The REI Adventures group enjoyed the warm sun after enjoying a delicious breakfast at our second homestay in Thailand. The property sat on top of a mountain, so we had a picturesque view of the rising sun and the surrounding area.
We packed up and began to hike to our next destination. The hike was mostly downhill as we made our way through the thick vegetation. As we got closer to another small village, we saw a huge pile of garbage strewn along the side of the mountain. Surprised to see the trash in such a beautiful landscape, a few of us stopped to look at it.
We asked one of our guides, Sak, why it was there. He said that’s where the villagers throw their trash. Once the pile begins to stack up against the side of the mountain, they burn it. One person in our group was disappointed to see that the trash was ruining the landscape.
I pointed out that we have landfills in the U.S., too; it’s just hidden from our view. The amount of trash created from the small village was likely much less than the trash we create. I think it’s easy to criticize other cultures when they don’t do things the way we do it, but I didn’t have a problem with it. They need to do something with their trash, and they’re located in a remote area on a mountain. From what I could tell, the villages don’t generate that much trash because they’re mostly living off the land.
Walking through the village, we passed homes that were drying fresh coffee beans. There was a small coffee shop there, and Tri let us stop there to get a drink. I sat outside with Clark, Cathy, and Terri. After enjoying the break, we continued our hike.
I had been in the middle of a conversation with Clark when we started hiking again. He usually hiked in the front because he’s a fast hiker, but he stayed in the middle with me so that we could continue our talk. Because we were hiking slower than he’s used to, he looked in awe and said, “Wow, the trail really is beautiful, isn’t it? I’m usually just looking at the ground.” I laughed, “See Clark, you need to hike slower so you can stop and smell the roses.”
Clark is a retired Principal at a middle school. He told me about how he courted his now-wife. When they were young and dating, he went over to her house one day and started loading her furniture into a van and told her that she was moving in with him. He just knew that she was the one for him. It was sweet to see the joy on his face as he talked about her and the love they’ve shared for decades.
Clark moved from New York to Albuquerque, New Mexico when he retired not too long ago. He loved the outdoors and found a beautiful home with hiking trails in his backyard. There was a period of time that he purchased the unfinished home while he was still living and working in New York. He went to New Mexico from time to time to finish the work that needed to be completed to make the house livable.
Clark told me about how he’s been denied housing throughout his life because he’s black. I was saddened to hear that he still experienced it when he moved to New Mexico. Neighbors often assumed he was a construction worker. Even after he’d explain he is the homeowner, they continued to treat him poorly and as if he were not someone who was a part of their neighborhood.
Clark is a smart man. He’s been successful throughout his life and is very charismatic. His siblings are all extremely accomplished and have impressive work experience. It was frustrating to hear about times they’ve experienced discrimination because of the color of their skin. I told Clark about times I’ve lived in mostly black neighborhoods and was told to “go back to Santa Monica or Seal Beach” because I’m white. Clark and I agreed that being able to talk openly about our personal experiences was part of the solution to combating racism and stereotypes.
I had several running jokes with Clark, and there was never a dull moment with him. I like to picture him as the principal kids loved, even though he can be stern when he means business. He was often a leader in our group because he has a natural ability.
We stopped for a quick break, and Clark was back to the front of the line. In the back, I talked with Kristen. We had a great conversation about infertility. Being women of childbearing age, we both have felt pressure for a pregnancy to go perfectly. One in seven couples in the U.S. will experience infertility. I have many friends who have struggled with this, and it’s hard to watch their pain and suffering.
Kristen and I agreed that it shouldn’t be taboo to talk about infertility. In general, people are more open to talking about it than they used to be, but I think there is room to open the conversation. A couple who is struggling with infertility or miscarriages shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about it. I know people who didn’t even take time off of work after going through a miscarriage. It’s not an easy conversation to have with someone, but it beats suffering in silence.
I really liked hiking that day because of the meaningful conversations I had with people. Talking with Clark and Kristen really fueled me. They had great insights and perspectives, and I felt lucky to have met them. So often, we have superficial conversations with those around us. I heard something a couple of years ago at a recruiting conference that said we are expected to leave our true selves at the door when entering our workplace in the name of being a “professional.” It’s one of the reasons I left my job. Corporations in America have become stale and lifeless. Showing your true self, your vulnerabilities is taboo. Maybe by putting ourselves out there we can break this trend?
