Dying to Live Here

In only a few more days it will be my 2nd year anniversary of coming to Thailand… I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be emotionally. I remember my first night here begging God to let me stay, now I find myself begging to leave.

I’ve been thinking about moving on for a while now…
because I’m bored with work.
because I’m lonely in this new area.
because of always having to pick my heart up when people treat me like dirt.

And tonight just felt like one giant nudge to get the heck out of here.
I’ve expressed on my blog before the struggles of being Black in Thailand, but tonight was something I never imagined would happen to me.

The bus was packed; I ended up having to stand and wait for a seat to open up. Mind you, I was having a great day: I worked out, had a good meal, bought a cute top, played Dance Revolution, and saw a movie by myself. I was on cloud nine, the happiest I’ve been in a while. At that moment I didn’t think anything could bring me down.

Sadly, I was wrong.

So, I’m standing there, squished between a number of bodies, with my three heavy grocery bags waiting for an empty seat. The bus starts to slow down to a stop when a girl begins to get out of her seat.

She pushes me out of the way, literally, P U S H E S me.

(For those who don’t know Thai culture, Thais are not aggressive people. Had this happened in China I wouldn’t care because that’s normal. One step further, had this happened in the city, I probably wouldn’t care either because in the city things are a bit different, but I live on the outskirts of the city–people are not like this, it’s out of character to push.)

So, yeah, the girl pushes me then proceeds to offer her seat to EVERYONE else but me, even though I’m standing right next to her seat, with my three heavy bags.

(For those who may argue, “Maybe it’s because she doesn’t speak English.” I’ve been here long enough to know that language doesn’t need to get in the way of kindness; there have been times where the Thai look at me and gesture to sit down. This is not a language barrier thing.)

Now, I’m so shocked I don’t even have words to say, even though there were a number of not-so-nice words that came to mind. The lady next to me must’ve been shocked too because she just looked at me as if she wanted to say, “You’re really not going to sit down? I didn’t sit. I just stood there, baffled.

What should I have done in this situation?
I have a list of advice people have given when I tell them about the prejudices I face living here:

1. Smile, they’ll smile back.
2. Forget about it.
3. Pray.
4. Be happy!

Please, do tell me, which one would’ve been a suitable response?

When I finally got a seat I curled into myself and cried– it was the best response I could think of in that moment.

It was then that I realized the only person that truly, truly understood my pain was Christ, himself. He came down to his own people, people he loved and they treated him like dirt. Hated him. Yet, he stayed. Even died for them.

I’m not at all saying I’m Christ in the sense that I’d give my life up for the Thai, but in a small way I have. Two years of my life has been spent here, and none of it has been easy. I’m always having to collect my heart off of the ground and still smile, and still laugh, and still love this place and its people

Love even when people do hurtful things.
Love even when people don’t believe me when I say people do hurtful things.
Love even when people give me stupid advice about how to deal with people who do hurtful things.

It’s been an honor, I guess, to feel connected to God in this way, but I’m still human and have limitations. Tonight did more than just hit a nerve, it cut the last one I had left.

After two years I think I’m ready to move on, I can’t keep “dying” for a place that doesn’t love me back.

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Rain Dance

Maybe it’s because I’m burnt out from working, but as of recently the “Amazing Thailand” hasn’t been everything but amazing. I’ve been thinking of places I could move to next–South Korea, Japan, somewhere in Europe–wondering if I could find a good job (maybe even a better one) and a group of people that will love me within close proximity.

It’s hard to imagine living and working in a different country, especially since this is the first place I’ve ever lived on my own. I feel very attached to Thailand and can feel the tug on my heart whenever I pass by a familiar place, e.g. my first apartment; the market my friends and I would watch tiny bats as they danced over the water, collecting their dinner, we oohed and aahed as we ate ours; my old, crowded, soon-to-be-gentrified street.

I’ll miss a lot.
And I don’t even want to think about the people I’d have to leave behind.

