I cannot tell if time is speeding up slowing down or expanding into infinity. Infinite time and space allows the moment to breathe condense resolve and disperse into fractional particles spirting off and down rolling through beneath and amidst a universal pulse tailored by a whimsical mixing of color and physicality, unmasking illusions and delusions of sanctity and sanity. Sanctity and sanity are by no means mutually exclusive and even a rational mind no matter how hard it tries to blockade the pineal gland with residual time and infrastructure, cannot deny there is more to what we perceive.
I spent the last night of my Thailand excursion at a hotel in Bangkok. Instead of spending my money on the night I opted to stay in, eat at a buffet, watch some futbol and sleep soundly in a comfy hotel room. The next morning I put it all on credit and headed out to catch a flight to Taiwan, all being about 30 usd for a place that would have been at least 75 a night in the states. I was off to a new beginning, a new job, a new place to experience and explore stimulations. Fresh beginnings are a unique gift Americans and many first world citizens are gifted with, in no doubt an exhilarating breath of life. An elating emotion is the behind the force of hopping a plane, riding a bike, or even stepping into a new place. Going backwards is more dangerous than standing still, yet backwards may be the forwards in the direction you need to go.
Walking out of the hotel I was planning to take the sky train, it was a 15 minute walk with about the 45 pounds or so of my life I was carrying, I would be sweating for awhile and uncomfortable but at first thought saving the 300 baht would seemed worth it. Once outside I was greeted and ushered towards a taxi and the heat of Bangkok made me reconsider. How much I asked…600 Baht (18 usd) I laughed and told the man for less than that I can be on a bus the Chiang Mai (12 hours away) the airport was merely 30 minutes. The old mans laugh agreed with me and he said ok 400 and pointed me to a taxi, I looked in and said 300, he said no 4, I said ok Ill take the train and started to walk off, fifteen steps down the street I look to the left and the pink taxi has pulled up next to me and said 350 I said no 300, or Ill take the train. Looking at my clock I realized I was short on time and should take the Taxi. He then said ok 300 you pay highway, meaning the tolls. I said ok and we took off. The vibe was a little thick cause he wanted more money but he obviously was making enough that 300 was worth it for a 30 minute ride to the airport. Again I began to reconsider and asked him to drop me at the sky train stop, he responded it is closed today, knowing that is a typical bullshit response in Thailand that it is closed, I said to him I know it is not you are lying, and we drove on, the vibe was a little thicker, and I thought to myself I am leaving why am I being defensive to this guy its a reasonable price to the airport chill out, I then smiled and we made small talk lightening the load. Once on the highway this guy took off I gasped twice as he had to come to a quick stop, he gave me a whale eye with a subtle grin expressing his similar emotions. I thought to myself I am not in that much of a hurry, but actually I was. I showed up at the airport at about 10 and my flight was 1110. I had to wait in lines and show my passport several times, and go through customs. Sure enough we get to the airport I give the guy a 500 baht and he doesnt have change, he goes to one of the other many pink cabs coming and going and ask for change. After going to 2 and still no change, I said to him how do none of you have change this is your business, he didn’t know what I was saying but he knew what I was saying. Thailand is the land of smiles but sometimes you just put up with bullshit and I had dealt with my fair share, and standing at the airport I had not much time nor patience. He finally got change from a police officer after asking maybe 8 other cabbies, I thanked him gave him the sabei sabei smile (meaning nor harm no worries just trying get on with it) said see you next time, and hustled into and under the football field sized overhang to wait in line.
When you are in a hurry you calculate your time and see all the little things that are slowing you up, the unneeded conversations, the changing of printing paper, the cutting or thought to be cutting of lines, until finally you are there, its you turn. I step up hoping to get my ticket and get on with it–until I became the guy holding up another person who was running late. The Cathay pacific ticket man kindly said do you have a return flight out of Taiwan, I responded no I thought I can get a 90 day entry for free and figured I would buy my ticket later. He confirmed the 90 day entry but said if I show up without a ticket to leave Taiwan, they may not let me in and send me back to Bangkok, I said and I would have to buy the ticket to Bangkok, O yes he responded. Both of us knowing my time is short to get on my plane, he suggests I just buy a ticket to be safe and points me to the Cathay pacific ticket office. I agree and shoot over there. The woman than shows me a calculator with a price of 14,440 baht (nearly 500 usd) I declined and said that’s the only price she mumbled about only being able to sell flights to and from Bangkok and that was the only price. Having my computer and recently booked I knew I could get a ticket for a 1/3 of that price. I asked if there was wifi, she pointed off to a sign at the end of the football field sized lobby and said over there and down the stairs. I said all the way over their by that sign, with no emotion in her voice she said yes. Being about 1015 and still needing to get through customs I decided on a whim, that I would just go for it and try to buy my ticket in the Hong Kong airport during my 50 minute layover, that is if the flight was on time. Getting back to the ticket clerk I told him my plan, he mulled it over and said but they will want a printed out confirmation. I said I’ll make it work or maybe I’ll see you again, he smiled handed over my ticket, gave a slight bow, and assured me not to worry. Walking away I thought well thanks guy you are the one who has implemented the worry.
