Hi all!!! Posting this a few days late since I finally got internet!
HELLOOOOOO FROM THAILAND!!!!! To say that I love it here would be the UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR, which I guess isn’t really saying much since the year is only two days old at this point!! As you may have surmised from my reckless usage of caps lock and exclamation points, I’m doing really, really well, and I have to say that Thailand is my favorite country so far, even though the village we’re staying in is about a million degrees and lacks AC and internet. As I mentioned in my last post, the culture here is so wildly different from India, but I find myself easily settling into the calm, slow-moving way of life here. The sense of community is amazingly strong, and we stop to wai and smile at everyone we see (to “wai” is the traditional way of showing respect to elders here, which involves bowing and reciting the traditional Thai greeting).
Every morning, Sam and I wake up anywhere between 7:30 and 8:15 for breakfast (another thing I’ve fallen in love with: not using an alarm clock, but waking up with the sunlight), cooked by our host mom. She’s adorable, around four feet tall, and speaks exactly zero English, but she’s patient with our non-existent Thai speaking skills and attempts to teach us words by pointing and repeating. At around 9:30, we usually deck out in farming gear and head off to the fields with our mom for work, following behind her like ducklings as we make our way to our family farm. Since we can’t communicate verbally, she usually points and demonstrates to show us what to do. So far we’ve done a lot of weeding, watering, and planting, which can get sweaty and dirty out in the sun, but consistent with Thai culture, we don’t work too hard; we get a snack break in the shade around 10:30 and head home around 11:15, so our work day isn’t ever too long. Mom then makes us lunch, and afterwards we usually have a few hours to nap or read before seminar or Thai class at 2. Afterwards, since we all live so close together, we have lots of time to hang out in the seminar space, go for a walk (or a run, which makes me miserable but happy afterwards), or visit each other’s houses. Our house has become fairly popular due entirely to our one of our two dogs, a little puppy named Me (meaning “bear” in Thai) who happens to be ridiculously adorable and loves to play. Which is another thing I love about Thailand: pets are a thing here! Sam and I sneak a ridiculous amount of food to our two cats, and our mom spends at least an hour every day cleaning and playing with our dogs, Me and Ma (“Ma” meaning dog in Thai; original, I know). Anyway, we’re always sure to be back home for dinner, and we usually spend the remainder of the evening reading, watching a movie, listening to music or just chatting before we head to sleep!
In terms of food, everything we get here is freshly grown right in the village. As a result, everything is AMAZING (the fact that our mom is a great cook doesn’t hurt either). We always have rice, a vegetable dish, some sort of meat, and a plate of fruit, and usually we also get a sticky rice dish (my personal favorite is sticky rice cooked in coconut water with custard on top, wrapped in a banana leaf). I never really realized how much I love fruit and fresh veggies until we didn’t have them in India, and I’m so, so grateful to have them here. As our mom put it, I’m definitely getting fatter, but I’ve never been happier to get fat in my whole life!
Finally, I’ll give a brief summary of how we celebrated the New Year. Instead of going to the fields on the 31st, we met up with all the other students in the town center as everyone in the town gathered together to prepare for the night’s celebrations. We stuffed tea leaves, rolled tobacco pipes, and helped tie a checkerboard of string above the square in front of the temple. We attached colorful, reflective banners stuffed with money to the string, and it was then connected to all the houses in the village, so that when the monks blessed the string, the blessing went out to all the houses and families in the town. That evening, we all ate together in a huge, delicious potluck feast, filled with all varieties of traditional Thai dishes. Afterwards, we made our way to the village center and sat beneath the web of string as a monk lead the town in prayer. I didn’t understand the words he was saying, but as we sat under the dark sky, watching the banners spin gently in the breeze, occasionally catching the light and flashing a burst of color, I felt at peace. Our group went back to the seminar space after a bit to watch a movie, but instead spent the time playing games when the projector broke, a serendipitous bit of luck that made the evening all the more unforgettable. Just before midnight, we headed outside to roast marshmallows and make s’mores using Ritz crackers in lieu of graham crackers. We counted down the New Year using the program leaders’ iPhone and watched the fireworks set off at an alarmingly close range, while small pinpricks of glowing orange lanterns floated away in the background. All in all, it was a New Year’s Eve that was a little strange, but one that I will definitely never forget.
My only complaint about Thailand would have to be the bug bites (this morning I counted 32 on my legs alone!), but since my resolution was to be more grateful for the amazing things in my life, I’m trying not to focus on those. Grateful for the anti-itch cream I brought with me! And grateful for all of you, anyone out there who is taking the time to read the somewhat nonsensical ramblings of this blog. I love you all so much, and wish you could all be here with me!! Lots of hugs and kisses xoxoxo
In order to save the world, we must first discover it.