Honestly, I can’t tell if this is a real, lasting problem or a temporary issue. How serious I am about changing course is a mystery to me. In many ways Thailand has kept me balanced, but right now every area in my life feels very unbalanced.

In the midst of all this “unbalanced-ness” I feel like there is this other life, my life, dangling over my head. Suspended in midair. And I’m on the ground trying my best to reach, on my tippiest of toes, some pieces; desperately searching around in the grass, hoping to find a few that may have fallen down.

I know everything will fall down soon, not in a destructive, the world-is-ending type of way, but the way rain gently glides down and nurtures the earth back to life.

I think that’s what I’ve been doing all along, all this reaching and searching has been my rain dance. What I truly want, what I’m painfully waiting for is fresh rain to give me life.

Eat, Pray, Love (and Sleep).

This New Years’ I spent my time in Yasothon, a province in the Northeastern part of Thailand, with my closest friend and her family.

I could’ve stayed in Bangkok with all the glitz and glam New Years promises us… I’m so glad I didn’t.

For two whole days my schedule looked like this: eat, read, sleep, repeat. A month ago I would’ve felt so guilty for living this life of do-nothing luxury, but at that point I wanted to soak in every second of it.

Within the last two weeks I’ve wanted to pack up my bags so many times and hop on a plane to anywhere, anywhere far from responsibility and waking up at 5:30 AM. So many mornings I just lay in my bed enduring the sound of my alarm clock, then I’d return home ignoring the long list of “to-dos” in the back of my head. I felt like I was crumbling, like I was completely giving up.

EAT

I learned fairly quickly the language of love in my friend’s family–food. Good food. We ate huge, warm, delicious meals three times a day, and snacked in between. Every time I slept it was always on a full belly. We made a joke on the way back to Bangkok that all we did on this trip is eat and eat! Surely, if we stayed a month long we’d be rolling ourselves back to the city.

It was all okay though because everyone was too busy enjoying themselves to even consider their waistlines. Food brought us all together in laughter and happiness. We made plenty of fat jokes, but none of it was ever taken to heart, no one, not even for one millisecond, thought about turning down a second helping.

PRAY

I’ll admit, I didn’t do a ton of praying up there, but I did spend each night staring at the moon and stars. That to me, felt a lot like praying.

On the last morning though, I did actually pray, a thankful prayer. I’ve been constantly asking God, “How to be a good Christian?” For numerous months now I’ve felt like I’ve been sucking at it. That morning he finally led me to the folly in my endeavors of following him–my entire motivation had been about escaping hell. Before getting on a motorcycle or on an airplane, before going to sleep, I constantly feared something bad happening because of where I might end up next…

The moment my motivation changed from love to fear is the exact time I started misunderstanding the whole reason and purpose of following Christ in the first place.

LOVE

I am a complete sucker for love stories and anything romantic, so finally having the time to submerge myself in a good novel was like heaven. “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell, I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of YA books and could use a little escape.

I’ve read so many times–in a hammock, in the back of a pick-up truck with the breeze kissing each strand of my hair. I’ve laughed and cried, had my heart burst into a billion butterflies–all things my body forgot how to do.

Between reading Eleanor and Park’s sweet love story, I’d take the time to dream about mine… well, my nonexistent one that is, but that’s for a later blog post. I’m just so thankful that my weak heart was able to experience someone’s love story, even if it is fiction; the emotions that sprinkled over me felt very real.

***

I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation. Sure, I didn’t have the fireworks, but I had family. I didn’t have a countdown, but I counted the stars. I wasn’t decked out in some fancy wardrobe, but the perfect weather draped itself over my skin.

For the first time in a long time I was at peace with myself and the world around me. The countryside has a way of making you slow down and appreciate life again.

I try to center my life around a line in one of Mary Oliver’s most famous poems, When I Am Among the Trees, this holiday I think I finally lived it in full…

Walk slowly, and bow often.

