Tiny Beautiful Moments — Math Class

The rainy season has finally begun, which means I now I wake to roosters and raindrops.  It means that the morning market now smells like damp fish instead of grilled bananas and curry.  It means that classrooms are filled with barefoot children, their socks hanging on the railing to dry.  It means that colorful umbrellas dot the school yard and that my hair is too big not to pull back into a ponytail. 

All of this, though, are tinier, beautiful moments tucked between the stories.  For now, let me present you to the final installment (at least in the first volume) of Tiny Beautiful Moments.  It’s sort of a two-part finale.

Enjoy.


Earth comes to the front of the room, bouncing up and down, his contagious smile so wide that his eyes must narrow to make room for it on his small face. I ask the question: Write the number thirty-five. Earth puts his whole body into the piece of chalk, scrawling the numbers largely on the board, thrusting his hand into the air when he is finished.

“Correct,” I say before handing him the makeshift ball.

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Earth is on the left.

We are playing math basketball. I ask the students to write a number that I say out loud. The fastest student then shoots the sock puppet (there was no small ball in our office to use) into the pink bucket placed on a chair near the window. Standing at different distances from the chair, the students have tested just how many points they can get, Bombay (not one of my athletically gifted students) shooting from across the entire room to boldly try and earn ten points. When he made the basket, the sock puppet flying swiftly and perfectly into the bucket, the kids erupted with laughter and cheers, Bombay himself jumping into the air, his pudgy hands held high. Bombay’s victory made all the kids want to try for the ten point basket, each of them walking across the classroom when they got a correct answer. Some of the smaller girls who looked hesitant to try for ten points were pressured by Earth, who whispered loudly through cupped hands “Ten points, ten points!”

So when I finally call Earth forward and it is his time to shoot for the basket, he scoots back, near the door, swinging the puppet around his head with the small string attached to its head. (Let me a take a minute here to describe this sock puppet. It was given to me last year by a kindergartner, a small sock stuffed with cotton to make a head, tied with a rubber band and a face drawn on in marker. The rest of the sock dangles freely, strings hanging from its hollow body as if they are its two legs. This puppet is what I brought to class for the kids to play basketball with. The same puppet Earth now has suspended above his head.) Around and around it goes until he releases . . . and it flies straight out the open window. I immediately start laughing. Earth jumps up and down, a little too pleased with himself. The Thai teacher however, is not happy. She folds her arms, her normal smile replaced with a scowl. Oh, shoot, I think, I should probably be mad too.

“Well, now the game is over,” I say to the class, my greatest attempt at trying to be upset, although I can’t quite stifle my smile or my laughter. I turn to the board to add up the points of each team, and giggle into the chalk written tallies.

As I hand out the worksheet for that day, my kids shrug their shoulders and say Mai bpen lai, the Thai equivalent of No worries.

            “Mai bpen lai,” I say back to them, all of us smiling.

When I reach Earth’s desk, his smile is perhaps bigger than I’ve ever seen it.

“Next time, throw a bit softer, Earth.”

He squeezes his eyes shut and stands on his tippy toes, a gesture I have become all too familiar with in this last year as his teacher. He nods his head, as if he really can understand me.

“And good job,” I say before I walk from desk to desk, making sure everyone is completing their work.

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Earth at last year’s school exhibition.


“You’re students are awesome,” she says to me just as I go to brush my teeth.

She arrived this morning. It was a visit I was nervous for, not having ever really spoken to her outside of camp.

“I know,” I try to say with a mouthful of toothpaste.

I brought her to class with me, my students nearly tackling her when she tried to play a game with them, the girls scooting close to her during the whole period, whispering to her in a mixture of Thai and English. They are fearless and accepting, asking the next day where Teacher Roohie has gone.

“She went to see the temples,” I will say and they will sigh, already missing their new friend.

“I don’t know how you’re going to leave them,” Roohie says to me now, standing just outside the doorway to the bathroom. “I fell in love with them in just one day. I can’t imagine what must happen in a year.”

“I know,” I say, spitting my toothpaste into the sink. “And I’ve been with them for two.”

We are both silent. We have talked too much this last day about med school and the future.

“I don’t want to think about it,” I say before slipping past her, both of us retreating to our rooms to sleep.

My second grade class after making American flags for a Fourth of July Craft.

My second grade class after making American flags for a Fourth of July Craft.

Tiny Beautiful Moments — Sukothai

As I was writing this third installment for Tiny Beautiful Moments, I realized that in some way I had stolen the name for this series of posts.  Cheryl Strayed has a book called Tiny Beautiful Things filled with excerpts from a column she wrote entitled Dear Sugar.  Two of my housemates brought this book with them to Thailand and consequently all of us, except myself, have now read the book.  As they were reading, they would share small moments with me, quotes that they couldn’t stop rereading and chapters that touched them in an especially profound way.  Although I have yet to read the book, I already feel connected to it in this deep and unexplainable way.  It seems appropriated that without ever consciously making the decision to mimic Cheryl Strayed’s title, I came up with a title so strikingly similar to hers.  So thank you Cheryl Strayed and your delightful book I have yet to read.  You have already inspired me greatly.


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The heat bears down on us all day, riding our bikes for hours in between ruins of Buddhas and temples, relics of a long ago world that is hard for any of us to imagine. We take cat naps under trees with wide leaves and white flowers that look as if they have been painted there. We snap pictures of one another looking at the giant towers and columns of what used to be a magnificient kingdom. With our heads cocked to the side and the palm of our hand shading our eyes from the hot sun, we look at the crumbling buddhas carved into the foundation, the head of one remaining Buddha near the top.

We have traveled to Sukothai, taking a five-hour bus ride early Friday morning, after learning of an unexpected three day weekend. We rent bikes and ride along the perfectly manicured paths of this national park that has so acutely preserved the remains of this former Thai capital, a place where Thai language and writing originated and Thai art was born. As we ride along a small path next to a lake, I look to my right, the ruins spread out before me, the sun shining bright. This cannot be real, I think.

We ride along un-shaded roads into the countryside, leaving the park for a drier, more unkempt part of this ancient kingdom. Scattered among houses and restaurants, tiny ancient temples lie basking in the sun. We nearly push our bikes a mile uphill to a small temple that Ali claims will be beautiful. She saw pictures of it in the museum we visited earlier that morning and at lunch insisted that we all go. As I feel my skin turning beet red in the sun, I debate whether it will be so beautiful.

