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. 


i know that starting over is not what life's about but my thoughts were so loud, i couldn't hear my mouth.

this week has passed so suprisingly quickly that i'm not sure i even remember it in its entirety. whether this has been the sheer speed at which time is passing here or the copious numbers of thoughts that seem to have taken over.. there really is no way to keep track. wednesday marked peace with several pelting hours of thundershowers. nothing has ever sounded so much like home and i've never been so grateful to hear the crack resound in the heat. otherwise life as usual hummed along with added planning for an adventure to chiang rai and burma tomorrow. visa border runs as they may be i am excited to be somewhere else. it's funny that even in this foreign world my calling to drift along as the vagabond i was born to be have found me. the thoughts of floating along appease my soul like no other yet such a section of my heart belongs to all the things i leave behind. conundrums for another day though really as i have entirely too many things to do presently. 


what it means to be collective. icu.

the concept of a functioning collectivist society is one that continues to allude me two months into my stay. whether it's the sheer disparity that exists between these notions and the ones that prevail throughout the nation which i call home or my own reverence is unexplainable. long have my ambitions aimed for community growth and aid but these have been just that, my ambitions. the fact that in these ancient lands it's possible for such initiatives to be taken on by a group is something entirely new. in the context of my placement at freedom house, as i've mentioned, the dynamism that surrounds this outlook is for me awe-inspiring. while this touches upon the very micro level of the collectivist reality it is one of the most pertinent for me personally. yet with increasing consciousness i have become more and more aware of the actuality of it all in a much wider perspective. contingent upon many cultural values the collective way of thinking stems from the nuclear family and branches out into the entire nation in a web of connections. this system of cohesive groupings provides a structure community wise and varying attributes in the population that are not present in the united states. from my perspective this is a reality i wish could perforate the individualist armor that is so present else where in the world. the ideas behind personal achievement and gain are not ones that i discredit in any way as our existence relies upon this innate drive but that should be integrated into the larger picture.  it is so easy to be entrapped in your goals and needs that the realities that should be forefront are pushed aside to make way. life as i perceive it is a sphere filled with these discrepancies and a balance of the two could change the world. while the  aim to change the world is simply the context i choose to relate these principles, i'm hoping to take some collectivist enterprise along with the other things that southeast asia is teaching me and return it to a society that if open minded enough could thrive on its the ingenuity. 


the beginnings of march and acceptance. icu.

how the semester has progressed to its halfway point is for the most part a complete mystery. the first days and explorations of this foreign terrain seem only hours past but in actuality 2 months have gone. any feelings of yearning for home have long passed and life here has taken on an aspect of comfort that can be associated with where my roots have reached the asian soil. while i'm starting to see more and more of what it actually means to be here the other aspects still win overwhelmingly. the past weeks have brought many changes and finally a more consistent integration with the thai students. in part due to my participation in the customs class. a couple hours in front of a group of peers detailing the aspects of the civil war, the american flag, and other traditions of the like. these interactions broke through a barrier of sorts and mutual recognition now ensues as i trek my way across campus. all of these aspects of daily life are helping to accustom me into this world i never thought i could access. my work through freedom house has also led to many of these new facets of assimilation. as the community is so small here the number of people i know is growing by the day, with the number who know me is even greater, a strange concept to say the least. this weekend was spent working on the new school, primarily painting, staining, and all other sorts of cleaning. while it was laborious work many of my friends came to assist us and other volunteers from all over came to help. this sort of communal project i'm realizing is more plausible and typical here than in any other area i've ever worked in. while the weekend has left me utterly exhausted the experience has been more than worth it with many new friends and a whole world of insight behind me. 


oh no pollution.

