Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Look Back Part 2

Title: The Clinic, The Food, and The Mud

Date: 08/09/2011

There are so many things I want to tell you all about! 

Today is day two of work at the clinic.  I get woken up at 5:45 in the morning by one of the house mothers to go meditate, but have skipped out on the meditation for the last two days and have been using her as my alarm clock instead.  It takes me that long to get ready in the mornings.  First I have to crawl out of my mosquito net, shake out the blankets from the bugs that managed to get through the net, and then put everything back.  Then I have to try to bathe.  I haven't really figured out the most efficient way of doing this just yet.  There isn't a shower.  I have a bucket and a bowl.  To wash my damn thick hair I have to bend over and stick my head in the bucket.  It is pretty comical, really. 

After the bathing ritual I do laundry so that the clothes can air dry during the day.  Again, I use my bucket with the water that I used to rinse off with.  At least I am resourceful.  Then at 7am I head to the clinic and get bombarded with all the "sick" kids.  Most of them aren't sick, they just want the honey water that Didi gives them for sore throats.  But a couple I am kind of worried about.  One has heart problems and has been running a fever and coughing for a couple days.  He is pretty susceptible to infections because of his heart.  He had some sort of open heart surgery, but I don't know which kind.  So far we are just watching him and giving him honey water and grapefruit seed oil.  A lot of the kids have cuts and wounds that I have to bandage.  Wound care here at BU is something very different.  They don't use gloves for one thing, and they spend what seems like hours just cleaning the cut.  I insist on wearing gloves, most of the time.  Luckily none of the children are HIV+ at this time, and most have been cleared of other infections as well.  I don't think it is that we don't have access to gloves, I just think that it isn't the way they are used to doing things.  Anyway... many people, old and young come in with big crappy wounds.  Things that back in the US I would want to treat with IV antibiotics if I were a doctor.  But here the Didi uses green clay.  And guess what?  It works!  Better than anything I've seen back home, and much quicker. 

Today and yesterday were mostly spent re-organizing the clinic.  There are so many files that need to either be filed or put away, and so, so, so many medications that aren't used.  People donate meds to us but don't know that we are all homeopathic, the Didi doesn't even know how to use any of them.  But that might be changing.  With my western medicine background and her eastern medicine background we are already compromising on things and learning a ton from eachother.  I give Paracetamol (Tylenol) to the kids with fevers and headaches.  I want to start using antibiotic cream on some of the wounds I see, just because what happens is the kids get mosquito bites, they scratch them, they open, and then they go out into the jungle and the open areas become ridden with whatever bacteria lives out there.  Probably parasites too.  There are bottles and bottles of antibiotics that we don't use either (but could be used for one of the house mothers who has real bad tonsilitis).

So, at about 9ish, after the kids go to school, I head down to breakfast which consists of rice, potatoes, and veggies of all sorts.  If I had any illusion that I was going to get skinny while here, that has for sure vanished.  The same type of meal is served for lunch, except for a few fried things thrown in for fun, and the same for dinner.  I absolutely LOVE the food.  It is a combination of Thai, Burmese and Karen.  The spices they use are incredible and nothing is too spicy. 

After breakfast I go back to the clinic and make "rounds", check on the kids who are sick and who stayed home from school.  The house mothers determine who is too sick to go to school.  I will forever be grateful for these women.  These are usually single mothers who have no where else to go so they live here with the kids.  They have a set group, usually about 5 kids to each room.  Some of the house mothers are very young, like 15.  Others are older and sort of lead the younger ones around.  It is a matriarchal culture. 

Today I had some time while the kids were at school so I made the trek to town through the mud, it has been raining all day.  I can't wait to take more pictures of the amazing landscape.  We are surrounded by green hills shrouded in clouds after the rain lets up.  There is a lake in front and in back, and I will have to look at the map, but I am pretty sure it is the same lake.  Everything is green.  Except for the mud.  The mud is red, a lot like Kauai.  It stains everything it comes into contact with also.  Hence the laundry every morning.

The kids get home around 3 and again raid the clinic for more honey water or lemons or apples.  And of course more of them have cuts and scrapes from school.  Today I wanted to go to yoga at 5:30, but was too busy with the kids.  The Didi teaches yoga and meditation every Tuesday and Saturday to all the long-term volunteers.  I tried to go later but got lost and was covered head to toe in mud anyway. 