Now its 1020 I had to get through customs, I was bustling through the on time lackadaisical tourist families trying to soak in the last bit of Thailand, I on the other hand was racing to get to the gate, get on the airport wifi and try to make my purchase before the plane took off. I made it to the gate, sweating I pull out my computer and I’m thinking its all good this will work…only for the internet not to connect and to see above my gate in red, final call. I packed up and hopped on the plane. Sitting down I was still sweating, hot, irritated, and hoping I would not get to Taiwan and be sent back. Images of me sitting in handcuffs trying to plead my case to a short gruff looking Chinese officer, a worry also planted by the ticket guy, saying to me well you are American and they are Chinese, my rational mind said they arent really Chinese, and if they give Americans a free 90 day entry, we must be ok with Taiwan, but still I saw myself in a small room being detained. On the flight I let my worries drift away, I came to realize they were pointless and I watched the in flight comedies.
Landing in Hong Kong I noticed the fella who had been asleep the whole flight held and American passport and was going to Taipei, I ran by my scenario and he said I think you’ll be fine. I agreed thinking that would be completely drastic to send me back, when I could purchase a ticket right then and there and willing to do so, but still I felt I needed to buy that ticket before reaching Taiwan. The flight was a few minutes late and there was woman waiting to coral all the people headed to Taipei. We followed her through some back doors had a quick pass through customs, and I was then there sitting and waiting for the flight. This was the moment I had about 8 minutes to get connected, look up and find the best flight, being frazzled and needing water, I was a little confused, I was still sitting with the guy I sat next to on the flight from Bangkok and when I found a one way ticket for 12000, I asked him isnt that too much, he said yeah, and why not buy a round trip, youll need to come back, I agreed and found a round trip for less than the one way, assured that I could change the dates for free I purchased the ticket and with still some time hopped in line to go to Taiwan.
Relieved and dying of thirst, this whole excursion I hadn’t time to stop and buy water, and of course the bottle I brought with me was still sitting near a metal detector. Funny enough the same guy I sat next to from Bangkok, who advised me on my ticket purchase, we found ourselves sitting next to each other again, another 150+ person flight, he was a statistician, I didnt ask what he thought the odds of it were. We shared some inflight chichat and then watched the entertainment for the hour and 20 minute flight. Upon arrival our turn came to hop in line and exit the plan, he gave me a pat on the back and said good luck buddy, and I didnt see him again. Walking off the plane I was hoping all this works out, sure enough I get to customs, the agent is a young guy probably my age, all he asks for is the address of where I will be staying, I pull out my computer fill it in on the form, tell him I will be teaching English in Taiwan, and once he heard that quickly gave me the stamp of a free 90 day entry. I reckon it will probably be one of the cheapest and time allotting entries into a foreign country. After quickly grabbing my bag I turn a corner and amidst signs with names, I saw in big letters Kevin Coleman. I walked to the woman and she smiled brought me to a seat and I waited for a few moments until she found someone else. Next thing I know I am hopping in a van and driving off into the early night of Taiwan. First thing I noticed was the driving similarities to the states, drive on same side, wheel on same side, and the roads and signs just felt similar to the states. After a shorter ride than I had expected and right when I was dozing off I felt a nudge and opened my eyes being handed a cell phone. I say hello, and it is Ivy my director telling me I have a room number 602, not to forget it, and that the driver will drop me off and another driver will pick me up. Sure enough all this happens, I am dropped outside a mini mart, I wait about 5 minutes, a car pulls up and honks, I hop in and he drops me off at a hotel. A whirlwind of events but I had made it to Taiwan. Now I had to find a belt and get my clothes ironed before noon the following day. Thankfully I found a mall only a few blocks away, it opened at 11 the next day and I would have an hour to get in, get a belt and get back to meet my director who would take me to the school.
