Friday, 23 May 2014

Travel: Chiang Mai Week 2

Day Eight, May 12

Visited New Life Center in the morning. Although i've thought about this on several occasions, it's always a personal struggle to fully comprehend or come to terms with the fact that the girls my age had once dealt with being sold as sexual objects, while i was fully comfortable living my life in Singapore. If fate were but a little twisted, i could be the one born into a severely underprivileged family, and sold into prostitution. The thought is always somewhat sobering. Went for a leisurely evening run and I was awed by the scenic beauty of the countryside. God's creation is truly breathtaking...

Day Nine, May 13

Some picture's from yesterday's night adventure to a "higher end" supermarket. Originally intended to go for street food but they were all closed due to the sudden downpour ): The ride back home on the back of Pi Tom's pick-up truck was delightfully novel though. Gazing up into the vast, limitless night sky made me feel somewhat trifling, causing me to consider the measure of the masterful One that created this sublime universe.

First day at home stay tonight... Fah-sai (the little girl) was a bundle of joy to have around! She's a lovely child, and especially bright too. It was exceptionally heartwarming to see that despite the fact that Fah-sai's family did not own much, a distinct sense of pride and contentment in the little they did have could be drawn. Any lack of physical comfort in their house was made up by the warmth and love they had for one another --a most defining feature of that household. 

Day Ten, May 14

Very very tired. The kids at the preschool are as adorable as they are active, and the weather was extremely unforgiving, which caused me to feel lethargic the entire day. It was a productive day regardless, only I feel thoroughly exhausted at present. It's extremely difficult to entertain the notion of the next 6-7 weeks being so physically demanding. I suppose the lack of intellectual stimulation also becomes deadening after awhile... i'm never quite in the mood to sit down and read properly because the conditions here are so unconducive for work. Not at all eager about admitting this but recent developments have led me to conclude that i might be homesick. Making a conscious effort to adapt to the Thai lifestyle but it's so much slower and completely different from what i am typically accustomed to. It really does take work to not work. Sigh, life and it's paradoxes.

Visited Pi Moot's (Fah-sai's dad) mango farm after school and it was lovely. Can't recall the last time I've been on a farm...it was truly an honour to witness such a magnificent sunset too, one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.  

Day Eleven, May 15

Getting used to the wailing toddlers by now. Working at the preschool is insanely draining but sometimes a cuddle or toothy grin from a toddler is all it takes to make the day's work worth it. The feeling of satisfaction and warmth you get when a kid crawls into your arms and snuggle's up to you is indescribable. I've never felt anything quite like it before, and i think the warm afterglow you get is frankly quite unparalleled. Watching the kids playing during the annual Summer Splash just made me think again about how easily kids are appeased. Imagine if the mere act of swimming could make you so, so fulfilled and life was as simple as that! There is something to be said of the purity of children --such free laughter, such uninhibited love output, and such pure joy. It's beautiful.

Day Twelve, May 16

It's awfully pleasant to to be back at Aunt Marg's. Pi Gloria came over came over for dinner with Ty today! Dinner was roasted chicken, Vietnamese spring rolls, and papaya salad. Very satisfying as usual. I always feel so content when i'm here (':

Day Thirteen, May 17

Had a huge breakfast...4 hotdogs, 2 slices of wholemeal bread, 5 slices of mango, and a steaming cup of coffee. Saturday mornings just feel so amazing. Basically rested and read the day away... still working on internalising the whole concept of rest. The productivity level in Singapore is so high that sometimes it feels like we don't even know what it means to take a what could be a very well deserved or even much needed break. It's rather sad i suppose.

Laila (a thai youth who stays with my host family) said something at the evening youth gathering that really caused me to pause for a moment and think. To quote her "At first, i didn't really like the fact that the Singaporeans were here because it meant that i'd be very busy doing preparations and cooking etc. however i'm glad they came because it taught me how to open up more to people." The first half of her sentence rang penetratingly in my ears as  light dawned and i realised that a good number of my own constructs on my stay in Thailand were childishly narcissistic. I had so confidently assumed I'd be entering the small village as some sort of "royalty",  occasionally painted out myself to be some philanthropic heroine even... virtually never have i entertained the idea that the villagers might find my arrival a bother! It was a profoundly humbling realisation to realise how blatantly conceited i could be, how we all can be. Recognising that i could be such an unlovable creature really made me appreciate their hospitality in a new way i never had before.

Day Fourteen,  May 18

Today is baptism sunday. I've never before witnessed a full baptism, so it was a refreshing experience, characterised by both sanctity and exultation.  Spent a considerable amount of time on enthusiastic attempts to persuade Ty to call me god-ma... unfortunately to no avail ):

Went for a walk with the village youths today and I'm really glad they are no longer as reticent towards us. Particularly thankful for the time spent with Fen and Far (two of the village girls). Still endeavouring to view myself as a village girl rather than a girl in a village. It's tough, but i think i'm getting better. Dinner was good today! Laila made curry chicken with veg and a few side dishes. Gathering at the dinner table partaking in home-cooked food with the youths was surprisingly pleasant... and for a moment, that felt like home. (':

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Travel Journal: Chiang Mai Week 1

Day One,  May 5

I remember having a dozen thoughts run through my mind last night... the mixed emotions were like a strange concoction i've never before tasted.  I've been dreaming about this moment for the past few months --my journey to discovery of self, of God, and of the beautiful world around me. A mere twenty-four hours ago i had imagined myself in an entirely different world, and here i am, breathless with excitement at the fact that i'm taking off in thirty minutes.  

