Karaoke Life Lessons

I’m obsessed with karaoke. Obsessed.

I realize that I’m a part of the 15% in N. America that do, but I’m so thankful for places like Thailand that live and breathe karaoke.

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I like to put in 100%.

After church my friend and I decided to sing some tunes. Finally! I had been begging my teammates to go with me, but no one was interested. I’m so thankful for friends that carve out an hour of their time to sing their heart out with me 🙂

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We look confused because we totally were, but part of karaoke is knowing how to have fun even when you don’t know what you are doing, I guess that’s probably why I enjoy it so much. Karaoke gives permission to be a little silly, and join in on another’s silliness.

It’s the freedom to enjoy laughter in the midst of chaos.

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I haven’t announced it on this blog yet, but I’m on the road to coming back to Thailand within this month. I just graduated from university, and I’d love to go back to Thailand to spend a year (maybe even more).

I’m excited, of course, but the task of fundraising can be daunting. At times it does feel chaotic, but every opportunity I have to share stories from Thailand blesses me with moments of laughter in the midst of chaos.

The art of karaoke is learning how to sing both on the stage and in life.

 

 

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Swedish Family

Sending off these two was incredibly difficult. In just a short time these two have become like family. I didn’t realize it then, but these two have been a huge part in building my confidence; the more I was around them, the more and more layers of insecurity began to peel off.

I already miss our inside jokes, our mini Swedish lessons, and their beautiful musical talent.

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They will always be a part of this crazy thing called the “Coffee Shop Fam,” and their presence will be greatly missed!

It’s okay though, there are plans in two years to see them again. 🙂

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Sawadee Pee Mai

Sawadee Pee Mai! Happy New Year!

Songkran is a time when the entire nation of Thailand enjoys a three day massive water fight in celebration of the new year. Everyone is involved. Everyone. Even innocent bus passengers. Outside = soaked. 

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Songkran isn’t only a time of throwing water, but also a time of blessing. As a sign of respect the youth will pour jasmine water on the palms of elders. Sometimes strangers will also come up and bless others by pouring jasmine water or smearing powder on their faces.

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Blessings in Phra Yesu’s name at church

Many come from all over the world to enjoy the festivities, especially the popular foam party at one of Thailand’s larger malls.

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Songkran has become one of my favorite holidays! I think everyone agrees. 🙂

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Do What You Love

Today the girls took a trip to Bunny Sweet Home, an adorable cafe featuring bunnies as guests 🙂

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When we arrived the place was actually closed but the owner (we call him the “Bunny Whisperer”) was there, and he was kind enough to invite us in. It was awesome! We had the entire place and all of the bunny love to ourselves.

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Instead of drinking lattes and snacking on finger sandwiches, hanging out with these little cuties were our treat! They were so soft and fluffy! It was really great to see how well kept they were.

The “Bunny Whisperer” really takes care of his bunnies. It was neat to see how he interacted with them, he knew their personalities, what they liked and what they didn’t like.

During training for the bunnies, he held each one of them (there was about 20) while watching action movies to get them used to the noise customers would make. When they were babies he held each one close to his chest for 30 minutes at a time. He plays with them each day, not letting a second of connection building go to waste.

He says that every morning when he wakes up he’s excited to see and take care of his bunnies.

When asked about his business, he said that he never intended to make a business out of his bunnies, he just wanted it to be a learning center so that others can experience they joy he feels.

In fact, while we were they he didn’t even charge us, but the care we saw that he had for his bunnies inspired us to give.

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Kids learn about bunnies.

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My favorite! We’re hare twins.

Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life. -Confucius

Honestly, the “Bunny Whisperer” is my inspiration. He gets every morning doing what he loves. He said he couldn’t imagine doing something he hated–me neither.

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During my study abroad in Thailand I’ve come across what I love, I love making new friendships with my students, customers at the coffee shop, and strangers at bus stops here in Thailand.

I love it so much that I can’t imagine leaving them so soon, which is exactly why I’m packing up to return again after graduation!!! I’ll be coming back as a volunteer teacher at the coffee shop doing what I love.

Please follow the link: http://www.gofundme.com/kamiinthailand for more details.

***

A little challenge for you today: Do what you love & help others to do the same.

 

Bravery

A few weeks ago we visited Erawan National Park, which features seven great waterfalls. You have the choice to climb up and see all seven waterfalls, or be content with seeing only one.

We had just hiked several feet that day, therefore I was no where near willing to climb up anymore stairs. I, along with two of my leaders, decided to relax at waterfall #3.

It was really beautiful… and creepy because giant bold, flesh-eating fish inhabited the waters. Unfortunately, I found out that they bite the hard way.

