There is this song that always makes me think of him when I hear it. This guy, who I fell in love with the day he sat down a few seats ahead of me in class. I did everything I could to talk to him. He was the most handsome man who had ever walked into my life. As the months passed our relationship progressed and it scared the hell out of me how much I liked him. The first time I told him I “I love you,” was the first time he had ever told a girl he loved her. I had all of his trust. I knew this from the start. I knew if I wasn’t careful I would break him. His heart.
He was one of the best friends I have ever had. He was the only person I have ever wanted to be with. And I have always been scared of him. Scared of how intensely someone can love another. Until I met him I have never experienced that.
It’s been months now since we have talked. I traveled the world to escape him. And yet, I failed. Your heart can never escape lost love. But even more, your soul can never escape a guilty conscience.
I miss him. More and more and more.
There was this day, on a couch, that we spoke of moving to Thailand together. That day I told him that I didn’t think it was a good idea.
“Why Allie?” He asks.
I look out the window, avoiding his gaze. “I think I just need my time. I need to get to know myself.”
Now that I am doing just that, nine months after our conversation, I realize how much his presence here would have made this experience. Words are impossible to take back. Mistakes are even more impossible to move past.
You never realize what someone meant until you have lost them.
Currently in Laos, running out of money. Fear, confirmed. When traveling you must be prepared for unexpected obstacles, which I am quickly learning, come often. These next few days will be tight but we’re still making the best of being in an absolutely amazing and beautiful place. Cheers Vientiane, Laos!
To say that time flies is an understatement. Three weeks ago today I left San Diego and began my journey to the other side of the world. These first three weeks have been incredible and everyday brings something new and different from the day before, even if just the tiniest detail. People keep referring to my state of mind as the honeymoon phase. I am in love with everything and everyone around me. Yes, I will admit, I’m growing a bit tired of the Thai food for every meal, but I also can’t complain about the fresh fruit for sale on every street corner, or the dinners that only cost a buck or two.
While I do confess that I am in this so-called honeymoon phase, I also feel I should admit that there are unexpected obstacles, hurdles, and hiccups everyday. There are adjustments that I wasn’t prepared for, and so I am learning to work with them, one day at a time.
Imminent death- People in this city drive like maniacs. At home I have been told I am less than a perfect driver, but the Thai people in Nakhon Sawan take home the gold metal for insane illogical driving. Whether I am crossing the road on foot, or riding on the back of a friend’s bike, it always seems like someone appears from out of nowhere and gets too close or swerves around us. Most people here have had a minor bike accident, but they all have helmets, which they admit made a huge difference in the injuries they walked away with. I need a helmet. I like my brain too much to sacrifice it becoming mush. But in all honesty, it’s not being on the back of someone’s bike that is dangerous. It’s the simple act of crossing the street. But this supposedly simple act becomes complicated when everyone is coming from every direction, and they don’t have any crossing paths, and traffic lights are non-existent throughout most of the city, and there are wild dogs running loose, and the trucks with the loud speaks are driving around announcing sales or government programs, and all the song taos (their form of a public bus, in actuality just a truck bed with a type of enclosure over it) are honking for passengers to get in, and everyone driving by is hollering or tooting their horns at the foreigner and I’m just almost positive I am going to be run over. If not this week, then next.
Total Energy- It is almost impossible to keep track of what you are putting in your body and what it contains. Remarkably, I have learned to communicate enough to get almost all of my orders right, and I have yet to find egg in any of my dishes. I have this weird relationship with egg where basically it functions as my archenemy. I can’t deal with the way it smells or looks, so the last thing I am going to do is put that thing in my mouth. One of my fears with coming to Thailand was not knowing how to order as a picky eater. In the past three weeks I have tried more new foods than I have in the past three years, and I have liked almost everything except for a few dishes that tasted either too fishy or too fatty. So while eating hasn’t been an issue, figuring out what I am eating, calorie wise, has been. Street food doesn’t come with a nutrition label, and the stuff they sell in stores is all in Thai. I eat almost every single meal out, and if I do buy something packaged, it lists calories as “total energy.” I am assuming those two things are the same, but once again, I really don’t know. For about the first two weeks I wanted to try everything and eat anything, and now that I’m getting used to the smells of food cooking everywhere I’m learning to pace myself. Especially after being sick for the last four days, I have chilled out on the Thai food a bit. Since I have no idea what all the dishes and curries contain, I am seeking out more that are heavier in vegetables, or filling more of my diet with fruit. Rice is served with pretty much every single thing here, so if you aren’t into rice DO NOT COME TO THAILAND. They are also nuts about adding sugar to anything and everything, and since I love my coffee and tea I have learned to order drinks with “please just little bit sugar” (using finger motions to make my point). The first few times I ordered coffees or Lattes they were so thick it was like drinking syrup. Now I need to learn how to order “just little bit rice” with my food, so that I don’t waste food.
