I am currently sitting in the comfort of my little apartment, munching on a very large piece of plain cooked squash that I purchased from a nearby street vendor. My heart is heavy writing this, knowing that it’s the last blog post that I’ll be writing from Bangkok and that my time here is quickly nearing its end.
It feels like it was just last week that I wrote my last blog post. Time is flying by. As I grow even more accustomed to my routine and my surroundings—accustomed in that they feel so familiar and yet still inspire awe each day—I am reminded of how it feels to be so comfortable in a space that days pass by effortlessly and smoothly, allowing time to slip through my fingers. With each passing day, I am confronted with the reality of leaving soon—leaving a new home that has nurtured me so lovingly, allowing me to plant roots, grow, and flourish. And yet there’s still so many sois (small streets) to explore, so many bomb foods to monch on, and so many matcha lattes to be enjoyed while I journal in a different cafe each weekend. I am not ready to leave. I don’t think I will ever truly be ready.
As December gets closer, I am reflecting on what it has meant to live in a place for a predetermined amount of time. It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking. Seven months is long enough to learn to call a place home, to fall in love with the smiles and the foods and the people, and to dread saying goodbye. For me, the other interns, and anyone who lives in a place temporarily, we have a timeline dictating how long we’ll spend in our new home. This timeline has put pressure on me to try and make the most out of my experience, which can sometimes feel like a burden. At the same time, the timeline encourages me to find joy in every detail of my daily rituals, to appreciate every second, and to express gratitude to the people, places, and foods for nurturing my belly, heart, and soul.
I’ve been having a lot of “moments” here, moments where I am sitting at the park and I start unexpectedly smiling ear to ear because the sounds of kids playing is so soothing, where I am surrounded by new and old friends and I look around and express so much gratitude to be with all those humans at the same time in the same place, where I am alone in my bedroom about to fall asleep and I’m thinking about how much I love this city and I get up and dance because I’m just so glad to be alive and I can’t! contain! it! My time here is fleeting, and that is what makes it so special, because I don’t think I would be able to appreciate the sounds and the smells and the places and the people and the food so much if I didn’t know that I would soon have to say goodbye.
Knowing that I’ll have to say goodbye soon is hard. The timeline looming over my head dictating when I’ll eventually fly “home” has prompted an interrogation of what “home” means to me. Right now, home feels scattered. Victoria has my heart. Bangkok has stolen a piece of it. And all of my belongings are in my mother’s spare room in Richmond, only a small boat ride on the Pacific away from my dearest homies. In a way, this feels unsettling. It can be challenging to find peace when home feels scattered. But as I grapple with the concept of home, I am learning that home is not merely a place, but a feeling. I feel home in my little apartment in Bangkok, I feel it when I am greeted by my favourite street vendors’ smiles, and I feel it alongside all the lovely souls who have reminded me what community feels like abroad.
As I discussed in my last blog post, my time here has been quite solitary. I’ve struggled to maintain strong friendships because Bangkok is a really big city with so many different kinds of people, most of which are transient and only here for short periods of time. By month 2, I gave up on forcing myself to make friends, and started to find joy in solitude. This was when I found out that my friend Mathias, an old friend from home, just happened to be doing a 3-month internship in Bangkok during the same time as my placement. I introduced Mathias to my pal Sandra, a fellow QES scholar that I met in Bangkok, and we became a lil three bean trio.When three peeps are all alone in a foreign city and in need of friendship, the process of cultivating a close friendship skips all the initial steps and you become the best of pals in no time.
To commemorate both mine and Mathias’ birthdays, the three of us ventured to Singapore for a true bonding experience, joined by our pal Selina, a CAPI intern in Malaysia who also knows Mathias from Canada! I may have transformed my two-pack into a four-pack from all the laughing we did that weekend. If you’re in need of abs: skip the gym, and find great pals instead! Both Mathias and Sandra have since left Bangkok, and while it saddens me that I’ll no longer have homies to eat pizza and donuts with on Saturday nights, I am so grateful that we had each other to lean on during a transitional, challenging, and also memorable time for each of us. I’m back to appreciating moments spent in solitude, which is bittersweet.
Although the feeling of community and “home” that I experienced with my peeps in Bangkok was nourishing and necessary, my experience here has taught me nothing if not how to come home to myself. Here’s a snippet of some emotions/reflections from May:
“What it means to be in this space [my apartment] changes every day. It fluctuates with my headspace. Sometimes it represents safety and comfort. Other times I open the door and a feeling of loneliness washes over me, yearning for someone to come home to. Every day I get better at learning to love coming home to myself, even though I’m not quite sure what that means yet.”
I remember feeling this way: alone, sad, and lost. Coming home to myself has meant having trust in myself, trust in the process, pride in myself for overcoming new challenges every day, and gratitude for how far I’ve come and how much farther I have to go. It’s a process of self-love, which is really important when you’re alone in a foreign country and the only thing you truly have to fall back on is yourself.
These moments of solitude spent with myself as well as the fleeting nature of my time here have taught me the ritual of truly being present.
This past weekend I travelled to Phitsanulok province, a 6-hour car ride away from my home in Bangkok, and halfway to the Northern tip of the country. Living in a concrete jungle has its ups: stumbling upon hidden gems almost anywhere you go, public transportation (I! love! the! bus!), easily accessible street food, and motor-taxi rides. It also has its downs: a sore throat from smoggier days, so much noise that sometimes you can’t hear yourself breathing, and traffic. Spending a weekend surrounded by green, wildlife, and people who love green and wildlife as much as I do, felt like a literal therapy session.
On our second day, after our hike and a quick refresh at the campsite, we hopped on the back of a local truck to see the village. After a quick pit stop to snap some pics, it started to rain. And when it rains, it pours. But the driver insisted that we continue on to our next destination, so we hopped back on the back of the truck in the pouring rain. There comes a moment when you stop caring about getting wet, and you surrender to the rain, allowing it to hit your sticky skin like a cool shower after a long day of sweating. Back home, I didn’t really like the rain. But after experiencing a drought, and after seeing the green rice fields during rainy season, there’s nothing I love more than a really wet downpour.
It was raining so hard that the driver changed his mind, deciding to wait out the rain at a nearby camp. But once we finally stopped, so did the rain, and we found ourselves engulfed in green rice fields, flower gardens, and the smell of fresh air after a well-needed downpour. This was pit stop number two.
The rain stopped just in time for us to watch the bats fly out of their caves at dusk. For almost an hour, thousands of bats danced in the air for us as they fled their home to began their day. It was a real treat. Night came, and we rode back to the campsite on the same truck. As I sat on the back of the truck, absorbing the beauty of the fleeting moment and actively embodying being present, a full moon began to rise on the horizon. Tears. My skin enjoyed a refreshing and cool breeze. The wind played with my hair. I smelled nothing but fresh air and the after-rain. My ears were engulfed in sounds of crickets, frogs, and the truck engine roaring. Illuminating the night was a big bright moon saying goodnight. It felt like pure bliss.
It’s hard to be alone. It’s hard not to speak the language in the country you’re in. And sometimes you break down when no one knows what you’re saying and all you’re trying to do is find the right bus to your destination. But these challenges transform into strength, love, and gratitude. Strength from moments spent immersed in community, gratitude for your friends back home that remind you that real friends are really hard to find, and love for a space that is capable of nurturing your soul so intensely. It can be challenging to find peace when home feels scattered, until you realize that it’s in you all along.
The strength, the gratitude, and the love from each and every space and soul that teaches me something new—I will carry this with me forever.