Apologies!!

Most of you may think I got lost somewhere in the jungle in Laos (where I went zip-lining with the Gibbon experience, more on that later).  Some of you may think I assimilated into a hilltribe in Chiang Rai.  And maybe some of you think I decided to become a rice farmer in Vietnam.  Whether you’re thoroughly convinced of the former or the latter, I know that ALL of you are wondering where the heck I’ve been!

Well, let me give you a brief rundown before you get inundated by posts of the specifics.  Last you heard from me I was climbing a volcano in Bali.  Well…. that was almost five months ago.

In a nut shell, I braved the protests in Bangkok, participated in the biggest water fight in the world during Songkran in Chiang Mai, went trekking and rode an elephant in Pai, zip-lined through the jungle in Northern Laos, took the slowboat to Luang Prabang, took the 28 hour bus ride to Hanoi, relaxed on a boat trip through Halong Bay, climbed Mount Fansipan in Sapa, visited the tailors in Hoi An, soaked up the sun in Nah Trang, surfed the sand dunes in Mui Ne, and crawled through the tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City.

So I’ve been pretty busy…. and you had no idea!!

I apologize.

But now I’m home.  And I want to write again!  I have so much I want to tell you.  And of course, pictures I want to share.  So stay tuned.  Much more is in store!

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Life in a Thai Town

Los Angeles has a China Town, Korean Town, Olvera Street (Mexican heritage), Little Armenia, and so much more.  I’ve had Chinese neighbors, Greek neighbors, German neighbors and neighbors from Latin America.  I attended college with exchange students from Japan, Singapore, Spain and India.  I can walk down a busy street and hear five different languages in three different dialects. Needless to say,  I have seen a lot of diversity in my short life in California.  Thus, being one of two white women in a small city in Thailand has come as a bit of a shock to me.

The Infamous Street - Come to think of it, I have no idea what the name of my street is even called...something in Thai I assume. I should probably take a look at the Road Sign!!

I am stared at everywhere I go.  Actually, I’m not sure if stare is a strong enough word for what local people do to us “farangs” in our little town of Lang Suan.  Conversations are stopped the second  I open my door, ride my bike down the street, or enter the grocery store.  Little kids aren’t sure what to think about this strange white woman.  They stare with their mouths wide open and as soon as I smile, they yell, “Farang, farang, farang.”  Trust me, it gets old after awhile.  But then again, I am in their territory, and most people in the town have seldom left, thus seeing a white woman in person is quite a showstopper.

As daunting as it has been to adjust, I feel at home.  I used to just feel intimidated and would avert my eyes whenever someone looked at me.  I would get annoyed when I would receive the common “cat-call” of “HELLO!” from both men, women and children.  I used to feel completely self conscious when I tried to smile at someone and received nothing but a blank stare in return.  But now I don’t.  I’ve accepted it.  I make eye contact as much as I can, I wave, smile and yell “hello” right back, and I smile regardless if I get one back.  I have more confidence and there’s nothing like the feeling of changing that blank stare on a child’s face into a smile. 

Even still, living in a small Thai town isn’t a walk in the park and the particular street I live on does not make it much easier.  I live on a cul-de-sac type street, with the street’s dead-end at the railroad tracks.  Yes, that’s right, railroad tracks.  They are approximately twenty yards from my house, and you guessed it, there are trains running all night long.  That wasn’t too difficult to get used to, but I had another hurdle that I had never encountered: roosters.  There might be a common misconception about roosters floating around.  Apparently, they’re only supposed to crow in the morning right?  Well, not the roosters next door.  They must find something dawn-like about every hour of the day and night, because they pretty much never stop.  Once again, the rhythmic crowing of a rooster does not keep me up at night and even though the next door neighbor’s German Shepherd seems to be another night owl, who senses danger every thirty minutes or so, it’s not the nights that have been hard to get through.  

It’s the mornings.

 In America, cul-de-sacs are known for their serenity and solitude.  No sounds of cars whizzing by.  Not a lot of foot traffic.  The perfect place to live a quiet life.  Well, my little street didn’t get that memo.  I am usually woken up around six, sometimes even five, by screaming children, yelling workman, and trucks that make my house rumble.   I have to leave my windows open or else my house will turn into an oven and  I live across from an unknown warehouse, where trucks apparently need to honk their horns, blast their music, and unload their cargo all before 7AM.   

But I live. 

My Neighbors that think its a perfect time to scream and shout at 6AM...but aren't they adorable?!

And it all makes it worth it after thirty minutes of chasing the neighbor kids around the streets and attempting to teach them how to give high fives, which they still haven’t picked up yet, but I’m pretty confident they will.  It makes it worthwhile when my landlord brings me bananas from his tree about once a week, even though bananas are the one food in this world that make me cringe and when he asks me the real translation of the old English proverb: Whatever is good for the goose, is good for the gander.  I’ve seen little chicks hatch and grow up.  I’ve seen children sprinting home from school as if seeing getting home was going to keep them alive.  I’ve heard fathers and grandfather’s make the weirdest noises cooing a baby to sleep.  I’ve seen and heard so much love on my street that I feel privileged to live there. 

I love being a part of that little community even if I can’t speak the language.  Smiling and laughing is enough.

I may gripe and moan about my lack of sleep, but at the end of the day, I fall asleep with a smile on my face…about six times a night.

Transitions

Coming to Thailand was the most overwhelming experience I have ever had.   I had never really been out of my comfort zone.  I had always been surrounded by friends, family and those that I love.  I had never travelled to a foreign country.  I had never been on my own and alone.  Put all of these things together and I found myself completely out of my element.

 It took me a long time to get accustomed to Bangkok and its quick, crowded and crazy lifestyle.  Once I was used to that, I was thrown into the little town of Lang Suan, a town where only 5-6 people are fluent in English, my bathroom was sans sink and flushing toilet, and the sounds of the train tracks 20 meters away and crowing roosters kept me awake all night. 

Two months later, I was comfortable.  I loved my life in my little town.  I was used to the trains passing all through the night.  The roosters were now comforting and were a sign that I was at home.   My transition to my life in Thailand had taken a few months, but I had done it.  I had battled through heartache, solitude, and fear and I had come out on top. 

Then I went home…

I slept in my bed.  I took a hot shower for the first time in months.  I ate food I had been dreaming about. I was able to use my iPhone features again.  I called.  I texted.   I drove my car.  I listened to the radio.  I watched TV.  I hugged my dogs. I saw my most amazing friends.   And most importantly I spent a lot of time with my parents. 

I became so comfortable at home, that even though I had just left “home” in Thailand, I was once again apprehensive to go back.  I definitely hadn’t foreseen that this would be so difficult.  That it would be hard to go back to a place where I was already acclimated and happy.  Where I had friends.  A paradise.  A vacation spot.  A place where I could travel to tropical islands on the weekends and attempt to speak a foreign language. 

I found myself wanting these next few months to go by quickly just so I could be back home again.

Then I went home…Thailand home.  And it fits too.  I know this is where I need to be for the next few months.  Home rejuvenated me.  It helped me close the book on certain aspects of my life and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go.  It inspired me to go out and do more.  Learn more.  Experience more.      

Life is full of these transitions.  Once one chapter is over, another one starts right up and we have to adjust.  We have to start anew.  We have to believe that we are on the right path and we will be stronger because of it.