  I got more done than I had expected.  Two weeks was just right, allowing enough time to accomplish what I needed to, without dragging it out too long.  I didn’t manage to see everyone, but I am not as social as my better half when left to my own devices.  Shopping got off to a slow start but in the end I found almost everything I was looking for.  One highlight was being there to mark my mother’s ninetieth birthday, even if she wouldn’t look at me and didn’t know who I was.  The paperwork and legal stuff went pretty smoothly considering I dread that kind of thing.  After I left, my father said he really missed me and that made me feel good and bad at the same time.

This is the second year in a row that my father’s friends have offered me the use of one of their properties in the Islands.  I am overwhelmed by their generosity and eagerness to help.  They even went out of there way a couple of years ago to come stay with us in Chiang Rai when they were visiting Thailand.  Good people are good people, regardless of their social standing or fiscal position but I must admit to being attracted to accomplished individuals who have done more than I have, or at least different things which I find interesting.  I can’t overstate my appreciation for the generosity of these friends.

*Bangkok*


Arriving in Bangkok my senses were accosted by a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells, all encased in asphalt and concrete, intersected by pedestrians, cyclists and cagers rushing frantically and perpetually toward some essential yet questionable destination.  Each year when forced to pass through this seething mass of humanity, I find myself pondering how I managed to live in this place called Bangkok for more than thirty years.

Of course I was younger then and not nearly so accustomed to my present level of comfort and pace of life.  More importantly I suppose, I had a life in Bangkok back then.  A place to live, things to do, friends and interests, all of which go a long way toward making any place feel more like home.  Many of the places still remain amidst all the new development but they have been overwhelmed by growth and progress.  Of the many people one once interacted with regularly, only a select few have remained in the inner circle, connected through technology and social networking, even though separated by time and distance.

I seem to remember a singular point in time in the early 1970s, which rapidly expanded outward sending a complex maze of tentacles to seek out and explore every imaginable nook and cranny of this strange new world.  I have no clear recollection of when this amplification slowed to a halt and began to collapse in upon itself.  My gaze became more inward as I focused and centered my life around the things I had discovered to be of greater importance to me.  My random quest for more became a focused search for less, if that makes any sense.

*Chiang Rai*

The flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai was the most beautiful I can remember.  The patchwork of clouds added accent and texture while not blocking the view of what lay below.  Bangkok soon faded as the image from my window seat changed to that of the geometric layout of industrialized agriculture.  Further north the patchwork of small family worked fields became more chaotic until we reached the lush green mountains that signaled our approach to Chiang Rai.  By then the grey industrial haze of Bangkok was but a memory, replace by clear Chiang Rai skies.  Even the ever-present clouds that had accompanied our flight north, took on an otherworldly glow as we descended toward our destination. 

We flew over a large body of water that I only later realized must have been the lake at Phayao.  I pointed out the White Temple, to a Bangkok tourist sitting next to me, which sparked off a brief but pleasant conversion before we landed.  My wife was waiting for me at the airport and her embrace helped vanquish the stress and fatigue from my long journey home.

As I awoke on my first day back, it eventually came to my attention that it was Thanksgiving Day.  I clearly had much to be thankful for but the traditional celebrations of past years had to take a backseat to the simple joy of being home this year.  By way of celebration I did dust off the Trek in the early afternoon and went for a 41 kilometer ride which left me exhausted but content, despite my lack of fitness after the trip.

Though I do not enjoy these long journeys, I understand they are necessary and even educational to some extent.  Soon enough they will no longer be necessary and I will no doubt lament that fact.  For now I am just very glad to be home.

Home.

A Trip To Hawaii...

After nearly a week here in on the North Shore of Hawaii, things have settled into a more comfortable routine.  I am staying at a friend’s beach house while I am here and find myself commuting nearly 100 miles everyday in total.  There are four different routes that will get me from here to there and I have done them all and at all times of day.  Last night’s drive was perhaps the easiest as I return home well after the traffic had died down.  Yes, Hawaii has traffic.

The Thai community celebrated Loy Krathong yesterday at Kapiolani Park which provided an excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends.  So after my daily visit with my father I headed to the park.  Afterwards we walked along the rocky shoreline, beneath Diamond Head Lookout, before going out to dinner.  It was by far the best day of my trip to date.

Most people can’t seem to understand how stressful I find these parental visits.  You won’t find my experience highlighted in Hallmark greeting cards or in Hollywood movies.  It is a depressing reminder of my own mortality and the pain I may unknowingly inflict upon my loving wife, in my twilight years.  It leaves me dreading the longevity I seem to have inherited from my lived parents.  My mother had the same feelings, yet here she is adrift in the fog of her dementia.  She was adamant in her views on this disease and how it affects family members.  This is the last thing she wanted to do to her family.

