MIDWEST MONKEY: Magic in the Mundane

Jasmine An shares her notes from the field in her monthly column Midwest Monkey.


Last Sunday, my partner and I got up at 4:30 a.m. and walked to the bus station so that we could ride four hours to the Myanmar border and renew our visas. The plan was to arrive in the border town of Mae Sai around 11:00 a.m., walk through immigration into Myanmar, and then walk back out again to catch the 3:30 p.m. bus back to Chiang Mai. Having done border runs in the past, I was expecting nothing but uncomfortable hours on the bus and the stress of dealing with immigration.

Both of those things did indeed happen, but fortunately we were in and out of immigration with a couple hours to spare. Rather than sitting in the bus station, we wandered up a steep street crowded with shops in a vague (and ultimately fruitless) search for dried mangos. At the top of the street, the pavement split and the path turned into a giant flight of stairs leading up to a temple.

stairs (2).jpg

We climbed. At the summit, we found a surprising and beautiful view of the Thai-Myanmar border, a golden temple, and in the temple grounds, a giant statue of a scorpion with menacingly spiked tail. According to an eavesdropped conversation between a tour guide and his flock, the area has a multitude of scorpions and the temple was named after them.scorpion.jpgToo soon, we had to jog back down the stairs, onto the bus, and back into the whirl of daily life in a new city: house/apartment hunting, more immigration paperwork for a new job, excel spreadsheet budgets that make me want to hide under a pillow and never come out. But the trip to the border was a reminder, and a pleasant one, that making the effort to go out and about can yield surprising results. Who knows what will be waiting, even on seemingly mundane days.


Jasmine An is a queer Chinese-American who hails from the Midwest. A 2015 graduate of Kalamazoo College, she has also lived in New York City and Chiang Mai, Thailand, and she studied poetry, urban development, and blacksmithing. Her chapbook Naming the No-Name Woman was selected as the winner of the Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in HEArt Online, Stirring, Heavy Feather Review, and Southern Humanities Review. Her soulmate and forever muse is Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. As of 2016, she can be found in Chiang Mai continuing her study of the Thai language.

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