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flesh-eating monsters

I was kind of bummed that all of the students went on to see the other falls because I wanted to take pictures (just being honest), but I soon got over it and began using my Thai to ask others to take my picture. A few kind girls agreed to take my photo and were sweet enough to compliment me on my Thai. It was really cool using a little bit of my language skills, and soon I became more comfortable with talking to the Thai.

IMG_2539I got a few pictures, but not the one I really wanted, the one on the “Lion King” rock. It was in the center of the pridelands water and I was too afraid to go there by myself because I can’t swim. (Well, I guess I can doggy paddle, but I don’t think that actually counts).

I asked countless individuals to go with me, but no one did. Finally, this man went into the water to reassure me that it only went chest high.

Convinced, I got in and turns out he was right, the water only went to the top of my chest. I continued to walk over to the rock, following the man just in case I had a major episode and needed someone to help me out.

More and more, I inched myself over to the rock, trying to go as fast as I could to forget the fact that giant creatures were swimming about me. Also, if I moved too slowly the little ones would start to nibble. The closer I got to the rock, the higher the water level got. By the time I was three steps away from the rock the water was at my neck, I had to stand on my tippy-toes at that point.

When I finally I reached to the rock, I had a really hard time trying pull myself up. The rock was too slippery. I cramped up and lost footing; it felt like I was slipping under the ledge of the rock.  I began to freak out as I felt the floor disappear from underneath my feet.

I tried calling my leaders, but they didn’t hear me. I tried calling the other man, but he couldn’t hear me either.

One guy on the shore just looked at me and gestured that the water was only chest high, but near the rock it was deeper. I felt dumb, scared, and alone. I literally thought I was going to die right there without anyone noticing. I called on my Father so many times, then finally a light bulb came on. Push off the rock. I gave myself one swift push, and as soon as my feet touched the floor I bolted for the shore. When I reached my leaders and told them what happened they just complimented my bravery, but I didn’t need a compliment, I needed a hug.

I didn’t feel brave, I felt alone.

***

Waterfall #2 was probably even more beautiful than waterfall #3. There was this ledge that you could stand on and be caught underneath the falls. I really wanted to go, but it was too deep. I had flashbacks from what had just happened at waterfall #2.

Once again I used my Thai and two girls brought me close, but not close enough.

I was determined to get under the falls because there was no way I came all the way out there just to chicken out.

Finally, I found as Australian man who was kind enough to help me out. He and his buddy grabbed a bamboo pole and used that to get me across.

I did it! I got my picture! It was the coolest thing to have these complete strangers help me. I can’t explain the joy I felt in making friends with strangers. Having them help me was honestly cooler than being underneath the falls.

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In hindsight, I can now see how I was brave: I used my Thai, even though I only knew a little; I asked strangers for help; and I made it underneath a waterfall even though I can’t swim.

Bravery doesn’t mean you’re not scared, we learn this from old nursery rhymes and Disney movies, but it didn’t click until I actually experienced it for myself.

Bravery looks like talking to strangers in a language you’re just learning, jumping into flesh-eating creature infested waters without a life jacket, and being honest enough with yourself to admit you’re afraid and could really use a hug.

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Be Brave.

The Women in Olive

They walked with the wind in their step. Like willow trees being swayed by the wind, the women in olive glided along the cobble stones at the wat, taking everyone’s breath away.

The women in olive made beauty and grace look effortless.

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The women were nurses celebrating their retirement together. To make the celebration special, they wore matching elegant, traditional Thai dress and took pictures. They were kind of enough to have us join in on the festivities.

Thai kindness encompassed them like sweet perfume. They were truly lovely.

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As we parted ways they blessed us each with this gift–a beautiful garland of flowers. This happened many, many weeks ago, but I still keep the garland with me. It is hung up on my wall near the door. Every time I walk in or walk out I remember the women in olive, their Thai grace and kindness.

And when I remember them I remember to bless them in return, I close my eyes, press my palms together, and let the Wind carry my words away.

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Please remember the lovely women in olive. 

Thailand Rewind: Chinese New Year

Many, many weeks ago we went to Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year. The streets were packed full of Thai, Chinese, other foreigners, everyone was invited for this special day, even royalty came by to celebrate.

IMG_1496Everything and everyone was decked out in the finest of red accessories. Thailand literally painted the town red!

IMG_1442BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Our ears followed the beating of the drums to the beautiful dragon dancing. The costumes were decorated so elaborately: glowing with bright colors, glimmering with shiny gems, trimmed with fluffy, soft fur.

Their eyes fluttered, making them appear to be alive, and for second it seemed they were. We were taken to a magical place with drums and color and dancing. Some believed so much so that they fed the dragons oranges in exchange for blessings.