Staying Beautiful- All cosmetics here whitening cream in them. Sunscreen, lotion, soap, body wash, shampoo, shaving cream, foundation… whatever, you name it. I wanted to darken my hair so I picked up a box of dye. The kit only came with one glove. Enough said.
Fresh meat- It appears that I am the tastiest person in Thailand, because I am coated in mosquito bites beyond what I see on the people around me. Oddly enough, about 80% of them are from the waist down, and then about 90% of that 80% are from my mid calves down. This week I counted and had more than forty HUGE bites on my feet and ankles. I thought about posting a picture so people would see how horrific it is, but then decided it probably wasn’t appropriate and I didn’t want to offend anyone with how disgusting it is. I have just accepted the fate that my feet have become what I would imagine zombie feet to look like; two poor unfortunate souls covered in scabbed and bleeding mounds that once started as mosquito bites. I don’t know why I am being targeted but I don’t appreciate it and I wish they would stop. It is Thai custom for everyone to take their shoes off in the classroom, among various other places, and this has become the part of the day I fear the most. I can just feel all of the students’ eyes on my feet, wondering why teacher Allie’s skin is so weak, so vulnerable, so… destroyed. On Sundays I teach a group of high schoolers, and during the break they went to the convenience store and brought me back a Vaseline for healing bites like mine. If chicken pox and blisters had a baby, the product would resemble what is going on with my skin. Everyone keeps telling me to give it time, the first few months are the hardest, and after three months it won’t be an issue. This leads me to conclude that after this time has passed, you either A) don’t notice B) Your body becomes immune to the poison in the bite and doesn’t react the same C) The mosquitoes have sucked you dry and you no longer interest them or D) I’m being lied to.
Poopie- Back in the states, “Poopie” was somewhat of an endearing term that my ex and I used with one another, that started as a humorous joke and kind of evolved into an all encompassing term that dominated our personal vocabularies. Part of the reason it was funny was because the term was totally detached from any real relation to poop/shit/feces. Other than my own bodily functions, poop wasn’t a huge part of my life, and I certainly almost never saw it unless it was where it belonged, in the toilet. Well, that all changed the day I moved here. There is poop…. EVERYWHERE. But this is understandable, because there are stray dogs everywhere. While often I get a stinky whiff of something walking down the street, I have learned not to be bothered by its presence. Part of the reason it is easy to ignore is that it rains everyday, which washes the city clean. However, when the rain is so heavy that the street collects a few inches of water, which is very common, there is no avoiding walking through it. So while I slosh through deep puddles and rushing water with my blister sore-coated feet, I try to block out what it is I am actually stepping in.
Temptation- In Thailand we have to drink out of water bottles because that’s just the way it is. They told me don’t drink tap water, so I listen. I’ve never been a big water bottle drinker, and so I find that I am constantly forgetting to buy more, and I don’t keep track of how much I have left in the current jug. The other night I ate a peanut butter sandwich for dinner and within the next few hours I had finished the water I had left. It was real late and I didn’t feel like running to the store to go get more, so I figured I could pass out, sleep through the night, and get water first thing in the morning. Of course, I woke up consistently throughout the night, my mouth stuck together, so thirsty and without any water. I kept going into the bathroom, washing my mouth out, gurgling, anything to trick myself into thinking I had drank water. I opened my fridge to double check that there wasn’t a small bottle I had missed, but all I found was beer and V8. Needless to say, that night was a huge learning lesson, and I haven’t run out of water since.
Electric pulse- Anytime I plug an electronic item into the outlets they spark and crackle and pop with purple light. I should start placing bets to see which gets me first, the electricity or the crazy drivers.
