Well this week in Thailand, social and political unrest between the working class red shirts and the “establishment elite” came to a head, as the red shirts lashed out in a big way; burning down three city hall buildings and destroying all kinds of banks and shopping malls; anything they view as a sign of “wealth.” I’m sure the BYU political science department was scared, but also a little excited to get a note from one of their students here that she needed an extension on her paper since her internship (Chiang Mai municipal building) was in flames. I don’t think there’s ever been a more valid reason for an extension on a paper-just saying.
On my one week anniversary of being in Thailand, I got that dreaded call that we weren’t to leave our houses and to have our bags packed and ready to go. I sat there watching Finding Neverland, a film about the world being new again, as the world outside burned, and I wondered two things: 1) what do I regret most about leaving Thailand after only a week? and 2) How did I get so smashingly good at picking tumultuous study abroad locations?—because wow, apparently I just smell political dissatisfaction and run towards it.
I was shocked to detect in myself utter relief at the prospect of leaving this place. It wasn’t relief based on leaving a fearful situation-the only thing that changed in my experience out in the boonies since stuff hit the fan is that the news now has occasional messages in English warning Farangs (foreigners) that they are targets, and an old man on a bicycle told me to go home. Other than that though, the bike riding’s what it used to be, I have no increased ability to communicate, and 7-11 slurpees (a relief from squid) still taste like they always did.
In spite of that, on hearing the words pack your bags,’ I immediately began making fantastic plans for my perfect summer at home. I was thinking about what summer show I could get into, what great American novel I could write, the road trip possibilities that were suddenly open to me at the prospect of returning to D.C. Oh how quickly I relinquish my emotional hold on a thing that I’ve been wrapping myself around since December.
Word from the powers that be at BYU (I don’t necessarily mean the Lord, I meant more like security people) is that we’re waiting it out, but to have an entire night in which I truly thought we might be leaving showed me my true colors about just how tough I actually am when it comes to this hard thing that I’m doing. Based on the me at the end of that evening, (weeping over that movie, because everything of or relating to Peter Pan makes me weep and thinking it was the end) I’m kind of a wimp. My biggest regret of leaving so soon was not all of the unfinished business and the adventure cut short and leaving before it even began; it was just missing out on seeing Angkor Wat which has been on my bucket list since I read it about in the National Geographic when I was eight.
The me I’ve discovered in the day and half since that night, however, is surprising. Suddenly being granted more time when I thought I had none has made me reassess and realize, that I am absolutely game. I was sitting at the table last night eating a dinner of mushrooms (despised delicacy of my youth) and some sort of shell fish shenanigans and enjoying it heartily. I looked at the few shellfish that, despite being done for, still remained snapped shut, refusing to go gentle into that good night, and I respect that shell fish, I’m that way too (and I’ll save you to eat last…)
I hate to be embarrassed, and I hate to feel vulnerable, and I hate feeling like things are out of my control. Those are three feelings I’m learning are part and parcel of the whole Southeast Asia gig, but knowing as much has made me ready to run towards it, not away from it. It’s that kind of muscle resistance that makes me strong and ready to take on the world in a way I thought that I was already ready to do because I didn’t yet know any better. I’d like to say, well now I know,’ but the knowing part is only just beginning.