Tomorrow is her ninetieth birthday and though she is beyond understanding that fact, we will make a ceremonial attempt to honor her longevity and perhaps take a few picture to record the occasion for posterity. 

On a lighter note here is a selection of photos taken on this trip.










Why Chiang Rai and Not Hawaii? ...


Chiang Rai

Hawaii

I was tempted to answer the bigger question of why Thailand but that was not the form the question took and would have required a much longer backstory.  Chiang Rai is easier having lived here for a little over four years.  Still, the backstory goes back fourteen years to when I first met my wife.

Since the question did not include details of how we got together I will skip over that part, to where we had been together for over a year and were starting to get more serious wanting to grow our relationship in new directions.  I had always made myself clear on the subject of marriage and children but as our relationship grew I wanted to be able to share more of my world with her.  To that end it seemed a natural progression to visit my people and where I came from.

After a little research it became clear that as a girlfriend that option was not going to be open to us.  So instead of the traditional route of meeting my family first, we got married first and told people about it later.  That was nearly two years into our relationship.  Marriage is far from being a slam-dunk for entry to the USA so we did an end run and went for the Green Card.  Not having the burden of proving a negative, made obtaining a resident visa much easier than getting a tourist visa, as strange as that might seem.  At that point we had no idea what we wanted to do but the road before us and our potential options had just expanded greatly.

Our trips to Hawaii started off short and got as long as nine months at one point.  That was a major plus of condo life in Bangkok.  We could turn the key in the door and be gone as long as we wished.  Not long after we started traveling and spending extended periods with my parents, my mother began her long slow decline into the dark foreboding realm of dementia.

Travel for us was surprisingly affordable back then.  My parents had a very large, four bedroom condo on the Ala Wai within walking distance of Waikiki, beaches, parks and the zoo.  My mother’s car was seldom used so we ended up with free accommodation, transportation and adequate privacy in our living arrangement.  All of our money went to our pursuit of happiness not to fixed overhead.  The Baht was very weak so for a while I was able to fly us business class for nearly the same price I used to fly economy.

I was torn between wanting to spend time with my aging parents before things got worse, mired as they were in their state of denial, and a need to expand the horizons of my growing relationship with my wife.  Our answer lay in extended breaks of up to a month, on long drives through the scenic back roads and national parks of the Western states.  We fantasized about living in places like Bolder, Portland, Vancouver or Hawaii during this time.

We were living a great life and our options seemed limitless, but of course we all have limits.  There are self-imposed limits, limits based on our potential or lack there of, environmental and economic limits, just to name a few.  A hard look at our situation made it clear that startup costs for a move to my homeland, to be nearer my parents, would leave us with much less disposable income and a subsequent drop in our standard of living.  Besides my parents were not keen on the idea, as they denied there was any need for us to make such a move.

I came to understand that I was drawn to the adventure and romance of traveling with my wife, seeing the world anew through her eyes.  I was not interested, however, in the monotony of day to day life in an environment of growing regulations and the oppressive authoritarian attitude that so permeated every aspect of life and seemed to be growing exponentially.

Things took a dramatic turn when on a visit that was meant to be six weeks, turned into a six month ordeal of moving my parents into a retirement home and preparing the condo they had lived in for more than twenty five years, to be sold.  With hindsight it was clear that we were at least a year behind the curve when it came to the move, making it that much more difficult to accomplish.

Upon returning to Thailand I was struck with the realization that I no longer had a home to go to in Hawaii.  That safety net and sense of security that had always been there, in the form of my parents and our family home, was gone.  Though my parents were still alive, clearly the burden of responsibility and care was shifting and before long I would be the end of my line.

After ten years of condo life in Bangkok the wife and I yearned for something different.  For the first time in my fifty some years I wanted a home of my own.  Land, a big house, pets, toys and all the things that I had as a child but had done without during my bachelor days in Bangkok.  In Chiang Rai we could have it all and much of it could be paid for by the sale of our condo in Bangkok.  If anything, I am practical and calculating in all that I do.  We thought long and hard about it.  We talked endlessly of our options and the pros and cons of each.  The more we deliberated the clearer our path became.

Though my wife had a Green Card, a move to America would have been a move to a foreign land for both of us.  For nearly as long as it had been my wife’s home, Thailand had been my home.  There was nothing to return to in my homeland and the cost of starting over there was just too high.  The truth is, once my parents are gone I can’t imagine any pressing reason to return at all.

