Five weeks in

Five weeks ago, I arrived in Chiang Mai to make a new home and start a new job. This past month was filled with adventure, learning, joy, and a fair amount of “oh, shit” moments.

Note that time to blog is missing from this list. To catch you up, I thought it would be fun to give you a run down of my experiences by week and “theme”…

Week one: The week of unbridled enthusiasm

In a nutshell: My enthusiasm was unbridled

The moment that captures everything: Riding my bike through the old city and realizing that this is my daily reality

Overheard saying: “I am just so happy!”

Lingering questions: When am I going to clean my kitchen? Why didn’t I bring any dresses? Is my transition really going to be this easy?

Week two: Learning at every turn

In a nutshell: I started my new job, began daily Thai language classes, and figured out how to feed myself, get around, be a host, and do laundry

The moment that captures everything: That time I realized I’d washed two loads of laundry with only fabric softener…

Big takeaway: Never leave your house without a rain jacket

Lingering questions: In such an international city, how do I be intentional about connecting with local people and culture?

Week three: This is why I came here

In a nutshell: My co-workers and I headed to Mae Hong Son province for a week to meet with our community partners, hike up a mountain, and review the field activities for the Forests course

The moment that captures everything: Hanging out on the stoop of a neighbor’s house having the kids teach us how to make paper airplanes and say Thai tongue twisters late into the night— and by that I mean like 21:00

Overheard saying: “Tableu!” [hint: the Karen greeting and word for thank you. Be careful with your tone though, otherwise you are saying “crazy”]

Big takeaway: I already love my job

Week four: The week where it feels real…and lonely

In a nutshell: I had this depressing thought that if the three friends I’d made couldn’t hang out, I had no one else to even ask. Then the thought followed me through a week of really long training while my Person was without access to the Internet.

The moment that captures everything: Walking through the aisles of the farang grocery store clutching a box in my hand while repeating out loud, “I will not lose it over goldfish. I will not lose it over goldfish.” after going to the grocery store for some goldfish (there weren’t any) at the end of a hard day

Overheard saying: “I will not lose it over goldfish.”  [people nervously clear the aisle as she walks by]

Big takeaway: If you see something you want at Rimping, buy it

Week five: Sprinting the marathon

In a nutshell: In response to the week prior and my training having wrapped up, I booked my social calendar a bit too full and then hit a wall on Friday giving myself a solo weekend to reconnect and reassess my daily rhythms

Overheard saying: What are you doing tonight?

Big takeaway: Though an extravert, I do still need alone time even as—especially when— I deny myself it
Lingering questions:
How do I create balance in developing community and cultivating healthy rhythms? What self-care practices do I need to dedicate myself to? When am I going to clean my kitchen?

For more beautiful, challenging, and funny moments—or really to see a lot of pictures of pretty things and my favorite drinks (read: beer and coffee)— follow me on Instagram @staceystravels

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Scattered pieces

I flew into Chiang Mai close to midnight. The city was dark as a co-worker drove me to the house.

As we passed buildings and navigated the city streets, everything felt vaguely familiar. I recognized shops and remembered different landmarks, but couldn’t quite place them geographically. Struggling to conjure an image of the city’s grid, I held miniature puzzle pieces in my hand with little recollection of the picture on the box. Continue reading “Scattered pieces”

Reality check

Riding my bicycle through the Old City of Chiang Mai yesterday, I passed a woman also riding. She was meandering slowly down the street while an auto rickshaw driver prepared to pull out in front of her. I knew I had time to get around them before turning left at the next light.

I checked my mirror and then over my shoulder. Using my arm to signal, I swiftly moved into the other lane.

It was a simple moment. A simple decision. 

Yet as I passed, I experienced this deep revelation: I live in Thailand. Continue reading “Reality check”

Re-dressing

I am back in San Diego and excited to have more clothing than what I carried on my back the past eight months. Getting dressed this morning, I was struck, though, by the ways that my clothes fit differently.

A shirt flares out at the hips in a way I didn’t remember; my pants feel tight in my thighs.

I likely misremembered some of my clothes, like this shirt’s quirky cut. The rose-colored lens of nostalgia remembered how things felt on a bright day more than what they were. I don’t think the material changed from lack of use, but its tempting to say that’s another piece.

I suppose too my body has changed. Legs boasting the muscle built from a more active year. Stomach softened by the carb-heavy diets of communities abroad and beer-filled nights once back in the States.

Staring at the mirror contemplating this outfit that feels new and slightly off while familiar and so me, I think ‘yep, that’s about right’.

Because this is what returning is like…Coming back to a place that is different than you remembered it- both in the ways its changed and in the ways your memory of it made it something else. Being different than you were when you were last here.

