One thing I have grown to love about Thailand is the poetic way their language sounds and the meanings behind their words. The language is tonal, meaning that one sound such as ma can have 5 different tones, low, mid, high, falling, and rising. These 5 tones dictate the meaning of the word. So a simple ma, depending on the tone, could mean dog, come, or horse (unfortunately, I don’t know the other two meanings).
Thai also has a beautiful way of phrasing. For example, the word for ‘kind’ is jai dee, which literally translates to ‘good heart’. And when they talk about the mind, as in ‘peace of mind’ or ‘good mind’ they refer to the heart, tapping their fingers to the left side of their chest solidifying their words.
“There’s something about the cosmic perspective, which for some people is enlightening and for other people it’s terrifying. For those who are terrified by it, they’re here on earth and they have a certain self-identity, and then they learn that earth is tiny and we’re in this void of interplanetary space and then there’s a star that we call the Sun and that’s kind of average and there’s a hundred billion other stars in a galaxy. And our galaxy, the Milky Way, is one of 50 or 100 billion other galaxies in the universe. And with every step, every window that modern astrophysics has opened to our mind, the person who wants to feel like they’re the center of everything ends up shrinking. And for some people they might even find it depressing, I assert that if you were depressed after learning and being exposed to the perspective, you started your day with an unjustifiably large ego. You thought more highly of yourself than in fact the circumstances deserved.
So here’s what you do: You say, “I have no ego at all.” Let’s start that way. “I have no ego, no cause to puff myself up.” Now let’s learn about the cosmic perspective. Yeah, we’re on a planet that’s orbiting a star, and a star is an energy source and it’s giving us energy, and we’re feeling this energy, and life is enabled by this energy in this star. And by the way, there’s a hundred billion other stars that have other planets. There might be other life out there, could be like us. It’s probably not like us, but whatever it is, it’d be fascinating to find out who it is. Can we talk to them? Can we not? Are they more advanced? Are they less advanced? By the way, the atoms of our body are traceable to what stars do.
And all you can do is sit back and bask in your relevance to the cosmos.
So those who see the cosmic perspective as a depressing outlook, they really need to reassess how they think about the world. Because when I look up in the universe, I know I’m small, but I’m also big. I’m big because I’m connected to the universe and the universe is connected to me.”
Over my year here in Thailand I have devoured 14 amazingly delicious and juicy books. Full of adventure, life, challenges, cultures, and magic. Most of my books are about Westerners moving to the East, each with a different reason or purpose and each has greatly influenced my experience in Thailand. Here are my favorites:
Nine Hills to Nambokanah by Sarah Erdman :: This is about a Peace Corps Volunteer who was placed in rural Ivory Coast to be a health worker. She discusses her trials and errors, her challenges, and her successes (big and small). This book helped me so much during my first few months here, Sarah was like a friend helping me cope with my own challenges of integration and belonging in a new culture.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson :: This book is very well known and despite the controversy that surrounds his work, he has amazing perseverance and dedication. I applaud him for building so many schools in Pakistan and empowering the young women in these areas to find their strengths and further their education.
These past two weeks have been a whirlwind. School is finished, well at least classes and my final grades, and we only have a few days left to show up. It’s a strange feeling knowing I won’t see many of my students ever again.
1. Exploring and Discovering :: I cannot begin to be grateful enough for my ability, physically, monetarily, etc. to see the world! So many people are unable to, they have other obligations or mental blocks that prevent them from being able to explore and discover. And to explore, I don’t mean boarding a plane and crossing into another nation, although that’s one of my favorite forms of travel, but to possess the wide eyed mentality of a child and discover the world you live in: the simple elegance of plants, the innocence of animals and children, the smell of the wind during the season changes, the wealth of important information in museums and conservatories. To appreciate the world as it is and your part in it, that is the beauty of life.
2. Books :: I have been reading so many deliciously wonderful books this year I have been in Thailand. Fourteen to be exact. Which is wayyy more books than I have ever read in a year and I am loving it. I already wrote a little post about my favorite books from this year: here 🙂
3. Pai :: I had spent so much time thinking that my favorite place in Thailand was Chiang Mai, but lo and behold, Pai is everything I love about Chiang Mai all wrapped up in a 4-block radius and nestled in a sweet valley. Delicious Western food decorates most menus, colorful and pungent juices freshly pressed for me, soy milk cappuccinos for Ami, and real bacon and hamburgers for PT. Motorbikes, hotsprings, hippies, live music, coffee shops. Ahhh a wonderful little sanctuary for us farangs.
4. SawanAnan Wittaya School :: Teaching has been a humbling and eye opening experience. I fully appreciate teachers now and thoroughly feel guilty for my occasional bratty misbehavior when I was a student. And despite the bureaucracy, the confusion that comes with being a farang, and my initial loss at how to teach, this has been an experience that I will always cherish. I have learned how to teach, but most importantly I was a student here. A student of culture and language, of patience and gratitude, and I learned far more than I expected or hoped for. Thanks Korin and SW for giving me this opportunity!
5. Friends :: During my first 6 months here, I found that I LOVE to travel alone. And in Thailand this is so easy because the people here are so friendly and there are many other solo female travelers that you are bound to befriend. But I found that traveling with friends and in a small group is so much fun. Traveling in Chiang Mai and Pai with Amiel, PT, Lyndsey, and Andrew was refreshing. I haven’t hung out with that many farangs in quite a while and I had forgotten the great feeling that comes with being in and a part of a group. We all got along smashingly, because as travelers those initial boundaries and social cues vanish and we all become more vulnerable and patient. To experience things for the first time with others and to share these parts of life is a huge part of exploring and I am happy to have PT’s company for our journey southbound!
Arrived safely, although a bit groggy, in Chiang Mai, which, in my opinion, is the best city for travelers in need of some familiar culture and language. Exactly what PT, Lyndsey, and I need right about now.
Craving some western food, we ate at an Italian restaurant for lunch, to eat a fresh salad with vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise is fresh and light and oh so delicious! But really the important part of this post is the name of the restaurant, “Giresole” which means sunflower in Italian, as Lyndsey, happy in all that is Italian and missing her favorite nation, explained to me. She said that it literally means “turning with the sun”. What a beautiful name for a flower that spends each day following the sun across the sky… ☀️