After twenty minutes of biking on roads that, sorry for the cliché here, could fry an egg (one of us really did see a fried egg on the road), we arrive at a small hill with a standing Buddha almost perfectly preserved at the top. We buy water from a man in a hut near by and begin to climb the cobbled steps. When we reach the top only minutes later, we finish off our water and sit in the shade offered by the Buddha. We sit in absolute silence for nearly 20 minutes, none of us saying a word. We look into the vast distance, all of Sukothai spread out before us. I think about the plaque at the bottom of the hill, the one saying the king of Sukothai used to ride here on his elephant to worship on holidays. I can imagine him now, standing on this hillside in sparkly clothes, a whole procession of people following him and waiting at the bottom. I can imagine him looking out across this great expanse, just as I do now, thinking that his kingdom is very grand indeed.

Buddha at the top of the hill.

Buddha at the top of the hill.


We hardly say a word as we gather our things and reluctantly walk back down to our bikes. We thank Ali for showing us this lovely place, as if she has been here a million times before. We reapply sunscreen and take note of one another’s red patches, the skin that we will have to nurse when we get back to the hotel. We throw away empty water bottles and strap our purses to the back of our bikes, having no basket to put them in. We mount our seats, each of us silently groaning. The sun seems almost hotter now.

“Can’t we just all ride an elephant back?” Ana says as we all kick off and begin our ride back into town.

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Tiny Beautiful Moments — Yoga

We are dressed in tiny booty shorts and tank tops, desperately wanting to rip our t-shirts off, use them as towels to wipe the sweat from our eyes. We resist. Our mats are sprawled on the tile floor, the windows all flayed open in the hopes that a breeze will bring some cool air, if only for a second. Our limbs move in synchronized fashion, legs twisting above our heads, arms strong, hands slipping as sweat drips from our hair onto the mat.

We have dubbed the downstairs of our townhouse the yoga studio. Devoid of any furniture, it perfectly fits our four mats side by side so that we can each see the computer screen where we stream a new yoga video each day. We only moved in to the townhouse yesterday, finally unpacking our suitcases for the first time since we got to Thailand.

We sweat and cling to our mats with desperate strength as only ten minutes into the yoga class, we realize how we have gotten a free hot yoga session, the tropical climate not allowing for anything else. We are wearing too much clothes, having experimented with how little clothing we could possibly wear with a floor to ceiling glass door only for a Thai man to drive by two minutes later, sending us all rushing upstairs for more clothing.

Sweat rolls down our backs and between our thighs, coming from places I wasn’t even sure entirely existed. We lie down on our backs. We twist to the left and right, our eyes starting to close and the sweat still pooling on our mats. The instructor asks us to twist back to the right. We do so. We focus on our fingertips. I focus on the . . .whose shoes are those? Whose hand is on our front door handle? Yup, our landlady is here.

She begins to knock lightly on the front door, sliding it open before waiting for us to get up from our positions on the ground. I immediately jump to my feet and rush over to her.

“The keys,” she mutters handing over a set of two keys, each with a small colored dolphin keychain attached.

“One, tii nii,” she says in a mixture of Thai and English. She squints her eyes as she talks to us, as if she can’t see us clearly.

She nods when we clarify, making a small grunting sound like a baby gorilla. I flinch just slightly.

She then points to the ceiling, and the bathroom, the door in the far corner, saying words I do not know. Somehow I hear that the roof is on fire, in some sort of strange mixture of English and Thai.  I ask her to slow down. She doesn’t. She only says new words. New words I do not understand. Finally, I smile and say, “Ohhh,” like it has suddenly dawned on me what she has said. She squints her eyes, makes a soft gorilla grunt, and then before she goes snickers a bit under her breath.

“You like yoga?”

“Yes, yes,” we all coo. This we understand.

“Very good,” she says, then turns to leave.

“What did she say?” the others ask.

“I don’t know,” I say before we return to our mats and resume the video.

We are back to twisting left, twisting right, twisting left . . .

“Hello,” a small voice comes from the window. “Hello?”

I hear footsteps on the pavement outside and see the top of a woman’s black hair through the bars of our window.

I get up once again, this time adjusting my t-shirt and shorts before opening the front door.

“Hello,” the woman says handing me a giant green basket filled with multiple bags.             “Rice for you.”

“Kop kun kaa,” I say, bowing slightly before taking the basket from her hands.

She looks inside, sees Erin, Ana, Ali sitting cross-legged on their mats. She waves hello. They say hello back.

“Yoga,” she says to us, as if she is teaching us this word for the first time. “You like yoga?”

We smile and all nod yes.

“I like yoga too. Good for you.”

She smiles. “I am teacher.”

She says good bye and we all bow slightly again, saying thank you to her in Thai.

I slip back inside, placing the basket on the ground behind my mat, Erin pushing the play button only for the instructor to ask us to lay on our backs for savasana.

Our living room is now dark, the sun setting during the course of our class. We all giggle to ourselves as we lie back, closing our eyes.

“We have to get curtains for those windows,” Ana says before we all fall into a settling meditation.

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Tiny Beautiful Moments — Pua

I’ve been in Nan for exactly one month now and I’m finally starting to feel more settled. Me and the three other American English teachers working at my school moved to a new townhouse about 2 weeks ago. Nestled in a cobblestoned street back neighborhood, we have enjoyed our quieter evenings spent doing yoga, journaling, and completing puzzles to Nicki Minaj music in the background (okay, maybe we don’t always have quiet evenings). I am teaching first and second grade this year (last year I taught first through third with a little kindergarten sprinkled in). And while teaching definitely feels easier, I am learning that even after a year, I still make mistakes daily and learn something from my students every day.

Much like last year, I struggle at times to find an appropriate format and theme for these blog posts.  Living and working abroad can come with grand revelations, worthy of an entire three page post itself, but many times I find that my time in Thailand is made up of tiny, beautiful moments woven together into the tapestry of my everyday life, so that if I don’t look hard enough these moments can zip right by. Last year I wrote a post entitled “Snapshots of Nan”, a sporadic arrangement of small stories from my everyday life.   I wanted to try something similar to that. I will be posting a new installment of this blog every day for the next week or so. Each is a small story that I have collected during my time here. Whether it be about one my students, a moment where I learn just how friendly Thai people can be, or even the tiny adventures that seem to present themselves to me here.   Whatever it may be, this is my attempt to show all of you some of the tiny, beautiful moments that make up my life here in Nan.