Oh, the dogs.  Let me tell you about the dogs.  And the cats.  There are like 20 of them living here that I've managed to count.  They are actually pretty well taken care of from what I can tell.  Some are pups, some are old, some kittens, and a big cat that lives in the basement called "Puss".  I don't know any of their names, but, then again I don't know any of the children's names either. 

The one child I was talking about last time is actually a boy.  They say he is "slow".  It is so hard to tell.  I think actually he might have a hearing problem because of the way he talks and gestures.  He is so incredibly sweet though.  He seems to have latched on to me like glue.  He recognizes me and remembers that I took pictures of him and so I don't think he can be that slow.  There is also an 8 month old baby who has down syndrome that was dropped off on our porch when he was 2 days old.  This happens many times with many children.  They get sick or they are born sick and their parents are from Burma with no papers and no money, so they just leave them here.  Which is better than the alternative... I am sure you know the alternative, but don't need me to write here. 

We have 150 kids here.  Another organization in town, Children of the Forest, has 150 kids.  Another organization provides relief work for some of the migrant families and helps to pick kids up in the mornings and take them to school.  That's about 600 kids total that are safe, in a town with a population of 10,000.  You do the math.  And if you want to know what they are safe from, just google Burmese refugees and living conditions in border towns.


On that note... I best be off to bed.  Or to eat, since I missed dinner.  Not that I need food.  Fatty. 

Thank you ALL for your continued love and support.  If you want to help me or the organization send me an email and I will tell ya how.


A look back...

Title: Sangkhlaburi.

Date: 08/07/2011

I arrived in S'buri last night after a 7 hour bus ride from Bangkok.  I was instructed to get a motor bike taxi to the Baan Unrak bakery, which I did, and they were supposed to call the Didi and tell her I was there.  But they couldn't get a hold of Didi so they put me up in a little tiny room with concrete walls, duct tape over the cracks, plastic on the floor, and a twin bed with a mat about an inch thick, two blankets and nothing else.  I nearly ran back to Colorado at that point.  There was no internet and my phone still won't work.  On top of it all I have a total of 20 mosquito bites that are driving me insane and I am praying I don't have malaria or dengue fever (I don't, I'm just over dramatizing).  So I took a benedryl and resolved to call it a night at 8:30.  Just then I hear a knocking at my door and there is Didi with 5 children, all there to collect me.  She said they had a room all set up at the orphanage for me, and so I hopped in the truck and we drove up to the childrens home were I was presented with a much bigger, and slightly nicer room, with a private bathroom and balcony.  The kids helped me set up my mosquito net and fan, and I felt much better.

Now it is 24 hours later and I think I am feeling numb.  I am in shock that I am here and that I am living in these conditions, although, to be honest, I expected worse.  They feed me well, the kids are slowly getting used to my presence, and they even gave me today off to assimilate even though there are several sick children and only one doctor that could use my help.  I walked 30 minutes to the town and bought a blanket, a pillow, 2 towels, 2 washcloths, a rice mat for my concrete floor, some writing paper, incense, a plate, bowl and cup, and toilet paper all for 600 baht, or $9.  Now my little room feels more like home, although at some point I will have to do something about the bathroom.  It smells of raw sewage and is stained with god knows what on the walls.  This room used to be one of the kids' rooms, so there are kids dirty hand prints everywhere.  The bathroom door is half eaten away by termites and the empty bunkbed next to my bed is crawling with them as well.  There is no shower, I get to take sponge baths for the next six months, which kind of blows because I feel so dirty... all.the.time.  Dirty from sweat, dirty from bug spray, dirty from dirt.  The door to my balcony doesn't close so there are bugs as well as geckos in here.  I feel surprisingly safe in my mosquito net though.

  But, all in all, it could be worse and I am actually pretty OK with it all right now.  It's like camping, only a bit better.  And I get to fall asleep to the sounds of crickets and laughing children.

