Thailand strangely brings back memories of school days and geography classes. I was part of the UN club, even then, interested in other countries, in far away lands. I picked Thailand for some reason. Maybe it was because the national flag colours (red, white and blue) were the same as the colours on the flag of my country. Maybe because of the pictures of the lacy, golden temples with eaves stretching up towards the sky, or the abundance of flowers everywhere. Or maybe I picked Thailand because of torquise waters in the magazines, that I carefully cut out and glued into my album, creating a “profile”, a presentation to use at the UN meeting. I can see myself sitting at the desk with a small flag on the stand next to my name tag, waiting for my turn to show off – everything that I learned to introduce Thailand to my classmates.

Regardless of the fascination with Thailand when I was in my early teens, my actual introduction to Thai food came much later, in Canada in 1997. I ended up in a restaurant with a group of my new foreign friends, not paying attention to where we were and what we were going to eat. Except for a few rare visits to one Indonesian and one Chinese restaurant in my home town, the only two with Asian food, I was absolutely unfamiliar with the dishes or flavours from this part of the world. I let others choose for me. The thing I remember was that I really liked what I ate, and I looked at the name of the restaurant on my way out. It was Thai. The encounter with the authentic experience and this country is still in waiting. One day…

Although it is now one my favourite types of food, I didn’t dare trying to cook anything Thai. This was a challenge, and, as it often happens, some of it became less of a mystery and more of a joy at the end of the day.

Thousand puzzles

How is this pandemic year
different from other years,
other hugless, kissless, touchless years,
seeing love from a distance,
seeing intimacy from a distance,
two meters apart or any other measurement?
Even two centimeters is a distance for me
because the line will never be crossed.

No caress, no fingers through my hair,
no skin under my fingertips,
to feel the blood going,
to sense the pulsing.
I am used to being alone,
I like my solitude,
I am fine.

The line cannot be crossed,
so at least I crossed the borders,
searching for other places,
to hug the unknown with excitement,
to kiss the horizons,
to touch the ancient stones and forests.
With myself as the only company,
and my apartment the unchanged scenery,
the world had much less to offer.

Online jigsaw puzzles
with photographs of various subjects and locations.
I break them apart in a second,
and while looking for a perfect fit,
I forget what they represent.
I build them back slowly
sometimes fast, competing with myself.
Under ten minutes and it is unbroken again,
revealing itself, beautiful places:
beaches, churches, mountains, streets,
deserts, everything.

I do them while watching TV.
I need an extra occupation.
I fall asleep and still move
the pieces on the screen.
After a whole day at my desk,
clicking on the keyboard,
I continue moving my mouse,
I cannot stop.
My shoulder hurts.

Another flower garden,
another winter forest…
I should rest in the evening,
I should let my pain dissolve.
Long into the night
when the city is quiet,
when my neighbour stops coughing.
I am still putting pieces together.
I am waiting for that moment,
when I will finally see
that emerging image,
the place I would rather be.

Even this pain is better than the silence,
it confirms my existence,
my fight against the windmills.