MONDAY-October 6th, 2014 (Fun Fact: Day I got my license four years ago!)
The air was thick, but the road was lined with familiar greenery of the surrounding jungle and rolling mountains. We hopped in the car and made a few tire stops, dropped some guy off, picked him up again, rode to the bank, then dropped him off again. Something about traveling with people who only speak a little English, is they do not communicate always what is happening. I told the guys later that when we do not know the language or what is being spoken around us, we just smile and nod. We continued on to a Hmong village. The Hmong village was a fascinating experience. It was life as usual for the village. Women were embroidering in groups, the men were sitting around chatting. The village was along a hill, and people rode by in trucks and motos. We even saw a send off of some sort. Younger people were dressed in traditional wear with silver pieces hanging all along the front and embroidered patches that lines the collar and the cuffs. We walked around with two Thai guys that work for MMF. They were handing out surveys about human rights. I wish I could tell you what the survey said, but it was all in Thai.
I was content to just watch and be with the people. They even made us lunch without spice! The kitchen was a typical village kitchen. The cement stove that is wood fired on the ground and a sink made out of cement with a drainage system. The particular village we went to had electricity, so there was a fridge and a television in this house. Something that became clear to me about Thai life is the dynamic of taking care of your parents. There was an older gentleman who seemed to have trouble talking and listening. When we first arrived there was a lady who was helping him eat. In the States, it is common to send your parents off to a care facility because you are unable to take care of them all the time. Life is so grandly simple here, that generations live together, and take care of one another. The problem comes in the expected rolls that each person is born into. Because I am the youngest child in my family, I am expected to be at home and take care of my parents. I get some looks of shame almost for being here when I should be home taking care of my parents. My only excuse out of it is that I am still in school.
As we left, one girl liked us so much she wanted a photo taken, haha. The small moment of feeling special! The ride back my body seemed to need sleep. The problem about being amongst a different language is the realization that it can be exhausting. I focus on the Thai pretty intensely to try to figure out familiar words, but I process words in English. So it can be mentally exhausting. We were expected to teach English to the children who are here, which was not the best. I have no desire, nor talent to teach english. And things do not just click and translate for everyone in the room. I did not feel I was much help, and I felt just as confused as the kids around me.
After that I particularly felt stir crazy. In the village, they kept offering a seat, and I felt rude saying no. But seriously, sometimes a girl just wants to stand. My mind started to waver to a darker place than the light it has been dancing in while being here in Thailand. I started to feel a little trapped and frustrated. I dislike the feeling of not being able to go anywhere, and my body felt depraved of movement. I paced outside, and I am sure it was cause for curiosity. I paced for the purpose of movement, and as the sun descended, it was no time to really walk down the street even. Where we are staying now, the evenings are spent with everyone on their electronics. Other than writing, I do not like to be online for a long time because it is not life giving for me. Villages with electricity and electronics seem no different than evening in the States it seems. Some people recharge by watching youtube or shows, but for me, I need adventure. I am incredibly blessed to be able to see how MMF goes into villages and surveys human rights, but the rural lifestyle is something I am not as familiar with. I am used to my fast paced western style of living where there is always something to do or somewhere to go. Being in Chiang Mai, I had the freedom to keep filling the adventure side of me. Here, it is slow paced, a lot of sitting, too much eating, and nowhere to go. While pacing, I received a message from one of my best friends. And for some reason, the message was just enough to calm my heart. I stopped pacing, looked up at the sky and realized that where I am now, I probably will only be once. I should use this time for good things, and be blessed with a slower pace and knowledge of a different way of life.
I stepped into the house for dinner, chatted and had translation explanation issues as usual, and played a little guitar. I miss being around a piano, so I strummed on the guitar and made up a song instead. Music is good for the soul, and it does not matter what language it is in. My heart found the calm it sought, and I felt peace and comfort in the uncomfortable.
Thank you everyone for your continued prayers. My stomach has been ok here, which is incredible considering some of the circumstance. The internet is still not strong enough to post pictures, so get ready for a heap of them when I am in a place with strong internet!
TUESDAY-October 7th, 2014
The morning started out promising. The Internet worked just long enough for me to be able to video chat my parents. Being able to externalize my experience with my family keeps me grounded and my head in the right place. The rest of the morning took a different turn. The day could be described like the show 24. But not the show really, more like the MadTV parody of 24. The slower, more humorous tick of the hours.