the air here gets thicker by the day. every year the end of the dry season brings months of dense pollution and an ever-present haze that sits on your skin like a layer of film. waiting for the rains to start each passing day reaches higher levels of air pollution. chiang mai, sits in a valley surrounded by mountains (that subsequently can't even be seen through the haze) which serve to trap the pollutants that create a ceiling of thick haze so dense that it shields even the clouds. in part due to the slash and burn farming methods that have half the landscape completely ablaze, and paired with a lack of carbon and CO2 emission regulations leaves your respiratory system entirely discontent. this has spurred my interest and some research into the severity of this new reality. while air quality data somewhat alludes me there are some things that are blindingly clear. for example PM-10, which indicates the density of very small particulate matter in the air these particles are too tiny to see and five would fit across a single strand of hair. their origin stems from any source of waste burning such as car exhaust and industry that then find their ways into the human respiratory system and wreak havoc in the way of health problems like lung cancer. in london, the us, and many other nations it is considered a serious pollution episode when PM-10 levels exceed 50. today, march 5th, levels are document at 191.4 for the chiang mai province and have reached as high as 304. while my own minor respiratory difficulties are somewhat disturbing the long term effects these levels have on the greater population are catastrophic. this type of information attests to the widely accepted notion that to cover up a problem is a much more profitable response than actually solving it. case in point.. the thai pollution control department has set " safe levels" at anything less than a PM-10 of 120. this dichotomy of health standards between health in the developing and developed world is something so forefront in my mind that my heart aches daily. the notion that you cannot save the world was something i swallowed a long time ago. i've since resolved to work on just a small part of it, yet as the injustices become clearer my resolve wanes and the question of " what about the rest of it?" doesn't seem to want to leave. the worlds inequalities are so easy to ignore when your located a world away but what about all those born without this luxury. even with that said these same issues arise in towns and states that border my own home and still the unwillingness to see prevails more times than not. being here i've renewed my faith in what people are truly capable of and have simultaneously become unreasonably baffled by the reasons as to why so many simply choose not to. presently, the world is in a state of economic disrepair, momentarily that is, and our fall from grace has caused a slew of misfortunes. yet they still are utterly incomparable to the true travesties that span the surface of our world. as my eyes continue to grow older they are more cognizant of the progressive dissatisfaction with my own race and attune themselves with the callings of my heart. i guess i'm simply finding the task of making peace with the world a much more onerous one that i had previously envisioned.


expeditions in bangkok.icu.

Bangkok located about 696 kilometres south of Chiang Mai equates to one very long journey on overnight sleeper trains. not an altogether bad experience the drop down bunks are in reality quite impressive but results in one very fitful nights sleep for most. The trip down my bunk had a window which held my interest as we were carried through the country at a rate of speed light years faster than the sleepy villages we streamed past and within seconds left in our wake. In preparation for the planting season vast sections of the country and mountain side were lit completely ablaze as part of the farming technique of slash and burn. Where the undergrowth is exterminated in flames leaving supple ash to mix with the dirt to create a rich fertilizer to better grow the crops, predominantly rice and other food stuffs, that will soon inhabit the ground. This left quite the impression as we past areas miles and miles wide completely engulfed in flames, most not more than 20 feet from the tracks and seemingly completely unattended. After the areas of vacant fertile earth had vanished the blank expanses of land were hidden entirely in darkness but made room for the stars. Stars like i haven't seen since my late night treks through New Hampshire, the kind that seem to touch every crevice of the sky and stretch down just enough to seemingly kiss the horizon line. I've always found comfort in the last remnants of massive balls of burning luminous plasma where energy from nuclear fusion illuminates itself against the dark backdrop of the great beyond. Sleep then finally found me and no sooner had we reached our destination. A quick trip on public transportation (an amenity i never thought i'd miss) led us to the guesthouse on Sala Daeng where our stay commenced with breakfast and our first journey out. Soon after arriving it was apparent that Bangkok may in fact be the center of the earth as the temperature scorched to about 41 degrees celsius ( 106 f) with humidity that created the sensation of a personal sauna. Regardless, we went on a boat tour to explore the canals that gave the city it's ancient title as "venice of the east" which outlined neighborhoods that exist primarily by boat people. These waterways also led us into Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn, a khmer inspired tower that is made of bits of porcelain and created for King Rama III and further on to the Royal Barges Museum. The first day completed with a documentary outlining the violent history of the 1976 uprisings and a very interesting talk with a particularily Liberal Thai student at Thammasat University, Tony. We continued the political and social context conversations over dinner and drinks in the neighborhood of Patpong, one of Bangkok's most famous red light districts. Exploring the market specializing in pirated DVDS and all things fake designer and alleys lined with go-go bars with nothing discreet about the offerings for ping pong shows, the essence of the big city was undeniable. Thursday began early and once again in blistering heat, the onset of a heat wave in the capital, and took us to explore the area of the Klong Toey slum area and The Duang Prateep Foundation. A very touching experience, the immense poverty of these people and their sheer numbers throughout the city is astounding and attests greatly to Thailands status as a newly industrialized nation. Lunch commenced and we finished the afternoon at the Bangkok Refugee Center. For me this was the most interesting and personally inspirational part of the trip as i'm going to school to ideally work in a center just like this one as a counselor, for child refugees on issue of trauma and resettlement adjustment. Being able to listen to the fundraiser talk about the families and their plight in Bangkok, as Thailand doesn't officially recognize the UNHCR work, was amazing. I'm hoping to also take a few days at after the semester is over and hopefully go back to do an art therapy project at the center, maybe murals on some of the blank walls in the courtyard. As the small gated area is their oasis in a world of oppression and segregation the ability to give back and create something more beautiful I think would be a truly unique experience . Thursday ended early and allowed for some much needed rest and a dinner at the first restaurant i've been to in Thailand with a vegan portion of  the menu! On our last scheduled day, Friday, we took a Democracy tour to many of the areas of high importance in Thai political history and walked the streets that the student protesters some 30 years ago made their mark on the history of this country. Led by Dr. Paul Chambers the trip that ended at Thammasat University was vastly informational and gave me a much broader perspective and understanding to the tumultuous history here. The day ended with a trip to view the Emerald Buddha at Wat Prakaew, a truly spectacular sight with gorgeous testaments of early buddhist art and architecture. Then to Wat Po which houses the reclining Buddha, the largest single Buddha image. Dinner as a group at an Indian restaurant commenced one of the better nights i've spent in Thailand and my first experience at a Kathoey , or ladyboy, show. Saturday brought a free day to adventure where my sights led me to the largest market in Thailand, Chatuchak, roughly the size of 12 football fields it well represented it's reputation. The day breezed by and as the sunset I was on the train once again this time aimed northward. 


