The Girl with the Feather in Her Hair
My journey outside of the US will come to an end in two days. In reflecting back on what have been the most memorable, most powerful moments in my journey there are a few that are surprising in their simplicity.
One particularly poignant memory is of a day spent with Indra, a little girl who lives on Koh Tao. Indra’s mom needed to go to Koh Phangan to help out with an emergency (she is a healer) and asked my friends Gabs and Jo to look after her daughter for a day or two. Indra and I immediately became best friends, racing up and down the beach, splashing in the surf, and eating coconut ice cream topped with peanuts and chocolate sauce (Indra loves chocolate, must be her Belgium half showing through). After the sun went down we decided to climb on top of the big rocks protruding from the sand outside of Tank restaurant.
I vividly remember the contours of the rock, sloping down gradually until rounding off until a four foot drop to the sand below. I can feel the texture of the rock, filled with tiny holes, smooth on my hardened feet. I can see the pristine pink and purple dyed feather hanging from Indra’s hair. We sat on that rock and talked about the things we liked to do. It turns out we both love chocolate, climbing on the rocks near Lam Thien, eating pad thai (I guess that’s her Thai half showing through), and playing in the ocean. It was such a simple conversation, but perhaps it was one of the most important conversations of my trip. Helping Gabs and Jo to look after her we round up reading a bed time story after scarfing down some mushroom pizza. I forget exactly what the book was about but I remember it involved a little boy sneaking some spaghetti to his dog. Sometimes it is strange the little details that our minds decide are important to remember.
After that day of hanging out and talking, I had a new best friend on the island. Every time that I passed by Indra on the streets I received a heartfelt greeting. A wave if I was riding past on my bike or a big hug or sneaky ‘tag, you’re it!’ if I was on the beach. Indra started to make a regular routine of stopping by the deck outside the dive shop around 5 most days, when the boat would get back from afternoon diving. If I had been teaching yoga or hadn’t been afternoon diving for a few consecutive days she would assume an exasperated tone and ask ‘where have you been?’. For whatever reason this always brought a smile to my face and we would hang out for a bit thereafter. I had my own living reminder to enjoy the simple things in life, to be a kid again, to put aside worries for a moment and run recklessly into the ocean, arms flailing.
One night I ran into Indra and her mom in the outside area of Moov bar. Indra’s mom asked if I didn’t mind keeping an eye on her for a minute so that she could enjoy a dance or two inside. A few of Indra’s school mates were there as well and she introduced me to everyone as one of her best friends, boasting about how fast I was but that she could still beat me in a race sometimes. Later that night Indra found me while catching some fresh air and with a very serious face replacing her normal smile said, ‘I wish you were my dad’. (Indra’s dad passed away when she was very young.) Such powerful words. So much emotion contained within six simple words. And as I explained that we would always be best friends, I remember appreciating my family to a whole new degree.
I can’t imagine growing up without chasing after fly balls hit by my dad in the backyard. Or spending an afternoon on the water, tubing and wakeboarding or crabbing with my dad and grandfather. One of my biggest regrets is that I couldn’t find her the day I left the island and departed Koh Tao without getting to say a proper goodbye. But I’ll always carry with me the lessons she imparted. And I’ll remember that simple day spent sitting on the rocks, next to the girl with the feather in her hair, talking about chocolate.