Without further ado, I present you all to Pua.


Pua

When I call Pua forward for a math game, his entire team moans, some of them throwing their fists to the desks. I scold them, but I know what they’re thinking—Pua won’t get them a point. He is up against one of the smartest students in the class and the person to finish the fastest will win. Pua isn’t fast. At least not in a thinking, academic way.

IMG_4077Pua was one of the first names I learned last year. I knew Pua’s name because I said it more in an hour than all of my other students’ names combined; and not because his hand was constantly raised. No. Pua had a habit of flinging himself to the ground, falling out of his chair and usually hitting other students in the process. Pua shouted in the middle of class and hardly ever listened. Whenever I called Pua’s name, his eyes would roll in this way that reminded me of a cartoon character, big and dramatic and yet, not responding to my discipline methods at all.

Starting second semester last year I made a commitment to work with Pua every class period, hoping this would make his behavior improve. What I found was shocking. Pua couldn’t read. He didn’t know the alphabet and all the letters and words seemed to appear mixed and mashed to him. In the small moments I was able to work with him, Pua seemed to improve enormously. He started to recognize some words and even understood what I was asking him to do. He would hand in his worksheets with a giant smile glued to his face so proud of himself for actually completing his work. Pua quickly became one of my favorite students to work with.

Now in second grade, Pua is still behind many of his classmates. So even though I thoroughly enjoy his hysterics, I don’t expect much from him when I call him up for the game. I read the question.

“Write the number thirty-two.”

Pua’s chalk races across the board and his hand zooms straight up, signifying his completion of the math problem. I am shocked.

“Pua is the winner!”

Pua jumps and spins in the air, his limbs flailing in all directions. His entire team erupts in cheers and Pua sprints back to his desk, doing these quick sharp movements, which I have come to love, reminding me of a comic strip character with large gestures and even larger facial expressions. He shouts out several times during the period, giving away the answers for other kids. But I only look at him slightly stern, my eyes still bright and a smile still on my face. I am so proud of him. I can’t even begin to discipline him today.

Pua

Pua

Back Home

I have dreamt of this moment since the day I set foot back in the States. The moment when I would arrive in Nan again, when I would see my students again, their smiling faces and their clammy hands wrapping around me. When I would hold them and tell them “See, I told you I would come back.” And yet all this happened today and still, I feel like it’s not quite real.

Maybe it has to do with the stuffed up nose and still plugged ears from a long 24 hour journey, filled with 4 plane flights and a groggy overnight stay in Bangkok. Maybe I still can’t really believe I am here. I mean two days ago I was at camp, screaming my heart out over dinner and loving the color purple. I was giving endless piggy-back rides and eating raw onions with kids screaming in my face “Just put it all in your mouth.” Maybe it is the fact that even though I have done this all before I am still desperately nervous, frightened of the homesickness and the inevitable bouts of loneliness.

I know that all of this will pass. That in a week’s time I will wonder how I ever felt this way at all. I will step back into the classroom and remember why I love this job so much, why I decided to sacrifice my time with family, put off medical school one more year, and sweat my butt off in a un-air-conditioned classroom.

Yet I have fears. Fears that this year will not nearly be as wonderful and successful as last year. Fears that everything that frustrated before will only make me more frustrated this year. Fears that somehow teaching will be different with new students and new English teachers surrounding me.

I don’t want make it seem like I don’t want be here. Because I do. I made that decision long ago. I just wanted to share these conflicting thoughts I have on my first day back in a town that I came to love and now suddenly seems so alien to me. I think this whole experience is so jarring because rarely do we get to experience a foreign culture so intimately and then immediately return to it after a short respite at home. Maybe the amenities of America have taunted me. Maybe getting a taste of home—all the burgers and steaks, carpet beneath my toes, sweaters and boots, soft beds, and wait for it . . . snow—has made this place seem a little more complicated.

It’s all a little difficult to explain. I’ve never felt this way in my entire life. It as if I am going through some weird Déjà vu but certain parts are missing—the two other teachers I worked with last year for instance, and even the rooms of the school (they built a whole new building while I was gone and now suddenly I don’t know where anything is). Everything more or less looks the same yet it is so completely different. I wake up and still wonder where I am for a second before I realize I am back in the tiny Thai town that I love. And yet this tiny town almost seems dreamlike itself, as if all the buildings will suddenly dissolve around me and I will find myself sitting on my couch back home, waking from a short nap during a commercial break of some TV show I could care less about.

I’m thinking a little more sleep and a few more days in town will make me feel like I never left at all. At least that is what I found of my time at home. It’s interesting how you can be gone from somewhere for so long and yet within days you feel as if you never left, as if nothing changed, and no one even really ever missed you because now you are home.

Now you are home.

Me and my second grade girls on the last day of school last year.

Me and my second grade girls on the last day of school last year.

The Official Announcement

Me and third grade make a field trip to a temple.

Me and third grade make a field trip to a temple.

It’s official! I am teaching for another year in Thailand. Wow, never thought I would say that when I started this whole journey.

But somehow throughout the course of this year I fell in love with teaching. I fell in love with this community. I fell in love with this culture—the colors and traditions and language that still continues to baffle my ear.

It is difficult to explain in words the happiness that I have found here; especially when there are still many days where I become frustrated with the qualms of working in a foreign country, the moments where I cannot understand a word that is being said around me, the times where I miss my family desperately and just want to go home. I don’t know if I will ever be able to explain why I want to stay, why I feel I must stay.

The reasons are hidden the in small victories in my classroom, moments spent doing yoga on a porch in the setting sun, writing in the quiet light of morning, and evenings spent surrounded by people who have suddenly become my family.  The reasons are buried somewhere in my everyday life

It is when one child who has barely spoken all year decides to volunteer to spell the bonus word for the spelling test on the board. She gets it right and as soon as I turn to her and tell her she is correct, a smile lights up her eyes and she stands a little taller. She doesn’t say a word, only returns to her desk and keeps smiling.

It is in the moments where I have kids coming up to me all day during school, placing stickers all over my skirt and shirt so that any time I leave the office I add three more to my collection and by the end of the day when I am sitting in my first grade classroom, they can count 19 stickers on me.

One girl reaches up and places one more near my neck. “Twenty,” she says with a smile.

“Thank you,” I say, completely satisfied with where I am—surrounded by forty six-year-olds who never fail to make me smile and laugh.

