After the kids left, we began our litany of "lasts." My last mass at St. Nikolaus revealed the newly completed renovation. Everything was shiny and new - the wood had been refinished, broken pieces had been replaced, and the accents had received a fresh coat of gold paint. The crucifix was now accentuated by a beautiful, shiny copper background and new accent lighting. White flowers adorned the altar in anticipation of the feast day celebration. Booklets were shared that told the history of the church and its patron saint.
I quietly celebrated my last birthday in Thailand. Tim got me a huge bouquet of flowers, and K. Mick and K. June gave me a beautiful elephant set, something I will treasure as a reminder of these lovely people who came to be like family to us.
|my last birthday with this lovely backdrop|
|in the courtyard|
We stopped into our tailor/friends' shop to say goodbye to them. K. Noi and K. Muu were also gentle and kind souls. They were always so patient with me when I tried to speak Thai with them. And they always did such fine work, making shirts and capris, and a dress that I wore to my nephew's wedding. They were so sweet to give us a little going-away gift - a tie for Tim and a handmade scarf for me. I wish them much success in their business.
We visited our favorite tea shop friends, K. Lita and K. Vee. Their shop, Tea Village, was always a stop when we had visitors in town, a charming, surprising oasis of solitude in a busy city. Vee had just returned from his long visit home to Russia. We were happy we were able to see him again before we left. We ordered some tea and teacups to be sent home for gifts.
We hosted one more dinner with friends at the Royal Thai Garden resort, the western-style buffet restaurant with the roving mariachi band from the Philippines! We were graced with the presence of K. Lita, K. Vee, Mika, Maki and Momo, K. Mick and K. June, and a family who had recently arrived in Pattaya from Vietnam: Minh, Anh and Dora. We had a very nice time, and I couldn't help getting weepy when the mariachi band came over to play for us. Promises to stay in touch were made, and we parted ways.
|K. Mick and K. June|
|K. Vee and K. Lita|
|the Muramatsu family|
|Anh, Minh and Dora|
|Me and the lovely ladies|
The packers arrived and quickly and efficiently packed up all our belongings that would be coming back to the states with us. They were done in just a few hours. We had cartloads of stuff we were leaving with K. Mick and K. June. They had already taken our plants, and I knew they were going to be better cared for than when they were with us. We also had some stuff to donate to the Hand to Hand Foundation in Pattaya, a Christian organization that cares for children and the poor in many different ways.
Once all of our things were gone, we did some final cleanup, then K. Mick drove us over to the Holiday Inn, where we would spend our final night in Pattaya. It was lovely to see some the nice people who took care of us when we first arrived in Pattaya there. Some even remembered us from three years before!
The next morning we had our final walk-through in our condo - it was quick and painless, and we said goodbye to K. Jek, the condo manager who was always so kind to us. We said our good-bye to K. Somchai, the ever-present security guard who was stingy his smiles. It was quite uncharacteristic of Thais not to smile, but it made the few smiles we did get, like the one today, all that more precious.
Mika came by the Holiday Inn to squeeze in one more visit - we had drinks and chatted in the lobby, then had the dreaded last, tearful goodbye.
Late that night, K. Mick and K. June drove us to the airport for the last time. Instead of dropping us at the door as usual, they parked the car and walked in with us. It was a lovely gesture. They stood with us as we waited to check in, then walked us to immigration, where we said a very difficult good-bye to these two dear people who cared for us like we were one of their own.
We passed by the giants standing guard over the airport, and the now familiar sculpture that depicts a great tug-of-war by demons and gods, using the massive, three-headed serpent, to churn "the ocean of milk," and uncover the nectar of immortality. Vishnu balances atop a lotus at the center. Such startling beauty in a country of startling beauty, the final taste of Thai culture to end a startlingly-quick three-year adventure.