I met another volunteer today who is 23 and from Nepal.  He is very smart and I am very impressed with him doing this at such a young age.  He committed to one full year at Baan Unrak.  He is in charge of the boys, well some of them.  He watches them and plays with them from dawn till dusk, 7 days a week.  We ate breakfast and dinner together and talked about American politics, different languages, currency rates, and what the kids do on a daily basis.  So far he is my lifeline for information as both of the Didi's are swamped with sick kids, not sick kids, sponsors, trying to get sponsors, house mothers, trying to get house mothers and always worrying about the budget.  I'm pretty good at holding my own, so hopefully I can continue to do so.  I have a feeling that the reason they put me up at the orphanage instead of the volunteer house is because this is going to be a 24/7 job.  If emergencies arise at night I might be the one that gets called.  As it is already the children burst into my room every five minutes.  There is one in particular who won't leave me alone.  The problem is, is that I am not entrirely sure if she is a he or a she.   He/she has a shaved head from the lice, is about 9 years old, and doesn't speak but two words of English: "Picture?" and "Eat".  I am pretty sure she is a girl, so we'll go with that for now.  I am also pretty sure she lived a very tough life before this one.  Not only does she not speak English, but she doesn't speak any other language either.  She has this little whine that comes out when she wants you to do something and uses hand gestures often.  When we were taking pictures using photobooth she didn't smile in any of them.  I wonder if she was taught to look sad in photos so people would take pity on her?  I want to know her story, but I don't even know her name, or her real gender for that matter.  This is going to be hard, this language thing.

The kids all range from tiny babies to about 16 or 17 years old.  Most of them are elementary school age.  It is really interesting how they are taking me being here.  One of the first questions out of their mouths, if they speak English, is: "how long will you be here?' So many volunteers come and go;  there is a group called ISV that ships new volunteers out every two weeks.  This place definitely needs the help, but I can tell it has an effect on the children.

There really is so much more to say, like how the town looks, and how beautiful the lake is.  Or about the long, hand built wooden bridge to the Mon side of the town.  But I am tired, and I have to be up at 6am to meditate and then be at work by 7am.  So off to bed I go.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Time goes by...

It has been over six months now since we made the move to America.  I had vowed to write more when we came here, but somehow the desire slips away just as the life I once led slipped away.  I've mentioned it several times before, how it's impossible to live two lives at once.  I feel it so much now, much more than I ever have.  When I am here, I am here.  I guess that's not totally bad.

So, I'll start from the beginning.

We arrived to LA on our 3 year anniversary.  Travel though China was hell as they held poor Amon hostage in the Shanghai airport for nearly 24 hours and sent Asher and I through.  It was one of the worst nights of my life, I won't lie.  But it was soon over and then we got to California and made it through the immigration line smoothly.  We stayed in LA for about 3 days, and Amon got to see America at its finest.  Ha.  He seemed to enjoy it actually, but was super jetlagged so it was hard to tell, maybe he was just delirious the entire time.

When we got to Colorado I immediately set forth finding a car, signing Asher up for daycare, going to official job interviews and seeing all my friends again.  Amon started working with my dad pretty much right off the bat, and we fell into a good rhythm.  Asher seemed to fit right in at his new school (it was the same one he had gone to when we were here for 6 months in 2015), and it was really enjoyable to spend time traveling around and showing Amon beautiful Colorado before I started working full-time.  It was funny too.  Showing him how to turn on the oven, how to use the dishwasher, how to put gas in the car, opening a bank account, going grocery shopping, driving on the right side of the road.  All the little nuances that we know so well, I had to teach him from step one.

In October we moved to Denver, closer to my work (fuck that hour long commute at 8am after working 14 hours overnight).  I found an awesome little preschool for Asher, and the sweetest little duplex across the street from Sloan's Lake and right around the corner from US Thai, a Thai restaurant.  When we were in Thailand and I was spending endless hours on the internet researching our future life in the states, I imagined just this life:  Living here in this neighborhood, Amon working at this restaurant, and Asher going to that little school.  Our mind is a powerful thing let me tell you.

So yes, Amon got the job at the restaurant, Asher started school, I started working at a hospital finally and life was pretty sweet.

I say was.

I guess it still has sweet moments.  And I hate to sound dire.  It's not all that bad.  Amon just does not enjoy it here.  Just like I did not enjoy it in Thailand.  I completely understand.  But now I am on this side of the coin and I would be lying if I said it wasn't worse than it was when I was there.  Sometimes I think I never would have done this to him if I knew he would be so miserable.  I knew there was a chance of it, I stayed up at night before we left, worrying and worrying about it.  I knew that I could not reasonably take a jungle boy out of the jungle an expect him to be completely happy.  Maybe I am just selfish?  No, I know I am not.  It's my turn to experience the life I want, it's all about compromise in any relationship, but especially so in a cross cultural one.  But his heart just isn't here.  He has changed.  He is not the happy go lucky, positive and outgoing person I met and fell in love with.  I feel awful for turning him into a negative nancy, someone who stays home all the time, who hasn't made any friends, who probably feels like he is in a prison.  He sees all the horrible that is America (and there is a lot right now thanks), and he further recedes into himself.  I sometimes feel like I stole his happiness in exchange for my own.

