deep breaths and even longer sighs. something i've always taken for granted. recently my allergy to thailand, manifested itself once again in the constriction of my airways. i feel this is an exceptionally rude parting gift, but regardless a trip to the hospital yet again.. third times a charm and i'm feeling almost well. 
aside from these small casualties life is swiftly passing along. it's hotter than the too hot bath you barely dare to poke your big toe into and then quickly retract almost forgoing your balance due to the scalding sensation, that is in my best description presently to the overwhelming feeling in the world here. with the searing temperatures though have come the rains, the beautiful heavy pelting rains. that embody everything i love about summer storms but with the uniqueness only afternoons spent staring can attest to. 
as of today i am living the first of my "lasts" as it is officially my last saturday in thailand. so far i've taken about 18 and 1/4 steps but am hoping to make significant moves later on. the past week has brought the completion of 3 classes, with only 2 more and then nepal. mmmmnepal. all the excitement my body has been harboring for adventures and excursions has been fit into this small world and i can hardly wait. this excitement however is the ever present reminder that i will not be returning to my existence in the outer periphery of chiang mai, but to the small area of land on the atlantic that only visits in my dreams occasionally. 
yet at this moment i can't dwell too much on these things as i never have been good at goodbyes.
so back to dreams, i've been having more of them than i know what to do with and wake up with a transcendental feeling of happiness or a similar one of panic, tooth dreams, killing me. now i would not characterize myself as unhappy typically but this is a whole new thing. making peace with the world i suppose. i've also been doing quite a bit of meditating in the hiding places i've deemed as my own for the time being. i love the uncanny ability to find these little nooks of solace and the experiences they provide around the world. lately, these meditations have not led to a clarity of mind, in time i assume, but to that of my body. whenever i sit purposefully to claim my thoughts it is in fact my body that asserts its power and i am overcome with a humming feeling that spreads itself as if flowing congruently with my heartbeats pumping in my veins. sometimes dull and sometimes strong enough to catch my breath. i'm becoming quite fond of it. 
but for now lunchtime draws near and playdates are in need of planning.. 


days gone bye. icu.

The sheer fact that my keys are typing a final reflection is perhaps one of the most surreal concepts i've been faced with. That i'm sure I will not fully swallow until my body and worldly possessions are leaving this place in less than a month. In one of my first posts only 4 months ago I noted that time passes here in an altogether different frequency , one I couldn't quite figure out, strangely now it's the only one I know and it's ending. Landing on this side of the world still at days feels mere minutes ago but in reality has run its course. Upon entering this world my preconceptions were faced with an existence I could have never imagined. My initial goals and ideas for prospective achievement detailed a relative fluency in the Thai language, adaption and the ability to assimilate myself into many of the unique facets of Thai society, and lastly to find myself and harness the capacity to view life through the lens of a world I didn't yet know. From where I stand at this point the first two came somewhat easily, the simple results of 4 months living, teaching, and confronting every corner of life here with eyes wide. The last however is an altogether different story, one that encompasses what I can attest is the greatest of my personal successes. Leaving behind the world that defines my life living in boston, I was entirely unaware of how much of myself was slipping away with each day existing in constant motion, an unwavering state of flux. To detail the events and circumstances that have brought about significant change in my being is at this point almost impossible as the reality is markedly different but the path is still unclear. In total I feel that the goals I outlined for myself proved to be somewhat irrelevant as the semester passed to the rhythm of a life I still can't quite define, and aside from my participation I was merely a pawn in the constant ebb and flow of life in the land of Thai. Invariably I think that the events that have come to define my experience here and ultimately have lead to my greatest realization were as much tokens of fate as they were outcomes of my actions. With this i've learned how to breath again. 
This new found balance that has linked itself to my heart and soul is perhaps one of the most powerful lessons life has given me thus far, something I will forever try to maintain. Primarily, to thank I have my students, whose resilience and good spirits have taught me much more than I can take credit for bestowing onto them in the principles of fluency in this roman alphabet. Subsequently they will also be the hardest part of departing from this side of the world and i've been working to contact NGO's working specifically for causes in Burma as well as refugee issues in Boston. In maintaining a connection to the issues that have become so delicately linked to my revised world view i'm hoping to preserve some of the aspects of life i've learned here. The fact that the conclusion is so rapidly approaching is still evoking a relative feeling of insecurity but the peace of acceptance is seeping in with each day passing. 


issues of intercultural sensitivity. icu.

