Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I’m writing this from the beautiful Bangtao Beach on Thailand’s island of Phuket.  10 years ago, I and some friends found a wonderful little family-run "bungalow" hotel right on the island’s longest and most undeveloped beaches.  I came here 6 years in a row , but this is my first time here since 2002.  One of the great things about this place is the friendliness of the people.  And most of the staff have been here since I first came in 1997, so we’re all on a first name basis.  Even though the place was partially destroyed in the 2004 tsunami, all of the people I know here survived. 

Besides making friends with the hotel staff, we also made friends with the "massage ladies" and the peddlars who wander up and down the beach selling batik fabric and other knick-knacks.  I wanted to come back here this year to see them. 

Well, I got to today.  It’s so fun to find yourself on a beach in southern Thailand "where everybody knows your name."  The massage ladies were all excited, and of course started to grab my arms and legs to give me a massage.   Although they survived the awful events of December26, 2004, they all lost family members.

But there was one lady in particular I was anxious to see–Ari.   Every afternoon she walks up and down the beach selling batik clothing.  She always had a way of getting me to buy her stuff.  The last time I was here I finally put my foot down and said NO, but that instead I would buy her a bottle of water everytime she showed up. 

This afternoon, after I took a long walk on the beach, I spotted her sitting under a tree.  I walked up and said "Hi Ari." When she realized it was me, she jumped up and gave me a big hug and started shouting my name and yelling YOU CAME BACK!  YOU CAME BACK!  I THOUGHT YOU HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT US AND WOULD NEVER COME BACK! Well, all of this commotion got the attention of the beach bunnies and she ran around telling them all that I was her friend of 10 years but hadn’t been here for 5 years but now I was back.  I AM SO HAPPY.  I AM SO HAPPY!  Then she asked about one of my teammates, who used to join me here.  Where was she?  Was she married?  She told me that she had always hoped she’d marry her son, but that now it was too late because her son was married!  I promised to email my friend to tell her, and at that she just roared.  And of course she had to show me all her new stuff.

I bought 2 scarves.  What could I do?  She knows my name.