Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Note: I've noticed that most of you don't really like it much when I discuss this topic. I can understand that... but I hope you'll forgive me if it does come up occasionally. It's a real part of my life. :)


Wow.. .I got some awesome questions from Slouching Mom! They are so good, that it is going to take me a few posts to answer them.

Here's the first one:

1. Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you have made it to Thailand. How does it feel? What do you see around you?

It feels like relief. It feels like a homecoming. It feels like a long sigh of relief. After a flight that long, I probably won't be seeing much of anything. :)

Seriously though, how will it feel to me? In a way, it will be both a beginning and a completion.

Sometimes I think I've done a poor job of describing what all of this is about for me. It's as though I've described it in the easiest way possible, the way most people would understand it easily.

I've made it something outside of me when it is actually something within. Thailand was my missing piece.

(cue the Twilight Zone music)

I've always been an outsider here, in my culture of birth. It's never taken root, nor has it ever resonated with me. There is not a single time I can recall feeling "a part of"... instead, always "separate from".

Even as a small kid.

Here's a little example. Read this post. Having this kind of thing surround me, this mentality, even as a child, made me heartsick. Western values have just never spoken to my soul. The dynamics I saw around me left me feeling hollow. I didn't want to compete with anyone. I didn't want power over anyone. I just wanted to be friends. In this culture, that's a sign of weakness. The way of life that was imposed on me here made me feel defeated. And on the deepest level, I resisted. I recoiled. I hid.

It felt all wrong. But I couldn't have told you why. Not as a child. I had no way of articulating it... beyond saying "this feels icky." Even as an adult, sometimes the only thing I can say is "this feels icky".

While I can understand that the way of life here works for many people and try my best to respect that, my soul was dying... shattering. Sometimes it's difficult for me to understand that it's not that way for everyone.

I had no idea how to resolve that. There was no way to reconcile it. There was no way to make it okay.

The only thing I could do is accept that there was really no place for me in this world and make the best of it. After a while, even the pain stopped. I just went numb.

Then I went to Thailand.

It's hard to describe.. this is the hardest part... that the air felt right going into my lungs and the ground felt right under my feet. I felt grounded. Even though I was in South East Asia, had never been to South East Asia, it all felt familiar.

And it had nothing to do with heat, humidity, bugs or reclining Buddhas. It had nothing to do with night markets or spicy food.

The longer I was there, the more I noticed long explanations were unnecessary. I wasn't surrounded by things and ideas that offended me. I didn't have to be someone I am not. There was an easy understanding between others and me that can only be described as familiarity. When I exchanged ideas with others, the ideas were not in conflict. I was them. They were me.

I laughed freely. Perhaps even for the first time in my life.

Assimilation, particularly in Northeast Thailand, was seamless. I didn't have to "try". It was natural. Before long, I had quite a collection of friends, all of whom referred to me as "the blue-eyed Thai girl" or "our undercover Thai girl". Even though I am a blue-eyed blond, I couldn't have felt more Thai.

I didn't feel like a farang! What a relief that was after feeling like a foreigner in my own country of birth! I slipped into the way of life easily and it all made sense. The customs made sense. The holidays made sense. The group dynamics made sense. The beliefs made sense.

The darn place just made sense!

When I came back here, due mainly to running out of money and visa time, I felt like a child being dragged away from her home and family for the first time. By that time, in those short months, I'd become completely Thai-ified. If I'd had the sense of a common house cat, I would have started some months earlier to find a job teaching English.

I wouldn't have come back. Ever.

So, long answer to a short question, going back will feel natural. It's going home.

Part II, more questions, coming soon! :)



flutter said...

oooh! more!!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

All you have written here and everything I know of you indicates (to me) that you have been Thai in previous incarnations, undoubtedly your happiest ones, hence the yearning to return which was always present in your soul before you were re-exposed and knew, finally, the object of your homesickness.

It's a beautiful thing for anyone to find their soul's home, and the fact that you have is most probably a reward for your beautiful thoughts and good deeds.

If everyone on earth could be in his own right place and time, there would be no wars, or need for wars, ever.

painted maypole said...

oh... you will make it HOME, i know it!

slouching mom said...

I laughed freely. Perhaps even for the first time in my life.

This says it all, I think.

Anvilcloud said...

I think I understand to some degree. I feel somewhat more at home just moving across province.

Julie Pippert said...

The way you write seems as if it would be impossible to not understand. I hope for you to go home as soon as possible. :)

And that post you linked to? Oh. My. Word.

Using My Words

meno said...

How long were you there when you visited. I in no way think that is relevant to your experience, i am just curious.

Snoskred said...

I do understand the concept of feeling like a foreigner in your own country, I wrote about not being a "native Australian" once, even though I was born here. :(

I hope you get back there sooner than later. ;)


Anonymous said...

I think its great that you have such a goal, so natural to you and your nature. Some search a life time trying to just learn to breath. You are a lucky one.

KC said...

JP just got back from a trip to Thailand - I thought of you as he handed Jolie a Baht to throw in the fountain.

It is so your home.

thailandchani said...

