Sunday, January 16, 2011

15 January 2011: Ya Noi

I spent most of Friday in Phuket feeling incredibly dejected that I spent more time writing final papers than researching our impending trip to Southeast Asia. Had I done the latter, I would have discovered that just off the coast of Phuket proper was Phi Phi Island - setting for the film adaptation of one of my favorite novels, Alex Garland's The Beach, as well as site of Jack Shepherd's tattooing in Lost - not to mention one of the most beautiful places in God's great universe. Anyway, long-existential-angst-story short, I came to terms with my blunder, realized we simply did not have the time to sail away on this particular trip, found peace and detachment from unattainable desire, and prayed for gratitude for the gifts I had been given - a weekend of relaxation and renewal with my amazing family.

Who, incidentally, forbade me to follow in Jack's footsteps to seek a consolation prize at the tattoo parlor. Probably a good career move and a wise choice in terms of personal hygiene, but even without being inked, I very much felt an affinity with what Jack's shoulder read: "he walks among us, but he is not one of us." My brief quarter-life-crisis regarding Phi Phi reminded me that family means dying to self, that the life of a free-wheeling, adventure-bound back-packer is mine no longer - and probably never was, if I'm honest with myself. The obligatory white-male pilgrimage of embodied existentialism into the unknown in search of one's self may be an abeyance or a boon for many, but my life has always felt more fixed, more determined, more created then all that, and try as I have, like Jonah I've never been able to escape my destiny in Ninevah. Even when a suitable Tarshish lies around every corner. Among the bloggers, backpackers, hipsters and hippies, I may always be at best an admirer, at worst, a poseur, but always, a pilgrim in the midst of pilgrims, a stranger in the midst of strangers. But I have not been left an orphan.

All this is prelude to a celebration of where we did eventually end up - on a secluded white-sand beach known only to locals and Scandinavian snow-birds called Ya Noi. Leah and I only had an hour of kayaking and snorkeling, and we traded in backpackers for schools of fish and coral reefs, but I will say, there aren't too many better ways to spend an afternoon in this life, and no better companion with whom to spend it.

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