Hour One: Bethany and Leah wake up. Bethany chats with family.
Hour Two: Internet does not work due to someone in the house using it to play video games.
Hour Three: Bethany and Leah go for a walk to the end of the road. Where Bethany accidentally has her finger in almost all the pictures…and steps where fire ants are while trying to figure out why the rice patches were different shades of green.
Hour Four: The sun becomes very hot. Return back at the house.
Hour Five: Bethany and Leah become very hungry and are wondering why no one else is eating lunch.
Hour Six: Bethany finishes knitting a small hat and Leah reads.
Hour Seven: Lunch is made. Bethany and Leah start to have Cabin fever. Bethany’s wrists hurt, but continues to knit to ignore the Cabin fever feeling.
Hour Eight: Bethany begins to pace. Said person’s video game played the same tune on repeat for over thirty minutes.
Hour Nine: FINALLY, we leave to visit a pastor. Where we have no idea what is going on, but follow like little puppies. The bright side, the pastor’s wife was very sweet and had a very cute baby.
Hour Ten: The drive home was beautiful as the moon was big and bright. Bethany and Leah start to sing to themselves to release some pent up energy. Keuw Teow (noodle soup essentially) was located for dinner. Then the binge for chocolate and snacks at Seven Eleven happened.
Hour Eleven-Fourteen: Return home to settle for the day.
Hour Fifteen-Twenty-Four: Roll around on the hard floor and sleep some.
It takes a lot for me to become bored, but today I think was the first time I really felt rather trapped. So I begin to pace, and stare out the door as if something grand will happen if I step outside. I think that today I truly realized how much of a city girl I am. The town I grew up in is much more of a city than the one I am in currently. Here, they experience and live life a little slower. I like to have slow days occasionally, but I need to be moving. I need to at least go somewhere, or run, or do something productive. With the Internet down I could not look up things online to learn, or work on things for MMF even. All I had was a pair of needing needles, yarn, and my busy mind. One thing I have learned in my practicum is what I can and cannot handle. I do not believe that I could live in the slums alone and help the community there. My body would get sick, and I would be of no use. Village life is also not for me. I love to do handy crafts and chat with people, but I need to move around and go places. I also know I never want to teach English. For some, it is a back up plan, or plan A so they can live abroad. If I live abroad, I want to be able to do something that uses my skills better. Teaching English is not one of my skills. Just because I speak English, does not make me a good teacher!
Another thing I have learned, is the blessing of the people that God has placed before me. My adventuremate during this time is a spirited girl who has experienced issues similar to mine. There is comfort when someone understands what it means to be in pain all the time and the frustration of trying to convey that to people who do not understand. Even as she was yelling at me to stop knitting cause my wrist was taped up and me saying no, I knew she understood the pain that I have tried to explain to so many others. And as the hours seem to slowly tick by, we just giggled and laughed at the confusion of the situation and the rather bizarre circumstance of being stuck in a house, and no one else seemingly was bothered by the slow morning. The car ride home I realized how short my time will be here and how short of time I will even get with Leah. The reality of studying abroad for me, is that it seems short. I only get this one chance, this one time, this one place. I may have felt cabin fever today, but I only get to be here once and perhaps will never return. So I should appreciate the quiet, slower paced living. Watching a whole family put tin on a roof, the chickens running loose everywhere and coming towards you if you have food in your hand. The smell of the smoke to keep the mosquitoes away and the burn piles that line the farmlands. The clear air of a morning in the mountains and the noise of people moving about and whistling. The chop of someone preparing food, the roosters yelling at one another, and the birds chirping and singing. The sight of the geometric flower patterned netting to the feeling of the hard-pressed floor. New experiences now, that will soon fade to memory. The feeling of just watching, listening, and being.
Being in the mountains has brought on the unfortunate side effect of many bug bites. My whole body has some sort of bite almost everywhere, which is quite itchy! Prayers for the bug bites to heal quickly for both Leah and I is appreciated. When I get a little panicky at the state of my body, I remember that it will not last and I will heal soon enough. The journey cannot be perfect all the time. This week has not had ideal circumstances, but it is a good way of learning what I can and cannot handle.
We found out during dinner that we are headed to a village tomorrow and will be staying the night! Which means tent camping and most likely a squatty potty, with maybe a shower. Let the adventure continue with circumstances that I can continue to laugh through, even if it is not the best or ideal situation.