language exchange lunch. icu.

After completing two lunch periods with the Thai students I emerged with a many new acquaintances and lots of new information. Many of the conversations while centralized around very basic information, such as family, school, and home life were really interesting and taught me a lot. All of the students I encountered were really genuinely friendly and interested in speaking to us, especially in asking about our homes and way of life. While all of my talks produced some memorable aspects there was one in particular that confirmed for me firsthand a stereotype very prevalent here. Talking with a student and Ajarn Lexi about Riverside, where the student works, the conversation turned to the great live music that is featured there nightly. The student then told me I should attend and as i've heard it is rather expensive I questioned the price. Yet, instantly after asking this I was greeted with a stream of responses about why would I even ask such a question as all farang are very wealthy and don't have to worry about money. At first taken aback by the response I tried to give my own answer and was once again met with a second stream of speculations about my life and monetary situation. Then upon trying to explain school loans and financial independence I think a bit of the conversation was lost and took a much lighter turn but it left me feeling somewhat disregarded. Never having been in a position of significant wealth I was extremely uncomfortably being spoken about in that context but, after reviewing the conversation again the stereotype became clear. Backed not only by western media and the ever-present tourists here who deem it necessary to flash thousands of baht when purchasing a 35 baht lunch the principles behind their assumptions are completely understandable. It was somewhat surprising how the ladder of inference here played a role for both parties and how these split second speculations and preconceived notions have the potential to negatively affect intercultural relations. 