Flutter, thank you for saying so. :)


Susan, I think you've got it. That is essentially what I think, too. It's too uncanny to be anything else. It came as a total surprise to me.


PM, thank you. I know I will, too. :)


SM, that is such an important part of it. I don't think people can laugh freely unless they feel safe.


Anvil, that's a lucky shot! At least you didn't have to move 7930 miles. LOL


Julie, thank you. Thank you for understanding it.

That other post, yes.. it made me sick!


Meno, I was there for nine months.


Snos, I remember that post. There are so many people who feel that way. Being born somewhere doesn't guarantee a feeling of home.


Reflecting, yes. I am. Very fortunate to have found it. When I remember what my life was like before... it makes it less important to me whether others understood it.. or even supported it. It's essential to my well being.


KC, yes.. it is. :) Thanks for understanding it.



Siamerican Wanderer said...

Your description reminds me of the lessons from Plato's Meno when Socrates proves that certain concepts, ideas, and entities are embedded into one's ancient soul, and thus learning is really only that sense, it sounds like when you first came to Thailand (as a blue eyed blonde)you weren't seeing or learning Thailand first hand for the first time, simply recalling and remembering it all!

I imagine, your first weeks back in the states after leaving Thailand were filled with lucid and vivid dreams of Thailand calling to your soul...I know mine were when I went back for a short spell in 2003, even though I knew I would be back in Thailand in only a few months, I couldn't stop thinking and dreaming about it. Dreams do come true...


Jao Moragoat

thailandchani said...

Jao, I still have those dreams! Not every night.. but frequently. Sometimes I wake up and don't realize right away that I'm not there ~ in Khon Kaen!

Honestly, I found it bizarre that Thailand would be "the place". I'd never had any attraction to - or interest in - Southeast Asia.

As for your first paragraph, I agree completely. I felt embraced by Thailand... from the minute I arrived there. We knew each other.. me.. and that place.

I'll always be thankful to my friend R (a farang) who pressured me into visiting.



Angela said...

Yes. I could go on saying more, but just that "yes" seems to be more than enough. Our soul's home does call to us, I think. I have a friend who tries to tell me that I can carry it in my heart. I'm trying, with some success. I hope that you are able to be home soon, Chani. What a beautiful post. It's indescribable how it feels to be "home." Many blessings to you. I am so glad we met.

Cecilieaux said...

Everytime you touch this subject, I get nervous. I fear for you.

I am a Third Culture person, someday I'll blog about it (I wrote about some of it in the Washington Post two decades ago under my real name).

The gist of where you and I intersect is in the experience of thinking that a place makes a difference. I did. I don't any more.

So I see the prospect of disappointment -- everything and everyone eventually disappoints. Then what? I don't know why I worry about you, but I do.

My two baht, as you are fond of saying.

Liz said...

I think it's lovely that you have such a connection to Thai culture and to the country itself. Your home is where your heart is and truly, if that place is what is speaking to your spirit, I'm glad you're going back. Life is too short to not do so.

thailandchani said...

Angela, I do think it's important that we listen to our souls. They are there for a reason. I can't imagine not listening to mine on this.


Cecilieaux, I have so much to say on this that I'm going to write a post about it. It would make a very long comment. :)

(I hope you will post about Third Culture. Really. I do!)


Liz, thanks. I agree. At my age especially, it's time to be where I feel safe and comfortable.





blooming desertpea said...

I've noticed that most of you don't really like it much when I discuss this topic. Who of your regular readers would feel like that? And why?

Anyway, you do make sense, everytime you write about it - I do understand you completely, every word of it.

Molly said...

I agree with Heart. The only explanation is that you were here before, in another,happier life, in Thailand!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Why thank you, Molly. I love to be right. :)

Thailand property said...

When I close my eyes, I also imagine myself in Thailand. I was in Thailand last year, I lived in Bangkok for 1 month and it was unforgettable time! As part of South East Asia, Thailand is a country known for its beautiful beaches and friendly locals. With the unspoiled surroundings and warm climate, this veritable paradise can offer your dream holidays!

thailandchani said...

Blooming, thanks. :) I know that it is one of those topics that is not as interactive as others that welcome or encourage opinions from others. You know, I can .. understand that. :)


Molly, it's the only thing that makes any sense at all! Lots of people like Thailand.. but, for me, it is so much more than that.


Susan.. yep.. you two nailed it. :)


Thailand property, thank you for letting me know Thailand is in South East Asia. I've been trying to find it on the map for some time now.





crazymumma said...

what topic? I love it when you write about Thailand.

I love that you found a way to the place that made you feel complete.

Please never apologise to me anyway about your passion for it.

simpleblob said...


I was born in Thailand, but I think I belong somewhere else...

Maybe we should switch place! (I'm in the US right now and seem to like it)

Susanne said...

What crazymumma said. What topic? I really love the feeling I get when you post about Thailand. I know how it is to feel out of place and to have to explain my life constantly though I don't think I'm feeling that as much as you do. To come to a place where that's not necessary sounds heavenly.

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