Up until last week, I couldn’t say that I had ever been incarcerated. I can now but it’s nothing to be proud of or something to shout from the rooftops but it is also not an experience, to date that I regret or would take back.
There was a massive haze of initial confusion when shit went down. “Are those cops? Is this really happening?”. The first thing I remember after finally registering what was going on was my natural instinct to survive kicking in – “Fuck! What do I do? Lie? Run? Try to sneak off?”.
The only option I decided I had, was to tell the truth and accept the consequences for the situation I had gotten myself into. For me, there is at least certainty in that. Building a house of cards only to have it collapse beneath me or having something come back to bite me after thinking I’ve gotten away with it is one of the worst conceivable things that could happen to me. As scary as the unknown was in this situation, honesty and truth have been my guiding principles and I decided that this was not the time to be fucking with them.
Some questions were asked, flashlights were waved around and before we knew it, there were 9 of us, mostly strangers or only recently acquainted, in the back of a truck on the way to the police station sharing this most surreal and amusing experience.The vibe was strange; I can’t really say that there was any one point at which I felt scared or threatened (like you would expect) – I was just unsure.
The next hour or so at the police station was enveloped in a cloud of nervous energy, the air was thick with the whirring and buzzing around of everyone’s thoughts as we each carried out our own dialogues; either with or amongst ourselves or with someone at the other end of the phone. It was electric, like how the sky is just as a storm is about to roll in; this electricity being sparked by the confusion around our understanding of the way things usually happen here and the way in which they weren’t actually unfolding on this particular night. All we could do was go with it and let the situation present itself to us in its own time.
And this is what we did. Many hours, a mini motorcade, two hospitals, countless cups of water and two bags of snacks later, the majority of us were released and free to leave; but for myself and two others, the weekend was just beginning with the news that we were to be detained and kept in custody until court reopened on the following Monday.
This part of the evening was probably the sketchiest. Charges were being made and paper work was being processed but we were three tourists in a foreign country without any grasp of the local language. Thankfully, one of the guys I was with had a local Thai friend who came by to help us out. As it turned out, I was staying just around the corner from where he lived which was really very fortunate for me because I needed help with retrieving my passport as well. I would not have navigated and made it through the night without their help and this coincidence helped to push me along.
After the formalities were carried out, during which statements were signed and mug shots taken, the three of us commenced our 36+ hour stint in the same clothes on a tiled floor in a confined space plagued by mosquitoes. As bad as it sounds, it was actually OK. The police were nice, we were fed and we were lucky enough to have amazing people bring supplies, check in on us and lift our spirits. It also helped that I was still just across the way from two others who were just as spun out about the whole thing as I was. We joked about this being the formation of a special bond that you don’t make with just anyone everyday; let’s just say, it’s definitely some next level shit when you share a space with people in which the toilets aren’t fully enclosed.
We had hours to kill and while we played games, talked, and slept a lot, the thing that comforted me most was realising that boredom and imprisonment are each just a state of mind. I cast my mind back to worse situations, ones in which I had complete physical freedom, but still felt trapped (being stuck on the work laptop at 3am, for example). The funny thing was, I was more content in this jail cell because mentally and emotionally, I was actually as free as a bird; in the same state of mind that I was in when I was on the beach in Koh Lanta just the week before. I figured, if I wanted, chilling with nothing to do in a jail cell could be the same as chilling with nothing to do on a beach. While I may not have had the sand in between my toes or the sun on my skin, the hours that I had to kill were still, for the most part, mine.
For me, there was solace in owning the situation I was in and in the fact that my actions leading up to this point, were all of my own volition. I feel as though you can never feel trapped or lose control if you are 100% comfortable with and know and accept the consequences of the choices you make. And you always have a choice.
There is no such thing as being trapped, only the paralysis of fear.
Sure, your options may not always be ideal but at any given point in time, you can choose how you see things. Whether to be upset, angry or scared or to just roll with it, see the humour, enjoy the company of those who you are with, learn something new and/or in my scenario, revel in the fact that you are banking some quality life experience and in the process of creating an interesting story to tell afterwards.
Am I unlucky that I got busted in the first place? That I couldn’t get out of it before it escalated? Or lucky to have come out of this baptism of fire with an interesting experience and a fast-track to forging some special relationships? Well, that depends on how you look at things. I was met with so many junctions throughout the night and this made me realise just how much opportunity we actually have to shape our own experience through life – as cliché as it is, but I suppose clichés are cliché for a reason.
I could have freaked out, worried and been more anxious but I figured there was no point wasting that energy without actually knowing what I was even up against yet. I chose to just cross my bridges as I got to them.
I could have been upset that this didn’t go the way I was told it ‘usually’ would have but the reality is that this is just how the situation played out so I chose not to think about what could or should have happened. Only the present can shape the future. While you can’t change the past, you have control over how much you let the present be shaped by it.
I could be turned off by the whole situation and just want to run back to Sydney, but this experience has actually reaffirmed the magic I am feeling in Bangkok and made me more resolute about moving here. It may still be early days and the future has a thin veil of uncertainty hanging over it at the moment, but I know that while I am still here, I am definitely achieving my goal of enriching my life with interesting experiences and great people and creating stories to tell.
This could have been so much worse than it was but I was fortunate enough to have have crossed the right paths and met some amazing people in such a short time. Whatever the chances were, I’m thanking my lucky stars for how this all turned out. I’m grateful as fuck for the help of all these people who didn’t even know me because I know better than a lot of other things, that we are never owed anything by anyone. Anything you get from anyone is a bonus that you should damn well appreciate. The help and support I got and have been getting since that night has been nothing short of miraculous!!! It seems I’ve definitely cashed in those four-leaf clovers I came across in Vietnam.