It is in the moments where I am with the fifteen other foreign teachers who live in Nan, sitting at a bar, playing Cards Against Humanity and having to scream at one another so that we can be heard over the music coming from the five different bars around us. It is when we all keel over laughing at something that is not even particularly funny. What gets a party going? Dwarf tossing.

These moments and so many others have infused my life with energy and joy to a capacity that I didn’t even know existed.

The afternoon I officially decided I was going to stay in Nan for another year was the day before Children’s Day here in Thailand. My second grade class was having a party at the end of the day, each student giving one another a gift to celebrate. When I walked into their classroom that day after lunch, I was greeted with orange and pink balloons and kids shouting at the top of their lungs. Hands started to shove rubber shells of balloons at me, indicating with pursed lips that I was to blow them up.

“Teacher!” one student shouted from across the room. I looked up as she let a blown balloon fly from her hand, the orange rubber dancing around in the air until it flailed to the ground.

I laughed. This was the chaos I had come to love. It seemed only appropriate that minutes earlier I had admitted to my friend in the café across the street that I was going to stay another year. I had taken a big breath inward and said I’m going to stay as quickly as possible. I had to say it out loud to really believe myself, believe that this was what I really wanted. I had then said it slower—I’m going to stay. I had gotten over my fear of putting off medical school for another year, my fear of what people back home would think when I told them that I was staying in this very foreign country to continue teaching. I got over the fear of being away from my family and home for yet another year and finally said what had been in my heart for months and which, for a long time I had tried to stifle. I love it here. I love teaching. I love my students. I’m not ready to leave this all behind quite yet.

It was as if my kids somehow knew that day that I had decided to stay, even though I hadn’t said a word to anyone else. They continued to throw the balloons into the air, giggling and laughing. They thrust balloons into my hand one after the other until the room was filled with pink and orange floating circles. At the end of twenty minutes I was out breath and my fingers were sore from tying so many balloons. Yet, I couldn’t stop smiling. I wanted to bottle this moment and keep it in my pocket forever. This was pure joy. And as I reluctantly tried to calm my students down so we could at least do a little classwork that day, I couldn’t help but think this was not simply a celebration for Children’s Day, but a celebration for me. A celebration of all that had already happened this year. A celebration of everything I had accomplished, and the bigger adventures that were still yet to come.

One of my first graders Earth took this picture on my phone right before class without me noticing.

 

 

To Fist Pumping and Bungee Jumping: A Tribute

I found out this weekend that my dear friend Galen passed away. I have known Galen since my first summer at Camp Wapiyapi, a camp my siblings and I started attending after my sister was diagnosed with cancer when we were thirteen.

Galen and the boys.

Galen and the boys.

Throughout our friendship Galen has taught me many things. He has taught me the precise way to fist pump to country music and hip hop songs alike. He has taught me how to laugh so that when you are in a room with friends you are all on the floor holding your sides and gasping for air. He has taught me to how to live life, no matter the circumstances.  Galen had been fighting cancer for a long time and even after doctors said he didn’t have much time left, Galen showed everyone just how much time he could have. He defied everyone’s expectations, showing us just what it means to “beat” cancer.

But I think the biggest thing Galen has taught me is how to smile. How to smile when through the dark, hidden by trees and big sweatshirts, you see a friend making out in the camp coffeeshop and you all can’t help but giggle and run away. How to smile when you’re playing a round of mafia and suddenly Galen thinks it will be funny to convince everyone that my brother is the mafia when really he is nothing at all (and Galen isn’t either—he just wants to see everyone smile). Galen has taught me how to smile when there is seemingly nothing to smile about. He has taught me just how powerful a smile can be. And now, living in the “Land of Smiles”, I find myself comparing every smile to his, that big grin that breaks across his face at the smallest joke, the tiniest wink, the mere mention of singing “Salomi” at the campfire.

I found out Galen had passed away just after I had come back to my hotel from bungee jumping. I sat on the porch outside, unable to move, guilty that I had just jumped 150 feet, screaming my heart out, while my friends and family were at home remembering Galen. I desperately scrolled through Facebook messages and pictures, hoping that somehow my friends’ words would make me feel closer to home. Closer to Galen. I wanted to write something myself. But the words escaped me. I thought to the hour prior, my hands shaking at the top of the platform, my heart beating furiously as the photographer urged me to the edge.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

I took a deep and heavy breath.

            No, I thought. I am not ready.

“Yes,” I said.

“Three . . .”

I just have to go. I just have to jump.

“Two . . .”

I can’t think about it.

“One . . . “

I lifted my arms up and without thinking I leaned forward. Off of the platform. Falling into the sky. Hearing the wind whistling past my ears. A small scream escaped me. And then I opened my eyes. I was alive. I was incredibly alive.

I smiled big and wide—like Galen. I danced off the cement walkway and jumped to high five the photographer at the bottom, handing me a “Certificate of my Bravery”.

At the time I was so proud of myself. I had bungee jumped. I had jumped from a platform 150 meters off the ground and I had done it without hesitation, something so uncharacteristically me. Me—who has been known to sit at the top of a rock wall for twenty minutes (multiple times) because the fear of ascending doesn’t scare me so much as gliding down. That me had jumped from 150 feet without ever looking back.

But as I sat on the cold cement porch of my hostel in northern Thailand, I realized it was not just me who had pushed me off that platform. Somehow I felt Galen had been there, with his giant smile and thrill for life. He took hold of that Brenna that would have held onto the rails of the platform long after the photographer had counted down to one. He took hold of her and told her to just jump. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. Galen showed me that I shouldn’t wait to let go. He showed me how to look fear in the face, look at an impossibly far jump, and just say, Alright let’s do it. And smile. He showed me how the whistling of wind in my ears was the greatest gift I could ever have because it meant I was free.


I am saddened that Galen is no longer with us to show us that killer smile in person. But I am relieved that he is finally free. Finally free to bungee jump and fist pump and dance to every single country song ever written.

Thank you Galen for sharing your smile. Thank you for showing me how to let go and just jump, not matter how scary it seems. Thank you for showing me how to be free.

Galen is on the far right (of course in a cowboy hat).

Galen is on the far right (of course in a cowboy hat).

IMG_1106The story behind the picture above — At the end of our weekend in Chiang Mai we visited a popular temple called Wat Chedi Luang.  At many temples they have yellow cotton sheets for people to write their names and addresses.  Once the sheet is filled, the monks drape the fabric around different parts of the temple and pray for the people held within the threads. I only found it appropriate to put who I was really thinking of that day.  Love ya, G.

