Although I have never liked rain, it seems to have figured more prominently in my life since I first went to Thailand. Strangely, when I am there, it doesn't bother me at all because it appears to tie together significant events that changed my life completely – there are lots of fond memories of rain in Thailand – rain in Bangkok and rain in Chiang Mai.
Fon tok in Oz.:
When Natalise came back to Australia with her 2nd Visa (6 months) I was so happy to have her back with me. We moved into a small apartment in one of the northern suburbs and it was a truly wonderful time in life – every day was a special experience. I loved her so much. While she was here previously with her 1st Visa (3 months), we married in the Thai Wat in the morning and registered the marriage in the Registry Office that same afternoon by going through the marriage ceremony again. To me, the ceremony in the Wat was far more significant and spiritual than the afternoon service.
Natalise adapted to life here very well and immersed herself in craft activities during the days while I was at work. She taught herself to crochet and made several large bedspreads out of wool and was so proud of what she had made – and so was I. Then, every afternoon when I returned, we would go walking down by Kedron Brook and through the many hectares of parkland that ran for several kilometres beside the brook. It was very peaceful on those walks with the sun getting lower in the west as we walked hand-in-hand, enjoying the fresh air and the comings and goings of birds in the trees – and greeting passing joggers on their afternoon fitness routines.
On those walks we found several large mango trees and, in season, they became regular destinations to collect the green fruit for salads. I don't think I had ever been happier in life than in this period – but there was just one drawback – I was doing battle with Australian Immigration to have her "No Further Stay" clause removed from her Visa. We had already lodged the paperwork in The Australian Embassy in Bangkok, for her Spouse Visa (not long after her 3-month Visa had expired) and that was being processed.
The correspondence back and forth with the Immigration Department, personal representations to their offices, along with endless telephone conversations were all to no avail. Letters to The Immigration Minister, The Prime Minister, Equal Opportunities Commission and anyone else in Canberra who may have been interested, proved fruitless. This battle went on for almost the whole 6 months until I decided to get smart and invoke some political clout. I had the ear of a prominent senior politician in the Government of the day who agreed to intervene – and he went to Canberra and spoke with The Immigration Minister. My politician friend called me on cell-phone to advise me to expect a call from Canberra.
The next day that call came through advising me that a deal was being offered. If my wife left Australia within the validity of her current Visa, they guaranteed to turn her around in Bangkok in the shortest time possible. I was sceptical but had no option but to believe they were being honest. We agreed and the deal was struck. The day she left me to go back to Thailand was a very hard day for me as I stood at the large glass windows in the terminal, where raindrops were running down the outside of the glass. I watched her aircraft push back from the terminal, the tug uncoupled and then she was gone. The rain falling outside made things seem even worse.
She went back with 2 weeks left on her Visa and presented at The Australian Embassy the day after she arrived in Bangkok. When she arrived at The Australian Embassy, she was met by the Immigration Manager who escorted her around to introduce her to all staff who would be handling her Provisional Residency Visa. Then she was told it would take around 10 days for the processing and that she should go to visit her parents and the Embassy would call her to come in to collect the Visa. True to their word, they called her and she was given the Provisional Residency Visa that same day. Two days later, she was back in Australia with me – in total, no more than 3 weeks away from me.
The day she arrived back from Thailand was a rainy day – but I didn't care this time – not one little bit. The person I love had come back to me. I met her at the airport with an overnight bag packed and I took her into the city, where we booked into a nice hotel for the evening.
Some years later, fon dtok in Chiang Mai:
"I think you have somebody waiting outside in the rain to take you away" – ("I'm Not Supposed To Care" – G.L. 1976)
Nat and I were now separated and filing for divorce by mutual agreement. It was not something I wanted but I had no intention of causing problems for her – so I was helpful to her in every way possible to execute this process. On reflection, I guess all the signs were there for quite a while and I could see the sky was about to fall in – incoming cell-phone calls that were taken by her in the bathroom or outside on the patio. Then there were the changes in temperament that served to build a wall between us. Work was a thing of the past for me by now so I took myself back to Thailand and made Chiang Mai my base, after finding a most wonderful lady to be with me.
There were many good times together in Chiang Mai with my new love – but the most vivid memories are those of rainy days where we would go out, huddled under the umbrella, to do the things like trips to the 7-Eleven or down to Warorot Markets for fresh fruits – or to check out clothes in the evenings. We didn't care if we got a little bit wet – even uncomfortable times together were always fun. Best of all was cuddling up under the doona in our room, snuggled up like bugs in a rug and "dreaming of belonging to each other" – falling asleep with Thai music playing and the gentle patter of rain on the window panes. I quite welcomed the rain in those times – it brought us closer together.
Still, there were times when my thoughts went back to Bangkok and the times when Natalise and I had done those same things. I tried not to dwell on those times, nevertheless they were still there – buried but not forgotten in the mists of time.
"Wishing this was all a dream and I'd find you sleeping when I wake" – ("Looking At The Rain" – G.L. 1972)
Later still, fon tok in Bangkok:
It was 2007 when I met Suji, fully intending to spend the evening at a Japanese bar in Thaniya – but I walked past all of the bars and turned into Suriwong. I don't know why I did that because a night in a Japanese bar was the only reason I came to Sala Daeng on that evening.
The rain was falling lightly when I stopped to talk with her. That night, the heavens seemed to open – the rain was so heavy that I had problems getting back to my hotel. Sitting in a tuk-tuk at the intersection of Silom and Rama IV, in the pouring rain, the driver and I were waiting about 15 minutes for His Majesty's Motorcade to pass through the intersection, travelling west on Rama IV.
Back in my hotel room, all I could think about was Suji – how she had touched my heart with her gentle ways and peaceful outlook on life. That night in Suriwong was where it started – and we are still together.
Even now, there are still times when I reflect on life with Nat in Oz and, before that, with her in Bangkok – and my times in Chiang Mai are with me almost every day and night. Perhaps one should never entertain the notion of engaging in a new relationship when memories are so strong from the ones in the past. Some have said to me that to engage so soon after a breakdown in a relationship was merely a rebound action. I don't know if that's true or not – all I am sure of is the strength of the feelings experienced.
Regarding Oz and Chiang Mai:
"I think this time, we've learned enough to know that nothing is the same" – ("Now And Then" – G.L. 1975).
No, it never can be the same – so much water has flowed under the bridge – and dwelling on things can create a toxic situation that only serves to destroy the good things that are still left.
When I think of Suji, these words fill my senses.
"You're as soft as the rose
You're as sweet as the honey
You're as warm as the bright morning sun
You're as cool as the breeze on the last days of April
You're as fine as fine can be"
"You're as bright as the moon
You're as light as a feather
You're as fine as fine can be"
("Fine As Fine Can Be" – G.L. 1975)
I guess that says it all for me – why would any sane person even consider being anywhere other than with this sweet lady.
[All in quotes and italics are lyrics by G.L. (Gordon Lightfoot – Canadian songwriter/performer) from his extremely prolific pen – songs I have played and lived for half of my life. In May 2003 "Gordie" was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour and he is absolutely a national treasure and living legend.]
There is so much truth in these seven short lines that we mongers should take heed of:
"When you wake up to the promise
Of your dream world coming true
With one less friend to call on
Was it someone that I knew?
Away you will go sailing
In a race among the ruins
If you plan to face tomorrow, do it soon"
("Race Among The Ruins" – G.L. 1976)
I will be back with Suji later this year and I shall continue to honour her as the treasure that she will always be to me. And no, I do not send her money (nor have I ever done so). She asks me for nothing – but I look after her very well when we are together. She is like nobody I have ever met before.