Mr. Sunny, I can’t thank you enough

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This will be my 6th post in the series ST-Bound with the ST standing for Singapore and Thailand. I had a lot of adventures and one blog post wouldn’t cut it. Check out the past ones here for the one you are about to read to make more sense:

1.My Indian Friend, The Salary man, and Mr. Lebanon 2.The Feeling of Arriving 3.I shall call this post Emily 4.This Table is Reserved  5.High Expectations of the Bus Driver


From Singapore to Thailand, I chose to take the bus instead of the plane. With a lot of trouble throughout the night, I had only gotten two hours of sleep. I finally stepped off the bus at 10:00 in the morning and found myself in a bustling city. Locals frantically tried to get us into their cars, doing their best to convince us that their way would be the cheapest way. Looking around I saw food stalls, other tourists and curious people who kept staring at our group.

With quick goodbyes to my bodyguard friends, I got a couple of watercolor sketches ready and passed it to them as a thank you. I scribbled my name on the back of both in hopes they would find me online. I jumped on my bus and waved to their backs.

Thirteen of us including the drivers got packed into a small van with all of our luggage. I felt like I had been crammed into a can of sardines. My backpack stole half of my seat, leaving one of my legs dangling while the other sat firm in the gap by the sliding door. Although I was fairly comfortable, sitting a few hours in that position without moving made my legs swollen without my noticing. I got the shock of my life when I looked down to find my feet looking more like an elephant’s than my own.

I thought that I would be without friends for the remainder of the trip, but I started chatting up the man sitting next to me. They were also on the first bus, but I did not realize that all nine of them were on a family vacation together. I did not converse with them the whole way to Thailand because I didn’t think they could speak English. I was happy to have been forced into such close quarters, having the excuse to make more formal introductions.

He was a young man with a sweet smile. He wore black rimmed glasses and spoke earnestly. His wife was younger than him, my age. If memory serves rightly, her name was Ayu which means “Beautiful” in Malay. It could not have been a more appropriate name.

I spoke mostly to the husband because of the positioning of the seats. While he and his wife spoke English, the rest of the clan could only pick out words. At the one and only rest stop, I was happy that they invited me into their group and shared their spicy coconut snacks with me.

Upon getting back on the bus, I shared my story and background with him. He also shared his and we enjoyed a couple of hours of conversation. He expressed his worries about Singapore and the direction it is taking. From a tourist or expat point of view, everything seems normal. However, if you have a middle-class job the salary just doesn’t cut it for all of the living expenses. Although the people of Singapore seem content, there is a fault line underneath the surface. Shops in Chinatown and Little India close down because of the cost. People cannot keep up, forcing them to go to neighboring countries. His prediction was that in the future, those lower-class areas will be wiped out completely, leaving room for the rich to move in.

Whether what he spoke of is true or not, it was interesting to get an insider’s point of view for the first time.

Though the last bus driver was a nightmare, this part of the ride probably was the most dangerous. The speed limit was 80, which I am sure most people exceeded. The ride was like a video game, barely dodging the cars as they came by, or going into opposite lanes with cars coming head on. If you could drive on that road for even half an hour, you could drive anywhere.

I alternated between talking, sleeping, and staring out the window. Looking out, I noticed that all of the trees were incredibly straight. I was informed later that they are all farmed for their rubber.

Cows were also everywhere along the way. I saw beaches, advertisements, photos of the king, dirt roads, dogs roaming — everything I would expect Thailand to be. Similar to how I remembered Bali, but with everything in Thai writing. To my eyes it looked similar, but the air was different. Something about the people was different. I would have to go there more to see if I could differentiate the countries.

The family was able to get driven right up to their hotel while I would have to find another taxi to get to my Villa after reaching the main drop-off point. We exchanged goodbye’s and wished each other luck on our travels. They dropped me off at a busy street and I had the challenge of making deals with some locals to get another ride to my hotel. I kind of knew the drill — never take the price they suggest initially. Being physically and mentally exhausted I could not get it down too much, but I couldn’t be bothered to work harder for a local price.

My final driver was everything I wanted my first bus man to be:
He was slightly over-weight.
He took his business seriously.
He had no problem finding my destination.
He was soft-spoken.
He answered my questions as best he could in his limited English.
He had a kind smile.
His name was Sunny.

When I got to my Villa, I kissed the ground. I couldn’t believe it — I got there in one piece with an added bonus of being mentally sound. And it was all thanks to the Malay Bus Driver, My Singapore Friends, and Mr. Sunny.


