Monday, September 9, 2013

The People

I have to post a little about the people I’ve met in Thailand.  They’re quite incredible.  And I’m sure if you search hard enough, you can find amazing people in any country, any city, anywhere you go.  But I’ve had the distinct privilege of taking part in this culture and meeting people who live here.  This is one of my favorite things about traveling, experiencing the culture.  I think it’s why I didn’t love India, but more on that later.  This is happy post! 

It’s very refreshing to meet people who are genuine, who are excited to meet you, and want to help you with no ulterior motive in mind. I feel like the world has become an incredibly selfish place. Filled with people looking out for themselves, always trying to get ahead. This of course, is the view a forever pessimist.  Yes yes, I’m a bit jaded, and it could be said I expect the worse of people. Filled with people looking out for themselves, always trying to get ahead.  So when I have those experiences where people completely surprise me, it’s refreshing.  It’s good for a girl like me, reminds me to think, and even expect, more of people.

Well then. Let’s start with Kalasin.  I’ve already posted about our time here; the area Jordan served in.  These people were so welcoming.  They were incredibly nice. They were excited to see him, and simply by association, excited to see me. They were always joking and laughing and wanting to spend time with us. They cooked us dinner, took us out to dinner, made sure we had dinner.
Night we played games, bus stop.

The Sunday that we spent in Bangkok and went to church with a friend of Jordan’s I met a woman.  I honestly couldn’t tell you her name, but she has my email so we’ll see if I hear from her! She spoke very good English so I was actually able to talk to her.  It was nice. I don’t remember what spawned the conversation but she starting messing with her wig.  Of course I didn’t say anything that would be rude!  But she mentioned that she had had cancer.  Well I’m not leaving that one alone!  I asked her what kind and how long ago.  She had breast cancer a year ago and had undergone chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove her right breast. I told her that I worked with children who had cancer, that I was a nurse.  Well I could do no wrong after that; I was a saint.  She proceeded to tell me that she had gone to the doctor the previous month and they’d found a lump in her left breast.  She was meeting with doctors that coming week.  She said she was scared.  She grabbed my hand and literally did not let go until we left.  She asked for my email and asked if it were okay for her to contact me.  Sure, I said.  I don’t know how much help I could be, but gladly. My heart went out to her. I don’t know if she had any family, I don’t know what her support system was like, other than she is a member of the LDS church. She was a pleasure to talk to though, positive and friendly.  Called me beautiful every chance she got (who doesn’t love that!).  She was adorable.

Last but very certainly not least was a woman we met when we were in the south on the island of Koh Mook.  She ran the restaurant that we found that we loved.  We ate there 3 or 4 times, I can’t remember.  It may have been because it was the “off season” and we were the only people frequenting her little place.  May have been that were new faces to see and new stories to hear, but she was so sweet to us.  Every time we ate there she gave us tons of free treats and spoiled us.  She made these yummy little fried coconut patties.  They were tasty. She always gave us lemongrass tea after dinner too. Our last night there was the night that we had spent all day boating and snorkeling and swimming and were all sun burned.  This lovely little woman went to her herb garden and cut fresh aloe vera and gave to us!  She even rubbed it on my neck and shoulders for me, and my nose, my nose ALWAYS gets burnt, it doesn’t matter what I do. She was just incredibly sweet and loved to talk to us and have us come see her.  She was such a delight.

