Tackling the streets
Unspoken physical challenges
More than a year has passed since I eagerly battled the streets of Chiang Mai. I was always traipsing through the city - embracing new challenges and exciting discoveries. Each adventure provided something I could grasp and welcome into my private world. I miss the walks with an open agenda. Finally, I silently scream - enough already!
I succumb to my incessant taunts and choose to start small: walking from my apartment to Baan Tuek Art Center to view the exhibition Memory of an Ordinary Person by Chatchai Notanandu. Choosing this route to reignite my war against the crumbling sidewalks, the excessively high curbs, and the erratic traffic seems reasonable. Only three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km), I am well acquainted with this pathway - and confident.
Leaving home, I glance down my soi to the main road: Chang Klan. It appears further away than expected, and I sense restrained trepidation simmering. Without pausing, I ignore everything that is attempting to squelch my determination - even my fiery pain. As usual, I repeat with each step, breathe Debra breathe.
With a tinge of angst, I exit the comfort of my road and head towards the gallery. I desperately want to peer around and take enticing detours. I convince myself to remain on the direct route, which proves to be more challenging than I anticipated.
Even though I cope relatively well with the dilapidated sidewalks, I must look down and not around. Frustrated with this barrier to absorbing my surroundings with ease, I stop every few feet to scrutinize the numerous changes. Frequently, I am rushing by in a car; however, today, I am intentionally interacting personally with the closed shops and the desolate streets - not shocked - heartbroken.
Empathizing with all who no longer have a job or business, my current struggle to walk is far less critical. I am fighting to regain my agility, but will the people who lost their livelihood be able to survive? I can hope - time will tell.
The lack of people lingering in front of the one-time vibrant businesses or strolling around is devastating. I continue.
I quickly realize this is going to be an agonizing and risky experience.
Slowly moving forward step by step, I approach my first extreme curb. Refusing to acknowledge an inkling of anxiety brewing and courage waning, I attempt several times to make my way down to the street. With much difficulty, I succeed.
Fortunately, the gallery is not far away; nevertheless, I am facing unfamiliar obstacles. I will not feel comfortable until I am inside. Alone, I have the opportunity to view the exhibition leisurely and speak at length with the artist.
Time passes, and it is not until I am ready to walk home I realize how little energy I have. My strength is gone - gobbled up by my curiosity.
Upon leaving, I consider calling Grab but give in to my stubbornness and begin walking. I stop cold.
What was to be a simple walk was not. The physical and emotional challenges were overwhelming - I failed. Yes, I chose to call for transportation.
At home and exhausted, I devise a plan of action to conquer Chiang Mai's streets - I will not allow myself to be defeated: time, practice, and patience.
I hear the constant and irresistible calls to roam the city - I am coming.