Wanting Less

At the floating market in Amphawa on my last days in Thailand

So I’m finally back in the West. I have actually been back in Canada for about a month now but the adjustment has taken time for a girl. The first week it was dealing with the time change. How did that go? Let’s just say I had a very early bedtime every evening. But after a week I was fine. It was the psychological part of the adjustment that has taken a bit longer.

The truth is, you don’t know how somewhere has changed you until you go back to where you were before. I was told I would have reverse culture shock. But no one told me it would come at me at the most random moments and in the strangest forms. Like my disgust at the amount of time I have to spend getting from one place to another; or my disdain at the excessive amount of ‘things’ in my home. It’s funny, when I was in Thailand, I met so many people who wanted to come to Canada. But now that I am back in Canada, there are moments when all I want to do is go back to the simplicity of my life in Thailand. It has been like seeing my Western life through new eyes and wondering what the big deal was anyway.

I guess it is similar to the experience of coming to know God. A lot of things get tossed off as you walk closer to Him, and sometimes you stop on the road and look back at the things that were so hard to let go of and wonder what the big deal was anyway. Personally, I am learning to appreciate this feeling of wanting less. I hope it never goes away.

The little yellow book

Thai Sunset

It’s been over a month since I posted (I know I am a terrible blogger) but in my defense it has been a truly intense month.

I have passed the halfway mark for my time in Thailand and so now the end is closer than the beginning. My mother who is counting down my return to her nest is extremely happy about this. But as I look at the first six months I can already see how much I have changed, how many weird Thai habits I have picked up (more on this later) and how I have stretched myself in ways unimaginable.

Over the six months I have also been making lists of my prayers in a little yellow book that stays in my purse or on my bed-head. I am pretty delinquent in writing all my requests, but usually the big ones make it on the pages. It has been such a blessing to see how God has answered so many of them. Requests for friends who were sick; requests for help teaching my classes; requests for help writing my manuscript; requests for my parents, my brother, my other relatives and friends. Everything from the simple and mundane (help me to like Thai food) to the complex (help my Thai friend to come to our Visitor’s Sabbath at church) have made it into that little yellow book. And the vast majority have been answered – not always in the way I want, but they have been answered.

It is an encouragement to me to see how God answers my prayers. It gives me hope that He will do the same in the future. Try tracking your prayers and answers and then count your blessings.

You may be surprised at how much God is listening to you.

Things your mother didn’t teach you

I love my mother dearly – but I have found there are a few things she neglected to teach me growing up. Like how to ride a bicycle in a skirt. I can’t fault her for this. Its not the kind of thing you find in a ‘Growing Up Baby’ book, but it is definitely a skill worth having here in Ubon, Thailand. Especially, if like me, your main mode of transport has two wheels, a chain and pedals.

It has taken quite a bit of trial and error to figure out how to get from my apartment to the school without flashing the Thai people along the way. There is bit of riding against the wind, pedalling gingerly and holding the skirt with one hand involved. Sounds complicated but so far it has been working.

Just riding a bicycle on a Thai road is an adventure in itself. Last week I bravely took my bicycle up Chiangun Road (think Eglinton Ave in Toronto) to Tesco Lotus (think Walmart anywhere). In the 40 minute bike ride there and back I nearly became road kill for several motorbikes and a SUV. Thankfully I got to my destination and home without major mishap (although I did almost fall off at one point. I would have been embarrassed but most Thai people probably think foreigners are a little crazy anyway.)

I am pretty impressed however at how fast I’ve been able to ride, seeing that I haven’t been on one of these things in at least ten years. It seems like the memory really does stay with you. It really is like…riding a bicycle.

Can you say ‘around’?

Because a number of my students can’t. Today I spent a good portion of my class trying to teach one of my students to say the letter ‘R’. This is not uncommon in Ubon, and other areas of Thailand, since many Thai people replace the letter ‘R’ with ‘L’. They also replace the letter ‘L’ with ‘R’ which proved rather interesting last week when one of my male students was reading a passage about electricians.

Nonetheless I am always impressed at how hard they try to learn English – which I am learning is a rather difficult language to acquire. (I don’t try half as hard to learn Thai) I now have a greater appreciation for my Asia-born friends back in Canada. We native English speakers don’t know how good we have it.