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.
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.
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.
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.
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.