IN an effort to not linger too long on how much time has passed between my last blog post and this most current one, I’ll put it simply: a lot of time has passed. Therefore, it would be silly to try to catch y’all up on everything. So I won’t. The holiday season was, understandably, a very difficult time for me, which is probably the reason why I didn’t write much if at all in the month of December. Every time I sat down to write something, it just sounded boo-hooey and not truly indicative of how great this experience has been for me thus far.
But yay we made it through the holiday season! What a wreathy little hurdle that was. I think for any expatish American abroad, December and early January will always be difficult. I am glad that, looking forward, there are few such culturally-charged periods of time looming in front of me. Unless of course you count Groundhog’s day which is COMING AT ANY MOMENT AND I CAN TELL YOU WITH 100% CERTAINTY THAT HERE IN THAILAND WE’LL DEFINITELY BE HAVING INFINITY WEEKS LEFT OF HEAT!
I clearly spend a lot of time alone because I cracked up for a good minute after typing that “joke” out.
Anyway, since I said I wasn’t going to go into any great detail about the last month and a half of my time here in Thailand, I thought I’d make a handy dandy little map to show you where in Thailand/SE Asia I have travelled thus far, because a lot of my time has been spent travelling around this amazing region of the world.
As you can see, I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of Thailand and even a little sneak-peek of our neighbor to the north, Laos. And though travel in SE Asia is dominated by long hours on over-packed buses that ramble through mountains and curved roads at speeds at Iwouldn’tevenwannaknow miles per hour, I can surely say that my experiences in travel have done nothing but strengthen my fascination and fondness for Thailand. Thai people are as different as any other group of people—Isaan Thai are different than Northern Thai and are certainly different than Central or Southern Thai—but their spirit of giving and helpfulness is pervasive wherever you go.
I think of the young Thai woman I met in a 7/11 in Khon Kaen who gave me wrong directions to the bus station and then ran after me for five minutes to correct her mistake after I’d left. I think of the hostel owner in Chiang Mai who offered me tea and let me move into my room early because I look tired. I think of the man in Nan who dragged a ragamuffin group of farangs into the mountains for a weekend of water rafting and, upon receiving our payment, told us he would be giving it to the members of the impoverished hill tribes nearby.
To say that all Thai people are kind or that all Thai people are generous is reductive and certainly not true; however, I will say that the lengths that most Thai people will go to make sure you know where you’re going or that you know what you’re doing or that you’re taking care of yourself as best as you can is simply astounding. And perhaps it is especially astounding because of the ways in which this kindness or generosity is extended to strangers—Americans are kind and generous too, but not often to people we don’t know. Here, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve known each other for five minutes or five months—if you need help or are completely lost, there will be someone there to help you in whatever ways they can.
As a person used to figuring a lot of things out on my own, this is obviously something I’m having to get used to. In the American context, asking for help is a sign of weakness. Here, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s a teacher making and sharing breakfast with colleagues before school starts or students letting other students copy their work so that they won’t be embarrassed by failing, there is an openness of giving and sharing in this culture that is at times both beautiful and very weird.
But just so yall don’t think that Thai people are lovey-dovey and we’re-all-in-this-togethery all the time, here’s a funny anecdote from an interaction I had with an Older Female Teacher at my school:
OFT: Cody, do you like to play basketball?
Cody: Sure, yes! Do you?
OFT: My favorite thing is to play basketball. My least favorite thing is to lose, so I play by myself and always win.
Maybe I’ll update more regularly from now on. Probably not! But stay tuned anyway.