We arrived at a restaurant for lunch and ate outdoors again. We enjoyed coconut water straight from the coconut. We stayed in a hotel for the next two nights, so we checked in, and each had our own little hut and outdoor shower. It was a beautiful resort with a pool.
We had some extra time, so Tri, our guide, offered the option for us to climb up a sticky waterfall. Most of us decided to go because it was just a 20-minute van ride. It’s a tourist spot, so there were several people in bathing suits climbing up.
The waterfall had a few different levels. It is called a sticky waterfall because the sediment forms a white coating on the rocks, making it sort of sticky. Even though the rocks look slippery, there is enough traction for your feet to climb up.
The water poured down from the waterfall, but thankfully there was a rope on the side to assist with climbing up. Some of the rocks were large, so I had to take huge steps. The green parts of moss were slippery, so we were advised to avoid them. As I climbed up, I stumbled on one of the large rocks and slipped. My left knee hit the rock and scraped it up a little. I was disappointed because my right knee had been hurting over the last few days. Now both knees were in bad shape.
The waterfall was beautiful, unique, and refreshing. Once we finished climbing up, we headed back to the hotel for showers. We had the option of getting a Thai massage and almost everyone wanted one. The hotel called in extra masseuses, but there were only so many time slots available before dinner. The group created a list in the hotel lobby before everyone was present. Of course, when I arrived, I was left with a spot nobody else wanted. I was getting frustrated that these lists were always made without everyone present. I paid the same amount for the trip, but somehow always got whatever was left over. I had come to expect it.
I didn’t have time to shower before my massage appointment, but thankfully the waterfall cleaned off most of the dirt from the hike. In the bathroom of my hotel room, there was a set of blue denim clothes. I figured they were to wear for the massage, so I put them on. The pants were so big that I had to hold them up, or they’d fall off my waist.
I arrived at the small hut for my massage. Two mats were on the floor under an air conditioning unit. Terri was getting her massage at the same time and she was already being worked on. The masseuse didn’t speak any English but she showed me light-colored pants and a shirt for me to put on. I put them on and laid on the mat.
A Thai massage is notorious for its uniqueness. It involves a lot of stretching as the masseuse pushes and pulls your body in all sorts of directions. After ten minutes of my masseuse trying to raise my legs and realizing I was about to rip the pants she provided, she had me change back into the baggy clothes that were in my room. I could stretch better, but I had to try and make sure they didn’t fall off.
The massage was comical. The petite masseuse had to put in a lot of effort to move my body around. She laughed and looked at the other masseuse, who laughed in return. I laughed along with them because it’s just absurd how much taller I am than them. I thought, “They must think I’m a giant.” Terri occasionally looked over at me as we laughed at our various stretching positions that were often painful.
After my massage was complete, I took a shower, got dressed in non-hiking attire, and got ready for dinner. We all walked ten minutes down a dirt road to the same place we ate lunch. We could drop off dirty clothes for cleaning and were told they’d be ready the next evening. A few of us shared some wine and laughed at our experiences with the massage. Scott is a few inches taller than me, and his masseuse laughed at him too. We are not just tall but also inflexible, which added to the comedy.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel. I was happy to have a bed after two nights of sleeping on a thin pad on the floor. Unfortunately, the bed was hard. I ended up finding this to be very common across Thailand. I usually prefer a firm mattress, but these all seemed extremely firm.
My roommate, Nicole, and I told stories of dating as we lay in our beds. She had been married for around 13 years, and on their anniversary, her husband said he wanted a divorce. That was a cruel thing to do to somebody. Nicole and I talked about the woes of online dating. She was currently dating a guy who she called her “part-time boyfriend” because he was only around part-time. He was a pilot, so he was often out of town. He was younger than her, and she enjoyed his company, but he wasn’t someone she saw herself with long term.
I told Nicole about my ex-husband and guys I had gone on dates with. We bonded over some of our similarities and talked until we started to fall asleep. I was happy that I was paired with Nicole. We had a lot of the same interests, and she was easy to talk with. I enjoyed her friendship and company during the trip.
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