IMG_1572Oh, and the tricks! Those men and children did not shy away from giving everyone a show. Tiny children built upon one another like Lego bricks, creating a tower for all to be stunned by and applaud.

IMG_1543I must admit, being surrounded by everything reminded me of my time spent in China. Walking down the streets of Chinatown brought back smells and sounds from my old city, Shijiazhuang. Grumbling, my tummy loudly demanded for the dumplings it once enjoyed.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Thailand made me thankful all over to be here, and thankful for my memories from China. China, I believe, is what helped bring me to Thailand, which is just another reason to be so thankful for that beautiful land.

The love I had, and still have, for my students is what encouraged me to continue in my schooling as an EFL/ESL teacher. Even in Thailand, China still has a special place in my heart.

IMG_1528Thank you dragon dancers, embellished scenery, and amazing food vendors for giving us an amazing night, and thank you China for bringing me to Thailand.

 

Learning A Language

Learning a new language is hard, learning it with others may be even harder.

So, I’m going to be a bit transparent in this post.

The first month I was able to pick up Thai quite well. I was asked  by my teacher to help my roommate, and other students wanted to practice Thai with me. I was doing well, and I knew it, but I tried my best not to let it go to my head.

Before learning the language I asked the Father to help me, thus any triumphs that I had I made sure to acknowledged him. All of my successes came from him alone.

Then, all of a sudden, another student started to do really well, which is awesome, until he/she began being unpleasant about his/her progress.

He/she began to correct others in class and correct me in public, which really embarrasses me. I’ve been so hurt by this that I don’t even try to practice in their presence. I feel totally crippled and belittled.

It’s hard enough for a perfectionist like me to mess up and deal with my own thoughts of disappointment, but now I had another voice pointing out my mistakes.

I’ve talked with him/her now about what I was feeling and he/she hasn’t corrected me since, but I still feel the effects and find it hard to speak when I’m in his/her presence.

It’s hard because I want to practice, not for the sake of simply knowing the language, but to better communicate with friends.

I spoke with a very wise friend about this situation and she gave me some wonderful insight that I hope to remember along the way:

Examine your heart to see the root issue of your feelings. Whenever I am offended with correction, it is because I’m being prideful or I place too much value in my intellectual abilities or what others perceive my abilities to be. You may not be able to change how people treat you but you can change how you respond. Don’t let anyone rob you of this gift that you have been given.

Being here, learning the language, and being able to, day by day, better talk with friends is a gift, and it would be a shame to have it robbed because of embarrassment or pride.

Skin.

I know I’m black.

I’m remembered in the morning when the back of my hand wipes away the dreams from my eyes.
I’m remembered when I pass by mirrors and windows.
I’m remembered by the comments on my race that others make awkward.

I know very well the color of my skin, but I don’t think others around me noticed as much as they did today.

This week I’ve been wearing my hair out in its natural fro state. Usually I would wear my hair in tiny twists, but that process takes on average 7 hours! I don’t have time to sit down for 7 hours, that’s time that can be spent doing other things like sleeping.

Wearing my hair in this fashion, I think, draws more attention to my foreignness. Now I’m not only taller and bigger, now I’m obviously black and obviously different. There’s nothing wrong with being different, I will always be in this context, but it’s hard when a difference that I cannot change hinders my relationships with people.

Today I felt like I was treated differently. I don’t expect everyone to fully understand what I mean by this, perhaps only those who look like me.

It was like my surroundings turned into an elementary playground and I was the kid nobody liked.

After I finished teaching I quickly tiptoed out of the coffee shop and bolted home. Along the way I bumped into one of my friends.

She looked at me the same.
She talked with me the same.
And in that moment I didn’t feel so different anymore.

She accepted me for me, just as I accept her for her.

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My beautiful hair and skin.

She was an answer to an unsaid request because today I was seriously re-thinking my decision to stay longer. She reminded my why I love being here.

Even on the bad days, when my skin is looked upon like a curse, friends like her remind me how much I’m blessed.

***

P.S. Please keep me in your thoughts in this regard. Thank you.

Thai Friends

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Is it possible to have a Thai best friend? 

I’m not sure, but I hope so. Some of the friends that I’m making here are becoming so dear to my heart, but sometimes in the middle of our conversations we run into a language or cultural chasm. Thankfully, we usually find a way to jump across, but sometimes we have to abandon that path completely and pick a new one.

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So, my question emerges: Is it possible to have a Thai best friend? Or will the constant interruptions by chasms become too much for our legs to bear?

I can only hold on to hope that these legs won’t give out, and they my friends’ won’t either.