Northern Thailand

The last several days we’ve spent up in the northern part of Thailand.  Chiang Rai, Thaton, and Chiang Mai.  It’s beautiful up here.  Because it’s the rainy season the sky at night is usually a dark blue/gray.  It’s more rural up here in the north.  We haven’t been able to spend a lot of time in each location, which is unfortunate.  I would have loved to spend more time here.  We flew in to Chiang Rai Wednesday night and Thursday we took a 5-hour boat ride up a river, of which I do not know the name.  The scenery was incredible. Half way through we stopped off and rode elephants.  I’m not a big fan of heights, or animals for that matter.  They frighten me a little.  So sitting atop a very large animal was somewhat scary.  But it was quite fun.  We rode up through the jungle.  We saw cornfields and rice fields.  A little ways further up we stopped off again and walked up through a small village and bought a few souvenirs from several of the local women. We arrived in Thaton at about 3pm and had to catch our bus to Chiang Mai by 4:20.  So we only really had time for some food and to gather a few things.  Thaton is where Jordan has been living for the past 4 months and working.  He helped the lady at the restaurant cook our food.  He loves to cook; I also suspect that he likes to show off a bit! We arrived in Chiang Mai at about 9pm in a lovely thunderstorm.  Best thing about thunderstorms in Thailand is that it’s still nice and warm outside.  Which was to my liking because I was unable to find a rain jacket before I left.  Lucky for me it hasn’t actually rained all that much while I’ve been here. We got up and went and had some Thai massages before wandering the city.  I don’t particularly love the Thai style of massage.  Maybe I’m not used to it, but it’s just a tad painful! But it’s an experience nonetheless. We boarded a train to Bangkok at 5:30, well, actually 6:15, the train was late.  That is where you find me now.  We’re on a sleeper train that will arrive in Bangkok at around 9am tomorrow (Saturday).  One day left.  I find I’m ready. It’s been incredible. I have seriously loved every minute.  Even the minutes lugging my duffle bag from airport to airport and even the times I was so angry with Jordan, justified and unjustified.  Even the time I paid 5 Bhat to use the bathroom at the bus station and it was a squatter toilet and I ABSOLUTELY could not pee in it. I’ve loved being here and I’ve loved this experience, but I’m ready to be home.  I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune in a week or two but I’m ready to go back to my everyday life.  To go to work, to sleep in my bed, to talk to my mom! Yes, I’m ready to be home.  One of my favorite lines in the movie “Juno” is when she says I never realize how much I like being home unless I've been somewhere really different for a while." 


Okay, now that I'm home, I'll be doing a bit of backtracking.....there were a few times the internet just wasn't very good...

We spent several days in the province(?), I think that’s what they’re called, of Kalasin.  This was an area Jordan served in during his mission.  This was the one area that he wanted to visit. I asked him why this particular area and his simple answer was, the people.  I can see why.  It’s a small area.  Beautiful. And yes, the people here are wonderful.  They’re friendly, they’re lively, and they’re genuinely loving. My heart actually ached a bit as we left. We spent three days with them.  I could spend many many more. Who doesn’t love being told continually how wonderful and beautiful they are? Yeah, a girl could get used that. I can see why he loves them.  And I can see how much they love him. He's the type of person that makes such an impact on the people that he meets. When I first met him he drove me nuts! He still does.  He’s one of those people who can infuriate me to no end one minute, and then have me smiling from ear to ear the next. And I can tell the impact he had on these people.  After 4 years they still remember him.  They remember things he told them, things he taught them.  You don’t remember things like that unless some sort of impact was made.  I told him that I thought it was a great testament to the kind of missionary that he was and he said “well maybe in this area.” Meaning, “What about the other areas?” Well, what I have to say to that is that sometimes the perfect storm happens.  And with God, it is never a mistake.  A great many times in my life I’ve felt that I was in the “right place at the right time.” This was just one of those times for him.

We didn’t do anything really “touristy” per se why we were there.  What we did was even better.  We just spent time with these people; eating, talking (I didn’t do a whole lot of this, but it was really okay), and laughing.  I’m a quiet person to begin with, a woman of few words.  If you’ve had the privilege of  knowing the unquiet me, you are part of a choice club.  So you can imagine the level of quiet that ensued as I spent three days with people who spoke a language I could not.  I couldn't understand or speak a lick of this language and so could rarely participate in conversations, yet never once was I bored.  Not often did I know what was going on or what people were speaking of, but never did I feel left out. There were those who could speak some English and they made a great effort to speak to me, which I appreciated a great deal.

Since these were people who were members of the LDS church, we spent a lot of time with other members, and met the missionaries in the area. We met a missionary who had only been in the area 10 days, same amount of time that I’d been in Thailand.  Poor child.  Walked around kind of in a daze haha. They were very nice though.  We went to a baptism and subsequently a confirmation at church the next day.  I did something at church that I rarely do.  At the request of the relief society teacher I shared my testimony.  In English of course as the sister missionary (from Orem, Utah) interpreted. I felt a little inadequate speaking to these people.  But it was nice.

The couple that had been taking care of us drove us to the bus station with one of the other members, Sister T.  I'm sorry, I seriously can't remember any of their names.  I feel terrible.  But it was so very nice of them to drive us to the bus station, it was a little over an hour to the station.  They waited with us as well until the bus came.  Then as we were leaving, A's wife grabbed me and gave me a huge hug.  She told me how nice it had been to have me there and to make sure that Jordan came back again.  Then her and Sister T proceeded to give me some gifts.  My heart was full.  They were so feet.  Admittedly my eyes were a little wet as we boarded the bus and left.

