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Peanut Butter Sticky Rice

For Ascher’s birthday, I took him on “The Flight of the Gibbon,” a zip-line attraction in the monsoon forest about an hour outside of Chiang Mai.  Built by New Zealanders, it is the most safety-conscious tourist activity I’ve yet to see outside of the United States (and also one of the most efficient and lucrative, as well).  In short, you get hooked up into harnesses, are taken up to tree platforms anywhere from 30 to 100 feet above the forest floor, and are sent zipping across cables, platform to platform.  For variety, the guides belay you down to lower platforms, and you climb to higher platforms again on suspension bridges.  Needless to say, my brave co-adventurer and I thought it was enormously fun.

The guides, who possess an astounding array of interpersonal and technical skills, find additional pleasure in their jobs by identifying the person in the group who is the least frightened, and trying to devise ways of giving that person a memorable thrill.  In our small group, that person was me—I adore heights—and the guides pretended that I hadn’t been tendered as I jumped off the platform, came zooming down towards me as if they were out of control, and tried other various tricks to see if they could get me to gasp.  It sounds a bit cruel and unprofessional on paper, but their absolute competence, combined with their delight and my refusal to be rattled, made it a fantastic game.  I thought I had won when North (one of the guides, who all bore English translations of their Thai nicknames) said to me towards the end, “You have done this before.  No?  But you are not scared.”  “No fear,” I said, triumphantly.  But in the end, they obliged me to conquer some real trepidation, as they leaned me over the platform some one hundred feet in the air and swung me head over heels to belay me down like a spider, the line attached to my back.

Appropriately for this birthday–the first Ascher and I have shared in the country where he was born–the zip-line was  also a decent metaphor for childbirth and child-rearing, although the resonant moments happened in reverse chronology. I told him to have fun, and watched him to soar away into the jungle.  I reminded him to follow the rules, and to trust the guides.  We flew in tandem, tethered to each other by cables, toward an enormous banyan tree looming behind its green vines.  And then I flew by myself.

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