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20 January, 2013

Thailand: Cooking & Happier Moments (Sunday)

The last day had in store for us one main activity - a cooking class. At the Silom Thai Cooking School, on Silom Road in the heart of Bangkok. It was truly one of the highlights of the trip. I don't recall how the day began, but I think we made our way over to where we needed to meet the others, and arrived early enough that we were quite hungry, or thirsty, or something. I have vague memories that we wanted to get there with time to spare, and then found our way into a restaurant that was completely empty, where we ordered some sort of fruit smoothies because we were very hungry or thirsty, or something. And they took a long time to make these smoothies. It took a very long time. Time was passing, and passing, and passing. And we needed to explain that we were in a hurry, and they found a way to clumsily provide us these beverages in takeout containers, but I don't think they were actually takeout containers - I don't remember well. Just that we were hurried, and we made our way back out to the corner where we met others. There were about 16 people in the class, in total. There were only a few Americans. And the rest of the people were from all over the place. Israel, Europe, Australia. All over.

There would be two teachers and the group would be divided in half. Our teacher was a very fabulous, petite Thai man, who had spent time living in San Francisco, was incredibly funny, and super-high energy. The first stop, immediately, was the open market, where we would select all of the ingredients that would be needed for the class. In addition to selecting the ingredients, the teachers educated us about the ingredients, their purpose, the flavors they provide, how to select them well, and many funny little tidbits. It was exciting, and created a levity that hadn't really been there on the trip for some time. We hadn't, other than the couple of dinners with Jakkie and Nu, had much interaction with others. And it was good to have it.

We made our way back from the market, and into the alley, and up the stairs of the building in which the class was held. We were given a bit of an overview of what we'd be doing. There are probably 20 different dishes that they teach at this school. On any given day, you will prepare 5-6 of these dishes, in courses. Learn, prepare, cook, eat, repeat. It's intense. A whirlwind, but you are doing it, and learning. We started off with preparing a curry paste using a mortar and pestle. Then we made a curry. Then we made a spicy Thai salad. Then we made a dish with fish cakes. Then we make a noodle dish. And there was a dessert too. Each course was bang-bang-bang, He teaches, explains, demonstrates. Then we repeat, go to our woks, and cook it. Eat it. Ten minutes later, back into the preparation room again.

The course probably lasted about three hours and I never wanted it to end. Some of the only photos of "The Two Of Us" from the trip came from that class, when others in the class were all taking pictures for each other. And we looked happy. On that day we looked happy. And it wasn't just an illusion. That was real. That was happiness. The intensity of the activity, jarring us from any of the stuck patterns, or any of the realities that weighed down on us. It all served to pull us back into the place where we were Together, and it didn't feel contrived.

That happens in relationships. Even when things are on the downward spiral, happiness can still be found. Because there was a reason you were drawn together. And underneath all practical matters, it can be found, if only for little windows of time.

I don't remember anything else about that day. I don't remember what we did after the class. I seem to remember we walked much of the way back, but I don't think we walked all of the way. I don't remember what we had for dinner. This was the last day in Thailand. The next day, we would wake up early, and hurry to the airport to begin the trip back.

When I think back on the trip, I will remember the photo of us doing the mortar and pestle together, sitting in the circle with the others, with big smiles on our faces. And perhaps, someday, it will be all that I'll remember about how I felt, with the sadness of feeling disconnected - and regret that I felt unable to stop the progression of that disconnect - falling away from memory.

Photographs have the power to preserve specifically what you want to remember.

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