Upon reading through Bennett's perspectives on the issues surrounding intercultural sensitivity I had a relatively hard time placing myself within any of the stages of cultural integration. At first I was unsure if my inability to relate myself was based on my own perceptual biases, yet in conclusion I realized that I disagree with one of the fundamental components of the stages. Personally, I don't think that to develop a strong intercultural sense it is entirely necessary to fulfill an experience abroad or maneuver through the stages to reach a point of acceptance. I believe that for some a sense of cultural sensitivity and intercultural outlook is relatively innate. With this said I agree that even in these situations there is an exponential ability for growth, within these attributes, based upon intercultural experience. Despite my feelings on these principles I can ultimately attribute myself to the stage of adaption, particularly empathy. The experiences that have thus far constituted my life in Chiang Mai have brought about a great deal of personal growth. The shifting aspects of my self have led to a deepened appreciation for varying cultural ideas and ways of thinking. Predominantly, I think that this new found competency at intercultural communication stems from my continued understanding of Thai culture, but as a whole has related to a significant personal shift. After completing 3 months in this new role I find myself markedly more competent in adapting and resolving issues without my former biases in processing.


all the good things.

 as of late the beginnings of monsoon season winds have brought to me some of the most captivating experiences of my life thus far as an entity of flesh and bone. firstly the shift from mundane occurred instantly with the onset of  a pervasive water war mentality over the country. songkran. the official new years festival here is not characterized by a frozen crowd within the containment of times square, waiting for the ball to drop. as a side note i have officially decided i believe this to be one of the lamest of american traditions, i mean let's be real... the ball doesn't even drop and dick clark is well just exceptionally old. anyways, in chiang mai the situation is markedly different and the influx of notable tourism in the city over the course of the week is astonishing. known as the epicenter of songkran debauchery travel outside of ones home from the hours of about 5 am to 9 pm is essentially a request to be drenched. for those of you who aren't quite grasping this reality, the entire city shuts down and all are armed with water guns and buckets and exceptionally eager to partake in water fights in the peak of drunkeness. this continues for the better part of 5 days, my two spent traipsing through the city dyed blue from the stain of my tie-dye dress was i have to say enough. 
also, in the first days of my freedom from school things and responsibilities of anything and everything i took the opportunity to escape to the jungle and ride elephants. going through an elephant home, one of the only existing legitimate elephant sanctuaries. (how we deem it acceptable to use animal exploitation as a means for tourist capital is far beyond my realm of understanding) regardless, the morning started early with feedings and my introduction to my elephant who was named after the moon but, who from mounted upon it's neck for the first time was re-named anabsolutelyfuckinghugeanimal. we continued with this affectionate nickname for the duration of the afternoon and especially during any period of descent. on the back of the largest living creature, i'm quite sure of it, traveling paths well worn by the stomping of elephant hooves was heart in your throat, not wanting to breath too much to take away from the world at that precise second kind of adventures. there were periods of very serious mud bathing and river playing and mahout friend making. overall the afternoon closed somewhat reluctantly and i said goodbye for now to the absolutelyfuckinghugeanimal i had fallen in love with and promptly napped my way home. 
the second part of my break incorporated my first trip to the ocean since my rebirth on this side of the world. the island of koh chang is small and nestled in the gulf of thailand relatively non existent in comparison to the the archipelago of indonesia and the many other various mountains in the sea. yet this reality is one of the most utterly appealing aspects as this small formation of rock emerging from the pristine waters is untouched as any part of the world is in the 21st century. the quintessential utopian combination of palm trees lining white sand beaches with waters clear enough to see down to the reefs below at around 20 ft. while the daylight hours provided immense beauty and stern lessons from the sun on the ignorance in taking a  4 hour swim in open water in the middle of the day and then yet another from the coral that composes a 30 foot barrier to the shore of said island. the hours deep in the night long after the soothing melodies of reggae from local gatherings had ceased however were the ones that won over my soul. the stars that illuminated the sky in these moments of solitude were so vast and widespread they seemed to reach every crevice of the universe. taking up residence with the sand and earth beneath me the stars that were so powerful to simply stare up at took on another meaning altogether when their reflection cast up from the oceans lulling waves to create an ampitheater of indescibable beauty. the pervasive feeling on the island of slow and steady movements congruent only with the resting heartbeats of the contented tourists and locals moving about in the sun of the equator brought up the same reality i seem to keep facing. that no longer is the life i lead lost in the bustle of the drive for achievement that permeates the society i've left behind is in fact not at all the way to do it. yet, these are life revelations i must postpone for another year or so i suppose. i am left now with a heart at peace and a soul resting and reveling in my last moments of a life in chiang mai. 


