My first month in Bangkok is rapidly coming to a close. I’m not sure how to feel. It seems impossible that I only have five of these one month periods left, yet five more months also seems like an unimaginably long time. My life could — and may very well be — entirely different in five months. It simultaneously feels like I’ve been here for as long as I can remember, but also as though I only arrived a week ago. The elasticity of time never ceases to surprise me. The first week of being here in Bangkok may have been the longest week of my life. While I am and have been incredibly excited to spend six moths of my life abroad, this has been an emotionally intense time for me. I finished up the last of my classes in my undergrad in April, so my departure to Bangkok also serves as a more permanent departure from my life as a student and my life in Victoria, as I will be moving back home to Calgary after my time in Bangkok. I cannot think of a more rewarding ( or cooler) way to mark the end of this period of my life, but it is sad to close this chapter nonetheless.

level seven of the Erewan waterfall!
Where Carly and I had our first meal in Bangkok.

When we arrived in Bangkok and stepped out of the airport, my excitement was immediately replaced by a wave of panic and a singular thought. How on earth can I live somewhere this hot? In the first days I picked up the habit of incessantly checking the weather to look at what the temperature “feels like.” Seeing the number 45° C was as comforting as it was jarring. At least it let me know that I wasn’t making the heat out to be more than it was in some psychosomatic panic response. It genuinely was objectively unbearably hot, a fact that I would find frequently and reassuringly confirmed by Bangkok locals. With the UV index at a number I thought was only possible with a hole in the ozone layer and a daily low temperature of 37° C, my first days in Bangkok primarily involved our air conditioned apartment, and Carly and I venturing out for twenty minutes and then calling it a day because we couldn’t take the heat. With no work, almost no belongings, an inability to go outside for more than twenty minutes, and no clue where anything was, I had a lot of time to sit in my room and freak out about the fact that my life as I knew it was over. A languid lifestyle and too much time to think were not my friends in such an overwhelming time. Luckily, even this catastrophizing could not completely overpower the rational part of my brain that (albeit more quietly than the panicked part) told me I was beginning the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.

The first days went by slowly but surely. Carly and I bought supplies for our house and some groceries. Ollie, a woman who works in the office of our apartment very generously reached out to us and took us to a grocery store and attempted to show us the ropes as much as she could. We ventured out for dinner. We familiarized ourselves with the local 7-11. I think I’ve been there almost every day. We discovered how amazing a swimming pool can be. I journaled, focused on finding new music, and crossed a bunch of movies off of my watchlist. My mind grew a little quieter. The weather even cooled down by a few degrees, which doesn’t seem like that much but made a massive difference. I like to tell myself that I’ve become more acclimated to the heat but i’m not sure how much truth is in that statement. The first week of work was only three days long, but moved slowly. With a new environment and new people and absolutely no idea what I was doing, the eight hours a day in the office dragged on a little. But with an incredibly warm welcome from our amazing coworkers, by the third day I began to feel right at home in the office. We even went out for drinks after work with two of our coworkers, Vivian and Michelle, on the Thursday. This experience also taught me the unfortunate lesson that constantly sweating your butt off means dehydration which means a horrible hangover even if you only have a couple of drinks.

After about two weeks of being in the office I was given some real tasks to do at work, and they have been really interesting so far. A lot of research about policy which I’ve found to be quite rewarding to learn about. I’ve also been assigned some communications work that has been a nice challenge for me because it involves me getting a little creative which isn’t typically my strong suit. I’m looking forward to our first event which is happening next month to see the work everybody has been doing come together, and also to get a more hands-on and personal view on the issues we’re researching. The team here at GAATW has been so amazing, and now that I’ve been delegated some tasks I finally feel like I’m actually contributing something to the team here rather than feeling like an idiot like I did when I first started.

