Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beginning to understand that I will never completely understand...

It’s been a month since I last wrote and tried to make sense of everything that I have been experiencing. My life in Thailand is spectacular there are some frustrating moments in which I wish I had a better grasp of the language and or cultural/social norms. It is in those moments that I try to remember that fully understanding a situation is overrated. I remember that many Latinos (i.e. my mother, family and friends) have faced worse things upon leaving their country of origin. I am privileged to have an education that is worldly recognized as top-notch and networks of people that care about my success. The following are some highlights from the past month:

Travel to BKK- Thanksgiving Day dinner with United States Embassy representatives

The crazy whirlwind began on November 21st when Fulbright flew all of us (Researchers, Scholars, and ETAs) to Bangkok for our service project, mid-grant meeting, and Thanksgiving dinner. Overall the trip was enjoyable; we had the special treat of meeting the 4 ETAs from Laos. Our service project was preparing food for people affected by the nahm-tuam (flooding). I had a lot of fun because I found I have a future in wrapping kanoms (sweets) because we were packing the food just like candy makers wrap sweets!! Side note: imagine a tamale wrapped in a banana leaf and you will be envisioning a kanom! There was something magical in having my hands be able to replicate the wrapping of the women around me...also there were many Thai women whose hands weren’t able to work as precise or fast as the competitive geek in me was ECSTATIC!!

I also had the opportunity to boogie down in the BKK with my dancing partner!! My partner is a fellow Fulbrighter from Colgate University but originally from Montana...he likes to dance as much as I DO! Because I opted to dance (my nights in Bangkok away) and work hard throughout the day (our workdays began at 6am); I hardly slept so I think that weakened my immune system...because a couple of days later I was coughing all over the place. Most of the Fulbrighters stayed in BKK till Sunday, but I headed back to Khon Kaen on Friday night.

Chiang Mai & Pai with my host family!

On the eve of November 26th, my host family and I headed to Chiang Mai for a family vacation!! It was the oddest feeling to be part of such a lovely family doing such a traditional thing, such as a family trip, which I had never done with my own family. I was raised by my hard working single-mother so we never had the opportunity to take trips; she could never afford to take the time off or afford it all together. I don’t resent my mother because I know the struggles she faced in making sure I had everything I needed.

My beautiful host family!

The trip was filled with a lot of laughter and youthful games. On the trip there was a BEAUTIFUL baby boy...and he made me decide that I do want to be a mother someday. SIDE NOTE: As a woman, I know it is my choice to have children because my body and mind were formatted to be anything I want to be (with or without children)...I don’t have to feel socially pressured to be a mother. There are points in my life that make me feel like I can be a mother to the children of the world...why be selfish and give my love only to a selected few?

While in Chiang Mai, we went to the Night Safari, Walking Street, the ENORMOUSLY BEAUTIFUL zoo, kris - sa - da - doi garden, iBerry (awesome ice cream store with very funky decor,) umbrella market, and Wat _____(I’m still investigating the name of the wat, but it was beautiful and it sat on the mountains SO YOU could see the whole city!!)

View of Chiang Mai, the LA of Thailand!

Side note: The following is my personal opinion on how to compare Thailand’s provinces to America’s states: Bangkok is like New York. Chiang Mai is like Los Angeles, Ubon Ratchathani is like Florida, Khon Kaen is like Oregon/Washington, and that’s all I have for now. These comparisons are based on the provinces size, attraction, and overall essence.

After (approx.) two days we got back in the family van and headed to Mae Hon Son province to visit Pai. I FELL IN LOVE/ADORATION WITH PAI. Imagine a heaven with mountains who dance with fog/clouds...I can’t do this place justice. Anyway, from Chiang Mai we embraced the thousands of curbs up the mountains until we arrived in Pai, but not without stopping at some amazingly beautiful resting centers. We visited Pai’s night walking market where I saw the most gorgeous crafts and many international travelers and artists. The energy of this place was breathtaking. After hitting up some more shops and a hot spring (Tha Pai Hot Spring)...we headed back to Ban Phai, Khon Kaen (home).

Trying to get back into the swing of things...

After experiencing the AWESOMENESS of some of the North of Thailand, I headed back to school to try to get back to my routine (I don’t think I have a stable routine). One week I was going to Jazzercise after school...but now I am trying to run during my free period at school (but things keep coming me being sick and being incapable of breathing through my nose because of the mucus).

The second day back from my BKK and Chiang Mai whirlwind, I accompanied two students to their Spelling Bee and Storytelling competition. I was so proud that they competed, and surprised at how many more participants other schools had...I have decided to establish an English club in our school to help our students prepare for next year’s competition in Khon Kaen’s capital!

King’s Birthday ceremony at my school

We wrapped up the week with a ceremony honoring the King’s Birthday. We started the day by having a group of monks lead the school in prayer and then we donated food items to the local temples. After presenting our donations, we moved to the auditorium/gymnasium to sign our birthday card/book to the Kind, sing, watch students’ performances, and engage in an awesome photo shot. The rest of the day the whole school engaged in beautifying the school through a BIG CLEAN up day.

The following Monday the school was closed to observe the King’s Birthday. At night, my host family and I headed to our town’s community fair grounds where we continued celebrating the King’s birthday. Various agencies from our city/village, Ban Phai, went up on stage, bowed, and presented the king with their offering (a gold and silver statue like the one I am holding in the picture). After everyone presented their offering, we sang and lit candles. It was truly magical to see everyone come together and show their admiration for the king. I was amazed to see the sea of candles and imagining that many other communities were engaging in the same activity all over the country.

Getting to know myself in Thailand and in general...

One of the challenging things I have had to take on has been getting to know myself in a different environment/place in time/context. When I was living in Baltimore, I felt like I finally had a good understanding on who I am...and then I moved (temporarily) to Los Angeles and then Thailand and everything I thought I knew went out the window.

One of Buddha’s teachings is to accept impermanence or the acceptance that things are always changing hence the importance of the title of this entry “beginning to understand that I will never completely understand.” I won’t completely understand situations because things are always changing...and there’s nothing wrong with that!

I will end this entry with one of my favorite quotes: “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”-Buddha

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