life with the lisu. icu.

departing early morning on a friday the ethnic minorities class ventured away from chiang mai towards mae hong son. our destination a lisu village, doi lan. a much shorter trip than the ones previous. we arrived late afternoon at otome & awuma's house for stay assignments and farewells till the following morning. chosen based upon the fundamentals of my dietary preferences to stay with otome & awuma as well as maia, bintou, and zach. the company and foundations of lisu society proved for a drastically different experience in contrast with the past week spent with the hmong. another addition to the experience was the presence of robin, a sixty something australian woman in the village for a month teaching english. filled with opinions about life far different from my own she provided what i perceive as the more judgmental life perspective. sometimes warranted and sometimes severely limited. an interesting woman she was. the first night came and passed with a serious consumption of lao coow, rice whiskey, and conversations about the history and foundations of the village. waking on saturday morning exceptionally early to the crowing of roosters the day started with the sun and a bit of a stiff body. otherwise entirely ready to depart on the exploration of the village including the nearest wat and church. tours brought a new sense of the descriptive word hilly with an afternoon and evening with more rice than i thought possible and further cultural lessons. sunday commenced in a similar manner with a trip to doi chang, a nearby ahka village, and the evening passed with a cultural dinner. where we helped prepare some of the feast of more noodles than i knew existed and traditional circle dances. pounding feet back and forth in rhythmic synchronized stomps. ones i attempted to repeat but were lost most likely under the weight of my traditional costume or entangled in the 3 foot tale of fabric and poms poms that composed my tail of sorts. hours of dancing tired everyone and stirred up red dirt into a cloud so thick it was opaque under the moon and stars. monday morning dawned all too soon and marked the end of yet another village stay. the last of my time in thailand..what a crazy thought.


a small odyssey in nan province. &icu.