Two Girls and a Computer

Warning: There will be no pictures of rolling hills or breathtaking white sand beaches.  Not even a single picture of a wide eyed, bright toothed smiled little Asian child.  Don’t let this hinder you from continuing to read.

It’s strange how the world works sometimes.  I was just about to write a blog post, inspired by some of the days that were turning around me.  A day where I walked upon a parade in the middle of a Sunday and watched, from my bicycle, the sparkling outfits and dazzling hair do’s skate by.  A morning where I spotted a monk with his bright orange fabric wrapped around his chest and torso and I couldn’t help but imagine how he must have dipped that cloth in saffron and cinnamon, letting it soak in the sun for days until the fabric was ripe with color. A Thanksgiving day where my first graders swarmed me as I walked into the classroom, thrusting gifts of plastic light-up snowmen, tiny blue ballerinas complete with a music box, homemade cards with imagined families and giant turkeys drawn on the inside, and even real red roses, into my arms.

But all this inspiration was put on hold when my computer suddenly stopped working.  Instead of writing in a little café with an overly sweet latte in my hand, I was on the phone to Apple for hours at a time.  Quite honestly I thought: This is it.  I can’t go on.  Life simply cannot pass without Teacher Brenna having a computer constantly by her side.  I called my mother the other night and when she asked what I was doing I had to admit that I had just eaten an entire tub of ice cream (granted they are MUCH smaller here).  “It’s like I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend,” I said.  “Or rather he broke up with me.”

I was stressed.  I wasn’t happy.  And not even my kids’ bright smiles and crazy antics couldn’t cheer me up.

Somehow though, those moments of torment and distress seemed to cease the other night after dinner.

I was by myself, hoping that some solitude and a blank notebook would give me some relief.  I had to chuckle to myself when an old woman came to share my table with me because the table she sat at with her family was too full.  “I’ll sit with the American,” she said in Thai, not thinking that I could understand her.  I nodded as she sat down at the table, a mutual agreement that we were both okay with this arrangement.

I continued writing as if nothing had happened until I heard a small crash from the front of the restaurant.  When I looked up to see the source of the noise I saw that it was the owner of the restaurant’s younger daughter falling down on the brick floor.   Now, I must tell you that I frequent this establishment quite often (maybe 2 or 3 times a week) and I have come to know the family who owns the restaurant very well.  The older daughter, Dear, who is say maybe 17 years old, always takes my order and will come over after I have my food to teach me a little Thai.  Her younger sister, Dew, around the age of four, always scuttles around us, making fish faces at me and showing me her little plastic toys, but she is always too shy to answer my questions, whether they be in English or in Thai.

Now, when I looked up to see Dew’s hair all askew, brushing off her shirt as she was standing up, I made a fish face at her, thinking she would do her normal turn-and-act-like-I’m-not-there move.  This time, however, she came up to me and immediately starting chattering away in Thai.  I had never heard the girl say more than two words strung together.  Now she couldn’t shut up!  Her friend trailed behind her, a girl with short, shorn hair and wildly big eyes.  She started touching my arm hair and fondling me like a new Barbie doll.

Soon we had the entire restaurant looking our way.  I’m sure this was quite the sight.  A tall white woman playing with two small Thai children in the middle of a restaurant.  The girls crowded into my seat next to me as I ate and soon we were using a pencil case as a telephone, counting each other’s fingers in Thai and English and testing how much Teacher Brenna really could say and understand in Thai.

When I got up to go, the girls blocked the entrance to the restaurant, throwing up their thumb and forefinger to form a gun.  They held each other’s hands and stretched their arms wide, giggling and throwing their heads back so far I thought they might tumble over into the street.  They asked if they could ride on my motorbike with me, saying that was the only way I could leave.  They followed me down the block to see, not a motorbike, but much to their dismay, my orange bicycle.  When I mounted the bike and turned to go home, they ran the remaining length of the sidewalk, their small legs pumping against the pavement.  They waved goodbye to me desperately, arms flailing against the air.  They shouted Good bye!!! See you later!  And I turned to see smiles stuck to their faces.

In the cool brisk air riding home that night, I realized how futile technology is.  How had my happiness for the past few days revolved around a block of silver metal?  How could I ever think that a computer was so important that I thought without one life could not move forward?  It was as if the computer was a part of me and it stopping meant that I couldn’t keep walking, like a leg being amputated.  It seems silly to me now that we as a society have become so focused on our technology, so centered around our computers and our phones that we miss out on what’s around us.

I don’t want this to turn into some mushy story with a moral.  I know how very important technology is and I have felt incredibly grateful for it during my time abroad.  It has allowed me to connect with family and friends and make this whole living half way across the globe SO much easier.  But in that moment with those two girls’ arms waving viciously in the night air and screaming at the top of their lungs “GOOD BYE!” I felt this surge of happiness that no machine can ever give me, no matter how powerful or necessary.

I came to accept that my computer was broken and no matter how many tears I shed it just may not be fixable; that yes, I might have to shell out a little (or a lot of) cash for a new one.  Ironic then, how the next day I receive a call from a friend here in Nan saying that she has an old computer lying around after receiving a new one as an early Christmas gift.  “I heard you might be in use of one,” she said.

Yes.

Funny how the world can give us perspective and then bring us exactly what we need.

P.S.  If you were wondering how I was writing this post in the first place it is due to the very generous spirit of another friend, a friend who went on a trip a week ago and gave me her computer to use during her time gone.  The world has blessed me with some pretty incredible friends her in Nan.

Grateful.

Glory be to God for dappled things. 

– William Wordsworth

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It seems strange to me that just last year (and three years prior to that) I would be flying home now, just about to sleep in my own bed. Just about to hug my brother and sister at the airport before being embraced in my mother’s arms. Just about to smell the thick scent of turkey roasting in the morning. Just about to taste the soft cinnamon crumbles of my mother’s coffee cake and feel the steam of a fresh cup of coffee underneath my nose. Just about.

And even though I am not on a plane home right now, I feel like I am just about to do all of these things. Even though I won’t do a single one this year.

It is so odd to me that tomorrow—yes, tomorrow—is Thanksgiving. Is it strange that I’m not sad I won’t be home for the first year ever? Somehow it feels like this is the way it has always been. And I have to keep asking myself if this is really the first Thanksgiving I won’t be home, the first Thanksgiving I won’t even eat turkey, the first Thanksgiving it won’t be Thanksgiving at all.

