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January 13, 2010

The Best Laid Plans….

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysia – "Dad you really need to snap out of it!" Mary admonished as I had screwed up the departure day for Chengdu, China. I had lost all track of time and was, to put it mildly, blindly in love.


I know, millions of pages and songs have and will be written and performed about this phenomena. I had fallen steeply, deeply and completely down the rabbit hole of this thing and it is wonderful.


Being a science person, I have always managed the travel plans to perfection. Flights to Washington or Los Angeles have been planned flawlessly, even two at the same time for my daughters. My training in biology had provided me with the logical skills to perform these sometimes complex scheduling. This learned behavior vanished. I walked, and to some extent still am, walking around with a grin on my face completely oblivious to the world around me, mind in a sort of haze enveloped in a cloud.


The trip to Chengdu was meticulously planned. A flight from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur; then a connecting plane to Chegdu. Hotel reservations had been secured. Plans to visit the panda research center had been completed.


But, I lost track of the days. When we were supposed to leave, we visited the Orangutan research center at Matang near Kuching. When I realized my mistake, that we were supposed to leave that morning, I understood all my China plans had to be discarded. The flights had been booked three months ago on a non-refundable basis. Where should we go?


Suriani and Christine suggested Bali and I agreed. Christine and Mary were not too keen on the cold and cloudy conditions of China and the thought of a vacation in the tropical paradise sounded very, very appealing. We were all exhausted from the wedding, plus the girls had just completed a two day trip with jet lag thrown on top. To everyone’s utter joy, Bali it was!


I made the reservations, this time with everyone checking to make sure I got the dates and flight times correct. I had three people ensuring my past errors would not be repeated. Practically being led to the airport, Suriani packing for me, we made the flight and landed in Denpasar. Upon arrival, we walked to the reservation desk and selected a hotel. For three days, we all collapsed around the pool and beach.


Of course, in a hurry to secure their tans for display back home in the winter time, my daughters got burned, turning deep red under the fierce tropical sun. I was already dark and Suriani, my wife, turned from a natural light tan color to a deep, movie star golden brown, making her so sexy to the people around her. And to me.


We had to travel away from the party town of Kuta Beach because of the lack of hotel space and went to the more sedate family oriented area of Sanur. Everyone healed and the tanning process began anew. Snorkeling, visiting art galleries and purchasing paintings all kept us out of the sun for a while. We also spent a day at the "arts town" of Ubud, a tacky Ocean City boardwalk atmosphere with no redeeming "arts" value at all. The only thing of any interest was the old palace where we received a special tour, past the "do not enter" signs because of our many questions to the guide.


Just before out visit to the palace, we visited my favorite place of all, the sacred monkey forest. We enjoyed the antics of the little scamps, feeding them bananas and watching these holy beasts wander around the paths and many statutes. I befriended one who leapt on my shoulder. I was scared, not because of the possible monkey bites, but what could possibly come out the other ends. My daughters were laughing hysterically at the scene as I tried to maintain some modicum of composure.


We returned to Kuta Beach where everyone, except for my beloved, were ravaged with Bali Belly and had to take medicine between sprints to the toilet. More rest by the pool coupled with a festive fireworks filled New Year’s Eve completed our 10-day stay.


My daughters left for the States soon after having seen, and more importantly, felt and lived in my world here in the Orient. I am afraid I have ruined them for life by adding a new and different experience which they will take away forever.


Now, they will view people of the Islamic faith as men and women who love and care and not fanatically wide eyed terrorists. They will know my wife, not just from a picture, but from having been in her kampung wedding and traveled with her for over three weeks. For providing them with this adventure, I know it will be an everlasting period in their lives, probably to be shared with the next generation.


…life is good…


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