the scene before me depicts a feeling so notably similar to one which i know while simultaneously containing a foreign culture entirely indescribable..
the three youngest daughters sit on the floor in fixed concentration watching the transfixing fluid movements of the four eldest who gracefully maneuver their way around the big room, accompanied by a traditional instrumental music. one i would instinctively place as indian if it were not for the way their bodies incorporate into the overall melody, a synchronicity that gives it away as something wholly foreign to me. my mah and paw are draped lazily over one another on the floor looking weary while expressing a transcendent feeling of family.
while this moment marks my first night of my hmong village homestay it more importantly illustrates my initiation into a world i couldn't have even dreamed. 
the first few hours presented a slew of challenges relating to my ineptitude in thai vocabulary and the insecurities of being placed in a completely foreign situation with a group of about thirty or more hmong relatives with questioning interest. yet somehow the night worked its way into a place of innate comfort, focused in simple actions like teachings of head, shoulders, knees, and toes. little did i know that the initiation of english games was simply the start and that over the course of the next four days i would rattle off every english word for each entity crossing my path or event that occurred. the first night raged past with the clash of warm thundershowers and the sound i've been missing. 
day two commenced with the sun and more "gin coows" (eat rice, my family was vegetarian don't worry) than i ever thought possible. i soon learned not to disobey these commands as mah sia's food  was by far the best in the course of all my adventures on this side of the world. soon the family and i piled into the truck and trekked our way to shannons families house where we all embarked on our journey to a mountain top hmong village in another district. it was regrettably not mentioned until an hour into the trip that the location was one that rivals the roof of the world. regardless we made it to a place more beautifully isolated than i could have ever imagined and the incorporation of such strong cultural potency i was taken back. a couple of hours spent at our elevation allowed for walks thru bamboo forests and recess time at the local school. the afternoon was spent splashing at the lake and napping, representing the true perks of village existence. 
friday started even earlier than the others and allowed for exploring time around my neighborhood of sorts before the group met up for trips to a former refugee camp and the silom waterfall. the pickup ride to each place represented views of virgin forests and immense farm land, both seemingly ever plentiful. the multi-tiered waterfall presented itself as a mini expedition with efforts to traverse the forest and reach the top then slide back down..it ended up quite well i think. swimming through the pools created the perfect afternoon and i returned to make it up to the mango fields at sunset. my family also donned me with a hmong name ganshia; one with a free and open spirit, a boundless heart. the night ended with night time hide and seek and thai tv lounging with the little ones. 
saturday morning once again started with trips through the grid like streets of the village. unfortunately, i was particularily aware of the staring. having been paying attention through the course of our stay i was hoping for the long held glances to have subsided. looking back i suppose this is simply the first time i've felt truly uncomfortable with the color of my skin. even with all the awkwardness and discomfort it amounted i feel the experience was immeasurably beneficial to my cultural understanding. later on i made my way to misas families home where a few of us were carted into the depths of the mountain jungle to reach the lychee fields. truly beautiful the trip was long and induced more motion sickness than i care to remember but it was a sight i'm thankful not to have missed. the afternoon was blazing hot and led me to the local silver shops and on adventures with my siblings. who were all busy preparing and adorning themselves in hmong traditional costumes and new years apparel for their dance debut at the farewell dinner. with the youngest boy mong, preparing with intense hula hooping, his contribution along with backflips to the performance. that evening we made our way to the meeting hall with all, including myself, wearing layers upon layers of traditional handmade hmong designs. dinner was good and brought the entire community together with a buzz of anticipation and cultural influence. entertainment included many traditional styles, including my siblings dances, and ended with our rendition of " build me up buttercup". oh to be american. my final night ended as all the others had sprawled out on the floor surrounded by my siblings and the dim flickering of the thai drama overtaking the screen. 
sunday morning came far too quickly in my mind and served as the goodbye point for my amazing odyssey, which now resides close to my heart in a category far too unique to pinpoint. 


border crossing: chiang rai, mae sai, and the golden triangle

this weekend brought my first taste of expeditions in thailand without the presence of 15 + others. an acutely needed change for the soundness of my being. leaving after classes friday and boarding my first bus here four friends and i embarked on a 3 hour winding trip to chiang rai, the northern most province. arriving at about 10:30 to the chian guesthouse our first night was christened with a quick swim in the pool, that we were so happy to find outside our room. saturday began early and ended late in the back of a run-down pickup whose driver sped us along roads that fell in and out of civilization and back again. stopping first at the very justly titled "monkey" temple we got a taste of our nearest species brilliance as they inhabit the temple to flee the butchers block. monkey a thai delicacy. the visit also led us up steps into the clouds to reach a cave where a buddha statue inhabits about 50 meters under rock formations. after an hour spent marveling we piled in again to allow the driver to take us to mae sai, the border crossing town into burma. while i acquired a new stamp in my passport and the right to further inhabit the world here the crossing was bittersweet. everything i know and have learned about the realities to the north was solidified with each step across the bridge and made me simply want to turn back around. while perusing the market on the burmese side the world seemed unreasonably familiar with a marked increase in animal hides, faux designer everything, and children begging. while i can check it off in my conquest to step foot in all the countries of our world it left an unpleasant taste i can't seem to shake. our last stop of the day brought us to the golden triangle where the borders of laos, thailand, and burma meet along the mekong river.  the area is also  widely known for it's central participation in the opium trade that has long influenced southeast asia. while mostly a thing of the past, remnants are on display in a museum that pays homage to many of the hill tribes and history of the drug ring. the ride home twisted past many hillside towns and rice paddies and while serving to knot my hair into a small mass of dreadlocks the day was one of the best i've had on this side of the world.