Thursday, June 11, 2009

The day before the rest of my life

It's the day after my birthday. I'm seventeen.
It's also the day after I gave my parting speech in thai to the whole school.
It's the day after my last rotary meeting which got cancelled for a funeral.
It's the day after my normal life in Thailand ended and preperations for going home kicked into high gear.
Today's the day I buy gifts, close my bank account here and run errands.
Today's the day I say goodbye to as many people I can, take any many pictures I can and soak up my life here as much as I can.
Today's laundry day.

It's two days after my karaoke birthday party. It was supposed to be a surprise thrown by emma but my thai friends didn't really get the concept.
It's the week after I came back from the Temple on top of a mountain in Nage. It's the week after I sat and meditated, ate charity food and wore white.

It's the day after the rest of my exchange. The day after I went on trips all over the country. The day after my mother came to visit. It's the day after I got letters from Jakub, Evan, Rosiee, Breanna, Mom, Dad, Madeleine, Grandmom. It's the day after I got postcards from Peter, Rotary, some of my past teachers.

It's the day after I became myself. Today is the day after my transformation. This transformation, this experience. I am not who I was.

I'm not who I was but I am part of who I'll become. I'm calmer, more patient. I meditate when upset. I speak three languages. I can carve fruit into roses and tulips and dance like a thai person.

I've been in the mountains, the valleys and the oceans of this magnificent country and it has changed me.

When I left the U.S. I left searching for answers. I thought that my life was messy and complicated and I wanted a way out. I found that life IS messy. Life is messy, life is difficult but it's the only life we have. I found out who I am regardless of family, regardless of school, regardless of habit.

I threw myself out of the pot and into the frying pan to test myself. I tested my strength and my convictions and I am stronger for it.

I will miss this country. I will this language and I will miss these people. This is my home. This is my second nature.

And so today is the day after all of that. But it is also the day before tomorrow. It's the day before the rest of my life. It's the week before I go back to the U.S. and all I know for sure about my life to come is that I will come back here.

Thank you for everything.

Friday, May 15, 2009

TIT (this is Thailand)

I've gotten so used to this place that it's my home and most of the time everything seems normal, even my alzheimic host grandmother that likes to roll and fold paper all day long.
In an effort to get out of the lazy funk I've been in I asked around to see if I could join the youth rotary yoga group today. I got a call from Khun Joy ( Readers probably don't remember but she's the one with the really handsome sons that took me and emma to the monk's cave on the mountain). Anyway, Khun Joy said if I came to her house at 4 she would take me to the yoga class. So I rode my bike over to her house.
Once there she told me that she wasn't available to take me to the yoga class and so she told her grandson to take me to P'lek's pharmacy. P' lek is a rotarian in the younger club and the yoga classes were once held at her class. So off I went to see P'lek.
Once there I found out that she was busy because she's leaving for Bangkok this evening so she asked her sister to take me.
Her sister wasn't free so decided that instead of driving me there, she'd drive and I'd follow.
When we finally got to the place it hit me that it would have been so much easier if Joy had said that yoga classes were held at the big white building next to the library.
So p'lek's sister and I asked around and it turns out that there wasn't a yoga class after all. Go figure. TIT (this is thailand).
So I rode my bike back home singing along with korean and thai pop songs by bands like silly fools, hangman, big bang and super junior.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My past life

We drove up winding roads under a dense tree canopy. Up and up we go until through the darkness ahead a golden buddha shines.The car pulls over and we get out. Supraporn explained me that the monk that is not a monk that will teach us meditation has no arms. She motioned to me that they have been cut off. "He's taking a shower. He'll be out soon."

Somewhere in the distance another monk is chanting and the geckos in the trees are braying. What she said about the monk didn't register until he walked out of the darkness towards the light we sat next to. Something was wrong. His right arm shone and hung loose. As he aproached I saw the hook on his left prosthetic arm. A handsome face smiled down at me.

We sat down and more women arrived. He began the introductions and asked me if I was christian. I answered that no, in fact I was jewish. The thai women were curious and the monk began to describe the differences between judaism, christianity, islam, hinduism and buddhism all the while asking short questions from me for confirmation.

He said a missionary had once come to the temple. The missionary had told the story of jesus' ressurrection. The thai people had been confused as to why it was so special. "Mosquitoes die every day and rise again every day. What's so special about that?" The missionary didn't have an answer.

He told the story of Adam and Eve only there was no snake in the tree, and it wasn't knowledge that took away innocence. It was sex. He then asked me if all jews and christians thought sex was a sin. I wasn't sure how to answer.

We begin. Breathe in and out, in and out, in and out. Don't stop. Powerful breaths. Faster, faster faster. The pressure in my chest was so great I thought I would explode. He called me by name "ทราย, faster faster. Don't stop. Don't open your eyes." The women behind me began to wail. It shook me to my core. The wailing got louder and desperate. I became sure they were posessed. "Don't pay attention to them. If something in your body hurts, focus on that. Don't control your body."
I lost track of my limbs. My body went numb and I couldn't feel gravity. In my mind I was floating in darkness. The wailing turned into screams that raised the hair on the back of my neck. I was told again to pay attention only to my own body. Breathe in, out, in, out. Don't stop. Don't slow down. I rocked and swayed and lost sense of time.
The screams began to die down into coos and whimpers. The heavy breathing of us all covered the last sound and suddenly all was quiet. We no longer had to breathe as fast or as deep. "Samleung. Samleung" He said. "Think Samleung only."
My mind was black except for flashes of times I had sat in the forest alone. Silence came inside me and took hold. "Samleung."

