In the Blink of an Eye

Snippets from Another World

I thought this would be daunting. Talking about it is a task, one that can sound a bit “narrated”(impersonal?) if I’m spewing out the same sort of stuff, but can also, conversely be an incredible story, my story, if I get really into it. If I tell the truth. If I meet someone who’s also travelled, or someone I’m close to, or for whatever reason, I really want to open up to, and allow a them an insight into my journey.

Thailand is a far off, mysterious land, no more. It’s been traversed by many a traveller, young and old. It’s path is beaten blue. Tourism is beginning to really ‘kick off’ over there, and there are pros and cons as with just about everything.

I’ll give you a brief summary of what’s to come, because I’m not going to do as I’d planned and write about my whole experience and upload it in one go. I may aswell write a novel with that logic. Originally, of course, I’d planned to write as I went along, like a blog. But my laptop decided to break down in my first week when I was just getting used to my surroundings and did not feel like looking for a reliable laptop repair service. But maybe this has turned out for the better, because I can tell you what I’ve learned, and focus on what was important.

I don’t know if I believe in fate, or the randomness of the universe. Maybe, as Forrest Gump, with his infinite, if shrouded, wisdom, tells us, “I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.” I think I believe in beautiful coincidences. A little like the stars. Something that didn’t necessarily have to happen, in fact, all the odds were against it, but, it still did, and it is so beautiful, something so hard to believe, that it ‘must have been fate!’. But maybe they’re just beautiful coincidences.

So, before you get bored, and run off to do the next thing on your mental list of ‘things-to-do’, just give me a chance to tell you what’s to come. Like a blurb:

  1. A motorbike

  2. Culture ‘shock’ (but more so acceptance and interest than shock!)

  3. An array of orange clad monks

  4. Getting used to sweating continuously

  5. But showering twice a day-along with the Thai oxymoron (incredible sense of modesty, combined with a blatant lack of privacy)

  6. A country in which nature is still fighting to dominate

  7. A disgusting show of animal cruelty (as opposed to our very well hidden industry-because that’s what they are to us, let’s face it, an industry, a product)

  8. The never-ending menu which makes you crave western food (although I loved Thai food)

  9. Thai, Laos, and Burmese people. Variations across the country.  And tourists, other volunteers and strangers I met.

  10. The gentle giants, synonymous with Thailand; Chained up to running free

  11. And reluctantly (I didn't  want an eleventh thing) 'mai pen rai'-the relaxed and people-oriented way that Thai people are, which is pretty amazing. Also 'Thai Time,' as I like to call it.

I’m going to brief you on my overall trip, and then tell you what I’ve learned-really what I’ve very unexpectedly gained from travelling to the other side of the world:

  • 2 long plane rides (Dublin-Dubai-Bangkok) (8 and 7 hours)

  • 5 days in Chon Buri, one of my best friend, Tanya’s hometown, a suburb of Bangkok-spent being acclimatised to Thailand, it’s people, culture, and food, in the most loving yet pushing me sort of way

  • Flight up to Udon Thani, and onto Nong Khai, where I would spend my  next 8 weeks

  • 1 training week (3 days of actual training)

  • 2 weeks of dynamic teaching with a qualified and almost retired, but exuberant music teacher (in the local primary school-Hatkam- in the morning, and the Temple school 3 days a week, for 2 hours in the afternoon, and teaching a  mixture of IT and english in the evening to adults), and meeting a ‘soul-mate’ sort of friend twice my age

  • A long weekend in the lush Chiang Mai (my favourite Thai city),  including elephants and an exhilarating, windy route to a legendary temple on a mountain

  • A week and a half teaching at the centre in Nong Khai, helping with roleplays, and acting in front of a camera (a big ‘no-no’ for me), and again the adult evening lesson (now only english conversation lesson with 2 monks)

  • Meeting the new volunteers, and being the experienced one to guide them

  • 3 weeks of teaching again, mainly in Hatkam, and also the evening lesson with the monks

  • A long weekend (due to a national holiday) in Ayutthaya (the old capital of Thailand, full of old ruins)

  • A day out to the rice fields (the Thai co-founder’s family’s farm)

  • Going to Koh Lanta (spent 5 days there) (1 night in Bangkok on the way over and back-I had to fly Udon Thani-Bangkok-Krabi)

  • 1 night and morning in Dubai-and it did not persuade me to come back

So now, for what I’ve learned-and trust me, I really did not plan on learning anything like what I did. It was not in my itinerary, which was more like: Go to Thailand, volunteer, experience a different culture, have a ball out there, see one of my best friend’s country, do something with my preciously long summer (of which I don’t have too many left) apart from working...and also, don’t work for the whole summer (because I just think work is so fulfilling...I really hope you can sense sarcasm in my typed words, because nothing will replace it, I’m sorry).

  • To be brave

  • To love so many moments, even if they’re not comfortable, like the cold

  • To love (people)

  • To not judge a book by it’s cover-really, sometimes the cover can hide a truly opposing story

  • To not let ‘life’ get in the way, and DO what I really want, because, at the end of the day, that’s what really makes up my life, the life that was supposedly getting in my way-so basically, to live

  • How to communicate with people, even if they only know a little english, and I know a minute amount of their language

  • To go with the flow

  • To chill, not stress over everyday things, that  happen to everyone (like being late, knowing what time your train/bus is at, not having an exact plan for what you’re going to do, etc.)

  • How to get just about anywhere (I’m quite orientally challenged)

  • And how to get back when lost (refer back to my 6th bullet point)

  • How important it is to meet people where they’re at (re.language, personal journey, interests etc.)

I want you to know that what I’ve done was something absolutely worth every extra hour’s work I did to fund my trip (although it turned out to be extremely cheap after buying the flight and paying to volunteer, including meals and accommodation). It was worth all of my (and, admittedly, at least at the start, my mom’s too) planning. It was even worth the worry and nerves right before I left-delving, a little, into the unknown. It was truly an experience. And I would advise anyone who can, to do it, or do something like this, which pushes you out of your comfort zone, gives you the opportunity to try so many new things, and be happy doing so, meeting new and different people, and getting the chance to learn something, or develop yourself further. This was just about the best decision of my life. And I’m incredibly grateful that I was in the position to be able to do it. I won’t ever forget it, or most of all, the people I met-the temporary family I had. So feel free to tell me to shut up if I go on about it too much. Because right now, everyone is asking about it, naturally. But soon, they will forget, and they’ll all move on with our lives. But I won’t. And don’t feel bad if I don’t tell you a whole lot about it right now. I’m sometimes tired. And I’d rather it come out naturally, over the years, over my life, as little stories, as what’s relevant to now, or as an interesting snippet of conversation when it’s needed. We all love a story. And I have plenty to tell. Just give me some time. And I’ll become a storyteller.

Mekong River at sunset, Nong Khai