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Keeping the kitchen sink clean

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I have been doing a lot of moving around Japan and have also been doing a lot of thinking. All of the people that have crossed my path, all of the same old ideas, fresh ideas, are going in circles in my head. I am trying to take in all of these things. I am trying to understand the confusion, the slight leaps of joy that my heart takes, the indifference that I feel when there should be emotion. I am wondering why certain things decided to play out in my life and I cannot be too sure if it will have a positive or negative effect on me. Some say that life is what you make out of it. A beautiful idea, but also a scary one for me considering the struggle I have to even keep the kitchen sink clean.

From a young age, I wished to be in control of my life. I would make lists and itineraries for myself to finish each day, and that would give me my sense of security. Making those lists and checking off the things I had to complete is what made my world comfortable and beautiful. Now I am skeptical to whether or not you can let beauty be forced rather then just let beauty be. Lists have their benefits, but for me they left me feeling passionless. They got me somewhere, but when I arrived I felt as if all my effort had been in vain. Nothing I did would ever be enough.

Recently, I have been reading things that have put my mind at ease. I am reading things that I enjoy, that I can understand through my own experiences. You may tell yourself that you are inadequate, but it’s okay. There is beauty in that. There is beauty all around, in the people, nature, and your own self.
It doesn’t have to be clawed out, but will shine through once the walls that the world made you build around yourself get torn down. For myself, I can only hope that something beautiful can someday come out of this wrenched soul. I can only hope.

In the meantime, I will hop on my bus back to Osaka and start my new job at the Bistro. I am looking forward to seeing what stories may come out of this experience.

9:43

Open, close. It’s 9:43.
I hear the loudspeaker and see what I see.
The windows of the train holding all of those lives that are fleeting.

The girl with siren red hair, laughing. The old woman in the purple coat shivering. The suits going to their companies. The girl falling asleep on her knees.

They are all you, they are all me.

That was the train that left at 9:43.

Bubblegum Clouds

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I saw the bubble gum color clouds tonight mingling with the light blue sky in the evening. A blue that took me back to when I was younger. I played a black and white memory that I could not recall as well as I would have liked to.

They were gone- those clouds in a moment. I left the room only for a short while, and came back to wanting those bubble gum clouds and that light blue to wipe the blues away from my life, but they left.

They left the night asking, will we come back?

(Sept. 2014)

To the boy sitting next to me

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To the university boy sitting next to me on the train yesterday:

Thank you so much for tapping me on the shoulder. Thank you so much for pulling out Google Translate to make an attempt to appreciate a stranger. Thank you so much for telling me about yourself. Thank you so much for letting me talk to you about my life. Thank you so much for wanting to meet again. Thank you so much for not being like the rest of the population. Thank you for giving me my favorite memory of the week.

I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting you if I hadn’t missed my stop.

Again, thank you.

The Train Stories: His Foggy Eyes

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We are attached to false feelings of belonging. We become addicted and we forget what it truly means to touch another persons life. The man sitting beside me clearly has the wrong idea.

(One year ago)


I can’t remember why the man sitting next to me had the wrong idea, but I keep getting reminded of how easy it is to become infatuated. When reality comes knocking, you feel ashamed of how blinded you had been and wish you could have been more in charge of your feelings. Cloud-9 really knows how to fog up a persons view. So whatever the man sitting next to me was doing, it’s okay because we are all human. From recent experiences, I now know how easy it is for the path to become blurred.

High Expectations of the Bus Driver

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I slept-in the following morning and took my time freshening up. It was my last day in Singapore and I had to check out of the hostel by noon. My bus wouldn’t leave until six in the evening, so I hoped that the staff would allow me to leave my luggage in the lobby while I went on my last adventure: Doing my laundry and getting lunch.
After eating my cereal in the morning, I brought my bag of clothes up to the roof for cleaning. There was a man already waiting for his load to finish and we started talking.
He reminded me of a nice, latino version of Lenny from the Power Puff Girls. He talked and talked, and seemed to have a real passion for voicing his opinions and experiences.
I mentioned to him that I would be going on a bus from Singapore to Thailand that would take me a full day. With that, he went on for about 20 minutes about how he knows people who died on those kinds of buses. “Just one little deer in the middle of the road would do it. Buses don’t stand a chance”. I was horrified. In Japanese we have a phrase for this called Kuuki Yomenai(空気読めない), which literally means, “Someone who can’t read the air”. He kept going on even though I obviously didn’t want to hear more about how likely I was to die on the trip.