It was over. I opened my eyes and looked around. He began to ask each person if they saw anything. They explained to me that this type of meditation is supposed to opena window into our past lives. He said that if I could master this meditation I could end wars and hear people's thoughts.
Supraporn looked at her watch. "Almost 10 pm. We should go." She seemed relieved to be done and as we piled into the car she said that meditation like this scared her.
The full moon gave me a sleepy stare the long drive home.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


They come up from the river at dusk and fly into the gold dragon lamps lining the block of restaurants. One after another the half moth half worm insects fall to the ground. Hundreds of thousands of white fluttering wings litter the ground like snow, except that this snow is living. breathing and writhing in the last few moments of the dying twilight.
In the morning the dried out corpses line the road in heaps and piles. The stench is unbearable but the clean-up crews come by and sweep them all up before it becomes entirely light.
I'm asked if we have these moths without legs in the U.S. I answer "not in Oregon."

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Transitions are always difficult. Moving host families was so hard for me emotionally and physically. I don't know how I've accumulated all this stuff. I was told that I would be moving into town. Not so.
I moved into yet another village. After insisting that I need to be near internet access for various reasons after not having constant internet access for months, I am able to spend most nights out of the week in town. The house in the village is interesting. My bedroom ceiling slopes towards the ground and the mice that live above me occasionally poke their noses down the holes they have carved in my bedroom walls and ceiling. The windows are screenless and so I get all kinds of visitors into my abode.
I also have a traditional thai shower aka a large tub filled with water and a large ladle. At night the geckos bray loudly. GE ko GE ko.

My new host father's nickname is Golf. It's a name that seems to be following me everywhere. His nickname is golf because he is obsessed with the sport. He views it as the american dream. Play the sport well and make millions of american dollars. Tiger Woods is his idol. Half african-american and half thai (according to my host dad--I myself am not sure) in thailand, he would be the lowest of the low on the caste system. In the U.S. he's one of the wealthiest celebrities and his name is known worldwide. Golf defies the class structure. My host father is certain that if he can teach me how to play golf well, he will instantly give me a better future.

My host brother Bam is around twenty years old. He's been trying to flirt with me since he met me. Flirting in thailand is on a much subtler scale. It's all about eyebrow raising and conversation. First he'll ask me where I'm from. After "discovering" that I'm from the U.S. HE will want to speak english with me. He'll ask what the difference between the subject and an object is. After I explain he'll feign understanding and promptly give up on trying to speak english with me. I've been through this before.
My last older host brother went through the same phase. He even started carrying around an english thai dictionary. They both eventually realize that I speak much more thai than they speak english and that it is simply easier to speak to me in thai. Then they realize what grade I'm in and that I don't plan on getting married to a thai man and living in a village the rest of my life and the flirting stops.

I moved houses at 10 in the morning. After my suitcases left the car I was promptly introduced to the entire village. Old women all rubbed my arms for good luck. I spent two weeks in the sun and I still have "white" skin.

Another exchange student friend and I have realized why rotary has three host families. At the beginning of each new family, the family is cautious and doesn't yet know our capabilities. I have a strict curfew of 5: 30 pm every night with my new host family and am not allowed to travel anywhere alone. My friend Colette has lived with the same family for the entire year and now that they know her well, she has all the freedom she would have had in the U.S. We joke about the three host family situation is not for better cultural's to keep us under control.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting down to business

I have ten weeks left in my exchange. So instead of dwelling on how much I don't want to go home/ how much I'll be excited to see some of my old friends/I don't want to forget this experience and all those other mixed up feelings, I'll be spending the last few bits describing objects and everyday life here, right now.

Today is laundry day. I don't have an automatic laundry machine and I don't have an automatic dryer. I have a broken down laundry machine that spins my clothes, two metal basins, a machine to spin the water out of my clothes (think giant salad spinner) and a drying rack. The drying rack is a large metal frame with chipped sky blue paint.

It's incredibly hot today. The heat and humidity make me lazy. I don't feel like doing anything other than lying down in a large pool of cool water. The closest pool is an hour drive away.

I spent the last month traveling in the south of Thailand. I camped on a remote island and stayed in hotels in Phuket (pronounced poo ket, NOT fuckit). I saw islands where james bond movies were filmed and others that simply stayed anonymous.

I am tired, so tired of traveling.

My mother came to visit. I'm glad that she was able to see how I live and eat what I eat. I thought I was going easy on her. I didn't make her eat anything too spicy or too strange in my opinion. There was so fermented fish or dried and roasted squid. Turns out maybe I had been pushing Thailand on her more than I realized. I made her walk across town in 90* weather and thought nothing of it. It didn't even occur to me that she wasn't used to the heat.

The skin on my back is peeling. In the south, the sun is so strong. I burned the first day beach bumming. I wore sunscreen and covered my shoulders. It didn't make a difference. I was in such pain that night, I could barely sleep.

In Phuket I went into Jim Thompson's shop. Jim Thompson was the man that capitalized on the thai silk industry first. His silk is considered by some, to be the best quality in the world ( I know others that think differently). The shop was poisonous. It made me want so many things. Hankercheifs for $15 dollars and $70 silk and cashmere shawls. Purses and bedspreads. I am materialistic.

My laundry is done spinning. I have to attend to it.
Will write soon,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I wish I knew what to write. I've had so many experiences in the past few weeks that it's overwhelming. Everything from a rotary district conference to being set up on a date with a "tom" (butch lesbian)--honestly, I had no idea what was going on.
My mom is arriving tomorrow night and she'll be here for ten days. As soon as she leaves I'm off to Phuket and after that who knows.
I found out my return date and will start summer school four days after I get back to the U.S.
My friend back stateside finally got my package of asian goodies, namely snacks and clothing items. I hope she likes it.
I have a ton of crazy stories, but I won't put them online. They are my own to keep.
Will write in a month. I'm off to the beach.