After an 8 hour drive to Maine, 20 hour flight, and 7 hour bus ride I have finally made it back to site! It was a lot of travel and a short amount of time, but was definitely worth it. I was a little worried at first about the shock of being back in American culture-the fast pace of life, driving again (and on the other side of the road), the cold- but the minute I stepped off the plane it was like riding a bike. But maybe a bit smoother this time..
The first couple of months living in Thailand was a struggle. I found myself constantly needing to define and evaluate the differences I noticed between American and Thai culture. With each difference I noticed I always decided which I thought was better than the other, placing a value on everything around me. Over time this becomes tiring, and puts a huge weight on everyday life. Letting go of this notion of placing a definitive value on everything and treating life like it can be weighed on a scale is something I'm trying to let go of. For years I remember reading and being told by various people in my life to simply “observe without judgement.” I always thought I was able to do this, but spending a year in such a different culture allows you to really live it. I'm learning that life does not have clear, definitive lines and can be interpreted in different ways. Neither one must be categorized as better than the other and both coexist in harmony if we allow them to.
Keeping this in mind made my visit back to the states much more enjoyeable. I could take each moment in as it was and truly be present with everything. There are things I love about life in Thailand that are complete opposite to things I equally love in America. So, in reflecting on my trip home and back I thought I'd list my top 5 favorite things about both places.
1. Family and friends: Family is so central to Thai culture I am reminded of how far away I am from mine. Its a strange experience to live with a different family for one year after being outside of that network of a family for many years.
2. The piano: Having spent my whole life playing piano its difficult living in a place where a single piano cannot be found and nobody knows who Beethoven is.
3. The food: What I miss most of all is baking. Thai homes don't usually have ovens. Not only do I miss the the actual food, but I miss feeling like I know what I'm doing in the kitchen and being able to make food for others.
4. Quiet: Rural life in Thailand is so communal, people are always stopping by the house. It was also nice to have a break from the noise of everyday life and to wake up in peace, without roosters calling, children yelling, or visitors stopping by at 7 in the morning!
5. Blending In: I love that you can come from any background and be American. Even when going to Bangkok, a huge international city, I am amazed at the way taxi drivers point to other foreigners we pass saying “farang” as though I might know them..
1. Family and friends: This is what you should miss the most anywhere you are right?! I feel lucky to have a “second” family in another country.
2. Thai friendliness: Thais are incredibly friendly, especially toward foreigners.
3. Sabai-sabai: This is the classic trait of Thai people. Nothing is as serious as you think and you should just relax and enjoy life.
4. Thai food: After eating rice 2-3 times a day for a year I can't believe I actually missed it! I feel healthier eating on a rice diet, and the food is delicious.
5. Speaking Thai: I think Thai is a very fun, but incredibly difficult, language to learn. After 2 weeks without practicing any Thai I felt like I was forgetting it already.
So now I'm back in Thailand for one more year. Throughout this next year I will try to embrace all the experiences I'm presented with and hold onto the mantra of “observing without judgement.” This seems to make life so much easier!