Carol, Sheila and the bird (and how on earth did we ever get there in the first place)

None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Carol. Or for Sheila. And especially  for the bird.

Carol and Rada. Steve found the label.


Sheila was the Lead Nurse – Canadian, Eh? on my working cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore. I had tagged on to it a 2 weeks vacation in Chiang Mai, 3 hours away,  to find the bird.

I had fallen in love with a carved bird in Ayutthaya – former Thai capital, now mostly ruins and tourists. It was a shabby, heavy and worn embodiment of flight. It spoke to my heart. I tried to buy it. It wasn’t for sale. That’s how Thais are: If it’s not for sale, it’s not for sale. It was too big to steal. “Go to Chiang Mai, that’s where they make them.” the owner said. So, after searching “Thai carved bird” on Ebay for a year – no luck – we decided to go to Chiang Mai to find it.

Sheila – a woman used to making decisions for everybody around her – did I mention she’s an ER nurse? decided that Steve and I were going to meet her old friend Carol  – another ER nurse living in Chiang Mai.

We didn’t want to bother Carol. In fact we didn’t even want to meet Carol, we had better things to do. Like looking for birds. Carol wanted nothing to do with us either. We were tourists. To expats, that’s a four letter word. Like rat.

Everybody uses scooters. Everybody.

Sheila couldn’t have cared less about what any of us wanted. She had made up her mind. We struggled. We pleaded. No go. We were going to meet Carol and that was that.

Carol kindly invited us to visit her condo before going out for lunch. She was going to ditch us if we were obnoxious. We were good with that, it gave us an out if she was a bore.

After many soothing Changs, balm to our throats scorched by the Thai Spicy (Hot, Hot, Hot!) lunch, we ambled home. We had a new friend.

Chang (Elephant) beer, 21 oz, 6.4% alcohol. Soothes the burn.

Thanks to Carol, Sheila and the bird, our lives changed that day. I’d been in love with Thailand for years, but I couldn’t fathom leaving our life to move to the end of the earth, no more than I could see a tree relocating. Carol showed us that people, unlike trees, can grow new roots. She had left her job, her home, her family, her life in Canada and she was happier for it. She had built her new life and made new friends. She was eating Thai food every day and getting foot massages and never ever shoveled snow. She was learning Thai, doing yoga and having fun. I envied her. I wanted to be her.

Restored Teak loungers looking over the mountains. Welcome, morning coffee! 

December 2017, three years later we are heading to our condo, 3 doors away from Carol’s. It has a dining table with place for many friends, a TV with mostly Thai channels, and a refrigerator full of drinks, thanks to Steve. It has my new old rosewood rocking chair and views to the mountains. We’re short on forks (only 2) – but our friends gave us plenty of glasses.

And the bird, you ask? Well the bird… the elusive bird…It stays in Plattsburgh on the bedroom wall for when we come back. While in Thailand we’ll just look at it’s twin, the one I got for Carol.

The Bird.