Train crossing the bridge over the river Kwai

The last three weeks of the month have passed by me in a blur. The rest of the month has honestly felt shorter than the first week did. But while the time is moving quickly, I’ve found that I am moving slowly. Much more slowly than usual anyway. In the time leading up to this internship (particularly the past semester, but also the past couple of years) I have been incredibly busy, very go go go. So coming here I’ve experienced a somewhat drastic lifestyle change. I feel as though I have nothing but time and far fewer people to divide it between. This has caused me to realize that not only have I pretty much never spent any prolonged amount of time alone, but also that I’m not very comfortable with it. I’m determined to become more at ease on my own, and to use this as a time to try new hobbies, becoming more self assured on my own, and learn to figure out who I am outside of the people I surround myself with. In addition to the music listening and movie watching I mentioned earlier, I have also gotten into colouring and I’ve attempted to become a person who journals (I am incapable of keeping a daily journal). I also discovered that the gym in my apartment doesn’t have air conditioning, which in this heat means I may as well not have a gym in the building as I won’t be subjecting myself to that. There’s another gym in the area that I want to check out though, and it boasts having AC on its website so the prospects are looking good on that one.

The city is amazing, with endless things to do and see. Almost every night there has been one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.There’s so much history and culture to learn about, but there’s also some of the most modern and urban attractions in the world as well. I can’t wait to discover more of the city. I finally have a bit of a grasp on my neighbourhood, which is a “village” in a more quiet suburban area of Bangkok. Despite it being smaller and quieter, there is still an impossible number of places to check out. It’s even harder to bring myself to check out new places when P’Ning’s restaurant is just minutes away from my apartment, because everything there is delicious and everybody is so kind. Nevertheless I’m slowly but surely venturing out. I’ve gone to a couple of markets and vintage stores that Karunia has recommended, but there are still many left on the list to cross off. The central areas of the city still remain a mystery to me at this point. While I’ve been to them a few times, many of the streets and buildings remain undifferentiated walls of concrete and billboards. I hope to be able to navigate them better by the time I’m writing my next blog.

One of many beautiful Bangkok sunsets I’ve seen so far

On the complete opposite note of learning to be alone, I am very glad to have made friends with my coworkers. The entire office is so ridiculously kind and friendly, and we all eat lunch together and chat most days. It’s really made the office feel like a home base. It’s also been really cool to find out more about the culture here in Bangkok, what life looks like for somebody who has lived here long term. Most of the people i’ve talked to about life in Bangkok have been very quick to bring up the wealth disparity here and in Thailand more broadly, which has given me an awareness that has coloured my exploration. Vivian and Michelle are some of our other coworkers who are also both in their 20s, and we have hung out outside of the office a handful of times already. I’m excited to build on these relationships over our time together. I also know two UVic students who are doing an internship until August at a nanotech ( I don’t actually know what nanotech is unfortunately) research lab just outside of the city. We met up on the weekend and did a bunch of tourist activities together and explored the city. Even though they’re not actually that close to where we’re located, I find the idea that there are other interns nearby to be comforting.

Carly and I are going to Pattaya for the last weekend of this month, which I’m really excited about. While I’ve heard some mixed reviews on Pattaya itself, I can’t wait to be on the beach. I’ve been incredibly jealous of my friends on Vancouver Island who seem to live on the beach these days. We’re likely going to go to one of the smaller islands in the area, and I’m really looking forward to experiencing a new area of Thailand. When we get back we’ll be officially on our second month here. Right now it seems unfathomable that its been a month already, and that the coming months will likely only go by faster. Now that I’m a little more settled into my life here I think June will be a tie of exploration, and hopefully I will get my routine a little bit more cemented. I’m looking forward to getting even more involved with the work at GAATW in the next month and and can’t wait for our upcoming conference. My goal for June is to become more present, to take more pictures, document more details in my journal, and let go of my life back home in Canada a little more. It is important for me to live as in the moment as I possibly can here, because while my time calling Bangkok home is brief, it is happening right now. As the saying goes, wherever you go, there you are. I’m here now, and I want to make the absolute most of it.

Carly and I post-swim at the waterfalls