Although I have only been in Nakhon Sawan for three weeks, I have already experienced a sense of community that does not exist back home in the States. I don’t know if it is based on cultural differences, but people in Thailand go out of their way to help one another. At least every few days I have either heard a story about someone helping another person, or had someone offer to help me in some way.
Last year this city experienced one of the worst floods in its history. Many of the teachers who I work with had just started their first year, and had to leave the city for a month until the eight feet of water dried up. When they came back, most of the architecture in Nakhon Sawan had been damaged, and had to be either repainted or parts rebuilt. The other teachers, who had just come here to teach, ended up volunteering in their free time to help store owners fix their places up, so they could reopen for business. Unlike America, there are not relief programs that come in and deal with the aftermath of disasters, so the responsibility is on the community. Hearing how my coworkers and friends reached out to the people who live around them made me really happy to know that the people I will be spending my time here with are genuine and sincere.
Not having a motorbike in the city means that everywhere I go, unless a friend picks me up, I walk. On a hike last week, Danni and I were hiking up a steep road to a temple, which most people drive up. It was an extremly hot afternoon, but we wanted the exercise, and as we walked further up the hill the view got more and more amazing. On our way up the hill a car pulled over and offered us a ride, probably thinking we were nuts for walking to the temple. We refused, but thanked them for their offer. We have also been told that if you walk in the rain people will pull over and offer you a ride so you don’t get sick. Violence and crime are really low in this area, so the dangers of hitching in America are not really here. People are truly just offering you a ride because they want to help.
The bar that we always go to, Container, is owned by God, and he and Max, who is my age, are only two people working there that I know of. Max is, hands down, the nicest person on earth, and has the sweetest heart of all the people I’ve ever met. He is always in the best mood, and is always smiling and hugging you. He constantly offers to take me home so I don’t have to walk, or because it’s raining, and he has also showed me how to order in Thai from street vendors. Earlier this week I was at Container and I didn’t see Max, and God pointed to the back of the bar and told me Max was really sick. Max lives at Container, and I saw him lying on a mat and he looked really unwell. I knew that if I was that sick, I would not want to be in those conditions, so I had him come back to my place, where he could shower, stay in a bed, and have the air conditioning. But for me to offer my place to him, required that Danni share her room with me for the night. So I want to thank Danielle for letting me crash in her room and keep her up super late with drunk talk about things that never make sense the next day.
The next day I woke up feeling like I had drank a bit too much the night before, so I went back to my room to sleep for a little before work that afternoon. As the day progressed I got sicker and sicker, until my temperature broke 1o2 and I was sweating and shaking. It occurred to me that sleeping in the bed that Max had been in the night before, probably exposed me to the flu that he had, and because my body does have the same immunities from living in Thailand, it hit me really quickly. I spent almost the whole day sleeping, and had a hard time keeping even water down. I woke up yesterday and had to work a full day, so I took a bunch of medicine for my head and stomach. I was feeling better than the day before, so I worked a full day and then went out to dinner with some of the girls, and then went to Container, but planned on keeping it an early night. While I was at Container I started feeling sick again, and could feel my body getting hotter on the inside. I told God I wasn’t feeling well, and asked for some painkillers, but he didn’t have any. He offered to go to the store and buy some but I told him it was necessary, and that I would grab them on my way home. He then introduced me to one of his friends- this incredibly sweet Thai woman. She talked with us for a bit, offered me a ride home, and I told her not to worry about it and that I would walk in a bit. About a half hour later, as I was leaving Container, a car pulls up and it was her, and she told me to get in so she could take me home. When I got in the car she handed me a handful of things she had gone to get, that would help me feel better. This was someone I had briefly met, and really only spoken with for a few minutes.
I’ve never experienced this type of kindness back in the States. People really want to help you here. They want you to be happy; For your time to be as enjoyable as possible, and if it isn’t they find a way to help you with what you’re dealing with. This is a community where people take care of one another, and you don’t need to ask for something in return.
This is refreshing.
It’s nice to have a total stranger, through their actions, remind me of the type of person I want to be. The type of behavior I want to exhibit. I wanted the place I would be living in this year to leave its finger prints on me and shape me into becoming a better person, and I am thankful that this is where life has taken me.
And, I want to say thank you to my wonderful co-worker Arno, who traveled out of town for a few days this past week, and brought back jewelry for Danni and I. :]