It’s been almost 2 months since I arrived in Phuket, well, 54 days to be precise. The only reason I counted the days was for this blog and out of mild curiosity. The only reason time is relevant at all to me is because my current visa expires in 6 days time and I visited the Immigration Office to extend my visa today. As a side issue, I also realise it’s been more than two weeks since I last wrote, and there’s a lot to write about but too much for one entry…birthday celebrations, diving Bollywood style and with MTV. More on that soon.
When I say the number, “fifty-four”, either out loud or let the numbers roll around inside my head, it seems quite few. In the way that fifty-four cents, fifty-four dollars and definitely fifty-four baht is not a lot of money. Fifty four days is barely long enough for two full moon cycles, two monthly pay packets, two monthly interest payments or dare I say two menstrual cycles. But the difference is in the way it feels. Fifty-four days feels like a long period of time. Fifty four days is long enough to wash away the vivid sensations of a life that has been left behind so what remains feels like a day-dream , an ever growing more distant memory. Colours are fading, smells dissipating, sensations dampening. Everything is washed over and tugged gently away by the wave of time.
I don’t miss Melbourne at the moment and I’m not sure that I ever will miss Melbourne. Maybe it’s because I know it’s winter there now, the cold, that I so dislike, settling in for the next few months. But it’s not just that. I don’t miss the feeling of the city, the culture and the way of life. When I think of my old life back in Melbourne, I feel the cells in my body tense up to say “please don’t put us through that again”. To all my family and friends, don’t be hurt by what I write. I can’t miss you because I carry you in my heart everyday so although we are separated by distance I don’t really feel like we are apart. But right now, I don’t miss Melbourne. Maybe at some point in the future I will. Melbourne is where I was born and have lived by default because that is where I was born. Whilst I’ve always chosen which suburb of Melbourne to live in, I’ve never really thought of options outside of Melbourne. My thinking has always been constrained. So in this year of wandering and pondering, this is one of the questions that is coming up for me, although not to be answered at this point in time.
In normal circumstances, going to the Immigration Office would be a mundane chore but not for me or at least, not in Thailand. My original plan was to catch a songtaew (local bus) there. However, my Thai friend, Pla, suggested it would be easier to catch a taxi because the office is not located in the heart of Phuket town. It would be too far to walk there from where the songtaew finishes and because the songtaew stops so frequently it would take well over an hour to get there one way. So my revised plan was to have my taxi driver, Mr Saveak, drive me there and wait for me and drive me back. In hindsight, that would have been easiest and simplest but hey, easy and simple is boring. A kind friend insisted on driving me there, so I agreed, thinking “how hard can this be?”
So I may have had a map of where the Immigration Office is located but there were a few minor issues; Firstly, I don’t know Phuket’s roads. I don’t have a car or a bike so when I’m being driven around I don’t pay as much attention to where I am going. I know how to find my way to Patong and Chalong on the main roads but don’t ask me to find something that is not on a main road. I don’t have a clue. Secondly, most of the roads on my map didn’t have names and the name of the road the Immigration Office is located on was one of the missing names. Thirdly, a lot of the landmarks on the map may have had English names on the map, but only had Thai names when we drove past them so were useless as landmarks to me.
So we set off in the general direction of Phuket Town and when we thought we were close to the turn-off, we took a guess and turned off the main road. Lots of Thai people, lots of Thai signs, but nothing looking like an Immigration Office. So we pulled over next to a Thai gentleman on his motorbike, showed him our map with the Immigration Office circled in red pen and asked for directions. He happily tried to assist us looking very intently and earnestly at our map but didn’t really seem to understand and kept pointing back to the police station we passed. We thanked him for his help and kept on our way.