intrinsically linked in my mind to the harsh jolts that occur between one area in space and another, this meaning for the first time has found it's way into my life on the ground. while life continues around these bumps they work their way into the small particles that comprise everyday existence. thus leaving you slightly nauseated but so unbelievably aware that most would pay money for the sensation. due to these recent proceedings my heart and my head have recently settled on a meeting place  and the world has never appeared larger. with a small side of terrifying. now don't let these initial words create the illusion that i am unhappy as in no way am i, on the contrary i may have found what it means to be purely alive.  striving for existence is seemingly so unattainable yet results in a blinding consciousness that makes the struggle for it more than advantageous. while this proposed prophecy of sorts is susceptible to altercations with the passing moments, the clarity of the thought is something i've begun to value. life is entirely too short to be discouraged. a lesson that becomes clearer with every encounter in the midst of these ancient lands. especially with the children i'm teaching, all burmese refugees living illegally within the thai borders. it is their only hope for solace from political corruption, sex work, and the predetermined title of child soldiers at 12. what a world it truly is. despite teaching in the evenings from 5 to 8, after for most what has been a 13 hour work day of pushing fruit carts or working in the construction camps they sit before me with pencils poised. all congregated on the floor with their sole notebooks outlining the lessons previous. the energy that casts from them takes a direct path into my body and soul and courses through me with alarming potency. this same experience defined my valentines day as it was spent at a lawa orphanage outside the city. no older than 14, in the childrens class, their souls have truly lived a thousand years and their eyes are the only aspect to give away the plight. devastation and poverty are not the exception but the rule. a humbling experience doesn't do justice in any way to touching how my heart and western thinking respond. teaching english to them really is simply that though, as our separate backgrounds are put aside to allow for mutual understanding of the alphabet and the issues surrounding foot-fingers. i sometimes fret that they are teaching me so much more, and i don't yet have a way to convey how much. even if english will simply change their opportunities from dishwasher to waiter, my sincerest hope is that it will.


observation exercise. icu.

Sitting on a sidewalk in the late afternoon sun the weathered and unusually dirty feet of many foreigners and Thais' a like pass by in meandering step. My placement leaves me central to activity on a beautiful Sunday, as I am about 40 feet from Thae Pae Gate at the cross section of the night market. Arriving early, there is a steady stream of people winding in and out of the sidewalk vendor stalls; who are still working to lay out their commodities. The atmosphere is jovial and lighthearted as scantily dressed foreigners peruse and Thais laugh and make conversation. Interactions between the two groups are fairly limited, as it's relatively unpopulated, at least in comparison to what will pervade the scene in an hour or two. Yet, the occasional exchange of accented English and well-versed sa wat dee's resound. Setting up in front of me is a group of four men, adjusting themselves and instruments in a straight line directly in the center of the walking path. All of the men, disabled, are accustomed to their placement and soon begin to play in rhythm. This is one aspect of the market life that is different customary practices in the United States. As there are many more avenues open to the disabled population and are seen much less frequently in this capacity. I resume my focus as the dusk settles in on the influx of patrons to the now fully lined street just as the entire bustle ceases. Playing in the distance the king's song can be heard and it seems for these moments the entire world stands still. The westerners in the area all seem to have caught on to the daily practice except a few whose expressions of sheer confusion go unmasked. Just as quickly as the ebb and flow stopped it restarts and the noises of an entire city return to life. Seemingly moving slower than before as the density of shoppers is increasing by the second. By now all the vendors have completed their displays and the practice of bargaining is in full force. Noted by the presence of a calculator in almost every hand. These interactions are quite fruitful to overlook as many times the language barrier leaves the exchange to rapidly typed numbers and the inevitable swap of baht for goods. Two women adorned in traditional tribal costume and jewelry man a highly frequented table across from me; in general as one addresses customers the other scrutinizes and overlooks the interaction. When the stand is free they sit and exchange quiet conversation with one another, with laughter piercing the air on regular intervals. This general overtone of Thai culture is something I take with me as I stand to continue down the seemingly never ending lined pathway. 



typhus fever; is any of several similar diseases caused by rickettsiae, a genus of motile, gram-negative, non-sporeforming highly pleomorphic bacteria. the name comes from the greek word typhos, meaning smoky or hazy, describing the state of mind of those affected with typhus. thank you webmd. for me typhus really just equates to the death of my body and incorporates my second trip to my new home, the mccormick hospital in chiang mai. apparently, while fending off bacteria my body also managed to attract an obligate parasite. disgusting turn of events that got me once again immediately admitted and thus began the same process of 4 days previous. two days once again spent fending off fever, dehydration, parasites, bacteria, and i'm starting to conclude that thailand may infact hate my body.  the worst news in a while as i'm in love with it here. every cell in my body is hoping for healthy things as the sound of premature return to winter in new england is somehow more uncomfortable than parasites and bacteria galavanting through my organs. so please maybe think really good and healthy things for me. once again i'm back to the essential confinement of my dorm room with about the energy of a weakened 98 year old woman, but have found american movies and have big plans for a friday night date with them and some plain rice. mmmmthailand. that's all for now. sorry that there is really nothing more exciting to retell with my typical enthusiasm for life here, as for the moment i'm a little bit low on high spirits. with that said, i love you all immensely and please try not to fall on the ice that i hear is covering every piece of life there. 


