|Namtok Mae Surin National Park, Mae Hong Son, northern Thailand|
|Asok district, Bangkok (thank you, Frank Gallo, for the pic)|
I find a nice-looking bar down the lane way from our hotel, with an empty table on the sidewalk. Great, I'll just sit here quietly. The condensation is beading nicely on the outside of my glass of white wine, and nobody has noticed me sitting here observing them -- surely this the very best state of being. And then I feel the eyes on me. A woman kneeling at my feet, on the street. From the instant I see the look in her eyes, I can tell that whatever this is about, it isn't going to be good. She thrusts a tiny bamboo cage into my hands. As if there wasn't already enough life crammed into this Bangkok lane way, here in the cage are about twenty sparrow-sized birds. I can feel their warmth through the bars of the cage; sense their panic as they try to flap their wings and find they can't; hear them cheeping, cheeping, cheeping. All these eyes -- too many black, adrenalized eyes -- are staring at me, pleading with me to DO something.
|It is really a pity I didn't have a camera. |
Or perhaps the pity is that I took Art all the way to the
end of high school but apparently didn't absorb a great deal.
|Streaked Weaver (By J.M.Garg, via Wikimedia Commons)|
1. I really just want to drink my lovely chilled white wine.
2. I feel guilty because this woman is dusty and tired in a way I'll probably never be, and here I am just really wanting to drink my lovely chilled white wine.
3. There is no way I'm going to be enjoying another drop of this lovely chilled white wine.
4. The streets of Bangkok are possibly not the best place to release a flock of Streaked Weavers.
5. It's really bad that I'm about to financially reward her for capturing wild birds, pretty much ensuring that she'll do the same thing again tomorrow.
6. And why on God's earth does the Lonely Planet warn you about dodgy tour operators at the Grand Palace but not about sad-looking women persuading you to give them money for birds crammed so tightly into cages that you fear if you don't give her the money, a goodly proportion of them will probably be dead soon?
I hand over the money, and in an instant there are Streaked Weavers everywhere -- in potted plants, on chairs, on power lines -- calling their little heads off. Some sit panting on the sidewalk for a few moments before shooting off to join the others. They quickly form a flock and hightail it out of there. No one else seems to have even noticed any of this going on. I feel totally conflicted about the whole thing -- but at least all those eyes aren't beseeching me anymore. Maybe I can choke down the last of my wine after all.
And that, my friends, is when I see what I can't believe I didn't see all along. There on the road just behind her, a big box. The woman is all smiles now as she unwraps a cloth from around it, and there it is: The mothership. More eyes than I can count. A noisy, feathery, jam-packed Streaked Weaver condo.