Danielle does the blogging and you should be thankful for that. However, tonight she is in bed and I am wide awake trying to process the day. I think I will leave the going away party for her to write about; she is the wordsmith and was there for its entirety. I will tell you about a trip to the US embassy.
As a result of the expeditious processing of James’ Visa, I took my leave of the going away party early leaving Danielle to face the room of clamoring orphans. It was difficult to leave early and miss such a meaningful moment but I would be lying to you if I said there was not a part of me that felt a modicum of relief. Relief from the eyes; eyes within which a cocktail of hope, desperation, loneliness and joy swirled. Eyes that asked why we hadn’t chosen them, that pleaded for attention and sparked when they received it. I will not soon forget them.
I had waited for the last possible moment to leave so I hurried down the sun drenched street, sweat dripping into my eyes as I looked for an available taxi. In Bangkok it is often quicker to walk a block and catch a ride in a less congested area. Once it took us 30 minutes to travel one block, traffic here is horrible. As I walked past Lumpini Park, home to the Yellow Shirt protests, the bullhorn speeches and shrill whistles could be heard coming from the tent city. Danielle and I had mistakenly walked into this camp last week thinking it was a night market. We should have been tipped off by the bag checks and lack of tourists if not by the fist pumping and soup lines. At the edges of the park there were sandbag bunkers filled with military, across the street were police trucks next to a burned out car. The military tends to support the yellow shirts while the police tend to support the red shirts. It was then that I saw a group of men wearing balaclavas sitting on some steps. Did I mention how hot it was… far too hot to be wearing balaclavas for any innocent reason.
Still failing to find a taxi I decided to broaden my experience and take a motorcycle taxi. There are gads of these fellows along the sidewalks wearing bright pink or orange vests who would love to take you on a harrowing adventure as you weave through traffic toward your destination. I haggled a price from a pink clad man and then we were off sans helmets. Perhaps I should specify that I was without a helmet; his head was safely encased in protective gear as I clung to James’ paperwork in one hand while the other grasped the back of the bike. There were moments that I enjoyed myself but mostly I focused on not falling off or worrying about my driver’s deft threading of traffic.
I made it to the embassy with one minute to spare. In the movies there is always a tall gate manned by marines and the hero plus one damsel in distress run toward the gate yelling, “I’m an American citizen, open up!” I had hoped to do this at some point. Thus far I have been disappointed. Perhaps the marine gate is located elsewhere but only Thai security manned the doors to the consular.
I was the only one in the Visa processing area when I entered. I sat for about three minutes staring at poster warning that false visas and passports will open lots of doors (iron barred ones behind which you will sit for years) and close one (to the US) forever. Then my name was called, I was given a sealed envelope for US customs and told in no uncertain terms that I should not open it for any reason lest a sniper emerge from the brush and execute me on the spot. Or maybe it was a hefty fine plus extra hassle at the airport, who can recall details?
I chugged a few small paper cones worth of water and headed back out into the heat. Taxis were plentiful on the street and I caught one with no hassle. Why not have another go at the motorcycle you ask? I was nervous that the sacred envelope might be damaged and said sniper would exact his revenge. Anyhow, taxis are air-conditioned. My driver, Mr. Noppadon, had a swastika tattooed on his right hand. I have seen hundreds of these in Thailand proudly displayed on shirts, patches, temples and now taxi driver hands. Now before you lecture me on the religious significance of the swastika know that I am aware of the distinctions between that use and Nazi use. I am not so sure that the Thai people are aware of that though. Many of the ones I have seen on shirts for example are full on German Nazi Swastikas but I digress. Across the inside of the windshield Mr. Noppadon had written, “I AM. LEGEND.” This stuck me a certain way at the time but I will forgo explaining this as now it strikes me differently. “I am.”
I made it back to the Children’s Home just in time, Danielle and James were about to head back to the hotel. Again, I will leave the parting for Danielle to tell you about but the upshot is that I’m pretty sure our taxi driver thought that we were abducting James.
Dear readers, thank you for your prayers and support along the way, it has meant a great deal to us. Some of you have been down this road already, other are preparing to make it. Some of you are considering adoption yourselves. If I could properly convey the look in those children’s eyes to you dear readers, you would start the journey today.