The expiry of our Thai visas coincided with Tyrhone’s birthday on May 31st. Actually, it was his 31st on the 31st, so it was kind of special. Not that I needed a once in a life-time numeric eclipse to make a big deal of the day, I love birthdays. He, on the other hand, doesn’t see what the fuss is about.
I read a book called ‘The 5 Love Languages‘ a couple of months ago, the premise of which being that we all use different ways (or languages) to communicate love. I had no idea what mine was before reading the book, but realising that Tyrhone and I spoke different love languages came as no surprise, since we are so different from each other in so many ways.
My love language is ‘Receiving Gifts’. That’s right, I only know you love me if you give me something! I was shocked at first, but soon it all made sense, you see it’s not just the way I recognise love, it’s also the way I give it.
Though Tyrhone didn’t read the book, I deduced that ‘physical affection’ is his love language. Basically, he’d probably prefer a bit of rough’n’tumble than a new pair of shoes, which is what I got him last Christmas (the shoes, I mean).
For his 30th birthday last year, I booked a weekend away in Singapore. We decided to splurge and stay at the Novotel, even though we were able to find several cheap Singapore hotels.We ate chilli crab at Clarke Quay and hung out in electronic shops because that’s what Tyrhone likes to do.
I was so hell-bent on getting him the best gift, that as he tried out the many gadgets on offer, I practically forced him to choose an electronic tablet for me to buy him. He didn’t, because there wasn’t one that he really loved, and I was gutted, because his 30th birthday milestone wasn’t marked with a fabulous gift.
Not realising that gift giving is not his love language, but in fact mine, the entire weekend reeked of me forcing an event out of a day that he would probably have rather spent at home.
If I’d bothered to ask.
So this year, I let him take the wheel. Literally.
On the 30th, we rented a car to drive to the town of Mae Sai on the Burmese border, to renew our visas. You see, Tyrhone loves driving. And in true Tyrhone style, we would spend his birthday wherever the wind blew us, doing…whatever.
Not planning anything is such a foreign concept to me, but I committed to the task. I didn’t book us anywhere to stay, and because there was nothing I could think of that he needed or wanted (or could carry in a backpack), I didn’t get him a gift.
I definitely felt that I wasn’t showing him the love I do indeed feel, but I was committed to speaking his language for a change, not mine.
By the time we reached the border after six hours of driving (we had frequent stops for fried chicken and coffee), it was pissing down with rain. Grey skies and soggy shoes was about all I remember about our mad dash across the border and back. We decided to stay in Chiang Rai for the night, which was shrouded in darkness by the time we arrived, and also very wet.
We searched around for somewhere to stay, and settled on the first place we found that didn’t look like a brothel, though it was next door to one.
After a dinner our friend Marty described as ‘inoffensive’, we retired to our bright pink room, trying to ignore the decidedly offensive smell emanating from the bathroom. It wasn’t exactly a night conducive to speaking his language, if you know what I mean.
Happy Birthday, Tyrhone…
When Tyrhone was up and dressed before 7am the following morning (his birthday), I was shocked, knowing his penchant for sleep-ins.
The girls’ shrieking in the bar next door the previous night had kept me up for a while, but had been no match for my exhaustion after the long day’s drive.
Tyrhone hadn’t had as much luck, and barely slept.
I mumbled a meek “Happy birthday to you… Happy birthday….” from my pillow through a drowsy haze, as Tyrhone went out in search of coffee.
This go-with-the-flow thing wasn’t working out so well. I absurdly took responsibility, blaming myself for not booking us a nice place to stay.
It seemed foreign languages were difficult to learn, even emotional ones.
When Tyrhone returned, I was dressed and raring to go, vowing to make a decent birthday out of this dreary day yet!
Tyrhone knocked on Marty’s door, “We gotta get out of here mate,” he instructed.
After a terrible cup of coffee at the Rastafarian themed guest house next door, we jumped in the car and set off again.
Tyrhone was once again in his element as he overtook cars, weaved through winding mountain roads and avoided head on collisions with cars overtaking other cars (gotta love Thai driving).
We sung at top note to tunes pumped from the CD player, interspersed with lengthy rounds of “The Alphabet Game” (where you have to name as many things in a certain category, for example, ‘movie titles’, starting with the chosen letter).
As the three of us made our way through the alphabet, straining the far reaches of our memory for ‘Cities Starting With Q” (I mean, there’s only really Quebec, isn’t there?), we drove around the outskirts of Chiang Rai, getting lost in the maze of narrow lanes before finding ourselves at enormous white statue of Buddha, which was either in a state of disrepair, or just being built.
Heading out of Chiang Rai, we made a last-minute detour to “The White Temple”, an unusually monochromatic, ornate temple, depicting all manner of evil in its intricate sculptures. Statues of grabbing hands and skulls rising from a pool of water gave the entrance a foreboding feel. As foreigners weren’t allowed inside without a guide (due to past bad behaviour), we didn’t see what insights the interior offered. The outside was fascinatingly weird anyway.
Afterwards, we meandered through the mountains to a town called Fang.
Fang was well… Fang.
We saw it, and left again. It was really the drive there through jungle clad, winding roads that was the best part.
Oh, but I did manage to pick up a very fetching little cake from the 7-11…
I did have a wee birthday plan brewing. After being underwhelmed by Chiang Rai and Fang, I was dropping not-so-subtle hints about Chiang Dao, and how lovely it was.
Only an hour and a half from Fang, it was only natural to go there for the night.
As we rolled into The Nest, we were greeted by the familiar warm smiles of the staff. Shown to our cozy bungalow, surrounded by misty mountains and towering trees, I had to laugh to myself that in the end, I got what I wanted, to show Tyrhone I love him by staying somewhere nice and eating delicious food. Not a tangible gift, perhaps, but a gift nonetheless.
As the rain pounded down outside, we finished the last morsels of our gourmet meals. The restaurant staff emerged from the kitchen, carrying my pitifully tacky 7-11 cake on a white plate (they actually made it look quite pretty!), singing happy birthday to an embarrassed, but flattered Tyrhone.
Now, it was a birthday.
That night, I lay out a card on the bed that I had written that day, with a message thanking “the best guy ever” for the grand adventure of the last five and a half years we spent together.
As Tyrhone read the words, a smile crept across his face, and it was then that I realised, we do have a language in common. The one we have negotiated together, through misunderstanding and difference, translated by experience and time. It may be a jumbled gibberish at times, but ultimately we get the message across.
If you know what I mean…