I’ve been having stress dreams lately. I wake up and slowly realize that every limb and joint in my whole body is clenched or curled or clamped. The other night I had the usual series of dreams I have when I’m anxious. There is the one where I forgot to attend a university course until the very end of the semester before the final exam (it’s usually a math course), and the other dream in which adult me is the lead in a children’s or high school student play. I’ve barely glossed over the script and it’s opening night. In this particular version, it was 7:55 and the play was supposed to start at 8. I hadn’t even put my makeup on yet.
But after these two dreams, I had a third. i was back in Chiang Mai at the beginning of the school year, and my boss told me that I’d been switched to teach 5th grade. At first I was disappointed because I’ve so enjoyed working with the 4th graders. But then I realized I would get to teach the same group of mischievous, adorable kids I had last year, and I got all excited. I miss those little guys.
I’ve been home for a little over a month now. Before I left Chon Buri I admitted that one of my fears was that I’d get back home and feel as if none of the last year had ever happened. Luckily, I didn’t wake up with a full blown case of amnesia, but I did feel as if I had never left. After being that far away from home for over a year it was a little disappointing to fall right back into the same routine, but I had a feeling that would happen.
Of course I had missed my family and friends and being able to see them is the best part of being home. I’ve got a pretty busy summer planned that involves a lot of get togethers with my college friends and I’m really excited about that! It sure beats Google Hangout (although the masks are pretty awesome).
I was instantly in love with a few things when I returned state side. For the first week my bed felt like I was sleeping on a cloud. It’s still comfortable, but wow, I had never appreciated a memory foam mattress topper so much. I also had a closet full of clothes that I hadn’t worn in a year. It was like going on a shopping spree-for free. Wonderful. The first few days I was home I was cold. Freezing actually. And it was glorious. I started noticing how beautiful it is where I live. There are so many hills, everything is green, and the air smells so good. Even now, whenever I’m driving I look at the scenery and am really impressed with the beauty.
Thailand is beautiful, but my everyday life was spent in a city that had almost no green space. I was constantly breathing in fumes and dirt. Love ya Chon Buri, but I don’t miss that part.
What I do miss though, is the people and the food. Thai people=nicest people I’ve ever met. I feel good making that huge generalization. Thai food=absolutely delicious. I am so surprised with how much I miss it. For months all I thought about and all Millie and I talked about was ‘American’ food and all the things we couldn’t wait to eat. How many times did we flip that toaster on its side and make grilled cheese sandwiches to satisfy our cravings? A LOT ! How any times did we go to Bangkok and binge eat Western food? A LOT! But now that I’m home with access to all of the things I wanted so bad, I couldn’t care less about eating them! It’s bizarre. Nothing sounds good. I literally think about Pad-See-Ew everyday. I tried making it the 3rd day I was home and it was a disaster. I’m blaming the pan I used and my touchy burner-not my cooking skills (although it probably is just my cooking skills). However, I’ve mastered laab gai-sans khao neow because I can’t find it anywhere.
And I’m getting decent with my curries. Finding the ingredients is more challenging than I expected, and nothing I make tastes as good as the real deal. That isn’t surprising to me though. I made pad krapow moo this past weekend. I was finally able to find thai chilies at Wegman’s and because of my excitement I got a little over ambitious with the amount I added. Pet Maaaaaaaaak Maaaaaaak. When I finally make it to a Thai restaurant I will be so happy, and then probably really disappointed.
What I would do for Wan’s pumpkin curry right now…
I have been feeling pretty anti-social around where I live though. This will probably come off sounding stuck-up, but I really hate running into people I know because the conversation goes like this:
“Hey, you’re back! How was your trip?"
"It was great. I really loved it there."
"Happy to be home?”
“Yea for the most part. I really miss the food though.”
(laugh and awkward silence to follow)
It’s just really hard for me to answer that first question: “How was your trip”. Was it a trip? I don’t know. I don’t think I would call it that, but I’m also not sure what to categorize it as. And no matter what I call it, how do I answer such a broad question without talking someone’s ear off? It’s not an easy question. I’ve been trying to put together an answer to that question for myself. I think about Thailand everyday. Mostly about my kids and friends that I have there. I spent a good 2 hours today going through the 11,000+ pictures and videos I accumulated throughout the year. When I went through the pictures of school and videos of my kids I couldn’t stop laughing. They are just so freaking cute. I miss them so. much. I hope I make it back to Chon Buri sometime in the next few years so I can see them while they are still at Anuban. I also think a lot about Millie because I miss her just as much! Luckily, she’ll be home in a couple months for our friend’s wedding and we spend some time together. I don’t feel like I came back an entirely different person, but I do know that I definitely changed a little and for the better. Living with the 'mai pen rai’ attitude has helped me to be less of a planner and a little more go-with-the-flow. My sister would probably disagree with that though haha. I also think I’m more aware and understanding of other people and their cultures now that I’ve experienced one so different from my own. When I see things that remind me of SE Asia or talk to people about my experience I realize that I learned a lot just by living my everyday life there. Travel teaches you things that books can’t, that’s for sure. I’m still really shy around new people and in unfamiliar situations but in my mind I know that if I need to, I can totally be outgoing and adapt and thrive. I moved to Asia and did just fine!
So could I answer the question, “How was your trip?” with “life-changing”? It might sound a little dramatic, but I think it’s acceptable. I may be right back in the same situation I was before I left, but my life has definitely been changed by it. No doubt about it. And I think as time goes on it will become more and more apparent to me. I’m still trying to process it all.
If I had to choose a phrase to sum it all up it would be the wise words of Naga Bar: Never try, never know. Sure, the sign may have been referring to laughing gas, but I think it’s a great life lesson.
If I never tried would I have: been Teacha Liz? No. Became and AOW scuba diver? No. Laid all over full grown tigers? No. Put a scorpion on my shoulder? No. Spent the night with a hill tribe family in northern Vietnam? No. Seen Angkor Wat at sunrise? No. Slept on 'The Beach’? No. Rode an elephant? No. Witnessed Yi Peng in Chiang Mai? No. Run BKK (haha)? No. Made lifelong friends from all over the world? No.