Reflections

IMG_0622As of yesterday, I have been in Thailand for two months: one month in Chiang Mai and one month in my home for the semester, Klaeng.  Has it really only been two months?  It feels like six… (I will do a proper recap of my time here shortly, stay tuned).

Today (or rather tomorrow in the States) is Thanksgiving.  I do not usually like the “What are you thankful for?” question my mother always poses at the dinner table.  It is an important question of course, but it always feels forced and awkward.

But this morning, it feels appropriate to share a few reflections.  In this moment, I am reminded of how thankful I am to be in Thailand.  I miss my family and friends at home and will likely shed a tear tomorrow morning when I video chat to say hello during their holiday dinner.  And while I may slightly regret missing this family affair, made even more special this year by the arrival of my first nephew and the impending arrival of my second nephew, there will be many more happy holidays to share with them in the future.

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Today, I am keenly aware of how special and unique this Thanksgiving is, precisely because I am not at home or in my country to celebrate.  Instead, I was lucky enough to witness and participate in Loy Krathong over the last two days, a festival holiday in Thailand during which locals pay respect to the water goddess, ask for forgiveness and make a wish for good things to come.  To me, it translates to a combination of atonement and thanksgiving – how appropriate.

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I am so thankful to have celebrated this holiday in Sam Yan, the downtown of my city, Klaeng.  I felt like a local walking through the festival and launching my Krathong (floating basket made from a banana tree and leaves, flowers, candles and incense) among my students and the many families of Klaeng.  It would have been lovely to celebrate in Chiang Mai where you can also launch lanterns into the sky, but that regret left me as I realized how special it was to celebrate in my community.

Ever since I decided to leave home for some time abroad, my emotions have existed as if on a pendulum, constantly swinging back and forth from very high highs to very low lows.  I will elaborate on both in later posts, but suffice it to say, I have experienced many ups and down since arriving here in September.  The highs have certainly outweighed the lows, but sometimes during the toughest times I have had difficulty seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of the suck.

Well, after a rough few weeks (extended culture shock, catching a cold, waging war against the cockroaches taking residence in my room, etc.) the pendulum has swung back in the positive direction and today there is a clarity I have not felt since earlier in the month.  I am elated to be here.  Or perhaps content is the right word.  When I arrived at school this morning I felt very at peace.  Instead of going directly to my office to get ready for class, I took advantage of my morning off and walked around the grounds.  I took stock of how beautiful my school is.  I visited the large golden Buddha by the front entrance and watched the students mill around waiting for classes to begin.

I also joined some friends on a coffee run.  We went to the same restaurant/coffee shop one of the women took me to on my first morning in Klaeng, a refurbished gas station with an Italian flare.  To be terribly cliché, it felt as though I have come full circle.  During that first visit to the coffee shop I was out of my element and reeling from my move to this lovely but unfamiliar town.  Now, a month later, it feels like home.  Today is mostly definitely a “high” compared to the “low” I experienced last week.

IMG_1673IMG_1671.JPGA friend just told me about her and her boyfriend’s Loy Krathong experience last night – they stumbled upon a festival near a lake by their apartment, where they joined in and were brought up on stage to dance in front of the town.  I laugh because that is so Thailand…you never know what will happen and it usually pays off to simply say “yes”.

So today, on Thanksgiving and Loy Krathong, as I sit here writing in a gazebo in the courtyard of my beautiful school, I say yes to this experience, yes to the highs and the lows and am ever grateful for the opportunity to be exactly where I am.

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Another First Blog Post

I’ve written and rewritten and rewritten this first blog post a half a dozen times in the last year.

I came up with a brilliant one while running a half marathon on my 25th birthday in March all about not being ready for things (as I hadn’t really trained for the race but signed up on a whim – BIG mistake) but persevering and pushing through obstables.  It included lovely, flowery language inspired by encouraging tokens of wisdom I told myself when my music stopped working and the pain started at mile 3.  Well, by mile 6 that “post” went right out the window with a “f**k, this sh*t hurts.”  I somehow finished the race but forgot what I had mentally written.

I wrote another post on the morning of my last day of work, the day I left my job of 3 years, the only job I have held since graduating college.  That one was, again, lovely and inspirational.  I had pre-Thailand stars in my eyes – it was all about stepping out of my comfort zone and it mimicked many wonderful stories I’ve come across in the travel blogosphere about leaving home.  “I’m scared but I’m taking the plunge, I’m jumping in with both feet..I don’t know what is coming but I’m ready to not be ready.” While true, it was also far too trite.  That would not do.

So why did I not, at any point in the last year since I decided to move abroad, publish these or other inaugural “first” posts?  Well, because I did not start a blog.  Why did I not start a blog? Because I am an excellent procrastinator (my family could tell you some stories) and it stressed me out too much.  I was worried about what people would think and that I would not come across the way I meant to.  It is one thing to journal or email people back home to update them on life, but publish those ramblings on the interwebs?  That is a different animal.  Judgment is a bitch and worrying about it can be paralyzing.  Also, what the hell could I say that other real writers have not said already or said better for that matter?  What do I have to contribute?  The truth is, probably not much.  Also, why would anyone want to read my musings?  Beats the hell out of me, but you’re here, aren’t you?

Anyone reading who is a family member or close friend, or even an acquaintance or passing stranger I chatted with while waiting in line somewhere, knows that I LOVE to talk.  And talk.  For hours.  And repeat myself.  And tell absurdly long stories with seemingly little point to them – or by the time I reach the point I’ve lost my audience.  I admit that I ramble.  In person and in print, as evidenced by what you’re currently reading.  Leading up to my departure and since arriving in Thailand I’ve been talking some people’s ears off at home about my life here and writing novel-length emails to a few friends in the States.  But I find myself wanting to talk even more – to share more and with more people. In addition to the many travel and lifestyle blogs I follow online, a few friends in Thailand write blogs and I am consistently blown away by their honestly, candidness and bravery in putting themselves out there.  I find myself relating so well to their words and I often wonder if others might relate to mine.  So, here we are.  I’m taking a page out of their books, biting the bullet and starting this thing.

This is for those of you I have not had a chance to catch up with who want to follow along with me and yes, for me to step out of my comfort zone in a new way.  This blog will serve as a virtual bank of sorts to chronicle my many musings and ramblings as I wander across the world for I-don’t-know-how-long.  I am only two months in and, so far, it’s been a wild ride.  I can’t wait to start sharing.  Thanks for reading!