Saturday, December 6, 2008


Jeff and I have been having a lovely time here in Chiang Mai.  The airports were closed for more than a week, so there was no possibility of making travel plans, which has kept us here and focussed on the day to day.  Turns out that's a rare treat.  Now that the immediate political crisis has passed, life seems to be returnng to normal, and people are feeling less worried, short-term at least. 

Jeff has started work on his second novel and is happy happy to be embarked.  I am working on my Thai, trying to get completely familiar with the alphabet (I now sound out street signs and labels, just like a seven or eight year old learning to read), and it is coming.  Have started doing some shared language lessons with Fern and another friend, Hoa.  They keep me in line, making sure my Thai pronunciation is on target.  Having the alphabet (Thai is a very phonetically written language once you penetrate the intricacies of the tone marks and letter combinations) really helps me understand too.  Fern wants to polish her (already good) English and to get her French stronger and Hoa, who understands a lot of English, wants to get comfortable speaking.  It feels lucky to have collaborators who are so nice, and also fun, so the time flies and it doesn't feel like work.

Had a good time the other day on my own at Gat Luang, the old market near us, buying sticky rice baskets and assorted other things for the cooking classes.  Can't wait to take people there for both food and equipment shopping.  Some of the traditional equipment, baskets and ladles, etc, is so beautiful.

One of the big highs of the past week and more has been two evenings of live music.  The first was with Jeff and Fern, at the Brasserie, a bar and restaurant across the river where nightly after 11 the owner, a phenomenal blues and jazz guitarist with an enticing voice, plays with a small group of musicians.  We danced and danced as they played and played... it was so intimate and so trance-y somehow.  A real treat.  Then a couple of nights ago we went with three friends to a Thai country music place out of town, a huge hall filled with tabels and chairs, and by 10.30 with people too.  At one end was the band on a high stage, brass and guitars and percussion, and always a singer (they took turns) in front, singing words that everyone knows, it seems.  The dancing was fun, long and fun, and with the two women singers in particular, every once in awhile, even with the crowd and the complexities and constraints of dancing by our table, it was possible to hit the lost-in-dancing place.  Lovely!