Down the end of the road, we took another guess and turned left, still without a clue of where we were. Again we pulled over and this time asked a couple of Thai ladies at the fruit stall if they knew. Their English was not great either. They couldn’t give fluent directions but at least they understood where we wanted to go. They showed us where we were on our map, pointing out the unnamed road and explained “left, okayyyy, right okayyyyyy,” reinforcing the directions with hand gestures and pointing We thanked them with a grateful “Khob Kun Ka, thank you, thank you”. Their directions helped get us closer. Fortunately, I recognised the canal on the map and managed to get us the rest of the way although we did drive straight past it and had to ask for for more direction only to be told it was 50 metres behind us! Oops.
So an hour after leaving Kata, we finally arrived at the immigration office. Unfortunately, my friend needed to return the hired bike and had to leave me at the Immigration office. “No problem” I said and rang Mr Saveak to come and pick me up at 3 o’clock, allowing 30 minutes to sort my visa which I knew was more than enough time. Extending my visa was no problem. Pay for photocopies of my passport and photos for the visa at the back of the building for 146 baht and then pay 1900 baht for the 30 day extension. It was all finalised within 10 minutes.
So I sat outside and waited for Mr Saveak to come and pick me up. At 3.15pm there was no sign of him. Unusual for Mr Saveak to be late so I called him the same time he called me…engaged signal. I ring him back. “Where you?” he says. “I’m at Phuket Immigration Office, waiting for you. Where you?” I ask. “Southern Fried Rice” he replied. He had turned up at my guesthouse to pick me up. “Oh no, I’m at Phuket Immigration Office. You come pick me up from here?” I ask. “Yes, yes” he says and hangs up.
I guesstimated it would take him maybe about 40 minutes to come and get me from Kata so I lay down on the wide stair railing and stared up at the sky. Back in Melbourne, this situation probably would have caused me some stress, anxiety and maybe a little anger. I would have better things to do than waste time hanging around an Immigration Office in heat and humidity and inefficiency is just a complete waste of my time. But now it was different. I was totally unprepared for having to wait. I had no book, no journal for writing and didn’t even have the headphones for my iPhone so no music to listen to either. So with nothing else to do, I lay back on the railing and watched the clouds pass by. Some were thick like cotton wool and moving slowly, some were thin and stretched out dissipating quickly. Some were dark grey, threatening rain, others were the purest radiant white. Different shapes, different textures, unique in shape and form, like all of us.
As I lay there, I realised in that moment that I felt utterly at peace with myself and my life. This sensation of peace washing over me like a gentle cleansing wave, such a beautiful feeling. Everything is perfect, everything is as it should be, there is no reason for stress or anxiety even when things don’t appear to go right. I felt how from moment to moment I consciously choose and create my life. In that moment, I could have become frustrated and angry that my taxi was late. If I chose that response then I would spend the next 40 minutes feeling pretty awful. Instead, I lay there feeling peace, happiness and contentment. I also reflected on my life over the last few years and even recent days and realised how much my life flowed when I made decisions based on what felt right and how it went off course when I ignored that inner guidance. I could feel how I was steering my little Kym ship through life and how easy and fun it is to do if I follow what feels right for me and how I can always trust myself to decide what is right for me.
Forty five minutes passed and there was still no sign of Mr Saveak. So I rang him again. “Mr Saveak, how far away are you?” I aksed “What?” he said. My brow wrinkled, hmmmm, not quite the response I was expecting. “You on your way to pick me up, Phuket Immigration Office? I asked. “Tomorrow”, he said, “Pick up tomorrow.” “No, I waiting for you now” I responded. Oh dear. This was going to take a bit longer than I thought. “Can you come up and pick me up now?” I asked. “Yes, yes. Where, where?” “Phuket Immigration Office, Phuket Town, you know where it is?” I asked. “Ok, ok” he said. “Ok, how long you think?” “Twenty minutes”. He said. “Twenty minutes?” I asked hoping it was twenty and not seventy which I though he may have said. “Yes, yes. Twenty minutes” he said and hung up.
I chuckled to myself. My ten minute visit to the Immigration office was now extended to two hours. Not quite how I saw my day turning out, but what a blessing it all turned out to be. If you ever get two hours or even two minutes to be completely at peace with yourself, I recommend you jump at the chance! And once you find that peace, remember it, and keep it with you always.