The cold that is scratching the air of Chiang Mai is the one of those regions that are not equipped to face it. A language school in Lamphun is organizing a party in order to hire new foreign teachers. Two dozens farang in the back of a songtaew are noisily heading to the quiet town. When the school is closing the driver honks, we greet everybody and get back on the truck. It takes me the whole journey back to Chiang Mai to realize that I forgot to pick up my bag. It contains a big share of my daily life: my passport, bank cards and driving license. I get back to the songthaew, I explain and dramatize. The driver winces, then he's moved and gives up. When we arrive to the school there's no time to pay him, the tires are screeching and he's already heading home. Only my conscience can hear the thanks! that I shout.
I find the bag, I check it, it's alright, then a group of young people invite me for a drink. My sigh of relief isn't over yet, it definitely calls for a toast to good luck. When the bar is closing they offer me a couch, I thank them but I'd like to go home instead, I set off and point my thumb to the clear sky that looks like a slab covered with splinters of ice. When I'm about to lose heart a motorbike stops. It's my friends from the bar who didn't leave me alone, they make some space for me on the saddle and we speed along the dark and empty road. I hide behind the tiny body of the girl and she uses the guy's shoulders to fend off the wind. He can only rely on the screening properties of the fluttering nylon of his windbreaker.When we get to Tha Phae Gate they let me get off. While I look at them smiling all of a sudden I'm moved. I don't know what words I can use to thank them: I mumble, I hesitate, I perform a sequence of silly smiles, worthy of a cabaret with half empty stands, then I slowly start to walk back to my hotel. I think of those young guys that are fending again the cold wind that has just made my thighs numb. I try to picture them close to each other, with half-closed eyes and a smile on their face, for being good Buddhists they've just made a merit. One more step toward their purification, that to me looks more like a soft hibernation.
Chiang Mai, Thailand, December 2001
Photo: statues in a temple at Chiang Mai, by Fabio
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