Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Until Next Time...

I can drink water from the sink.

Cheese is plentiful in the grocery stores.

My memory foam is fabulous.

I am caught up on my TV shows.

Muddy rivers have replaced pristine beaches.

The only street food stands are Sno Cone shops.

I could really use a watermelon smoothie.

I have yet to see a gecko. There are no tuk tuk’s or bright pink taxis on the streets of Lawrence. I can’t pop into Bangkok for the day, and I definitely can’t buy a meal for approximately $1...

          The life I became accustomed to over the course of five weeks in Thailand immediately vanished the minute I stepped foot in the Minneapolis airport. The mindless simple things I am used to, some of which I didn’t even notice were gone, suddenly reappeared, while the things within Thai culture I had fully embraced were no longer even remotely pertinent. Readjusting to American life these past few weeks has been eye opening, and has provoked a lot of reflection on my part. A definition of culture cannot be boxed up and tied neatly with a ribbon. Culture is how you were brought up, how you grew up, how you were taught, and how you view the world in general. Various ways of approaching the world are not good or bad, just different. I now have a much broader appreciation for this having reflected on it in both my home-away-from-home in Lawrence, Kansas, and my actual hometown of Muscatine, Iowa.

On a boat at the floating market.

          Thailand’s impression on me something I can’t quite describe. I have new perspectives, and there is a new peace within myself that I have never felt before. This journey was the springboard I needed to really delve into the search for myself. I’m not finished yet, but I was exposed to many things that fit into my vision of the person I want to be. Of these, perhaps the most immediately applicable is that I don’t need to be in control of every tiny thing. Going with the flow simply makes everything less stressful. Never once did things fail to work out in a positive way, or at least work out how they were meant to. This was a powerful realization for me: I have to believe that each situation I encounter will work out without me controlling and agonizing over every detail.

Elephant fun times with Laura Cribb!
          I am sure there are other things I learned during this study abroad experience that will unearth themselves as I get back into the swing of work and school that I am used to. I look forward to seeing how my music therapy and other “classroom” experiences will affect my work as a student in general and as a music therapist. In the same way, I trust that other memories and experiences will become more relevant and transferrable as I continue the quest to find and define who I am.

          Flipping through thousands of pictures and struggling to pick my favorites, I’m realizing these memories cannot be put into any tangible form that gives the experience any justice. Even conversations I have with people I encounter – friends, acquaintances, coworkers, cashiers – don’t convey the impact this trip and the people I experienced it with have had on my life. There simply aren’t words to encompass it.

          I had the time of my life in Thailand, and I have made a conscious effort these past few weeks to continue to be the person I was over there: happy, positive, grateful, and carefree. Soon, I hope conscious effort won’t be necessary, and my true contentedness with life will be that little piece of Thailand I can carry with me wherever I go.

Bangkok after a storm.

          When (not if!) I return to Thailand I will be on a new journey, but I trust it will not be difficult to realign myself with Thai society and continue discovering new things about world, happiness, and myself. Until then, I will revel in my memories, and eat Pad Thai from a box while sipping imported Singha. 

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