Sunday, July 28, 2013

Getting Back on Track

It's been awhile, hasn't it?

Having been gone from site for Reconnect, Counterpart Conference, and a short trip to Koh Tao with friends, getting back into the groove at home has been a bit clunky. The kids missed me, my family missed me, my fellow teachers missed me, but riding the wave of how this culture expresses such feelings in person has left me wondering who I am in all this. Hugs seem so foreign here and as much as those who know how much I value them try, I know it's for me. I look for the signs, as if my value is in their reaction to my return, only to realize the folly in that. I am here for signs no more than I am here for surprise parties and giant cakes with sparklers for candles.

So, let's review the month, because I've been away from this blog far too long...

I left my village and visited a volunteer friend not too far away who had just moved into her new rental house. It's a beautiful place that she has outfitted with gorgeous curtains, a washer, and...wait for oven. This is no Thai oven, this thing was probably better than the oven in my first place after college in Lomita, or at least larger! After seeing an oven for the first time in 6 months, there was really nothing else to be done but bake. Bake we did! Cookies, brownies, and eggplant parmesan for dessert (strike that, reverse it). It was heavenly, and Barbara better be prepared for more visits from this country mouse!
Our delicious spread!
After a night of food, laughs, and comfy snoozing it was off to Chainat for Reconnect. Seeing friendly faces, hearing stories, sharing successes and challenges, and taking some time to check in with myself away from site went better than I had expected, though I missed my students, host family, and community dearly. I even headed back to Suphan Buri on the weekend to revisit my training site and take it all in with new eyes. Si Prichan was as welcoming as ever, and the women in the market were flattering as they spoke of how much my language had improved and joked with me on how I should really look into getting a Thai boyfriend, now (not going to happen). It was a nice visit, made even more wonderful by a trip to Wat Muang to see the tallest sitting Buddha statue.
Pretty spectacular, eh?
Returning to Chainat meant the start of Counterpart Conference as well as a boat festival nearby. I walked down to view some of the festivities and watch the longboats on the river, which was lovely. Even more enjoyable was seeing my co-teacher again, watching her take copious notes, and share so eagerly in our group sessions about the projects we had started at our school. It meant a lot to hear her being so willing to share, in large part because one of our goals is to grow the communication skills of our counterparts. There was lots to learn, great ideas were hatched, and a list of honey-do's was agreed upon for when I was to return to site, since I was off for yet another adventure before returning home.
As the longboats float by...
After saying farewell to counterparts and volunteers alike, the next leg of the journey was just beginning. A few friends and I took the night train south (comfortable except for the super cool AC and loud game of Fruit Ninja that the monk sitting next to me was playing), then boarded the high speed catamaran for Koh Tao (Turtle Island). What a culture shock! Western food and faces outnumbered those that were Thai, and even some I expected might want to converse in Thai with me turned out to be from Malaysia, Myanmar, or Cambodia. Still, fun times, a significant rise in the intake of cheese and bread-filled dishes, a few tasty drinks, and some awesome strolls along the beach filled the next few days. To top it all off, I took lessons at a great diving school in order to be open water certified. It was a really special experience seeing the world in such a new way, and I look forward to more exploring of the underwater world again soon.
Saying goodbye to Koh Tao
After a long day of traveling from boat to bus to taxi, it was a night at a hostel in Bangkok for the weary travelers before heading back to site. The excitement and enjoyment of all that was new had made room for a deep appreciation for the home I'd left behind in Chaiyaphum and I was very happy to arrive home and spend my first night back in my own bed being lulled to sleep by the croaking bullfrogs outside my windows and geckos chirping on my walls.

Back to reality.

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