I have told my classes about this holiday we have in America. This holiday where we spend the entire day gathered around the oven as we watch the turkey roast for hours on end. (They gasp when I tell them it takes about five hours to cook a turkey.) This holiday where family and friends sit around the table and eat the biggest meal of our lives. This holiday that started with Indians and Pilgrims and somewhere along the way we forgot all that and just gave thanks.

I watch as my students make Indian hats out of colored construction paper, cutting and pasting the paper feathers to their paper headbands. I watch as they carefully write the words I am thankful for, one word on each feather, and then choose one thing. One thing they are thankful for.

They are thankful for family. They are thankful for cartoons. They are thankful for mothers and fathers and dogs. They are thankful for friends. They are thankful for Teacher Brenna.

I cannot express how much it makes me smile when they choose their one thing to be thankful for as me. I am thankful for Teacher Brenna, their feathers read.

But I don’t know if they will ever fully understand how thankful I am for them. Each of them has changed my life in unspeakable ways. When I think of any one of my students I see a permanent smile glued to their face. I can see their eyes full of color, or hear their laugh, or see their socks loose around their toes, or their little legs jump up and down as I they see me for the first time that day.

I am so grateful. This Thanksgiving I may not wake up at home with my mother downstairs on the couch and my brother and sister asleep just down the hallway, but I will wake up in a new home of sorts. A home that has made me more grateful than I think I have ever been before.

I am thankful for students who make me excited to wake up and teach everyday. I am thankful for teachers who support me and encourage me when I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing in the classroom. I am thankful for friends who have become my community and support system in this very foreign country.

I am thankful for Thailand. I am thankful for long motorbike rides through rolling mountains where every turn reveals even more beauty than the curve before. I am thankful for giant Buddhas that sparkle in the waning afternoon sunlight, the mountains thick with green behind it. I am thankful for bright pieces of fabric that dry in the moist afternoon air. I am thankful for white paper lanterns that burn into the night sky and lit candles placed on banana boats that twinkle as they bob down the river. I am thankful for homemade witches hats and Frankenstein masks, costumes thrown together the night before Halloween, but yet still make me smile when I cannot recognize my student beneath the scattered glitter and scribbled crayon marks. I am thankful for nights where I fall asleep early and wake up late, exhausted by smiling and laughing and loving my students a little too much.

This country and this experience has pushed me more than I could ever imagine. But with each challenge and obstacle, it continues to show me that I am more than capable. I have learned so much here and some days I look at myself and barely recognize the person I have become. I am grateful for this. I am grateful for adversity and lessons, frustration and patience. I am grateful for the smiles and hugs that make it all worth it. I am grateful that my students are thankful for me.

So even though I will not be at home this year watching the parade in my pajamas, helping my mother hoist the turkey from sink to pan, getting my hands dirty and moist from mixing the stuffing, and getting so full that I think my stomach will burst if I have another bite, I will be surrounded by friends who have shown me the power of community and children who teach me each and every day that the capacity for human love is never ending.

some crazy first grade princesses on Halloween

some crazy first grade princesses on Halloween

banana boats that were let down the river on Loi Krathong, a Buddhist holiday celebrated as representation of letting go

banana boats that were let down the river on Loi Krathong, a Buddhist holiday celebrated as representation of letting go

first grade witches

first grade witches

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motorbike ride through the beautiful mountains of Thailand

homemade masks

homemade masks

letting my lantern go on Loi Krathong

letting my lantern go on Loi Krathong

Travel Tales.

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Travel Tales.  A simple title for a breathtaking three weeks spent in paradise.

I returned from my trip about 2 and a half weeks ago but I have been so busy with planning Halloween parties, celebrating Loi Krathong (a beautiful Buddhist holiday in Thailand), and making a trip to Chiang Mai to reunite with some fellow Loggers that I have been unable to write a blog post.
Now to remind you all I headed out for a three-week vacation to Indonesia and the southern islands in Thailand after finishing my first semester of teaching. It’s impossible to put this entire trip into words and I wish that I could describe each and every magical day for you. Instead, I have taken some short excerpts from my journal I kept along the way. I think this will give you all an intimate look at some of the thoughts I was having while traveling while also revealing some of my greatest adventures.
Now, keep in mind—Number One: These entries do not include all of my adventures in my trip, including a rafting trip and an early morning volcano hike in Ubud, Bali. I will try to include pictures of some of these obviously wonderful things I am keeping out. Number Two: This was a three week trip with many breathtaking moments and thus this post is VERY LONG; brace yourself.

And as always, enjoy.


JOGJAKARTA, INDONESIA

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October 7th Jogjakarta, Indonesia

We rose at 4 am this morning to see the sun rise on the top of Borobudur, an old abandoned Buddhist temple just outside the city. My flashlight weakly lit the stone steps as I ascended. My legs already burned from the short exertion at such an early hour. Once at the top, we waited, quiet and patient. I was a bit nervous as it began to brighten that it would be one of those sunrises devoid of color, the clouds slowly growing brighter until the sun appeared and the day began.
But it was not so. It was a subtle sunrise, certainly; not one so vivid with color that my camera could pick up every hue and tone in the sky. But it was in its softness, its quiet and humble way it seemed to dissipate the sky and light up the day that I found its beauty.
Fog hung heavy on the ground, the thick steam rising to fill the gaps between every tree and make the once hard edges of the mountains surrounding us soft again, so you didn’t know where the mountains started and the sky ended.
My camera clicked as I tried to snap every picture I could, but I turned frustrated as none of them came out. They were all too dark. They were blurry. They showed the stupas black but the sky bright white. After too many tries, I gave up. It didn’t matter. Even if I got a good picture, I could never truly capture this. I could never in a picture show the steam rising from the earth; the exact soft pale pink of the sky that looked like human flesh, as if the yet unseen sun were attempting to breath human life into the new day. I could never capture the extreme sense of peace I had, leaning back on one of the 72 ancient stupas that filled this temple, a statue of a Buddha kept hidden inside each one.
Even now, I know these words don’t give justice to what I have experienced this morning. But I hope I can hold on to that feeling of peace that overcame me on the top of that temple. I hope I can hold on that feeling of uninhibited gratitude as the sun finally poked through the clouds over an hour later, slowly rising in the sky, a pink glowing disk unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I hope I can remember that feeling of my easy breaths and thoughtless mind as I saw the sun shed its pink glow and shine bright white, a line of stupas becoming clearer and even more beautiful in the light.

