Dawn in Isaan, looking East from my bedroom windows
[This is Part 12 of a series. If you found this via a search or just happened upon it some other way you can find parts 1 through 11 by scrolling down the Labels in the right-hand column and clicking on "Isaan Oddysey".]
I jumped awake in Tong's bed, completely disoriented by a bad dream. For a few moments I couldn't place where I was, and smelling smoke coming in through the open louvers of the jalousie windows I panicked a bit, probably moving faster than I had in months as I looked out the windows on all three sides while trying to determine if the house was burning.
Peeking out of my "penthouse" door I didn't see or hear anyone, and although nothing seemed out of the ordinary I slipped on a pair of shorts and went down the few stairs to the landing below my room to investigate further. To the East the sun was beginning to paint the sky with broad strokes of pink and orange, and to the West last night's just-waning moon was now setting, fat but faded above the horizon.
There were no sounds but those of the countryside at dawn: chickens clucking down in the yard, the syncopated rhythms of roosters setting one another off in the distance, the drawn-out lowing and mooing of cows and cattle, both nearby and farther away.
I padded softly back up to my room and got my camera, bringing it back down to the landing. There I stood and took a number of deep breaths, noting with a smile how the cool morning air drifting over from the trees was infused with the scent of leaves and grasses. It was so peaceful.
Fortunately the smoky smell was coming from the open area below the landing I was standing on, where Tong and Pot's mother had begun to cook breakfast for us - and not the supports for the house burning!
Standing there I heard the sound of Tong's motor scooter again coming up his driveway, carrying him in his robe. I suppose that's a luxury of living in the country with family nearby: you can dress casual to go visiting! I didn't ask but I suppose Tong had gone to visit his father who was staying at another brother's house nearby. If you remember from part 1 Pot and Tong's father had been quite sick for some time, and I'd suggested the stop to check on him since we were on a road trip North, anyway. I waved to Tong as he pulled in, and he waved back.
My host, sporting the latest in Casual Isaan Style
I went back inside to shower, dress properly for the day and pack up my belongings. When I was finished I set my bags down on the landing and went looking for Supot to get an idea of what our schedule looked like for the day. He was gone, as was the motor scooter, and I sat in the cool morning shade and read for a while until I heard the scooter again crunching up the gravel driveway, carrying Pot. He'd also gone to visit his father. I asked "Are we OK to go, or do you need to stay here?" "He's all right for now," said Pot, "We'll go ahead as planned."
After breakfast, we loaded things back into the truck and I gathered Suphot, his Mom, Tong and who I'm remembering as a cousin who happened to be visiting together for a quick family snapshot. Staying a night with them had been an unexpected surprise in addition to being an visit I'd enjoyed immensely. I was so grateful for their company and hospitality, and I'll always remember their kindness while I was there.
Tong leaned into the driver's window to talk to Pot for a minute as I waved goodbye to his Mom, and then we were off.
We made a stop at their brother's home nearby so Pot could spend a few more minutes with his Dad, which, it turns out, was time well spent. I'm sorry to say his father passed away in August of last year.