The words were written with intent and the whirlwind of a thousands memories collecting into a story. A story of a girl who dreamed of Thailand. Who fell asleep at night with the anticipation of what the dream could be. Who dreamed life could be so much grander beyond the borders of her world. Into the day, the dream carried through her heart until the very moment she hugged her mother goodbye and stepped onto the plane into the unknown. The unknown that has weaved itself into a thousand memories, a thousand faces, a thousands stories. The very happenings that brought her to write on the lantern ‘My Dream Fulfilled’.
Sunday was spent visiting Ajarn Martin’s house church, which is a Thai church. The atmosphere was very different than that of a village and captured my attention in the comfortability of it. The language was familiar, the furniture a standard Thai style, the windows a classic look, and the food a familiar taste. I chatted in my tired state before transitioning to the night market life. We wandered through the night market and know the booths almost by heart. The feeling was vibrant and calm. The market was less crowded and I felt my heart let the culture seep deeper in. Watching life happen around me as I have never seen it before. The languages vastly different. The people wildly different. Their feet and hands shaped by their craft to the tourist with blisters on their feet. My eyes were wide, tired, and a little sad. As it was the last night I would walk these streets for some time.
The evening we set off a sky lantern filled with words that represent things we are thankful for. I wrote the closest thing to my heart. ‘My Dream Fulfilled’. As I watched the lantern kiss the sky, I smiled, but dared not let the tears stream from my eyes. I tucked away the sadness and skipped inside to run from the cold. (And by cold I mean 65 degrees fahrenheit, which is incredibly freezing to me now). I settled in for the night but lay with my eyes wide open. Open with fear in what is to come. Open with sadness in my dream coming to an end. But instead of seeing as the end, I choose to embrace it as the beginning. To recognize that my dream is far more than my creative mind could of imagined. My dream is fulfilled by the experiences that broke my heart, but fuzed the cracks with peace. A peace my heart has never known before. And without the experience of life in Thailand, I would even be the person I am in this moment. Thailand is and will forever be a part of who I am, and a part of my story.
Monday stirred into a day with lungs full of fresh mountain air. We weaved our way through the mountains to the highest point in Thailand. Doi Ithanon. We stopped for lunch by a rushing stream and ate sticky rice and fried chicken (a normal road trip food here). Leah and I wandered up to Adele and watched the water crash over the rocks. The water was cold on my feet. I dipped my feet in and let the sun warm the rest of me. Realizing that the sun will not always be around to warm me against the cold. Leah and I discussed more things about life, as we usually do. Opening one another to new thoughts, new perspectives, and perhaps some new conclusions. Everyone hopped back into the yellow song teow and arrived at our camping destination. It still surprises me that Thai people camp. Rows of tents to rent were neatly tucked next to another and there were several nice cars parked near them. We all ventured to the base of the mountain, where a tall waterfall tumbled from the top of the ridge. At the base of the waterfall I watched the water pour down. In brilliance and strength it crashed against the ground. I walked up and around the corner of the trail and my breath was taken away by the whisper of beauty. The scenery set before me was so delicately placed, I thought it might be a dream. The nature, the stone, the trees, all created a wonderful beauty of serenity. I thought to myself, this is life. In the simplest form, this was a forest thriving with life and beauty. And my heart calls to find the beauty amongst the simplicity. The simplest thing as stopping and opening my heart to what nature has placed before my eyes. I attempted to wander farther up the trail, but was stopped by my name being yelled. Apple, who is seven, was calling out my name in the woods. I smiled, and turned around to yell her name back. She caught up with me and we wandered up to where other adventuremates were coming down from. We sat on the rock for a little while before heading back down the road for dinner. We passed through a Hmong village who many had beautiful Hmong tribal jackets on and were going about their daily life. Children were coming home from school, little ones were jumping around the front of the house, teenagers were feeding the animals, the chickens ran loose (And Adele tried to catch one), the bird in the catch let out an awful squawk, and people were chattering to one another. It was their life happening, and I could only see a glimpse of it. After caring for a kitten during dinner and returning with it swaddled in a sweatshirt we arrived back to the camp ground for a night by the fire. I put on my five layers of sweatshirts, sweatpants, two pairs of socks, and a knit hat with three hoods over the top of my head and sat by the fire. We enjoyed laughter, smores, hot chocolate, milo, stories, and the simple enjoyment of one another’s company. I stared up the moon that peeked behind the clouds and through the trees. The very same moon I used to stare up at during sleepless nights and wondered what my dream would become. The same moon that no matter where I am in the world, I will have the comfort of seeing it. My tired eyes began to close, so I shuffled to the tent with the other gals and packed in like a sardine. Layers still on, and two blankets over me, I fell asleep into the deep dreams of the day.
