Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Still bloggin': little things and adventures

I've avoided writing. Partially for personal reasons, and partially because sometimes I am at a loss for words at how to describe the little things in Thailand that make life here so extraordinary. Let's go with mostly the latter. :) I've managed to barely take any photographs in the last 40+ days since I last wrote. But I have filled an entire journal of thoughts for my future & current state of mind, and I've read 10 books in the past month. Losing myself in the intricate pages of the stories crafted by an artist has become my favorite past time. Though I always loved reading, here it has become a 2-4 hour routine of my daily life. When will I have that freedom again? Retirement? So, I am living it up. :-) As well as enjoying Thailand! 

The semester is nearly over. Just a month more and then I will be living the city with friends on an internship! I am over the moon excited for my internship. I will be working with Urban Light an organization that is dedicated to prevention, education about and direct service regarding sex trafficking and sex workers in Chiang Mai. However, unlike most organizations, Urban Light focuses on only boys who are affected. The plans of what I will be doing are still in the works, but I am thrilled to be assisting which such a phenomenal NGO that is doing such important work. 

In the beginning of April my mom and dad will visit, which I am equally thrilled about! Then I will travel with some friends for a few weeks (INDIA AND BALI!) until a mid-term meeting and back to teaching for mid-May through the end of September. Technically I am finished with my Fulbright on Oct 3rd...but as of now I think I am going to stay. Who knows. At first I was scared to leave for a year, and now I want to stay!

The Beauty of Little Things
The little moments and beautiful friendships that have developed have been my favorite. From P'Oh, the woman who owns the ice cream store, has dinner with me, lets me watch her sing in shows, and drives me home late at night to P'Uh, the sweet single woman with a 6 month old baby who runs a beauty shop and teaches me Thai through trying to tell me her story to the P'An who is homeless, and from Burma, and lives in the marketplace, and always smiles at me and says hello to P'Ja who knows my order of 'Shrimp Pad Thai, very spicy' at the stall downtown -  all of these people are so kind, generous and warm. These are just a few of the budding relationships I've started to build here that mean so much to me. Then there are the teachers at my school who go out of their way to help me, teach me, engage me, and understand me. Then my students, who greet me on campus and off campus, who call my name out in the courtyard and ask to be Facebook friends. There is so much beauty in the relationships here that I am developing. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the kindness of these relative strangers. 

Outside of human contact, there is also the beauty of the commons. The common spaces used by community members. I like sitting outside on a bench or ledge and just watching people. Or watching people on a bus. Thinking of their stories. Their lives. For all the pain, horror and hate in this world, there is so much beauty, love and kindness too. I am so blessed to be living in this community and I am eager to continue to spread my wings to many more places in the future. 

Me & Nong Poo, P'Uh's son!

Here are some event highlights from the past 5 weeks:

