THE TRICKS TIME PLAYS

When Yaela Orelowitz ran off with the cir­cus, end­ings be­came be­gin­nings

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This is a story about be­gin­nings and end­ings, and how we never re­ally know when we’ve ar­rived at ei­ther. Like all good sto­ries, this one be­gins with a girl who ran off with the cir­cus. It was 2016 and I had de­cided to pack up my life, quit my job and move to a coun­try where I had no fam­ily and could not speak the lan­guage. A de­tour through Thai­land seemed like an ap­pro­pri­ate pro­logue to this ad­ven­ture. One morn­ing, in the gar­den of the guest­house where I was stay­ing, I stum­bled upon a slack­line hang­ing be­tween two trees. I climbed on and gave it an in­el­e­gant go. Next thing, I found my­self adopted by the trav­el­ling cir­cus, whose mem­bers all went by mono­syl­labic names like Pang and Skye.

Their flesh was over­laid with art­ful works of self-ex­pres­sion (tat­toos) and even their ear lobes ap­peared sub­hu­man in their abil­ity to hold ex­tremely large metal in­cep­tions. But their eyes shone brighter than those of the mor­tals I was ac­cus­tomed to, and they laughed — a lot. Nat­u­rally I was in­tox­i­cated. I be­came their res­i­dent yoga in­struc­tor as we trav­elled from Pai, in the north, down the coun­try, as they per­formed at fes­ti­vals and ran work­shops in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

BE­ING WEIRD FELT COOL

This self-named “Pyro-Gang”, dressed in handmade leather cos­tumes, trav­elled in a con­voy of eight mo­tor­bikes, loaded with equip­ment. We’d stop at lo­cal mar­kets for lunch and our mere pres­ence would at­tract hun­dreds of lo­cals, star­ing unashamedly as we prac­tised our cir­cus tricks, re­ceiv­ing lunch for free. It was the first time in my life that be­ing weird felt so darn cool.

Through­out the jour­ney down south, Max, the Bri­tish firedancer, would tell me about his god­mother, Fiona, who lived on the is­land of Koh Phangan. He said we were “soul sis­ters” for she, like me, is a Jewish South African woman, a body-mind prac­ti­tioner and ther­a­pist.

Fiona and I got in touch, ex­cited to con­nect. On the day our ferry blew us in to the south of her is­land, a storm hit. Now, a storm on an is­land in Thai­land is not just an ex­cuse to cud­dle in bed with hot choco­late and Net­flix. The roads turn into hip-height mud baths and cheaply made struc­tures — homes and restau­rants — sim­ply col­lapse.

WASHED-OUT PLANS

Fiona lived in the north, and trav­el­ling to her would have in­volved a mud swim of about six hours. We de­cided to wait the storm out, hop­ing that in a day or two it would clear. Nine days later, noth­ing had changed and I had a flight to Is­rael to catch.

Fiona and I stayed in touch and she tried hard to see me. First, when she flew to South Africa to visit fam­ily she checked in to see if I was around. I wasn’t. Later she flew to Is­rael for work, but I had just left for a sum­mer so­journ through Europe.

Along the way my life took an in­ter­est­ing turn. I met a man, fell in love and trav­elled the world with him. Af­ter some months we re­turned to South Africa to­gether so he could meet my fam­ily. All went well, un­til it didn’t. On the prom­e­nade in Sea Point one beau­ti­ful Oc­to­ber af­ter­noon, I walked away from it all: from him, our fu­ture and my life in Is­rael.

BRO­KEN TELE­PHONE

A few weeks af­ter this overhaul, in a com­plete daze, I flew back to Is­rael to pack up. I ar­rived at the air­port to find my Is­raeli sim card was no longer ac­tive. The coun­try seemed to have re­jected me be­fore I could re­ject it.

I went di­rectly to the cell­phone stand and the cute guy at the counter of­fered to help. Sud­denly a blonde woman cut in front of me, “I’ve been wait­ing for 10 min­utes,” she said. Fine, go ahead lady.

I waited, watch­ing the cute sales as­sis­tant mer­ci­lessly flirt with the blonde. “Where from are you?” he asked. “It’s a long story, I am from South Africa, but I live in Thai­land.”

It took me a mo­ment to catch my breath. My face melted into a mas­sive grin be­cause there I had been, think­ing my ad­ven­ture was end­ing. She was sup­posed to have been there at the be­gin­ning, but she ap­peared at the end to show me it wasn’t so.

I tapped her on the shoul­der, she turned around, and I em­braced her. “It’s a mir­a­cle to fi­nally meet you, Fiona.”

Pic­ture: 123rf.com/9george

TRAV­EL­LING SHOW Ban Rak Thai vil­lage in Pai, north­ern Thai­land.

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