My previous post received a good number of engagements, so I thought I'd write more about interesting people I've met while travelling.
When he was still a child, Kevin's poor uneducated parents surrendered him to the Roman Catholic church. Kevin grew up in the seminary and eventually became a Bishop.
A Bishop in his mid-thirties, he decided to leave and live as an ordinary man after nearly two decades of living in the seminary and serving the church.
" Why? " I asked him curiously.
" I fell in love. " he answered.
Kevin started describing to me life from the moment he entered the walls of the seminary as a young boy. The seminary consisted of the main cathedral, the chapels, the dorms, the dining hall, and a field for recreation. They only took in boys.
Personal possessions were kept to a minimal and the few they did have consisted of the bare minimum ; your own towel, toothbrush, comb, and soap bar. Three sets of shirts and pants. Two pairs of shoes and of course, your bible. Aside from the bible and devotional reading materials, there was no need for books, magazines, newspapers, or Internet - God's word was enough.
Daily routine consisted of wake up, shower, breakfast, meditate, religious classes, lunch, nap, recreation, shower, dinner, religious classes, and lights out.
The church provided everything : food, shelter, clothing, and a small monetary allowance.
Occasionally, they would be allowed of the seminary but always under supervision and in a group.
While he felt mostly content with life, Kevin sometimes had a sense of emptiness, that something was missing. The Bishop told him that "the love of God fills the deepest chasms and brings light to the darkest of sorrows" and that he must have been doing something wrong, maybe he wasn't focusing on God enough, maybe he should try praying harder, meditating deeper, fasting longer.
So Kevin did.
The church was his entire world, his foundation, everything he knew and lived for.
Twenty years passed this way.
One day, while on their occasional excursions outside the seminary walls, he saw her. He felt a strong unfamiliar feeling he had never experienced before - what was it? He was deeply attracted to her, but did not dare approach. It was forbidden by the church for them to have relationships, oh what a dark and dangerous path of sin and temptation that would lead to.
However, the urge became too insistent. He started coming up with a plan to communicate with her. Mobile phones or any forms of social media were forbidden, so he wrote a letter. On their next excursion, he quietly passed his note which she discreetly received.
The next time he saw her - oh joy! She responded by slipping him a note back.
Through this quiet and infrequent exchange, they shared childhood stories, fears, hopes and dreams. And finally, "I love you"s. Their communication went back and forth for nearly a year.
"And then?" I asked, hanging on suspense.
She dumped him.
What's the point? She wrote. You're a Bishop anyway. She wrote.
You can't fall in love.
You can't be in a relationship, and
You can't ever get married.
This is for the best.
Your place is with the seminary.
Your heart is with the church.
Although he was heartbroken, Kevin realized that he had felt alive, strong, and hopeful in that (somewhat) relationship. He saw that he had been fearful of the world, fearful of the what-ifs and could-bes of crossing the church, fearful going against everything he had known and had been indoctrinated with his entire life that although he had been alive for more than thirty years, he had never truly lived.
Finally emboldened by this self-realization, he mustered up the courage to request the Archbishop for five years to the world. He had never left Bangkok, so he thought he would like to see some of his own country - starting with Phuket.
And that was how we met, in a hostel on Patong beach.
29/68 Soi Ratchapathanuson, Patong, Kathu District, Phuket 83150, Thailand
200thb per night in an 8-bed dorm
* Strong airconditioning
* Hot showers and modern, clean bathrooms
* May or may not have bedbugs
On a less-related note, more photos from my Phuket solo backpack trip, March 2016.
* They didn't get back together. She married another guy.
* Kevin was Thai, but was fluent in English owing to the years spent in the seminary.