Third Year Thoughts

27 Jun

This is what happened when one left one’s home – pieces of oneself scattered all over the world, no one place every completely satisfied, always a nostalgia for the place left behind. ~ The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli

As we finish up our third year in Thailand, this quote (from a fabulous book I read recently) really resonates with me. Bangkok, with all its eccentricities, feels more and more like home. And yet, when we visit over the summer, NYC immediately feels comfortable and familiar. And when we go back to Vermont, that too feels like home. I miss NYC and VT when we’re in Thailand, but I also miss Bangkok when we’re gone during the summer. It’s a very strange feeling because our stay in Thailand is not permanent, and we may not settle in any of these places.

I suspect that a bit of the reflective mood I’m in stems from the many friends who are leaving this year. Part of international life is the frequent arrival and departure of coworkers. This year in particular is witnessing several close friends heading on to other adventures. On the other hand, many are heading off to other fabulous locales, so we’ll have great places to visit (Bogotá and Moscow, I’m looking at you).

Lest this post get too depressing, in honor of our third year ending, I have compiled a list of amazingly random Thai things that make me smile (I believe this is list number four…). Here goes:

  •  Third world power lines. Simply put, they’re a hot mess. It’s truly a marvel IMG_0515that the power doesn’t fail more often, and that no one gets electrocuted (that I know of). Every single morning, our neighbor Daeng, who sells grilled pork skewers on the corner of our soi, gets electricity to her stand by stringing a giant extension cord over the street and illegally hooking to the power lines. She keeps a special wooden pole stashed behind some potted plants for this purpose. It’s fabulously efficient and completely bootleg.
  • The endless array of things that can be transported via motorbike: two-by-fours, gas tanks, mattresses, potted plants, McDonalds delivery, live roosters in wicker baskets… My current favorite usage of a motorbike is a gentleman who uses his scooter to walk his dog. Every evening, he rides verrrryy slowly down the side of the road while a mutt approximately the size of a dachshund races alongside on his leash.
  • Selfies. Oh, the selfies. No one, I mean no one, does selfies like the Asians do, and the Thais are no exception. It is super common/hilarious to see women in restaurants, men in gyms, teens on the IMG_1506beach, and everyone in between snapping zillions of pics of themselves. Even better, they frequently have selfie sticks to aid in said activity. They’re also big fans of including us crazy foreigners in their photos. Case in point: last month on a beach vacation, I exited the water and was approached by a women who asked, “Take photo?” Thinking she was requesting a photographer for her group of friends, I readily agreed. I was unprepared for her to wrap her arm around my waist, and immediately pop her phone in front of us! There I was, dripping wet, taking a selfie with a complete stranger. I believe my words were, “Oh, this is happening now.” We later took a group photo of all three strange ladies and I!
  • While we’re on the topic of self-photos… The selfie is a strong IMG_1261part of the culture; when my students are dressed up for a special event, they are more than happy to immediately pose with me.  A few weeks ago, the school gardeners did some landscaping and added a statue of Jesus, alongside several lambs and small children, to an area near the playground. A student approached a colleague and asked, “Why is he taking a selfie?” Oh, the delightful confusion of a small Buddhist child trying to place a ceramic Christian statue into his known universe.
  • And finally, my kiddos. My students aren’t random but they are amazing, and frequently hilarious to boot. Elementary kids in general are pretty darn cute, but these Thai students are some of the funniest, most innocent little people I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. They sing loudly, they dance awkwardly, and on no-uniform days they wear fabulous outfits.

Finally, per usual, a sampling of photos of wonderful friends and adorable students from the past year.

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