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Chronic Joy

“Look a frog.”

“What?” I said.

“A frog!” he said with an extended finger pointing to a large crevice beneath my bare feet.

I crouched down and peeked over the edge of the small precipice upon which I was standing. “Ah! I see it.” There I was at Wang Sai Thong Waterfall, an about 15-20 kilometer bike ride from my home in Manang, for my weekly swim. Tuesdays are the best days for it since I usually finish teaching by lunch and am free to make the hour-long trip over. It’s one of my guilty pleasures, coming here and then stopping by the fresh market on the way back for some tasty food. Usually, I try to find a nice quiet spot to relax and soak in my surroundings. Feels great to just be in nature, with the cold water flowing all around, lost in thought. His voice seemingly came out of nowhere, pulling me out of my moving mental train.

“Where are you from?” he said.

“Manang. I’m a teacher at a school there.”

“Oh, that’s close! I’m from Pattani. I have friends here from Malaysia and Satun. Are you hungry? Come eat! We have grilled chicken,” he said with a smile.

“Okay,” I said, smiling back.

We made our way down to the foot of the waterfall where some people were waiting. They had made a kind of makeshift barbecue pit out of stones taken from the walkway and coal they had carried with them in a used Pringles container. There were plates of grilled chicken, skewers, rice, a small cooler with ice, cups, and a big bottle of Sprite. My new friend immediately pulled some chicken from off the grill (two clasping metal grates), put it on a plate, and handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I said in English without realizing it.

Mild surprise dawned on the face of a visibly older woman cradling a small child, sitting a little above me to my left. I had been speaking Thai all the way up until this point in time.

“Hello!” shouted a boy, presumably one of my friend’s friend’s sons, jumping at the opportunity.

“Hello!” I shouted back.

“Are you an English teacher? Where are you from?”

On the bike ride home, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh out loud to myself. Being here has put me in an awkward state of chronic joy. There is always something to be oddly happy about. People, places, things. Sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feeling. The minutiae of every passing present moment. Like snapshots holding back a tide of powerful, hidden sanguine soaked emotion. I’m ever in the wake of something weirdly funny. Even arriving home with a bag full of purple mangosteens, I’m met with some kids from my village who ask where I’ve been. I say swimming at the waterfall in Ban Wang Sai Thong and their eyes widen. Since I’m a little too tired to play soccer with them today, I open up the plastic bag with my ripe, organic goodies, and they reach in and greedily grab what they can, leaving me with one to eat for myself.

Sitting in my own sweat on the floor of my “living” room, I peel back the inky skin and suck out the ripe, juicy insides thinking, “Why in the world am I so lucky?”

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