We still enjoy going to the mountains on our days off and still have so much to see and do.  There is a whole country to travel around, there's camping to be done, shows at Red Rocks to be seen, picnics in the park to be had.  Summer is around the corner and as the flowers bloom, so does my hope that my husband just might adjust to this life.

He will go back to Thailand in May, and our hope is that it will give him perspective.  He still focuses on saving his money to build us that house in Sangkhla, to give us that life that I so longed for while we were there.  But the more time goes on, the more embedded I get into this life here.  There's the never ending question of Asher's schooling, and I will be going back to school in June.  I started looking into buying a house, a fixer-upper that could keep Amon busy.  There is even a master's program in Women's Health that would fulfill so many of my own dreams and desires.  I try not to get ahead of myself, but I can't help but be excited about the possibilities and the future that America offers me and Asher, and Amon too if he chose to accept it.

I wish there was some way for us both to be happy, to be content in each other's home.  But I know from living his life, that I would never be 100% happy there, just as I can't expect him to be 100% happy here.  I guess what I am aiming for at this point is 50/50.

Also, I have to say that I do miss Sangkhla sometimes.  I miss the simplicity, the community, the friends, a happy husband, the jungle and freedom.  All things I knew I would miss.  Asher is losing his Thai, and he is becoming an American whether I like it or not.  A fly flew into the house the other day and he freaked out.  If only he remembered where he came from.  He watches way too much TV, simply because we have one.  I am far busier and gone a lot (which is good on a lot of levels), and miss out on my one on one time with my son.  We spent nearly 3 years of his life sitting in that little room in Sangkhla, and we bonded and I was creative and we were always outside.  I do miss that.

I don't know where we go from here, but I will try to keep this blog up to date more frequently.  And I apologize for the negativity.  I so wish I could post always about rainbows and butterflies, I guess we just have to look deep to see them sometimes.

Thanks for reading <3

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What I will miss

I tend to focus a lot... OK, more than a lot, on what I do not like about Sangkhlaburi, and Thailand in general.  It is for sure a hard life, as you've seen in previous posts.  But there really is so much, so much, I appreciate.  I am sorry I have eluded you all into thinking this place is god-awful.  It's not.  I mean yeah, the power goes out daily, the water is brown, the education sucks is lacking, and the culture is at times mind-boggling.  But, here are a few of the things I will miss, and what will probably bring us back to Thailand one day.

1.  The community.  My goodness I cannot emphasize this enough.  Anywhere we go in this little village we have people looking out for us.  If my motorbike runs out of gas, boom, 3 seconds later I have a ride to the marker to get more.  If Asher goes out into the street, the neighbors will grab him, in fact, anyone walking by will grab him and bring him home.  We cannot drive 2 feet without someone honking at us to say hello, asking us if we've eaten yet.  People stop and lean down on Asher's level and talk with him, give him hugs, and generally let him know his is treasured.  If something were to happen to any one of us, the community would step up in a heart beat.  If I got into a crash or something, someone would be on the phone to Amon or at our doorstep within seconds to let him know. We are always being fed.  We would never go hungry because we can just pop into a friend's house, without notice, and they will feed us.  Our front door is always open (except at night) for the same reason.  If Amon needs help moving or working or getting me food when I am sick, all it takes is one phone call and we have friends available, no strings attached. 

2. The importance and understanding of children.  Asher is a maniac guys.  Like, he is pretty much unstoppable on a day to day basis.  He doesn't walk, but runs, where ever we go.  He is constantly grabbing, snatching, touching, bouncing... on everything.  Yet, I have not heard one complaint.  Not one.  Not one person has said "you need to control your child", not one person has given me a dirty look for having a very active little boy.  There is a general understanding that this is normal, completely normal behavior.  He will never be diagnosed with ADHD here, because it doesn't exist.  We were at a friend's house the other night for a birthday party and Asher was going insane after having a piece of sugary cake.  I'm talking full on running in circles, shouting, swinging on a random rope in the room, and being quite obnoxious.  I was getting a little nervous, like, um, we need to leave, ASAP before he breaks someone.  But Amon and his friends just sat and laughed, "what a cutie!"  "Very naughty!"  "Very strong boy, that is so good."  Will I ever hear those phrases in relation to my wild child again? 