After all of the graphic stories, he was kind enough to point out Little India to me from the roof. It seemed close so I decided to walk around in that area to find a Indian restaurant.

I finished preparing the schedule for the bus, and left in search for food. Red umbrella in hand, I walked in the direction that my laundry friend pointed me in. The roads were confusing, and getting lost was inevitable. I did make it to an Indian-like shop, but got stuck there because of the heavy rain. I hoped it would let up, but with it being monsoon season it didn’t happen. I don’t know where my sense of direction went, but I walked in circles while the rain poured down on me.

I arrived back to my warm hostel completely soaked. I still had a couple of hours before my bus would leave. Enough time to dry myself and bid farewell to all of my friends. With some last hugs and kisses to my hostel-mates, I packed and set off to the bus stop.

Boarding was chaotic, and it looked like I would be the passenger that was a tourist. A couple of friendly Singapore natives introduced themselves to me. I was pleased that I would have a couple of friends while traveling, and had no idea at the time how much I would appreciate them later on.

I built up an image of my bus driver in my head as this slightly overweight, smiley Singaporean male with a face that said, “I will get you to your destination safely!”. However, when my bus driver made his entrance, I was disappointed. He was a hunched over, short man with a scowl and spoke in loud Malay. No English except, “NO TOILET ON BUS!”.

Online you could choose your seat, and I went with seat 1#. When I got on the bus, I realized that I was the only one with a clear view of the driver. He was a speed demon, and as the sun went down, so did any of my safety expectations.

An hour and a half into the trip we crossed the Malaysian border. I had the thought, “He may not look like how I had pictured, and he may be driving really fast in the dark, but I bet he takes his job really seriously.” The moment that thought went through my head, I see his hand reach into his pocket and pull out his cellphone. The man started to text and drive. My mouth dropped to the floor. I had read one too many articles about accidents in cars from texting and driving and this man was in charge of the twenty lives sitting in the back.

It was a very stressful night as I watched him pull out his mobile multiple times to text. He moved on to hands-free calling as well. I was relived that at least he had the sense to do that.
Though out the night, my paranoid mind started planning my funeral music and the chances of me not arriving in Thailand seemed high.

Around midnight, a loud siren sounded off in the back of the bus and red lights came into view. On my left, three ambulances shot by me. I winced. “Please don’t let it be a bus. Don’t let anyone be hurt, but just don’t let it be a bus”.
I saw the car reck and felt a little sick. It was a van. I would be riding one the next day after reaching Thailand.

On of the notes that I jotted down in the middle of the night was: “I just want to pass out and wake up when we get there”. I had no grit for this trip at all.

After another ambulance whizzed by, and 278 more kilometers to go before we reached Kuala Lumpur, I actually started to get a little drowsy. I decided to do my best to take a nap. I closed my eyes for five minutes and I started to smell something funny. What was that smell? I know that smell, but what would that smell be doing on this bus? Oh, of course. The bus driver.
I open my eyes to him smoking a cigarette in the middle of the night. By this time, I wasn’t even surprised. I just wanted to get to Thailand.

The two Singapore gentlemen were lucky to be sitting way in the back out of view of anything I was seeing. We got off a couple of times, and thanks to their carefree attitudes, I had a tolerable trip. If It had not been for them, I do not think I would have made it out of Singapore sane.

We did a lot of talking, and they bought me a meal at the food court in Malaysia for dinner. They were high school buddies and had known each other for about ten years. When they passed money to the clerks at the food court, they told me that as a tradition in Malaysia, you have to pass and receive things with your right hand. It is seen as rude if done with your left.

The three of us got back on the bus, along with a new bus driver with a bright red T-shrit with the words, “Safty-First” printed brightly on the back. I prayed that this one would be better than the last guy.
He was very similar to the last guy. Except he didn’t talk on the phone hands-free.

After the longest 14 hours I have ever lived through, we arrived in Thailand. My new Singaporean bodyguards were going to Krabi and I was going to Phuket, this would be the last time to see them. I gave them a couple of my cards with my name scribbled on the back, but I forgot to ask for their names. Not getting their contact information is one of my biggest regrets of the trip.

I had one more leg of the journey and was the most physically exhausting. It would be another long day in front of me, but it was morning and everyone was alive and well. I was hopeful that I could get to Phuket in one piece and looked forward to what the rest of the afternoon would hold. I thought that since the sun was up, the driver would be able to see the road better, increasing my chances of not dying before reaching my destination.


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