When you are walking amidst a ‘crop’ of dragon fruit-producing cacti in Thailand and the little Thai woman who mothers the plants walks out of her home, plucks one of the pink pearls from the tree, peels back the skin, and offers you a taste of the delicate, creamy, pink pulp fresh from the vine, your life feels a bit surreal already. But when the same, weathered, non-English speaking Thai woman proceeds to grab hold of your hand and continues to maintain the grasp with a vice-like grip that could only belong to a person who has spent much of her life working with her hands, your life feels downright dreamlike. Yet, it wasn’t a dream.
Tim and I had been in Krabi, Thailand for less than six hours when our guide made a pit stop at a beautiful, colonial-style home complete with an iron gate, wooden porch swing, ivy archway, and dragon fruit orchard. We were coming from a morning spent exploring the sea caves of Krabi via kayak, after which we had enjoyed a local food feast in a floating restaurant near our dock. Turns out, a casual mention to your Thai guide about your love for local fruits can bring you to a pit stop at a dragon fruit farm in someone’s back yard. Who knew?
I was delighted by the strange way the dragon fruits appear, almost like a tumorous growth, at the tip of the cactus’ arms. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh with the chubby Thai boys playing some strange only-little-boys-know-what-the-object-of-this-is game with sticks and a cactus at the back of the rows of plants. I found pure bliss in sampling one of the sweet-sour pink pitaya. And I was utterly contented to have Tim so close to me sharing such a serendipitous travel-in-Southeast-Asia moment. All of these factors added to a feeling of true blue gut-happiness. But, it was one of the simplest of all human gestures that forced this happiness up to touch my heart as well.
The Thai woman’s desire to hold my hand related a common human desire to feel connected with others. Without the ability to interact through language, her vice-like grip felt like desperation to communicate an appreciation for visitors. And her initial unwillingness to let go, felt like the most genuine offer of thanks I have ever received.
Tim and I went on to have one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of memorable days, swinging from ropes into a freshwater pond dotted with lilies, watching the sun set over a nearly deserted shell-sand beach, and savoring a slow, mouth-watering Thai curry dinner while watching the World Cup. Yet, it is our quiet moment with the little Thai woman at the dragon fruit farm which seems seared most clearly in my memory.
In China the dragon is a symbol of strength, power, and, in contrast to the European dragon, benevolence. So, how nice to find these commendable qualities in a two-minute, language-free connection with a dragon-fruit farming Thai woman.
Six down…two to go.