Somewhere over the river Kwai

 »It is too far away, you cannot go there by bike ».

Fine, I will rent a bike somewhere else. Few meters away from the shop of Mr. Negative Energy, I found a tiny bike rental where a tiny charming lady was more than pleased to rent me wheels for a few hours and to show me the best way to go see the Giant Tree.

Right after the curve, where concrete returns to dust; I took a right. Following the river, I slalomed between cars and songtheaw for about 15 minutes before I arrived at the pier. There was the  »ferry » : a platform that fits 3 bikes and 6 people, with a motor at the back and a colorful wannabe flag in the bow. The cruise over the river Kwai.

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Being the only Farang (this is how the Thai call the foreigners) on the boat, I am being observed until one of the guys dares asking for a picture. As many shots as possible were taken during the 2 minutes crossing; giving a good laugh to the Captain, who is a woman. On the other side, things are wilder. I can tell from the first minute of pedaling that I left town. Cycling through fields and rain trees, I am on the quest for the Giant one.

Along the dusty road, tiny cabins are houses to families with as many kids as dogs; improvised temples decorated with cardboards animals are set on dangerous corners; cows happily wander in gigantic fields and only the far far away mountains seem to set limits to this peaceful scenery. Before the bridge, I stop and ask for directions to an soldier who seems to be in duty. No english was spoken, but he eventually manage to send me to one of his brother in arm, expecting me at the next intersection to show me the way. Having the road for myself, I feel in harmony with the space and its inhabitants – hairy or not.

A few blocks away from my army friend, I see him: the Giant Rain Tree. Standing proud, he is all about settlement and time. He did not try to grow fast and reach the sky; he grew solid in a ground he believed would nourrish him and grow old with him. The balance between his roots and his branches, ondulating and creating a peaceful sphere is hypnotizing. I cycle around him and I set foot next to a tiny market. Out of 3 stands, I walk to the old woman who waved at me when she saw me arriving by bike. Most people visiting this ground are part of a day tour and hop on and off buses or taxis. Sitting behind a rocky table, all she has to sell are about 40 bananas; probably from her garden. I asked for 2 small ones. She hands them to me and says  »no money, no money. good bike ». Surprised and flattered, I join my hands and bow down to her.

I stayed for a while in the shadow of the Giant; touching his roots and admiring his shapes. He has not moved. He is right here, more than anyone or anything else, and this is being here that makes him shine. He found his strengh and build his glow by being, staying, growing in one place. He is actually even more alive than I am; me, on the run, crossing borders and looking for happier places. It made me a bit homesick to realize how simple it was for him to grow in the place he was born. To trust his own roots. And to endlessly grow, majestic and strong.

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I quit a life where everything was organized. I had a routine. I now have all the freedom in the world; but I miss having habits. I miss knowing what will happen tonight just as much as I enjoy making decisions exclusively based on my instincts and desires. This is the weirdest I have ever felt in my life. The freedom is thrilling, and killing. I have no idea about tomorrow, for I do not know what I will feel like doing by then. On the bright side, I always please my instincts. But it is killing the control freak in me, who would like to plan already the week I will return to the homeland. I have been adapting so much, to the countries and cultures I visited over the last weeks; that I did not have time to create any habit, any safe place. I know I have a home, and I know I am not lost. I am wandering, and sometimes my steps make me walk in circle and I go from wander to wonder, forgetting to enjoy the wonders around me. I do not want to sound ungrateful, but for one day, I just wanted to be at home and as happy as this tree was. Just sitting, right in my roots, and growing from there.

So today I went swimming. It has always been a therapy to me. Started the first time I lived in another house than mine. I was studying in Paris, and sleeping in a shithole next to Paris. Was not exactly the dream I thought it would be, but I could not find the courage to leave so everyday I would go for a swim to the public pool. I would swim every evening, as fast and as long as I could, until the sky would turn so dark that I could walk  »home » without seeing what I was walking into. Weightless, in a world of silence. That was both my favorite habit and my safe place. So I went swimming today, renewing a tradition we had with my best friend from college. I walked into the fanciest hotel I could find around, acted like I belonged there and used their pool. They even brought me a bottle of water. It was a good swim. I did some good thinking, and I felt weightless and safe again.

I carry my roots. My dreams, my past, my fears, my strenghts. I carry them for I am not a tree and I have the freedom to chose where I want to settle. Freedom is not always easy to deal with, but it is a gift. I can chose to grow where I was born, just as much as I can chose to grow on the other side of the world; to grow in different grounds and to link my roots to other roots. I can move. I can change. I carry my roots. I just have to get used to the idea that the choices are mine, and that I am as free as one can be.It is more confronting than comforting, but I can always choose (back) for comfort if I want to. This is how free I am : I can do everything, be everywhere; but if staying here – there – is what I want, it also is a valid option.

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