stupas lit up by the rising sun.

stupas lit up by the rising sun.

the entire temple

the entire temple

climbing down after the sunrise

October 8th Jogjakarta, Indonesia

There is so much culture here, with girls in colorful headscarves and others in long patterned Batik skirts, thick fabrics with printed flowers and embroidered geometric triangles and lines running vertically. This city is a clash of Spanish, Arabic, semi-African, and a little Asian—at least this is how it feels to me. The English alphabet surrounds me and the meals of white rice and fried chicken are so reminiscent of my time in Chile that I can’t help but feel the Latin American vibes of this city. But then I hear the call for prayer and as I pass one of the dozens of mosques that dot the street, I see an older man in his small cap, kneeled on a mat, his head to the floor, and I cannot forget the deep Muslim roots that run through this city. And somehow, despite the fact that I have never been to Africa, I feel as if these crowded street roads with children playing in dirt colored clothes and cheap plastic balls is reflective of children with much darker skin playing in similar streets in similar cities half a world away. This is all so different from Thailand in such a refreshing way. There are things here I have never seen before, religions I have never interacted with. After only one day of driving through the streets in an air-conditioned bus I am utterly in love with this mysterious yet enchanting city.

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a few pictures from the parade/festival celebrating the anniversary of Jogjakarta

a few pictures from the parade/festival celebrating the anniversary of Jogjakarta

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October 9th Jogjakarta, Indonesia

I don’t know what it is about this city, but I really feel at home here. It’s a little rough around the edges with dirty streets and store front windows that look like they are straight out of my high school textbook that taught me the definition of a third world developing country. I think I must feel at home because the people are incredibly nice.
We went to a festival last night that celebrated the anniversary of the founding of the city. Amidst all the passing costumes, dancing puppets, and kids roller blading in the street, we met a woman named Das, who after talking to for about an hour or so, invited to take us around the city and introduce us to Indonesian food.
And so this morning she picked us up in a van outside our hostel, a small breakfast of jellied confections for us on the front seat and an itinerary in hand. We headed first to the local Sultan Palace, getting a rapid tour before going shopping in a silver shop with homemade rings and necklaces. After a quick lunch of hundred year old eggs (I’m not kidding) and fried chicken we went to an “ancient” Islamic temple built in 2010 before going to one of the crown jewels of the city—Pramabanan Temple. Pramabanan is a Hindu temple built in 700 A.D. and it was here where Das stopped to talk to three local boys shaking fruit from the trees. She talked to the boys as if they were already friends and before we knew it, she held out three apple-like fruit for us to try. We could barely get four steps before a local woman sweeping the street asked if we wanted more. “I can get a few from the tree,” she said in Indonesian as she pointed to the tree branches above her. Das nodded to her and said no thank you after what seemed like a three minute conversation “just catching up,” Das claimed.
“Do you know her?” we asked Das.
“No,” she said. “That is just how everyone is here in Jogja.”

In front of Pramabanan Temple.

In front of Pramabanan Temple.


BALI, INDONESIA

At the top of a volcano which we hiked at 3 a.m. in order to watch the sunrise.

At the top of a volcano which we hiked at 3 a.m. in order to watch the sunrise.

Oct. 10th Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

We had our first day in Bali yesterday. Wow! How incredible it was. I had forgotten what all of this could feel like—the sand sticking to my legs and arms, getting caught in my bikini so that even after I have taken a shower, I can still feel little gravelly grains on my chest and legs as I dress.
After soaking in the late afternoon sun on the beach, music blasting from the portable stereo we brought, I decided to go on a short run down the length of the beach. The sun was a golden orb beginning to sink into the ocean. The water was drawn out and calm so that when I ran along its edge the sand was hard beneath my toes and almost no footprints remained in my wake.
Muslim women sat on the beach in their full black burkha and blue-rimmed sunglasses. Their husbands (although I only saw one man) sat next to them in tan shorts and a polo shirt. The women seemed silent as their children ran around their feet. Sand brushed over the women’s black silk covers. I felt conscious as I ran across the beach in nothing but a t-shirt and shorts. I didn’t even have shoes on.

October 11th Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

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I played soccer on the beach tonight. Only minutes before I was thinking of how much I missed being able to play almost whenever I wanted to. And then suddenly I saw men, their skin dark and tan and the words from their mouths sounding scrambled to my ears, pulling goals down onto the beach and placing piles of jerseys onto the hard sand. I asked if I could play. When they said yes, I pulled a damp red jersey over my bikini top and slipped into a pair of shorts. The Indonesian men seemed impressed with me—a white girl playing soccer with all the boys. Mind me, I was not the only foreigner to join the match. Both my friend Chris had slipped into a jersey along with a few other German tourists.
The game started. The ball felt slippery when I received a pass. My skin stung a little when I made a pass myself up the beach, the ball bouncing awkwardly on the hard sand to the man near the goal. But as the sun sunk into the sea and my feet ran along the hard wet sand, avoiding shells poking through the ground, I felt supremely happy. I felt as if I was in a dream because something this beautiful, this magical, simply could not be real life.

Oct. 12th Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

I love the smell here—a stream of jasmine incense and flower petals. It hit me as soon as we landed in Bali and I can even smell it now, a soft hint in the air. There is meditative music playing somewhere in the distance. I can only faintly hear it from my spot on the porch of our hotel room. The music mixed with incense creates a dream like atmosphere. I am so grateful for all I have around me—this opportunity to teach, and more importantly, learn in Asia. My pen races across the page and I feel at peace, as if the world has stopped momentarily and I can see everyone around me frozen—stiff and beautiful.