3.  Gender neutrality.  Everyone knows Thailand is famous for Ladyboys right?  But they aren't just in strip clubs, like we are led to think in the west.  No, they are a part of the every day fabric that makes up this country.  They are TV hosts, superstars, and your every day cashier.  They are you and me, and guess which restroom they use?  I don't know, and no one cares!  Often men and women will share bathrooms here without a second glance.  The same is true of lesbians, or "Tom" as they say in Thai.  LGBTQ and whatever you identify yourself with is so completely accepted by everyone, it is such a nonissue.  I can dress my son in pink and put a pony tail in his hair and never do I hear a "that's too girly", or any statement of the sort.  Amon still wears his hair in pony-tails, like the high up spout kind that children wear, and I think it's the most awesome thing ever.  He also wears headbands on occasion.  He is never called "gay", his sexuality is never called into question because of the way he dresses, as it should be.  I really wish the West would catch on in this department. 

4. The selfless-ness and pure generosity.  I've touched on this before, but seriously, just can't get over it.  Someone with nothing to give will literally give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.  A family with very little to eat will invite you into their home and feed you, because that's what you do.  And don't you dare turn them down, that's rude.  One for me and one for you is so common-place.  Often times it's more like, two for you, none for me, all with a wide smile.  Too many examples flood my mind, but one in particular merits a story:  I used to do relief work in the jungle, bringing rice and beans and medicines to old people or people who didn't have any work.  I am talking dirt poor people, with just a roof over their heads, if that.  But this one little old lady, whenever we went to her house she would give us the limes from her tree.  She could sell those  and make a little money, but no, she gave us stacks every time we came.  There was no if and or buts about it either, you took those limes home with you and you made freaking limeaide.  And the smiles... oh my, the smiles.  I will miss those, so much.

Asher and one of his favorite "Yai's"- Grandmother in Thai.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Five Years in the Making

Well folks, it's been five years.  I can't believe it myself.  What was supposed to be a six month stint as a volunteer in Thailand has turned into five of the hardest, most challenging and most beautiful and rewarding years of my life.  Without a doubt.  And now, this chapter is coming to a close.  Almost five years to the date, ironically enough, we are about to venture off into another world, another land, where our roles will reverse, where our lives will do a complete 180.  We are scared, but we are excited for this new beginning.

I thought I'd write about what all these past five years have encompassed.  I may have written this list of "achievements" in another blog, but that was long ago, certainly before Asher.  So I've added to it and amended it.

In the past five years I have:

Run a clinic in a children's home for one year
Organized medical outreach for the surrounding villages
Learned Thai and some Burmese
Mass vaccinated the children of Baan Unrak
Carried an 11 year old boy on my back for at least 2 miles up a muddy track after his foot got smashed between the back of the truck and a rock.  That was fun times.  Oh did I mention that rumor had it that two weeks prior two little girls were beheaded on this track by Burmese soldiers?
Been chased by several rabid dogs down a road made of sand after just learning to drive a motorbike.
Slept on more concrete floors than I can remember.
Now think that a bamboo house is a luxury
Been stranded on roads due to a broken down motorbike and been helped by complete strangers within minutes.
Drove five hours in the muddy Shan cliffs and hills of Burma during a war.
Gotten accepted to work with MSF (Doctors Without Borders)
*Given birth in a completely rural (although private) hospital, without pain medication or even the option for pain medication.
 Been chased out of Burma by a soldier with a very large gun. 
Jumped off bridges, swam in waterfalls, danced in the rain, on a regular basis.
Lived without hot water, a fridge, a washing machine or a stove for over a year.  And still don't have half of those things!
Thought cheese was/is a luxury
Learned how to build a bamboo house
Lived as a single parent in a foreign country with no friends or family.  The hardest thing I have ever done, without a doubt.

