I’d like to give a shout-out to three notable characters in the monastery:
She was a beautiful Irish girl. Red hair spilled down her back, dyed a shocking shade of copper-orange. It was entirely unnatural, but eye-catching, nonetheless. On the second or third day, she told me she was a nurse. She was here in Thailand for a few weeks to volunteer in a small village in the northeast. I imagined her in her white uniform, comforting patients and taking temperatures, and decided I could see it perfectly. She was always ready with a smile and a wink, and if there was a contest for the most popular girl in the monastery, she would have won it. Everyone loved her. She told me that she was close with her family and couldn’t wait to get home to be with her siblings. For the closing ceremony, she folded two pieces of paper into origami lotus flowers, colored the tips purple, and offered them to the monk and nun. She beamed when she smiled. She was an angel.
This morning we were all piling into the back of a taxi truck to leave. We were giddy, laughing and happy to be leaving. I lifted my heavy backpack into the truck, and dropped it on the floor with a thump. The Obama pin on it caught her attention. “Oh, I love that,” she cooed. Then her eyes narrowed and she focused on the brand name that was stitched onto the large outer pocket of the backpack. “Venus,” she said, reading it slowly. Then she looked up, her eyes bright, and her red hair spilling over her shoulder. “That’s my dancer name!”
“Your what?” I asked, imagining a small ballerina that she kept in her pocket. “My dancer name,” she said coyly, looking down. I still didn’t get it. “Your dancer? Who is your dancer?” I asked, utterly confused. “You know,” she said looking up with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “I’m a stripper.” She winked at me, and the light glinted off her lip ring. “An exotic dancer.”