Heather's mom got us a lounge, which was very nice. A final regale in Singapore before leaving to a foreign land for two months...quite a spread, i must admit!

Couldn't resist a picture on the plane... the excitement i was feeling just half an hour ago is now tainted with some apprehension. The feeling is a strange one, a mixture of two seemingly contrary emotions at the endless possibilities ahead of me. Somewhat glad i'm not traveling entirely alone... i expect it will be good to have someone to share these inspiring moments with.

P.s. Cut my finger (unintentionally) on the plane... not cool.

Day Two, May 6

Quite enraptured by the culture... i've only been here a day but already i can sense the general feeling of unity in the village. The villagers seem to share a bond that cannot quite be encapsulated by the mere medium of language, and i felt fairly heartened observing their interaction. It was nice to see how they were so much like a "family", being so agreeable and disposed to helping each other out. Such open generosity is pretty much a rarity in the self-seeking, rapacious culture of Singapore. Got to try out thai street food which was quite decent!

Pi Tom and Pi Am ( "Pi" is used as a title of respect for a senior ) were such hospitable hosts... Pi Tom's kindly disposition made me feel at home immediately, and Pi Am was really amiable as well. Her culinary skills are superb! Hopefully i shall acquire some of those at the end of my two months stay.

Day Three, May 7

Today was comparatively enjoyable, if only because the weather was so much more compromising (yesterday was 38 Celsius degrees, we are talking legit stuff here).  Spent the first half of the day helping out at the Good Kids Pre-school, tidying and cleaning up the place with the teachers, who are especially passionate about their jobs. They are as much janitors as they are teachers, and they're perfectly happy with that. It was sufficiently cheering to see such ardor and dedication... something i've always thought rather lacking in Singapore, with our packed, routinely lifestyles. It really reminded me of how education and careers shouldn't be something you do because you have to, but something you do because you want to. There's a rather significant difference to be established.

Visited the Chiang Mai night Safari, which was personally such a delightful experience because the animals were allowed to roam free. It was the first time i've seen a deer, much less been close enough such that i could stroke it should I reach my hand forward. I still can't believe I fed a giraffe from my very own hands... the creatures were magnificent up close, with lovely doe eyes and long, fluttery lashes. Rather lamentable that no flash photography was allowed however ):

Day Four, May 8

It's kind of weird but i think part of me is slowly getting accustomed to the leisurely, unhurried village life.  I've gotten somewhat inured to the living conditions... the heat, the lack of air conditioning, and the gargantuan insects that seem to thrive in all abundance (slight exaggeration there, but you know what i mean).  Nothing special today apart from the pre-school teachers conducting a demonstration for when school re-opens on the fourteenth of May. Being a pre-schoolteacher is truly admirable, considering the amount of mental alertness and physical energy the job demands. It was precisely this fact that caused me to be pleasantly surprised by how ready the teachers were to offer help i.e. giving Heather and i rides home on their motorbikes despite the long day at work. I really love being on the back of a bike, with  the sun's rays kissing my skin and the light breeze in my hair.

Day Five, May 9

Incredibly thankful for today... hands down the best since i've arrived. Every Friday evening, Heather and I move from Narada (our village home) to Aunt Marg's house for our Sabbath, which is pretty much a rest day from all the week's work. It was a pleasant, relaxing evening characterised by some light shopping and a scrumptious dinner treat. The highlight was probably that we got to stay in an air conditioned room for the first time in what felt like forever. Spent a fair amount of time snuggled under the warm sheets just relishing that reality, which made me think about how many things i often take for granted back home. What would be considered mundane is now regarded as a luxury... the "givens" feel like extravagance now.  I imagine i am too often foolishly preoccupied with what i don't have, so much so that i fail miserably in seeing what i do have.  They say comparison is the basis of all discontentment. But if it's possible for feelings of dissatisfaction to arise as a result of comparison with the affluent, surely the opposite must be true and far more healthy? 

Day Six, May 10

Today was off to a wonderful start... got to sleep in, which is such an indulgence ( I've been waking at 6:30am everyday since i got here).  Walked out of the room, into the kitchen, and was greeted by an extensive spread that smelt heavenly and tasted so wholesome. I do believe i'm beginning to grasp the concept of breakfast and how it can literally make or break one's day. It's the first day since the beginning of the trip that i've felt settled enough to do any reading, which was followed by some piano practice. I feel adequately refreshed.

Day Seven, May 11

Lots of things weighing on my mind today, but i shall put them aside temporarily. Today was the first time I got to properly experience the sights and sounds of the bustling city life in Chiang Mai. Heather and i went to walking street, which is a huge night market said to be one of Chiang Mai's most keenly sought after tourist attractions. It was sufficiently engaging just to stroll through the little stalls and to try out all sorts of street food. The thais are extremely innovative people when it comes to food... i am absolutely spellbound by the dozens of different dishes, all equally tantalising to the tastebuds. 

Heather bought me with a friendship bracelet and gave it to me right then, which i was completely surprised by because i was so absorbed examining everything else. Felt reasonably placated after food and retail therapy, so i expect i shall go to bed content tonight. It has been quite a satisfying first week, although i wouldn't yet claim to have met with any radically transformative experiences. Still... all good, i'd say (:

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