The next day I awoke early and was anxious to see what my new life was to look like, wondering if I could hop right back into teaching. First things first though I had to find a belt, I decided to just walk around for an hour before the mall opened. I was pretty lost as far as what anything was– large colorful vertical signs displaying Chinese characters and scooters whizzing by, scooters everywhere, no sidewalks at all. I went into the 711 and just browsed around taking my time to really look at the items figure out what they are exactly, contrast them to Thailand, then to the states and how much it costs. As I looked over the foreign chips, drink, candies, and the likes I notice the song playing, I recognize the lyrics, but think to myself what song is that, I have never heard this voice before. I then start singing the lyrics and a few words in realize it is Redemption Songs coming through a little fuzzy on the 711 speaker, it was a Taiwanese female singer, a little slowed and almost jazzier than the original. I smiled to myself and subtle oddities and messages sent to me from I don’t know who, but shit I thought maybe this is time for my redemption songs. Following up was a version of it’s a wonderful world, I am not creative enough to add this stuff into the story this is just how its. I decide on coconut water and fruit as my snack and step back out onto the street. I then stumbled upon a Giant bike shop, giant being the maker of the bike I road down the coast, which also happens to be made in Taiwan, another subtle sign or just manifestations of the mind, not sure, but I walked in and browsed the prices. For some reason Taiwan feels ripe for cycling. I need to get back on the bike. I then set off for the mall I had about 15 minutes max to get in and find a cheap belt, thankfully I found the target of Taiwan, and almost instantly. Only problem was these belts were all huge, every single belt was the same size, I didn’t get it, and couldn’t figure I was smaller than every Taiwanese man on the island. Until I stopped the woman who worked there and she pointed to herself and said I, I then followed paid for the belt ($3) and she then cut down the belt and put two holes in it for me and sent me on my way. I then hustled back to my hotel packed up changed, put on a tie and thought to myself am I overdressed? As I checked myself out in the mirror the phone rang, I answered and a woman said “sir your time is up.” I went downstairs and then waited in the lobby. Two hours later I was in front of a class teaching trying to get them to speak, to laugh, to have fun, to smile. My first class was only 3 seven year old girls. They were scared of me no doubt, one of them refused to smile until she was trying to force a smile away until then I had her laughing and giggling, I realized with that class best to just be clown, it gets them to laugh, and then they laugh and then they listen and do.
All has gone well other than its just a hectic and a new vibe, its so unfamiliar it is familiar, I find it odd how strange it is to be in a new place and the feeling it provokes, but then how quickly it becomes familiar. Same with meeting a new group of people or a person you connect with, and after some time goes by, at least I have felt this, but you look at the person and its like man these few moments I’ve known you and yet I don’t know you it seems like its been a lifetime and I do know you. I know you more than the people I have spent lots of time with. Maybe those are the interlocking moments of tranquil infinity, when the crashing waves of time subside and a warming sensation of peace takes hold, those few moments when money doesn’t matter it doesn’t even exist, you body is gone, your bills, your pain, thoughts, war, age, stress, it all dissipates so easily sometimes. I believe the true practice is to recall on those moments when in the eye of the storm, emotional bodies are so combative at times, and energy can be put to such better use than boiling your blood.
On a final note the oddities of Taiwan so far, the garbage truck slowly drives down the street and plays a song over the loudspeaker and people gradually come out with their trash to throw it away. When I first heard the garbage truck I looked back and thought huh Taiwan has funny sounding ice cream truck. Even more odd was the teacher at this school before me. At first I noticed his name was Casey, then I noticed on some he signed simply KC, and his signature looked remotely like mine, and I told myself not to go down the rabbit hole, until I asked my oldest students who are 13 and too cool, actually Shark is very talkative, and I explained to him how my initials were KC and if he saw the strangeness he agreed it was weird, and then said that when he first saw me he thought I was KC and the KC had gotten a haircut, I told him it was a bizarre feeling of dejavu and I asked him if he knew what that meant, Shark knew what it meant but could not describe it in English, from there I let it go, I also told shark what a doppelganger is.