Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reflection - back and beyond

Once again it is impossible to thank my wonderful husband for the gift of these trips, both the travel itself and the space he gives me in marriage to explore the world and my self. I am always excited to go. I am always delighted to get home.

My observations on religion, food, women and travel are expanded and ready for sharing anytime someone hands me a projector. (also posting on Pinterest) Thanks for making the blog  journey with me or at least looking at the pictures.

And next year...I have not yet been to South American yet and Peru may be the next stop. We'll see!

Reflection - volunteering

Once again with CCS my experience had multiple dimensions.

The first was the culture shift. Because Thailand had never been a colony the country is open to many Asians, and I began to differentiate those from China, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand. Many European-Asian combinations muddle the distinction but make the country as a whole united around other qualities than race or even original nationality. There are huge buildings and multinational corporations but many more streets and alleys where comfortable small business stalls provide for one family enough to live. There were not beggars or homeless in large numbers. Tiny farms seemed to be self sustaining and the land not really appropriate for large scale farming. The jungle is barely kept at bay by the concrete.
The second was the actual work. Because it was a time of special events for my particular school I did not get as much classroom time as I like to but spent more time in special sessions and with the teachers. They did value storytelling which was a nice way for me to share.

The third was every bit as rewarding as usual and that was the relationship with the other volunteers. Those friendships have a unique experience quality that no one back home can imagine. The age and race and education field is leveled and it only matters that one is willing to risk and try. Which is why we all came to begin with.

The last was the experiences we were offered as a group to understand the culture. Because Bangkok is huge we had numerous great opportunities to see palaces, wats, museums and massage - in theory nearby but because of traffic always 2 hours away.

Reflection - Buddhist cultural infusion

Traffic is very reflective of culture and in general I have seen more traffic equals more noise, horns, yelling and disregard for pedestrians. In China the streets were so crowded with cars and vans the motorcycles were all on the sidewalk and those walking huddled in doorways. In India they laid one elbow on the horn and then turned on the ignition to start the drive. In Thailand the gridlock went on for blocks and miles on every single street and alley, but not a honk or yell anywhere.

After listening to the Buddhist abbot monk twice I think the key is the cultural madate of all men to "become priests" for 3 months. Most fathers wil not marry daughters to men who have not been through this experinece. The 17-25 year olds sign everything over to family, live in the abbey in robes begging daily food and are taught the calm, accepting ways of Buddah. At the end of 3 months they can stay or leave, no hard feeings. Most leave, get married and go on with life, but changed.

People  - from tour gides to waitressses to cab drivers - were very respectful and looking for ways to make the guest more comfortable and satisfied.

Ko Samaui

Lost in the fast moving memories - moving much faster than Thai traffic! - was the weekend in paradise on an island south of Bangkok.

The airport itself was the most adorable all open air tiki huts with free snacks, drinks, popcorn for passengers outbound. We flew Bangkok Air, called a Boutique Airline, and in a 30 minute flight got 2 drinks and a substantial snack!

The resort we stayed in is where the Thai and Europeans go when they vacation so we were the only Americans by the infinity glorious pool. Free fabulous breakfast, spectacular room and view, massage and happy hour! We never needed to leave the hotel!

But we did. The island has a wonderful Friday Night Market and restaurants are right on the beach. Literally we ate with our shoes off wiggling toes in the sand. Some of the most fantastic Thai food! Then as we watched the sun set they began to lift off colored paper lanterns, like tiny hot air balloons only glowing!

On Saturday we took a day trip by speed boat to a national park consisting of 64 islands. We did not see them all but snorkled and hiked 200 meters to a lok out - straight up! Then as the others went in a kyak and I got some beach time the afternoon monsoon blew in, and there was not a dry part of anyone or anything.

We had to get our Buddah fix so we visited a Wat on the way out.

Lori and Mary Beth are great travel companions and only a couple of times did people ask if I was their mother...which I would be proud to be!