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some of the family

 

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cutest smile i’ve ever seen

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harvesting snails

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riding along a lily park

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hammock reading

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pure sky

Making New Friends

In the past month a vibrant social life has blossomed into my path. I’ve actually gone out on school nights (more than once), did brunch and bikes with someone I just met, and enjoyed a super international Thanksgiving meal with all new faces…

all new faces I thought I’d never surround myself with.

I’m used to safe friends: friends that think like me, act like me, live like me. I selectively shared my existence with those whom mirrored my own.

Life was incredibly dull, lifeless, void of magic and true love for others.

Let’s be honest, it’s easy to love people who remind us of ourselves–we are in love with the idea of us.

At the core, we are mesmerized by all that we are. But the world is so rich in color! Each life is a precious gemstone poured out on display for all to see, and I mean really see, not simply pass by on the street.

I guess I feared myself changing, imagined my canvas smeared with all types of colors I wouldn’t like, imagined my jewelry box filled to the brim of gemstones that didn’t suit my taste, but now I see that I had nothing to fear this whole time. No, I’m not that same canvas, nor am I that same jewelry box, I’m something much more.
More beautiful.
More captivating.
More human
.

A whole universe blooming with love.

This Body

For my students.
For my travel habit.
For my only 23 years-old self.

I need to take care of this body.

Recently I purchased a gym membership at Fitness First. The place is a dream: the staff is friendly; I have free access to a sauna, tea and coffee; I’m able to join any of the various classes they offer, including ZUMBA; I can go as many times as I want and all for a great price.

I need to take care of this body.

Last month I went salsa dancing, one of my favorite activities to do in Bangkok, it releases a ton of stress and makes my soul sing, this body becomes a thick orchestra, my feet the stage; sadly, I couldn’t dance for long intervals because my legs were so weak, I could barely keep myself and all its strings up. My body was rejecting the very thing it loves to do.

I need to take care of this body.

Kindergarten students require every atom in your body, and then some. My students can play for hours and never got tired! They have enough energy to rotate the Earth, so in order to release some of that movement wiggling in their bodies we twirl and jump and run after nap time. Lately our mini aerobic sessions have been getting shorter and shorter because of me, because my body can’t keep up.

I need to take care of this body.

Travel is one of the few places I have found myself. The best feeling is climbing up a mountain and soaking in the view at the top, and I promise for at least five seconds I can see God, it makes all the trudging up worth it. I somehow have been able to push this body up some high places, despite its protests, but I know if I don’t act soon I won’t be able to avoid its screams and picket signs any longer.

I need to take care of this body, because this body has taken such good care of me–dancing my cares of away, blessing me with fun memories with my students, taking me to great heights.

I want to continue living the best life this body can give me.

So, I NEED to take care of this body.

P.S. Pray for my sweet tooth ya’ll. It’s real.

when your heart falls like leaves

my heart is fragile
a paper doll in a set of strong, clumsy hands
tossed in the wind
crumpled
a bookmark in a novel he is too lazy to finish

my heart falls as leaves
when summer’s warm, affectionate touch
abandons
the body of trees
i am that tree
left cold
left naked and shaking
left stripped away
of everything you gave me

my heart has been broken
and built
broken
and built
to the point of contentment
to the point of embracing
being broken
because it knows
she will be rebuilt
again.
even more fragile
even more delicate
even more beautiful

love me back

the loving comes easy, the staying, the staying calls on all of my strength,
all of that love 

I love you
and I’m wanting you
to love me back
to embrace
my blackness
like I embrace your language
defend my people
like I defend yours
bless me with kind
prayers
pour sweet smiles
over my hands
and hold them—
tightly
if only
you could see me
like I see you
early in the morning
late in the night
(in my dreams)
always beautiful
and worthy
of staying
of staying
of loving
even when you don’t
love me back

if you saw me like i see you//love me back//the staying