Apart from my parents and some financial investments, all that I am and all that I have, resides here in Thailand.  There really is no other place for me to go.  So comparing a few random pictures of Hawaii and Chiang Rai one might ask, why one and not the other.  That would be a very simplistic question based on a very superficial observation, however.  It did give me the opportunity to expand upon my life’s story and path, which I hope you have found entertaining.

Home at Last, Home at Last...

Paraphrasing the closing words of Martin Luther King’s famous speech, which he in turn borrowed from an old Negro spiritual…

Home at last, home at last
Ever so thankful to be home at last

With Cookie in tow on our village walk
Me and my wife will sweetly talk

On my knees I was when time pass’s by
Tho’t my soul would rise and fly

On this morning, so bright and fair
Goin’ wake to see home and breath fresh country air

Home at last, home at last
Thankfully I’m home at last

Arriving in Hawaii, I found myself ensconced in my ridge-line abode high above the pacific ocean, with a beautiful view of Diamond Head and the sunset. This was to be my home for the duration of my stay in Hawaii. Located in a gated community, my accommodation was far from spartan and I had the whole house to myself. The day after I arrived my hosts, family friends, left on an extended trip leaving me in the position of house-sitter, I guess you could say.
Morning View of Diamond Head

Residence
Evening View

This of course is not where the story begins but after moaning about my travel angst and the fatigue of the first few days I thought better of it and spared you that part of the story. After picking up my father’s car, getting a temporary phone sim-card and settling into some semblance of a routine, with daily conversations with my wife back in Chiang Rai, I eventually made myself at home. Making my own bed, feeding myself and doing the laundry took me back to my bachelor days and greatly enhanced my appreciation for all my lovely wife does for me.

Running around Diamond Head on several occasions at sunset also contributed to my remaining sane. Making use of a very fast internet connection, I am returning home with a library of high-definition movies and series that should keep me entertained for a while. Sure hope their internet provider doesn’t impose any download limits, that I may have inadvertently exceeded.
Waikiki
Waikiki Sunset
Kapiolani Park

Pink
Diamond Head Sunset

I was taken aback by my reaction to life in both Bangkok and Honolulu as well as being separated from my wife. Throw in concern over the deteriorating health of my aging parents and the uncertainty of what comes next, and I was a bit of a mess and far from my normally blissful self. I guess my tolerance level for stress and irritation has been eroded by my idyllic life in the village.

With much to do and little time to do it there was nothing for it but to jump right in. There was only one outstanding project as time wound down but I was overly optimistic in thinking I could get that done in the time allotted. So it appears that my trip was a success if measured by things accomplished.

My mother of course did not know who I was and recent attempts to modify her medication left her far from receptive to our visits. While I understood the situation, my father was noticeably distressed that our visits with mother didn’t go better. After all I had flown halfway around the world to see her, in his mind. The truth is I had come for him and to do what I could to bolster his moral.
Everlasting Love

The Despair of Dementia

I am relieved that he seems to have agreed to sell his car and stop driving. That was an issue of concern, often brought up by others and which is a delicate matter signifying a major loss of independence for the elderly.  More tasks were automated and delicate matters discussed.  Clothes were bought, which found me in an unfamiliar position of dresser, down on my hands and knees, helping my father with the laborious task of dressing and undressing.  His reactions were classic and will not be soon forgotten by this son.

I treat each phone call and visit as if it could be the last, trying to move forward with a clear conscience and calm heart, but who knows how I will respond in the end.  For now I am satisfied that I am doing what I can.  I have no read on where the rest of my somewhat formal and distant family stands but that is beyond the scope of my control or influence.

Returning to Bangkok was no less torturous than the trip over, except for the fact that I was looking forward to what awaited me at journeys end.  Even the concrete jungle that is Bangkok was somehow less oppressive walking again hand in hand with my wife.  It wasn’t until the plane neared Chiang Rai and we could see the lush green fields below that I finally took a deep breath and felt that I was nearing home.

The last few weeks are quickly fading to a distant memory so I must post this before the present clouds all recollection of recent events.

Home at last, home at last
Thankfully I’m home at last

Views of Hawaii.

Here are just a few of the many shots my wife and I took on our trip to Hawaii.

Back view of Diamond Head from our friend's home.

Morning view from where we stayed most of the trip.

Looking up the valley in the other direction.
Turtle coming ashore.

I know I'm cute but leave me alone.
Hawaiian Surfer.

Hawaiian Style
Modern Hawaii.

Thais are everywhere.
Waikiki Beach
Kitesurfing.

Valley of the Temples.
Hawaii Rainbow

Sunset over Waikiki from our friend's deck in Palolo Valley.