Tuesday seemed to begin too early, as I awoke to the shuffling of people and things being packed up. We loaded back up once again in the song teow to enjoy a day of adventure. After a weird rice soup breakfast, we wandered up through the hills to the highest point in Thailand. The great national forest of Doi Ithanon. After our family photo by the sign, the trail led to a shrine built for the seventh king of Thailand. The forest is the sixth largest protected forest in Thailand and has fostered protection of wildlife. We walked through the trail that led to the gift and coffee shop. I enjoyed a surprising good mocha before entering the nature trail. People cruised in front, while Leah, Lyndsay, Adele, and I stepped with quiet feet across the boardwalk. We stopped to listen and watch for birds. I enjoyed the silence of nature. In fact, I missed it. With the busyness of classes and the rush of everything soon to close, it was nice to stop. To stop life in one of the purest forms. Amongst God’s creation. I leaned against the side railing and looked up as the sunlight broke through the tree tops. The leaves reflected a brilliant bright green as the sun made the shape of the leaves translucent. The birds hid within the canopy of the forest, but we approached a very loud bird calling out to another bird. Lyndsay approached with bright and excited eyes as we approached the sound. We watched and listened. Getting funny looks from tourists as they walked quickly across the trail. At one point in the trail I thought to myself how I felt completely me. Amongst nature. In my dream country. With people who love nature just as much as I do. My heart melted to absolute peace. After the nature trail we rode up to the King’s two Chedi’s. Gloriously large, a beautiful view, people singing to the King, and beautiful art that took many hands to make. And they were both complete with an escalator going up, for all us lazy tourists. We stopped by another large waterfall before lunch. The waterfall looked like a movie, or a dream. The water trailed the immense rock and crashed against the base of forest floor and weaved its way through the forest. We ventured to Wachirathan waterfall for lunch. I bought a cha yen and walked up to the falls. After looking up at the view, I wandered down the trail with two year old Wanna. Took some funny odd family photos. I wandered back up with Wanna, all the while getting funny looks from tourists. Leah and I laughed and played with Wanna before it was time to go. Wanna even ran towards me with open arms and I caught and swung her up into the air. The tourist looks were really priceless. Since we talk to Wanna and Apple in Thai and English, the looks from strangers trying to figure out our mixed family is really rather humorous. On the ride home back to Doi Saket, we also had a humorous brief interaction with Thai highway police. Perhaps our tired and unshowered selves caused the man to say “You ok?” over his car speaker. We replied yes and thought how strange the highway police would acknowledge a song teow full of tired farang and Lahu family. As we piled into the Go-ED house, it seemed our comfortability of it being our home is true. We set our things down in our usual places, sit in our favorite spot, and talk about our day. Just when things set into a normal rhythm, it seems it has to come to a close.
Wednesday I set out on my own adventure to meet Ajarn Chulee to see the tailor. The boys hopped off the public song teow to go to Central Festival and I continued on into the city. My first time alone in a song teow and the anxiousness of being alone tried to settle in, but I shrugged it off. I usually fear public transportation by myself, because people tend to bother me, but this time I had no fear. I knew where I was, where I was going, and what I was doing. The wild fire of fearlessness spreads the more I travel, and the more I understand how I fit into this world. I hopped off the song teow, payed my 20 baht, picked up a cha yen with tapioca balls, and walked over to Payap University where I was to meet Ajarn Chulee. I arrived early and sat by the chapel on the second floor. There were a few staff decorating for the Christmas season, but the floor was calm. I sat down and tried to conjure up my thoughts about leaving. I pulled out my flight itinerary, which has been in my flash pack for the past four months. I wrote out some of my thoughts I remember when my first flight took off from Oregon. Excited, nervous, and happy. My eyes started to well up with tears when looking back at the beginning. I did not particularly want to cry while sitting by myself at a seminary college, so I busied myself with other thoughts before walking down to the front fountain to wait for Ajarn Chulee. I soaked in the scenery of the school before joining Ajarn to go to the tailor. On the way over we discussed the King’s birthday this week, how wonderful Thailand is, and how I am always welcome to return to Thailand. Because Thailand now is a second home to me. The dress fit! (Thank goodness). They said I could lose a little weight and it would be perfect, haha. The funny thing about Thai society is the fact you can call someone fat or talk about their weight, but it is not taken as an insult. It is just factual information. Ajarn Chulee drove me back to Doi Saket and joined us for dinner. Anna from Grace Children’s Home also joined us. It is always lovely to talk with her. She is a calming motherly presence. Although she did try to find Thai boyfriends for Leah and I….haha. After dinner, Miranda and Thippawan set up a final night with the Lahu students. The Lahu built a giant bonfire and did traditional tribal dances to the beat of drums, cymbals, and a gong. We joined in as best as we could, but some of the dances are too fast and complicated. We enjoyed smores, hot cocoa, more laughter, and the joy of culture. It was beautiful, magical, and something more than a dream. My heart again was at peace. As the students trickled off to sleep, we sang worship songs for a little while by the fire before heading back to the house. It was a beautiful night to end our last time with the Lahu students.
Debrief sessions are all this week and are structured to help us process our time here and what it will look like going back home. Thursday morning we discussed the stages of grief and how we experienced them during our time here and perhaps how we may react when we return. Though all my thoughts huddled around the cloud of joy and wished nothing more than to speak and see joy. There were hard times of frustration and pain this term, but it does not stifle the good, not does it keep the joy away. In fact, I think it makes the joy stronger. Without suffering, I would not have been able to understand true joy. And to recognize and appreciate it.
In the afternoon the boys and I set off into the city. We wandered a bit through the day market, ventured down to Ta Phae, and impromptu all got a two hour Lila Complete Massage. Worth it! Usually I am apprehensive cause of my arm pain, but it surprisingly helped. It was the first time in several weeks that my hands actually loosened out their constant tense status. Through the giggles of the funniness of massages, glorious oolong tea, and the ladies teaching me more Thai words, I left with a happy heart and a relaxed body. We grabbed a cup of artsy coffee before heading to catch the public song teow back home. Since the King’s birthday is on Friday, there were many festivities happening downtown. In returning home we relayed our adventures, enjoyed Chinese noodle soup, and finished the day with Elf and crafts.
Only a couple more days left here. My heart is joyful with life, but painfully aware of the sadness to come as the goodbyes are just around the corner.