Friday, October 21, 2005

Alek Atom Ackerman

From the archives: end of January 1993

Fourth class rail travel in Thailand was pretty rough, but I was lucky enough to travel with this delightful baby and his parents from Ontario. The Ackermans were around 30, hippyish in their style and naming convention... how could I ever forget the name Alek Atom?

"He even has his own passport!" -- they said proudly, showing it to me. There was baby Alek, in a wee bow tie, beaming from behind the lamination.

Fourth class meant there was no reserved seating, and we were squished together -- standing and seated -- with the locals and their menagerie of domestic animals (mostly chickens). The train trip seemed to take forever because it stopped frequently around the clock for hawkers to sell their wares. But even in the middle of the night, my bleary eyes could make out the male transvestites ("ladyboys") with their little trays of sliced mangoes. I had to watch out for them to not step on Mr. Ackerman, who slept on the floor of the train on newspapers so Mrs. Ackerman and baby Alek and I could sleep on the bench.

The Ackermans were the first native English speakers I'd encountered in a while, and it was comforting to be with fellow Canadians for once in my Asia travels. I'd been outside of Canada for 13 months by then. This was their third trip to Thailand, and they were quite familiar with Thai culture -- comfortable enough to travel with their baby. They were of enormous help to me in Bangkok, where we shared accommodation and travel info.

It struck me, looking at this photo, that Alek -- who was 18 months old at the time -- would now be FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. If I saw this kid in a class of 9th grade students, would I recognise him??

Aside: I can't believe that much time has passed since this photo. Why does time seem so compressed when things go well, then expand -- nay, drag on for all of eternity -- when things go awry???*

* rhetorical question, in case that wasn't obvious