To a certain (semi-large) sector of my friends, I’ve been coined the Fresh Air Fund Kid, an allusion to the program that sends city kids out to the boonies for a few days to get their nature on, and I’m any indicator, return to the city happily aware of how completely out of touch they are with the wild they never hoped to meet – the sticky heat, the creeptastic bugs, the necessary acts of outdoor athleticism.
And so, it has been a fabulous turning point in my trip, nay, my very life, that I have been immersed in the wilds of Thailand’s islands. Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “How wild could islands that play host to those decadent, albeit tacky, Full Moon Parties be?” That depends, I suppose, on how one defines, “wild.” And since this is, let’s face it, my blog, we’ll go with my humble definition. Of course, it also depends on how far off the beaten island hopping path one is willing to travel.
Now, I didn’t get the chance to stumble into any undiscovered island territory, but I did get the chance to fall into some fabulously under-populated and under-visited island paradises where on a busy day I might see 12 other people on a half-mile long stretch of beach, like the fabulously wild Koh Jum.
Of course this near isolation means few amenities and many creatures. And these are things nature-remedial folks – ok, at least I need to wrap my head around.
First point of learning is easily the no-flush toilet. This pre-plumbing marvel luckily has the base of a western toilet, less the ability to flush your business away. Those in the know (having now traveled through India and Southeast Asia, I was luckily in said know) will make good use of the bathroom’s knee-high faucet, bucket, and small pot. Fill the bucket with water, dunk your pot, and dump it into the bowl. Business, be gone! The water pushes it all down. Where it goes, I dare not ask.
This, I might add, is one up-close-and-personal way to get to know your own humanity.
Now, whether you mean to or not, it’s time to get in touch with all god’s creatures great and small. The vermin on these islands were spectacular. And afforded me the chance to ask questions I never thought I’d ponder:
- Can the monkeys on my bungalow roof actually stage a coup and break into the bungalow?
- And if so, what are the odds that it was a primate that just knocked over my backpack?
- Will the Electronic Mosquito Bat’s flashlight illuminate beyond my bed’s mosquito nets so I can determine from nets’ relative safety what creature DID knock over the bag?
- Was that a scorpion or a tarantula that just ran behind the bed?
- If my contact lenses were in and I could have clearly seen the cockroach Ayaz just shooed from the sheets would I have been more freaked out than I currently am?
- If I sing Boy George’s Karma Chameleon to the lizards that live in my bathroom will it make them happy?
And so, after weeks in the islands, the Fresh Air Fund Kid may be no more. I now barely blink at magnum spiders, and feel an affinity for our monkey brothers. I may well have entered some cheerful parallel existence where I want to live in harmony with the wily beasts around me.
As for the toilet? I can deal with bucket technique in a pinch, but in truth, I’m fostering a newfound appreciation, even deep love for flushing mechanisms.