2 Sep 2022
I write letters home every now and then to a small group of loved ones.
This is my way of inviting conversation and staying connected. I'm writing this because you matter to me and I like you having a window into my life.
This email comes expectation-free: no need to read or respond, though it means the world when you do.
Happy Sunday from Phuket in Thailand.
I’m halfway through my stay here. Most of my days consist of Muay Thai training, writing, a bit of work, and some reading/study.
I live in an airbnb that feels mostly like a sharehouse. I have three housemates: an ex-military aircraft contractor from the US, a neuroscientist who hails from Berlin, and a young retiree who is relocating from Sydney to Chiang Mai. We’re all in our 30s and 40s, and we’re all doing Muay Thai. The dining table is the co-working space in the house. I’m the only one doing paid work, but the neuroscientist is reading papers and trying to find a PhD program.
It’s like a rainy Brisbane summer here: consistently around 30 degrees and 80% humidity, sometimes blue skies, sometimes torrential rain.
I’m training at Tiger Muay Thai, which is probably the most famous place to train here (if a UFC fighter does their training camp in Thailand), it’s usually here. As a beginner, I'm seeing progress really quickly. It's been great.
It’s home for now, and I love it.
reflections on 2022 so far
In my 31 Jan 2022 letter home, I wrote:
In 2022, I'm focused on writing, my health, finding synchrony. The only two concrete TODOs for the year are to do a Thailand trip (I'll visit Sydney and Canberra on my way out) and to put together a solid audition repertoire.
I’m amazed how those themes have expressed themselves in my life this year, even though I haven’t reviewed them in months. I’ve returned to writing once again. I’m training, eating clean, and getting stronger. I’m doing more work and play with other people.
I’m on the Thailand trip, and while I don’t have a solid audition repertoire, I did an audition, which was what that task was in service of.
A third of the year to go. I’m excited to see how it unfolds.
on highlighter moments
I have a partially formed thought on the ways we choose to highlight a moment in our life, to mark it as important and significant.
In the same way that you can’t highlight an entire chapter without rendering the highlight redundant, we can’t capture every single detail of every part of our lives.
So we write letters, we take photos, we tell stories.
Every now and then, though, the moments highlight themselves.
Before I came to Thailand, I did a bit of travelling around. More to see people than to see places. Here are some moments in bullet point form:
- I had lunch in Melbourne with Elliot. Our friendship feels more comfortable than the other thing ever did. We talked about our lives and cheered each other on about our respective upcoming adventures.
- In Geelong, I stayed with Kate and her family. Having only lived with adults since I left home at 17, it was a novel experience to ride shotgun for pick up, family meals, bedtime, and getting ready for school. I loved all of it.
- I changed my opinion on palm trees.
- Back in Melbourne, I had drinks with the one I used to call kryptonite, the writer. I was ready to let go of this friendship, with its complicated history and open questions. I had almost cancelled our plans. We reflected on mistakes we made together and conversations we didn’t know how to have back then. We talked about relationships and money and Melbourne and writing. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we’ve both grown into different people who can be good friends.
- I had brunch with Michael. Our meetings are so infrequent that I barely recognised him with his truly Melbournian ponytail and beard. But as much as we change, there are parts of us that don't, and I found the person I knew in his gentle hesitation and careful expressiveness. We cameo in one another's lives every few years (last time was his farewell party before he relocated to Brisbane) after developing a friendship doing musicals when we were in high school. I still think of him as a musician more than anything else, though it's been almost a decade since this song (The Worriers have since disbanded) and five years since Wives of Wolfgang. I was glad to hear that he's found the work he loves...and I'm also glad that music is still a part of his life.
- I met Andrew in person, after years of friendship through the screen. He picked me up from Canberra airport and we had brunch. We talked like we always have, about life, work, health, and travel.
- So many things happened in Canberra with Liam and Kate, but the thing I’ll remember was watching TV together on the couch. We stayed up past our bedtimes. There was laughter and ice cream, and the comedy got too real, but in a good way. In the cold Canberra winter, I was in all of my layers and wrapped up in a blanket the entire time.
- As I took the train out of Canberra, the sun was setting out the window and a group of kangaroos appeared to be racing the train. It was an extremely Australian moment on my way out of our capital.
- It still amazes me how little I know about the people I spent so much time around as a child. I knew the Auntie in Auntie Hele, but as an adult, I'm starting to get to know the Hele part of Auntie Hele. She told me about her life as an academic and her PhD (I hadn't ever asked!), and I ended up finding a digital copy that she didn’t know existed (Modes of production and gender negotiation in the Muslim Middle East from ancient to modern times, for those in my family who might be interested). We watched movies, ate good food, and walked around the lake.
- Chad and I took Panda for a walk around Olympic Park. Julie and I walked HerShee around the neighbourhood. There’s something special about doing simple ordinary everyday things with people, like walking the dog or doing a grocery shop. I love that we get to see the same place in different ways: these places that are so familiar to them are completely new to me. They get to tell me how things have changed. I get to delight in a new experience.
- Chad took me to a restaurant near his place, a hidden gem that he and his housemates found during COVID - there are some terrific stories about it. The dining room kind of feels like the spare room of a nice house…and the whole thing has that kind of vibe. The food was incredible.
- Julie’s apartment was filled with artworks by an indigenous artist that she’s been helping get online and get commissions. Two pieces were made for Julie specifically and the rest are there temporarily, until they’re sold. I like the idea of a house as a gallery, especially a house that hosts so many people and video calls. (Someone should build a business around that.)
- In Perth, I saw the gardens, the library, the university, and the beach.
- I had committed to the coming adventure long before he was written into the story but it still felt dissonant to say goodbye to someone you feel so incredibly drawn to. He got on a plane back to Brisbane and I got on a plane to Singapore.
- I haven’t been to Singapore since I was too young to go alone. I saw the library, the gardens, the coastline. On a whim, I went to a Buddhist temple, and was surprised to find my eyes filled with good, heavy tears.
- It was raining when I landed in Phuket. I arrived at the house, my home for the next two months, and as soon as I put my bags down one of my new housemates invited me to join him for dinner. I got massaman beef curry with rice, the dish I order every time I go to a Thai restaurant, only this time, I was sitting at a trestle table in the open air in Thailand. Igor and I launched into an immediate friendship and talked until the early hours of the morning.
There are longer form versions of these bullets and more bullet points about my time in Thailand, but they’ll come in future letters or when we next talk.
When so much is new, it feels like there’s so much to say, and I’m doing my best to synthesise it, as much for myself as to not bore you in these emails.
I hope you’re all well.