A few weeks ago I was happy to have Michelle and Joey visit. Michelle is Matthew’s sister, and Joey is her boyfriend of five years. After much deliberation as to whether to come to Thailand with all the political activity going on, I was glad they decided to throw caution to the wind and visit anyway (for all the mothers reading this, it was actually quite safe and no caution throwing was involved). It was lovely to have fresh faces in town, and to have fellow Alaskans to show around Bangkok. I enjoyed spending a few nights in the Khao San Road area with them before seeing them off to visit Koh Chang.
My time in Bangkok (and Thailand) came to a rapid and unexpected end this past week. Activity with the red shirts suddenly increased and became very violent. From the roof of our apartment/office building, we could see major buildings in Bangkok burning. Many people were killed, and many, many more were injured. It was very 9/11 – esque to my American mind.
Our office/apartment complex became an area of contention, as a top Thai government official was reported to have lived there on both Thai and English TV. For a good 24 hours, our entire western staff camped out in the office away from the windows and doors hoping against hope that the red shirts would ignore those announcements and not come burn down our workplace. Luckily, we remained safe. However, my internship company and family were both at their wits end with the whole thing, and strongly recommended that I return home. I didn’t want to leave and certainly wasn’t ready, but then again, I’m not the one who laid awake half a world away from their student/daughter wondering if she was okay. Thus, it was time to come home.
BUT, I still had a few days left, and one more trip on the barge. In my remaining days, I polished my cirriculae that would stay behind for future barge users after I left. I also took some time to paint and mail thank you cards to some of my professors, and of course for the Magic Eyes staff that had guided me the past six months. How fortunate I am to have such strong and supportive mentors in my life! I also took some time to spend a few quiet evenings with the good friends I’d made in Thailand. Ankit, knowing my distress at leaving, was kind enough to come over and share a few evenings of sparkling wine, pad thai, and some good efforts at acoustic guitar and mandolin. He, being a much better player and singer than I, was responsible for the entertainment. I held down the beverage elimination end of things. We’re a good team, I think.
My very last trip on the barge was bittersweet. The group we had was very challenging for me, but I got to do some of the few things I hadn’t yet tried on the barge, including canoeing! One of the adults on the trip had no one to canoe with, so I quickly changed my clothes into snazzy spur-of-the-moment barge/Thai attire, and hopped in with her. It was HOT, but what a great way to cool off.
It was a sincere pleasure and privilege to work once more alongside Alissa, Stan, and Jen. I am especially indebted to Stan for all the efforts she has put into training me, and her infinite patience with my intolerance to heat, exhaustion, and crying children. Jen, per the usual, was her normal saintly self, and I will truly miss turning to her for advice, support, and the inspiration she frequently offered me in her demure British way.
Alissa I’ve only recently come to know particularly well, but she teaches and coordinates with such obvious love and dedication to children, education, and the Thai way. She is soon to be married to a wonderful Thai man, and I hope to attend their wedding in March. What an honor to have been invited!!
As I write this, I’m snug in my bed in Homer, Alaska once again, but my heart and head remain in Thailand. The transition back to being at home has been slow and weird, but each day I feel a bit more grounded here. I’ve filled my time thus far with bike riding, walks up East Hill with our dog, motorcycle rides with my dear friend Jake, and any other methods of keeping my mind busy, getting outside, and trying to lose the 15(!)lbs I gained in Thailand.
I’m heading up to Fairbanks this week to spend some time with friends at the University, and to make a weekend jaunt 450 miles to Prudhoe Bay. I’m looking forward to this little adventure, and think it will be a good distraction from my current feeling of displacement. My saving grace is having such a wonderful and loving family who so patiently and kindly have welcomed me back home, and are tolerating my strange alien presence. It also helps to have work to look forward to, as well as my return to Bangkok in October. I bought a round-trip ticket! I have plans to go trekking in Northern India and Nepal (the same route that Jill did, as you may remember from an earlier post), and have been invited to spend some time in India late in the fall. Opportunities that simply cannot be passed up! All in all, I feel that I live an unbelievably blessed life, and though these adjustments can be emotionally and mentally difficult, I’m glad to have had the chance to experience them.