  • Visiting Pai, a Northern town that is encased in the most splendidly stunning mountains, waterfalls and canyons. I rode on the back of a friend's motorbike around this beautiful scenery. We explored stunning landscapes on foot and on bike, and indulged in delicious foods. It was a spiritually wonderful weekend of good friendship and beauty. (Dec 20-22)
  • Som Tum Making While Dancing Contest...ANew Years Party at my school with all the teachers! At one point there was a spicy papaya salad making contest in which I had to make the papaya salad (som tum) while dancing. I was holding a large wooden mortar and pestle and trying to understand the instructions being yelled at me. Ultimately mine was mashed instead of stirred, and I did not win the contest. But how many people can say they've been on stage in front of 70 teachers making papaya salad (when they don't know how) and DANCING during it? I considered it a win! (Dec 27)
  • Church with a student and friend. Somehow every country (except Denmark) that I have been to, I have found my way to a church. Which I suppose is odd for the cultural Jew and spiritually unsure nature of my faith. Anyways, one of my students had been asking me since November to go to church with her, but I was always busy and did not have the time. Finally on the Sunday after New Years Day I had time! We planned to meet in front of the University in our town at 8:30am. I waited there and then a short man came over to me and said "Come with me!" At first I just looked confused, but they he said, "Bookky (my students name) Dad! I Bookky Dad!" I suppose that was enough information for me and I got into his car. Luckily, I was right to trust him and we ended up at his house where I found myself having breakfast with him and my student's step mother while she put on make up in her bedroom. My Thai is not so great, but we managed to have a classically Thanglish conversation. Then we headed to church. First, I attended bible study (in Thai). I read my English copy of the bible and took notes in my notebook as I listened to these students talk about God. Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist, but there are some people who are Christian (and I'm sure other followings as well). The missionaries have mostly seen to this. Though I am not a Christian (but was baptized in Ghana if you remember!) I really enjoyed the FULL DAY event, I just watched and listened to the Thai prayers and songs. Bookky was very appreciative that I was there and I loved being a part of something important for her. (Jan 5th)
  • White Water Rafting! What a splendid adventure and it was not on a huge tourist organization! We went through my host teacher's husband's small organization that supports and helps sustain a hill tribe in Nan, a hilly, beautiful province to the Northeast of where I live. There were 10 of us total, and it was a group that can't really get together on the weekends usually so it was really wonderful. Not only was the white water rafting an exciting adventure (albeit terrifying) but we stayed in a beautiful wooden home up in the mountains and spent electronic free time just bonding with one another. There was even a campfire!  (Jan 10th) 
  • Horse Carriage on a Highway? No problem! This past weekend, Anja and I, the volunteer who lives close to me in Chiang Mai, decided to head down to Lampang, a 1.5 hour journey, to visit two other Fulbrighters who live there. We had a relaxing friendship filled weekend, but we also tried out the typical Lampang adventure of a two hour horse carriage ride around the city seeing different temples! It was a quite a blast, and hilarious to watch cars on a busy street avoid the slow walking horse carriages. Reminded me of snowy Boston carriage rides, except really hot and in Thailand and to see temples and much cheaper...so really not the same. (Jan 17th)
  • Don't miss your bus stop. Engrossed in a novel, (and so excited to be able to ride on a bus and not get too sick) I missed my bus stop. I looked up and realized I had no idea where we were. It turned out I was about 5-6 miles from my house. No problem, just cross the street and get the bus in the opposite direction. BUT WAIT! It was 6:00pm and the buses had stopped running in the opposite direction, and it was starting to get dark. I figured I would walk the direction I thought I was supposed to go. Cows, mountains and fields surrounding me. But then I got nervous. What if it took a few hours to get back? And it got really dark? There were no street lights. So, in desperation I called a student teacher at my school and she rescued me on a motorbike (after talking on the phone to someone in Thai to figure out where I actually was...). (Jan 28th) 
  • I can't do aerobics or dance. Friday night, the 31st of January, I made my way to my friend Anja's house. After a tour of her house, a photoshoot with her next door neighbor who loves photos, and some delicious cucumber spicy salad, we headed to group aerobics at the police station. If you know me well, you know I am possibly the least coordinated person ever in existence. Imagine me, with twenty 40-60 year old Thai women, trying to do a speedy aerobics Zumba-esque class outside. It was quite the experience, but very amusing and worth the sore body and laughs (at me). (Jan 31st)

Me & Anja - Her host teacher made me a welcome sign!

Posing for the photoshoot

Pai - Damn it was beautiful!
Probs my fav picture of the year - Aerobics!

White Water Rafting! SO FUN! <3

You can tell I don't know what I'm doing right?

With all the free time I've had, I've spent a lot of time thinking about my future and next steps for where I want to go. It's been quite a process. I've spoken to a few people about my dreams, goals and fears, which has been helpful and grounding for me. This is quite an adventure - this thing we call life. :) 

I miss you all - be in touch!

Rak khun! (Love you!)

What is home? Is travel ethical or unethical?

What is home? Is travel ethical or unethical? These are the two questions I am asking myself the most.  I have spent the last four plu...