The Dinosaur Museum

Sister T and A's Wife

A and Jordan

Sister T, Me and Jordan

This is what Jordan posted on his facebook after our first day:

"Had another amazing day with Tristyn. We made to Kalasin!! The day started off with running to the bus station, barley catching two busses and then having some amazing friends, Kyle Anuchit and Wipawan Saisam-ang pick us up and take us to an amazing hotel then off to eat some yummy spicy papaya salad with Supachai Klungsaeng then off to see more friends. Lots of scooter rides and then a fun dinner with Maliwan Phanjerm, the missionaries and some others. This place is the bomb. The people are so amazing and so it the food!"

Now that I'm home, I have to say, this was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Living in the moment.

Have you ever had one of those days where you are completely living in the moment?  Every single one?  You’re not worrying about what’s going to happen next, or in an hour, or in the next week? You’re not thinking about that episode that made you so mad last week or how stressed you are about your upcoming interview.  You are completely and utterly consumed in that moment and each and every moment as they come?  Well I had one of those days today. It literally started right when I woke up and lasted clear til this very second.  Just absolutely enjoying every minute that I get to be where I am, doing what I’m doing. As we were coming back in from our day and the boat was racing across the water and the waves were banging against us I looked out and this huge expanse of jade colored water before me and the beautiful islands dotting the horizon and thought “Wow, you are one lucky girl.” And that of course led to a whole train of thinking about the wonderful blessings I have in my life and how incredibly lucky I am to have everything and everyone that I do in my life.  So there’s my little sentimental quip for the day!

So, today.  The aforementioned amazing day.  We spent the entire day in the sun.  Needless to say my lovely golden tan is now a nice shade of scarlet red.  Just a tad uncomfortable.  But I tell you, it was worth it.  Jordan had wheeled and dealed the previous night and we secured a private boat to take a tour of 4 different islands and to see the emerald cave. So we stopped off at our first island for some snorkeling.  A word on snorkeling and me.  Before this trip I’d never actually done it.  Looks simple enough.  Oh it is not.  The actual first time I snorkeled was about two weeks ago when we were in the south in Krabi.  Not the best experience. My mask wasn’t tight enough and I so I kept getting water in the mask.  Salt water up your nose and in your eyes is not the most pleasant thing in the world.  And of course you’re not supposed to stand on the coral because you can damage it.  And mind you, that is someone’s house!  Well, I didn’t stay in the water all that long on that trip.  But the few glimpses I got of the fish and the beautiful water, I knew it was something I would learn to love. 

This time I was bound and determined to make this time count. I made sure my mask was nice and tight.  PS long hair and snorkeling do not mix.  I made sure I was biting on the mouth peace all nice and good and I jumped in. We snorkeled at three different islands and each one was better than the last.  The first island the water wasn’t very clear and although the second one was much more clear, there were a few more people there crowding the area.  And Jordan got stung by a jellyfish so that wasn’t much fun.  But it was all worth it when we stopped and Koh Kradan. It was beautiful.  All sorts of different brightly colored fish, the water was crystal clear, and we were the only ones in the water.  My favorite part was when the sun would shine through the water and these amazing sharp rays of light would break through the water.  Incredible.  I loved all the fish too.  Fish I’ve seen on TV or in fish tanks, just swimming around. My favorite fish by far was the this black and yellow striped one.  Kind of in the shape of a triangle.  You know the “big fish,” the leader in the fish tank in “Finding Nemo?” He gives Nemo the name sharkbait?  Yup, that’s the one! He was my favorite.  Also at Koh Kradan we spent time swimming in the ocean.  This particular beach and this particular water were perfect.  It was so clear you could see your feet in the water below you.  The water here is the color of jade.  I’ve never seen water this green.  Granted, my beaching experience is quite limited. Nonetheless, it was beautiful. We were the only ones there.  You could see the islands dotting the horizon in every direction.  Fishing boats further out. It just doesn’t get much better. 

The last and final thing we did was we went to the emerald cave.  It’s a cave on the island where we were staying. We anchored the boat, put on our life jackets (which were required however I felt made the swim much more difficult), and jumped off the side into the water.  Then it was an 80m, or roughly the length of a football field swim into this tunnel and finally emerging onto the little secluded beach.  There really aren’t words, or pictures for that matter, that can capture how beautiful it was.  I think the real amazing thing is swimming in, standing up, and looking straight up into the beautiful blue sky and the deep green of the trees.  I think colors are intensified here.

It was just one of those days.