And so many more things I have learned and experienced and lived to tell the tales of!  I can't imagine where I would be now if I hadn't made that choice 6 years ago to apply to volunteer at this strange children's home in the middle of nowhere.  Did I ever tell you the story of how I ended up here?

 Well, I had always wanted to come to Thailand (after reading that horrible book called "The Beach"... don't ask me) and it took several years but then it just happened.  I was working as a hospice nurse doing home hospice and I got a patient transferred to me from another nurse.  I didn't want this patient at all, I threw a hissy fit, because of the stories that other people told.  Cockroaches in the house, a huge language barrier, more kids than rooms in their tiny Aurora apartment in a dangerous neighborhood.  But then I got to know the most beautiful people I've ever met.  This man and his family changed my life.  They were Karen refugees from Burma, having been transplanted to Denver via the UNHCR because the father was sick with ALS.  Every time I did a visit with him it would take hours, we had to find a translator, often resorting to the language line, and the learning curve was huge.  But then I started learning more about their story and their history and culture and I fell for it.  I would stay after hours and sit and chat with them, I would make it a point to make him my last visit of the day so I could learn more about these people.  They would show me videos of life in Burma, the endless wars, they would go to 7-11 and buy me hotdogs (I was a vegetarian!) because that's how you do it in their culture, you feed your guests.  And I could see that this was a very special family.  I then decided to make that life long dream come true and started looking at places to volunteer in Thailand.  I looked up volunteering with Karen refugees, and, after weeks of searching I happened upon Baan Unrak.  In Sangkhlaburi, surrounded by refugee camps and 15 minutes from the border to Burma. Perfect. 

And the rest is history.

The Karen father who inspired this has since died, and I have tried several times to visit his family but they have moved.  And now I am bringing back my own Karen family.  Kind of crazy how things turn out.

*By the way, if you would like to read my birth story, and other incredible stories of travelers and their health care endeavors in other worlds, please check out the book Achoo! by my very good friend Taylor Chase.  You can buy it here.  It is only $0.99 and the proceeds go to charity. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Inspirational Quotes can kiss my...

I've been seeing a lot of these "inspirational quotes" on my Facebook wall for some time now.  I had previously agreed with them (I even had a "leap and the net will appear" postcard on my literal wall at home for many years), but now they are getting obnoxious.  I don't need an "inspiration for the day", my life should suffice enough. 

The one that really gets my goad, so to speak, is this one:

This is good for my fellow young, or not so young, Americans.  Give up everything you have, forget about your future, and just go.  Hell, I did it.  It's why I am currently sitting here, in a tiny village in Thailand, writing a blog post.  Sounds romantic as hell doesn't it?

No.  It's not.  It's by far the hardest and stupidest thing I have ever done.  I had it going good before I left.  I was making 65k a year, had a nice car, took international vacations twice a year, was on track to being a millionaire by the time I was 65.  Granted I was younger, had no kids, and worked 50+ hour weeks.  I did not enjoy my job per say, but I enjoyed the work I did.  It was OK.

It's all about experience though isn't it?  If I'd never decided to quit my job, move to Thailand, I wouldn't have my son, or my husband, who I love dearly.  My life would be easier, in so many ways I cannot even count, but I wouldn't have the two most precious things in my life.  But what I don't have is a savings account, I barely get by month to month, we are always struggling for money.  I don't have a retirement fund any longer (I cashed it out to buy land here, which I thought was a good investment but has since tanked since the drought).  I worry about when I get older and have nothing in my name to speak of, to take care of me except poor Asher.  Let's also mention here that I miss my family like hell.  My son will never be as close to his grandparents, his auntie and his uncle as some other kids are.  I miss my friends and the normality of my culture, the nuances that make up every day life for us in America.  I know marriage is hard, but add to that a completely different culture and beliefs, well sometimes it's enough to make me want to quit.  To the short of it: I will never be 100% happy again.  Never.  I will always be homesick, missing one place, one set of family, one life, for the rest of my life.  It's a fact that I've come to burden.