expectations and goals. icu.

The questions of expectations is one I always try to avoid, as i've found that my life is so ever presently changing in ways influenced by many greater forces than the ones I illicit with my actions that this particular question is one I feel ill-equipped to answer. Yet, there are some things that I indefinitely hope to attain during my stay in Chiang Mai and participation in the IPSL service learning program. Firstly, one of my biggest regrets is my inability to fluent converse multi-lingually and expect to leave Thailand with a working knowledge of the language structure and a conversational basis. As I am very self-motivated to achieve this I feel that my aim is to achieve more than a basic structure but a comfortable working vocabulary aswell as knowledge of the written components. With this said, my second expectation is to be able to incorporate my knowledge of the language to experience Chiang Mai from the perspective of a foreigner, but not that of a tourist. This for me entails an ability to socialize and learn from the members of the society about their culture, traditions, and religions. I'm fascinated by the long history still present in modern Thai society, as America is such a young nation, the idea that this culture has outlasted centuries is captivating for me. Another expectation I hold for myself is to find a comfortable place for myself, as a single individual in a foreign country. As I have travel experience and have been lucky enough to view many parts of the world, I have yet to truly realize myself completely separately from the boundaries and confines of my life until this point. I believe that to be alone truly, in a foreign place, and to find contentment and comfort in this type of unknown is something of true value. As for goals, I have many for myself throughout the course of my stay. One primary objective is to make my way across Southeast Asia and view many of the cultures present here, especially the dichotomy that exists between village and urban life. Secondly, I hope to create some lasting relationships while here, especially with the actual Thai students and my roommate. As contact even after the final days of the program would be an added bonus to the entire experience. 

failed immune systems and time warps.

the most recent adventures have unfortunately led me through a brief stint in the hospital here, for a case of food poisoning and a bacterial infection. poor stomach and intestines really. luckily, my roommate ja and three friends i've made while here, accompanied me through the ordeal. admission was quite a process as was communication but all worked out reasonably well and after an inconceivable number of hours i made my way to a bed accommodating my full length. quite a feat really, i've never felt like more of a jolly green. then after many more hours, every medication in existence, and bags of iv fluid later i talked my way into discharge. now safely at home and in my own bed i'm on a continued assortment of  medicines and a course of antibiotics, that i envision as small warriors defeating the tiny thai bugs inhabiting my insides. all in all it was quite an experience and allowed me to live for a short time in the open-air hospital portrayed in every vietnam war movie created, where the hero either dies or emerges unscathed. i'm happily playing the part of the latter. unfortunately though due to my immune system failings i was unable to leave with the rest of the international students on monday for our village home stay at mae chaem, but will be meeting up with the group tomorrow, wednesday. instead my friend shannon and i have been taking a day of much needed rest and wandering through the city. we have stumbled upon an area of the city, inhabited by a population of crunchy granola yoga types and  vegetarian hole in the walls with delicious veggie burgers, a much needed find due to my recent digestive upset. basically, i've found my home away from home in chiang mai. otherwise there hasn't been too much aside from a nightly display of fireworks for the chinese new year, and my recent fascination with the thai weather channel. it seems to be solidifying my distance from the known lands of the eastern seaboard  knowing that now my cold fronts come from china. this is entirely okay though as cold fronts only drop the temperature to a breezy 78 during the day, and the sun seemingly never ceases to shine. 


chiles. puppies. song taews. and all things thailand.