We went to a monkey sanctuary where Chris was mauled by monkeys : )

We went to a monkey sanctuary where Chris was mauled by monkeys : )


GILI ISLANDS

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October 14th Gili Islands, Indonesia

I have just eaten lunch. I am sitting right on the ocean in a bean bag chair and a small table sunken into the sand. I need to keep asking myself what I could have possibly done to deserve all this. I am sitting on what I imagine to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The ocean is a crystal blue, like something out of a movie. Boats painted blue, red, and cotton candy pink bob up and down in the water. Some look as if they have been passed down in fisherman families for generations, their paint chipped and peeling, the wood of the boat seeming to rot in the salty water. Two or three boats have “Life is Good” painted on the side and I can’t help but agree.
We came to the Gili Islands, a small set of islands off the coast of Bali, yesterday. We took a magical hour and a half boat ride through blue skies and even bluer water, my hair whipping in my face and my skin turning red in the sun. I could not stop smiling.
As soon as we arrived on the island, kicking off our shoes and holding our bags above our heads to deboard the boat, not onto a dock but straight into ankle deep water on the beach, I felt like I had walked into the most wondrous universe I have ever seen. It seems like this island has slipped back in time with no paved roads and only bicycles and horse drawn buggies to get around its small perimeter. I feel like I have been removed from the world entirely. And for now I am totally okay with that.

the perfect lunch spot

the perfect lunch spot

October 15th Gili Islands, Indonesia

I am in the water, cooling off after reading in the sun. Three local girls, with long stringy hair already wet from splashing in the ocean, laugh and run into the sparkly blue water, the black sand covering their legs washing away easily as they immerge. They swim over and introduce themselves to us—Nana, Lita, and Nila. Beautiful names that stay on my tongue along with the salt water that fills my lips each time I dive under. They bounce in the water. One of their skirts lifts up, the gray fabric floating around her. It makes her seem like an underwater dancer, something painted in a picture that hangs in a small art museum in upper Manhattan. They swim off and I watch as they interact with other tan girls in small colored bikinis, practicing the little English they know. What a strange life it would be to grow up on this tiny island, a western tourist world constantly surrounding you. Blonde girls and big muscular boys walking the lengths of your beaches every day.
After the girls leave I continue to swim. The water is clear and my feet dangle beneath me, kicking back and forth to keep me afloat. Fish swim two feet from me, their scales glint in the sun and I am in awe just as they swim away. I point to them as if this will make them more real. But when I look down again they are gone and I ask myself if they were really ever there. The sun is warm, the water cold. This is not real, I think.

October 16th Gili Islands, Indonesia

Tonight the stars were faint pinpricks of silver in a black sheet that extended between our white sand beach and the island next to ours. The water curled to shore, the sound of water rushing on to land and then retreating again, leaving small pieces of coral behind—a gift. If you looked closely there were blue stars that dotted the sand just after the water retreated. It was an algae that stuck to our feet if we walked along the beach, leaving glowing footprints that resembled the liquid from glow sticks that stain your hands after you break them open in a mad 11-year-old rush to understand what’s inside. We dipped our toes in the water, hoping the blue algae would stick to the bottom of our feet. We padded across the sand and waited for the little dots to glow in the dark, a reflection of the night sky right under our fingertips.

October 17th Gili Islands, Indonesia

It is evening and everyone is napping after a long but wonderful day of snorkeling. I saw a sea turtle—a real, live sea turtle. Its shell was so breathtakingly beautiful, as if crafted by a fashion or jeweler designer. When I saw first saw it I forgot to breath for a moment.
The turtle floated slowly through the water, it’s green fins flapping lightly so that you could still clearly make out the geometric pattern sketched into its water prone skin (the same pattern etched on its shell). I floated above it for forty or fifty seconds in awe at its quiet and powerful manner. And although twenty other tourists swam around me, kicking their flippers, their eyes going wide as they saw the turtle for the first time, and a few men above me started snapping pictures with their waterproof cameras, I felt like I was completely and utterly alone with this beautiful and mysterious creature.

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SINGAPORE

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October 19th Singapore

We explored Singapore this afternoon between our flights from Bali and to Phuket, Thailand. The city, from the little we saw was superbly clean. At first it was hard to tell who actually lived in Singapore and who was just visiting. Just on the metro ride, I saw what to me seemed like a cultural textbook flashing before my eyes. Women in saris sat next to schoolgirls in headscarves and Chinese businessmen with phones in their hands. White men strolled the streets outside with their white children and the girl across from me with her red hair chatted with an Asian looking man in English. Oh yeah, that’s right, I had to remind myself, English is the national language here. Strange. What I came to realize after riding the metro for about an hour is that this city/country is sort of like a melting pot for Asia, with Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, white expats, and a few other nationalities I couldn’t place right away living here.
We didn’t have much time so we only went to the mall to eat before heading to Bayfront Park where giant statues of mangrove trees stood, flowers and foliage twisting through their metal structures so it seemed as if the trees were really real. On top of these structures were solar panels and inside a boiler that turned organic waste into energy. With a giant modern mall and these beautiful trees around me, I felt as if I had walked into a Western world stuck in the middle of Asia.
Now I’m ready to head back to Thailand and explore the beaches of the beautiful country I have called home for the past five months.

Tree pose in front of a giant tree.

Tree pose in front of a giant tree.


KOH PHI PHI

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October 21st Phuket, Thailand

We are back in Thailand. After spending a day and two nights at Kata Beach in Phuket, we decided we wanted to make the additional trek to Koh Phi Phi. What a good decision this was! The cloudy ferry ride this morning ended with us circling Maya Bay, a picturesque cove of giant rocks jutting from the ocean, their cliff faces laced with green foliage. An announcement over the ferry intercom stating that we were approaching Koh Phi Phi made all the passengers creep from their spots on the boat to take pictures on the deck. Couples in matching t-shirts took turns taking photos of one another with the giant rocks in the background. Women in long dresses and colorful sunhats made their boyfriends snap pictures of them with the bright blue ocean behind them, telling them to include a few rays of sun and make sure to only get her good side.
After arriving and getting a hotel room we are now at this beautiful, white sand beach so totally different than Gili, but breathtaking in its own right. We are in a circular cove where it seems like the big ocean swells cannot harm us. The water doesn’t start for another 50 or 100 feet from the beach we sit on, and thus, some boats sit sunken into the soft mud-like sand as they wait for the tide to come in. When I do walk to the water, my feet pad along the strange beach/ocean floor and I can see pock marks in the ground. Crabs peak out from the holes and if I look from a distance I can see them scuttling along the sand, making conversations with another.
When you finally reach the water you must trudge through it for another 25 feet before it even comes to your knees. At this point I we (Haley and Sam are with me) are so exhausted that we plop our sweaty, sun bathed bodies into the water that feels more like old bathwater than the cold blue current we grew accustomed to during our five days on the Gili Islands.

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a boat sunken into the sand at low tide.

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October 26th Nan, Thailand

We are finally back in Nan. It felt so good last night, even arriving at 3 am on a night bus from Chiang Mai, to walk the tiled floor of the hallway before opening the door to my own room and collapsing on my bed. I have missed this place so very much and it feels good to be home. Yes, I think after being away for so long this place is finally starting to feel like a real home.

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