Hello fam and friends!
I can’t believe that I have been in Thailand for almost 6 weeks. The time has flown by, and if it is any indication of how fast the rest of my time here will go then I better book my plane tickets for home sooner than later. I haven’t been doing a good job on following schedule with my blog posts and I promise to get better on that. I have really enjoyed my time here in Chiang Mai; however, not everything has been easy, breezy, and beautiful (Covergirl). Since I last wrote many changes and transitions have come into play, and I feel a little all over the place thinking of things I could write about in this post. It’ll probably be best for you and I both if I categorize my writing into three main point: the good, the hard, and the laugh-worthy.
Things that have been hard…
- I am thankful to be working with the Wildflower Home. The foundation is doing and has been doing wonderful things for women and children that are from all over Thailand. My volunteering placement has also happened at a really cool time where I am able to see a lot of growth happening with the foundation. What has been hard is that there is a lot to do. I didn’t expect to be as overwhelmed with my work as I have been these past few weeks, and I don’t expect to completely lose that overwhelmed feeling. Navigating communication barriers and showing loyalty to those I work under has been a constant hardship. Thailand is a free country yet cultural hierarchy and the disapproval of asking “why” create paralyzation in a workplace . Because I have newer eyes in the work place, I am seeing things and procedures that I question or suggest could be done in a different way. I’ve learned that more time is needed before I can ask questions without being seen as offensive to the traditional procedures. As for my grant-writing, I have about four different project proposals for the WFH that I am working on.
- The amount of waste that is everywhere and the large plastic consumption is hard to see. In the last few years I have become more interested in living a more conscious and considerate lifestyle when it comes to my money (the way you use your money is a vote towards the world you want to create!) and the way I treat the earth. Plastic is used excessively in Thailand. For example, if you order a piece of cake there is a large chance that they will have put a layer of plastic around the outside before you eat it. **Do they know that no amount of plastic will stop me from absolutely demolishing that piece of cake?** Plastic bottles can be seen everywhere as the natural drinking water in the country is not deemed as useable. If you are interested in learning more about the plastic consumption (dare I say critically) used in the country, I would recommend the article connected to the link below that has some good information on it .
- I was able to get my Thai license! This is good for a number of reasons, yet the process to get the license was unnecessarily difficult. Before coming to Thailand, I had expressed to a few close friends that I was interested to gain a little perspective on how it was to feel as a part of a minority in a country. I am not ignorant of the big factors that are still present with me; I continue to have stronger privilege here than most. Yet during the process to receive my license I was openly discriminated against and understood several attempts to either turn me away or bribe money out of me. And surprisingly, it was all from women! Multiple women made up lies and told me over and over “I don’t speak English. You cannot have license.” That statement was not fully true, as it is legal for people with the Visa I hold to receive a license after going through the right procedure. It took four days to complete the process, and I left the department of transportation pretty upset because of how exhausted and frustrated I felt. I also left feeling pretty convicted of how self-righteous my mindset was throughout the whole process. I remember reading the Lumos blog of my friend Madison Barefield who went through the something similar regarding her VISA. I was also humbled by the situation, and understood her when she wrote:
As an American, a white, middle class, educated, straight, able bodied American, I have not been denied much in my life, especially when I have followed all the rules and done everything “right”. This is one of the most poignant moments for me realizing that this happens to so many individuals. People wanting to immigrate here to the states, or even simply visit their loved ones. Arbitrary reasoning and unnecessarily difficult procedures are routine in the visa process to enter the United States as well. And in that moment, I realized this is how most individuals feel: hopeless, powerless, frustrated, defeated. It was quite a sobering moment. South Africa owes me nothing, though I went in with the mindset of an easy visa process because why wouldn’t they give me visa? I followed the directions, I think I am pretty nice, I had good reason to to go, I have good intentions, I am not a criminal (the FBI even said so).”
Things that have been good!
- I moved into an apartment in the city! Although I enjoyed living on the WFH property, it was hard for me to leave the property for security reasons. This made me feel a little too secluded at times, and I was not able to see or do much in Chiang Mai apart from working. Living on the property also created an unhealthy work-life balance. The move into an apartment was easy and I was lucky to have my friends help me with the whole process. I didn’t expect to move out here and live on my own, but I am loving it!
- I’m learning more about politics. Listening to NPR podcast updates and The Daily podcast has been a great way for me to prioritize following along with the news from the United States. One of my goals when I came to Thailand was to really implement time towards learning about politics and our country’s current situation. I’ve always had a strong interest in learning about the social issues that dwell in our country (and in others), but I have not pushed myself to go further in understanding the political system we live under.
- I bought a motorbike!! I look like a fallen member of the blue man group riding around on my blue bike with a blue helmet, but it’s super fun and I have been able to see much more of the city because of it.
- The Wildflower Home is in the process of building a new home for the mothers and children on the property! It’s been fun having the property be so busy and full of kind people, and I feel lucky to be here in such a time of growth for the home. By next summer, the Wildflower Home will be able to take care twice as many women and children as they can now.
- I love learning Thai. The language is difficult and I mess up a lot, but my teacher is extremely kind, encouraging, and patient with me. The language has 5 tones, and if you pronounce a word incorrectly it can give your sentence a whole different meaning. My teacher thinks I am doing well enough to start reading and writing Thai, but I’m not sure I have the mental capacity to include that during the 9 months here I have left. So I will continue to practice speaking and writing Thai phonetically, Here is a chart to show you how complex the vocality of the language is.
- Lastly, I am excited to say that we have received a small grant recently that will go towards a solar panel unit to heat water in the new home for the mothers! Yahoo!!
Things that have made me laugh.
- On her last day, a volunteer who helped at the Wildflower Home for three weeks asked Sister Anurak if she was religious. Sister then proceeded to say “Oh yes, I am Catholic………(minutes later)……Did you not know that I am a nun?” The Sisters here wear a mixture of formal and informal clothing so I could understand how you wouldn’t predict each Sister was a nun upon viewing them........ But... they are referred to as Sisters?
- The women in charge here remind me to appreciate the smallest things that bring joy. If we split a packet of Oreos, there is a 100% chance that I will be asked/reminded “Wow, this is nice. It’s nice, right?........... Wow, so good!” They squeal when I make them coffee and say “Oh thank you! SO gooood!” It’s the best thing to watch them get so excited. One of these days I’ll have to find a non-creepy way to get a recording of it .
- The women love to see how much spice I like in my food. Sometimes they try to protect me from food that they have made that is too spicy for me (but their babies eat it just fine). There have been a few instances where I’ve tried to prove them wrong and have ended up looking like a tomato with sweat dripping down my face.
Here are some more photos of my time here in Thailand:
That’s all I’ve got for this update. Thank you for reading, and I hope you are doing well wherever you are! More photos and updates to come.