I’m pretty sure that all the childhood years I spent boogie boarding ruined me for waves. I remember the sand in my mouth, being driven under the pounding water. And somehow I would recover every time, tumbling through the surf, landing hard on the shore, then running back into the water for more. I think I saved up all the fear I should have spent then. I do not like waves. Here’s something I didn’t know, waterfalls are like a massive waves that do not stop. The water, it just keeps…falling. And water is heavy. And the fear came back.
I can rarely capture the sights I want with my camera. Thailand has left me utterly defeated as a photographer. When I remember to take pictures, they hardly do justice to whatever I was trying to cement in memory. In fact, they hardly do justice to other people’s pictures of the same sights. Maybe I’ll leave the pictures to people who actually know how to wield a camera. Still, I wanted this waterfall. I loved this waterfall. The hike there was less difficult than it was straight up dangerous. I know that bamboo is stronger than it looks, but the railings on the side of this steep, downhill trail, well, it’s a whole new level of trust. And then we got to the bamboo bridge over the river, the one where the Thais felt only one railing was necessary. That one nearly had me scrambling back up the ninety degree trail I had just slithered my way down. But I made it across.
It’s always worth it, at least it has been so far, to push down the fear and keep going. It started as I walked through security at the airport. I had never had to struggle alone with my bags before. I must have checked my passport a hundred times. It was just me, and I wasn’t sure I could hold it together if I got herded to the wrong gate and missed my flight. There was no shortage of things to fear. It was like hopping across rocks. If I made it to the next safe place then I would be okay for a few hours. As I settled into the final mode of transportation, the taxi to the hotel, I could feel the flutters in my stomach begin. I wasn’t sure what time it was, or how many hours I had been awake. I wasn’t even sure that this cab would take me to the right hotel. I had held it together this long, and I was unraveling just a little bit. Then I was in the hotel. Then I was inside my room. And I was not leaving for anything. Not even to tell my parents that I had made it. Which apparently was a bad choice, considering they did everything but alert the embassy that I hadn’t been heard from. Though let’s be fair, I had talked to them from Hong Kong, and Hong Kong is pretty close to Thailand. I knew I was safe, so I just shut down. Until Blaine arrived at 2:00 am, at which point I suffocated her with the tightest hug I’ve ever given. I guess the point of all that is that sometimes if you get over the fear, you get to wake up on the other side of the world, and that’s pretty cool.
But this time, when I stepped carefully across the bridge, and then doggie paddled in a hyperventilated way under pounding water, I got to see the back of a waterfall. Shout out to Kelly, “Now here’s something you don’t see every day, it’s the back side of water!” But when it’s the back side of a real waterfall, and not just a fountain on a Disneyland ride, it is worth overcoming the fear. It’s in these moments that I have to remind myself: I’m behind a wall of water, in the middle of a jungle. Or, I’m in alone in the middle of an airport in Hong Kong. Or, I’m riding on an elephants head, feeding him bananas whenever he sticks his slimy trunk in my face. That’s when fear seems small.