a week ago today. it feels sometimes like an eternity and others a minute. time here definitely passes along on a different frequency than the one i'm used to. thai time as it's affectionately referred basically just gives allowances for lateness of up to 45 minutes and is a forewarning for all farangs or foreigners. there are so many little cultural aspects that i'll try to convey to you all through my continued posting but it may be too big an endeavor. it is by far the most beautiful and dirtiest place i've ever been, with the best climate hands down. the colors are one of the biggest appeals as all things, natural and not are technicolor in all respects. i appreciate that i've found. most things are also decorated with small kitschy animals or characters. something i may never get used to and hate about all my notebooks, pens, and even tissues. but in the grand scheme of things the amounting negatives don't come close to the positives, with the slight exception of my chronic "broken stomach" as they refer to it here. the food and i are attempting to become close friends but failing miserably, especially when i bite into chiles. an unfortunate experience that all the international students have experienced and thus  have developed the uncanny ability to pick out when such an incident has just occurred and act accordingly with offerings of drinks and napkins. trouble really. i could go on for days about these things but i feel as though i should save some for next time.
starting with last sunday, my first real day here, i experienced my first outdoor open air market that evening near thae pae gate a part of the old city. one of the craziest things i've ever seen as there are hundreds and hundreds of vendors lining all directions of the streets and thousands of locals and tourists alike out to enjoy the delicacies such as fried snake heart, peruse all the local artisan makings, and just enjoy one another. thai's are the most openly genuine and kind society of people i've ever encountered. this is not to say they do not talk about you or laugh in my face at my horrible tonality defects when holding conversations, this is just something you're told to get used to. monday marked my first real day of orientation and my first thai language class, i've so far learned food names, how to order food, (you can tell the priorities in their society) greetings and simple conversation basics, and numbers. monday night, the other asian studies international students and some of our thai roommates attended a traditional Kantoke dinner show, at the cultural center in Chiang Mai. it was quite an experience and the dances and songs were unlike all others things i''d seen before. tuesday, we went on our buddhist meditation retreat and started the trip at wat suan dok, a temple inside the city, and we taken by song taew about 45 minutes into the forest to the international meditation center. a large compound in the most rural area i've visited thus far. we were included in the monks typical practice and routine and experienced chanting mantras, sitting, walking, standing meditation, and hatha yoga. (at 5 in the morning as we followed their morning schedule) and were incorporated into the ritual of paying alms. one of the best ways to make merit, to ensure a good placement and transition from this life to the next. the entire experience played directly to my heart and furthered my interest in the religion and it's everyday practices. wednesday was a rest day, after we returned from 12 hours of meditation and an overnight on a board mattress, yet friends and i adventured into the downtown area and attended the evening night bazaar and had dinner along the ping, the major river that runs through the city. despite utter exhaustion it was one of the best excursions thus far and i'm conveying my love of expeditions and adventures to the rest of the group. thursday and friday were composed of classes on intercultural understanding, more thai language, and preparation for our home stay next week to Mae Chaem (pronounced my jaem, ch here is always j). we leave monday morning and will be in the village through friday, located about 3 to 4 hours north of here over and behind Doi Inthanon, Thailands largest mountain. it should be quite a trip as the mountainside is populated by hilltribes and agricultural farming areas. the villages sheltered and unreachable position during the wet season has preserved a lot of it's cultural traditions and i'm anxious to see what life will actually be like. as we are only promised a mattress and depending upon the status of the family may or may not have running water or indoor toilets. nothing like adventures mm. that's all for now as i'm preparing to attend my first thai music festival outside in an area in the heart of the city with about 75 other students, we'll see how it goes. hope you are all faring the weather well. 


so i made it across the country...

the first five hour flight went quite well and has now dropped me into l.a.x, the busiest and warmest place at 11 pm i've been in quite some time. i love that i'm traveling slowly into a much more suiting climate, yet unfortunate that i will be here for the better part of the next 11 hours. i'm hoping for friend making but at the moment the prospects look slightly bleak as i've managed my way into an abandoned international terminal with not another soul that is speaking english. i guess i really should be getting used to that small detail. that's all for now really but maybe send me small positive energy as i'm battling the inclination to feel like a speck of dust and have seemed to lost all of my other sensibilities.


4 more days

i've never felt more emotions contained within one small heart.