Another one that really gets to me:

Did you know that about 80% of the world makes just enough money to eat and sleep under a roof each night?  God, this is such first world thinking.  To have the privilege to just quit your job and move away.  To what?  To experience how the rest of the world lives in poverty?  You won't experience it until you live it.  And you won't live it till you live it, which you can't because you are not them.  For example, a nice little Karen family here makes 4,000 baht ($112) per month.  And that's decent, average wages here.  They live in a bamboo house that they built themselves, probably borrowing money from someone to do so.  A bamboo house costs around 10,000 baht ($280).  They don't have a mortgage, but they may have a motorbike they have to pay 500 baht ($14) per month for at 5% interest.  That leaves 3,500 ($98) for petrol, food, and school supplies for the kids.  There is no eating out, there is no saving money, they literally live hand to mouth because it is the only way they can live.  There is no chance of getting out of it.  If you are poor, you stay poor.  Period, end of discussion.  There are no education opportunities to "further themselves".  Even those lucky enough to have gone to university still work in the market making 4,000 baht per month.  An addition to this is that many of these people are stateless... they literally cannot leave this tiny town, even if they had the means and the desire.  It's a dead end. 

The ability, or even the idea, of quitting and going somewhere else is so foreign to most of the world.  They are happy enough in their own small communities, they know they don't have much, but they make do.  If only we could find that happiness and contentedness in our own lives instead of having to "quit" or "dive" or "fall and the net will appear". 

So I guess, think twice before you "quit your job, buy a ticket, get a tan, fall in love and never return".  Plus, skin cancer is on the rise, so I'd just go ahead and skip the tan anyway. And here's a nice article on why not to go into an intercultural marriage.

Does anyone else have any insight on this?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Renewed, and renewed again

Do you ever look back to a time in your life and shudder?  To think, I went through that.  At the time it didn't feel so awful, but looking back you realize how utterly miserable you were?  Well, that's what's happening now with me, in respect to living in Krabi.  If I've ever made a right decision, it was the one to move back to Sangkhla.  Bugs, mold, dirt and illness be dammed, at least I am safe, with family.  Granted Krabi is still very fresh in my mind, so maybe my feelings toward the place will ease up a bit with time, but it is vaguely reminiscent of the time when I lived in San Fransisco for a year when I was 20, the memory still leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth.

It ended badly, my time there.  I have never been one to start fights or make disagreements known to the general public, but lately I've been speaking my mind.  It seems that people don't appreciate this as much as I do.  The nursery I was working at was a sham, a "montessori school" that charged parents too much and was actually just a big room filled with broken toys.  Somewhere along the line I realized how miserable we were there, after a visit to Sangkla where we felt warmth and love that we'd been craving, and I decided to leave Krabi.  All the drama ensued at my place of employment after I gave my three week notice.  Apparently three weeks is short of standard, and I was treated with such disrespect, such catty-ness, that I really should have just walked out.  At the end I never got paid for those last three weeks, all because of some gossip surrounding my outspoken-ness.  Well, so be it.  Some people just love to be miserable and create misery wherever they go.

Anyhow, the one good thing about Krabi was Asher's school.  It was a true Montessori school and he learned so much there.  We are trying to keep up with teaching him at home, but I know I fall short in a lot of ways.  He is so much happier though, he is with his Papa, and that bond is so incredible I don't know how I could have taken it away from them for so long.  Asher will start to go to the local nursery next month, and I am a bit more than apprehensive about that, but if I don't try I won't know.  At the very least he will learn more Thai, which is really important to Amon and I.  He's also learning his native language, Karen, and all about jungle life.  And that, in this world of chaos, is so important to me.  That he know how to build a house out of bamboo, which plants he can eat, how to use a machete... OK, OK, I know, he's only two.  But still, these are the life skills I admire so much in my husband.

As far as my life, for now I am taking a breather.  I know I don't deserve this, I don't deserve anything actually, but I need it.  I need to be still and just... breathe.  For a minute.  For the last 2 weeks I have been truly living in the moment, really trying not to worry or obsess over the future or the past, and let me tell you, these have been the happiest two weeks in recent memory, without a doubt.  It's unfortunate that that kind of thinking is not sustainable for me though.  I do need to figure out something for a job, if not for money (we actually do need that, I suppose), then for getting out and doing something again.  There are some options on the horizon, but for the time being I will be finally setting up Amon's tour.  We'll see where that goes, but my hopes are high.  I have also put my name and face back out to the NGO community where I hope to get some volunteer gigs, and teaching English to little ones in now something I actually have experience in, so bring that on too if need be.

Life is funny.  No matter how hard I try to run away from certain places, people, and environs, I am continuously called back.  I am not done here.  What is it that Sangkhlaburi, this little village in the jungle, has to teach me?