I feel a bit as if I am in a fitting room that is my childhood town. Easing into relationships and tugging at their seams. Turning around to get a 360 view of what things look like. 

It’s all new and slightly off while familiar and so so me.

The circle game

In a profound circle, I find myself at the final country of this trip, my first last year. For our South Africa orientation, we are staying at the backpackers where my TBB travels began seventeen months ago.

My first photo from last year's trip, taken at my current accommodations
My first photo from last year’s trip, taken at my current accommodations

As I crawled into the bed I first slept in at the onset of my international tour with TBB, a rush of memories flooded my mind. Faces of students who are now dear friends resurfaced. Conversations and views played on a loop, cycling through various joys and adventures of TBB.

I fell asleep laughing with my co-worker and friend, another repeated experience.

This morning, I wrestled with the water heater and then found a flat spot to lay my yoga mat. Every action is simultaneously new and repeated— not in a boring sort of way, but in a centering one.

With this return to the beginning, I am reminded of the thrill and excitement of the start. My eyes are opened once again to the beauty, the wonder, the daily gift of this life abroad.

On the road to the students’ homestays where they’ll settle into later this week, there is a curve just at the top of a hill. As you round it, it reveals a stunning view of the ocean. The water stretches out behind a row of houses, with the sky as expansive just above. Every day as we made this drive last year, Beth would say “take a moment!”. With brimming gratitude and disbelief at our job, lives, and world, we would look out at the view and feel all that we’d been given.

In truth, this same job is now routine; this life, sometimes tiring. Yet this world is still full of wonder; gratitude and awe are still the appropriate responses to the opportunities before me. Long forgotten in the normalcy of my extraordinary, today I took a moment.

Greeting the sun with some salutations, I felt at home. It was a feeling of at home in the universe that Parks speaks of and to which my blog title alludes. I was rooted in a connected orientation to life.  One that Knows gifts when they are given, that takes time to remember and experience wonder anew.

As I moved through the asanas, the sun rose above the clouds shining directly on me. I stood in its light, in my own Light. I circled back with a smile and sensed that my return is not only to South Africa, but also to self.

Crescent moons

With the new moon— a time to reflect on what we are giving birth to within— and three weeks of my 2015 intention of LOVE, I wanted to explore what it looks like so far…

Love looks like mindful mornings:
waking with music, greeting the day
with joy and creativity.
Opening my journal, and my heart, to the present moment.

Love looks like regimented sleep.
Screens off. Lights out. A time for rest to be fully indulged.

Love looks like process.
With accidental late nights and open screens
slipping through the cracks
of better set plans.

(With mantras to remember that its okay to slip sometimes.) Continue reading “Crescent moons”

Wanderlusting

She set off around the world with the gushing optimism of a twenty-something landing her dream job.

Lesson number one: dream jobs can still be challenging.

She accepted this. Embraced this. Learned to be open to life in all its complexity— desperate loneliness and profound community, agonizing pain and overwhelming joy.

Paradox became her normal. Her honest truth.

Contradiction revealed itself at every turn as she labored toward a life of congruence.

Continue reading “Wanderlusting”

Looking to love

I’m declaring it a year of love.

There are so many things that this already means to me, and I am sure it will continue to develop as I do.

Above all, I want to love the journey. In reflecting on last year, I drew a map of significant moments, lessons, places, people, questions, and learning. It was a zigzagging chart with great highs and deep lows. In 2014, I discovered much about who I am and realized many things that I need. Continue reading “Looking to love”

Moving on, always

There is only one constant in my life right now, movement. Let me catch you up to speed: after enjoying the shoreline of Portete, I bounced from Bua to Quito and the mountains south. I ventured to the Cuyabeno River deep in the Amazon. I traveled to Peru where I enjoyed a stunning trek through the Andes. Finally, I flew to Thailand, where I write to you from today. My time in the Amazon aside, I enjoyed all of this with my students and co-workers with Thinking Beyond Borders.

Even since being in Thailand, we’ve yet to stay put. We lingered for a long weekend in Chiang Mai celebrating the Loy Kratong festival where we floated boats of flowers down the river that surrounds the city. We spent a week at the Upland Holistic Development Project’s demonstration farm learning about their efforts while participating in many levels of food production on a farm. Two nights ago, we settled into home-stays with Thai farmers just outside Chiang Mai city.

All of this movement brings with it unique pleasures and challenges. As of late, I have been feeling the latter as my life lacks any resemblance of a routine. In our constant transitions, I’ve lost consistency and discipline in my reflective practices.

Let me be clear: there is incredible privilege in the itinerary I just laid out— in the life I live. There is a burden too, though. Continue reading “Moving on, always”