Thursday, January 24, 2013

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

 Sawadee-ka!!! I can't wait to start posting here from Thailand!

Well I'm certainly feeling like post-tornado Dorothy in Oz* after my 10,000+ mile, 31 hour trip on 4 different planes and 3 countries. The flight here felt admittedly faster than the first flight in 2011 but it was still an incredibly long trip. Thanks to my tablet and it's movie collection, I was spared the bore of terrible in-flight movies and a few awkward chats with my Canadian neighbor. There were plenty of awkward conversations, don't get me wrong. What kind of person looks at someone that's already sleeping and decides to strike up a conversation about ice fishing with them on multiple occasions? I didn't sleep the night before I left (as all Thai flights leave at 6am and arrive there at 12am the next day, it seems) and am pretty sure that I barely dozed on the plane..... but alas, I arrived and slept.

[It's really frustrating to get photos to align in any sort of way in Blogger (I even looked up HTML codes), so please pardon the lack of photo feng shui.]

* On a random Oz-related note while I'm thinking about it: the movie "Oz" will probably be playing in Thailand while I'm there! I hope that movie really looks as otherworldly as the previews. There's nothing like a refreshing piece of home after you've been gone for a while. I can say that confidently since my study abroad group and I went to see at least 2 movies in the 5 weeks we were here before.

My first day/night here was a pretty incredible welcome back-- I have to say. Here's pretty much the sequence of events:
  • I got off the plane and walked into a very crowded airport-- following some other passengers on my plane and doing exactly what they did so I looked like I knew what I was doing. 
  • I found my Thai friend Karn (whom I gave a huge hug with excitement and relief and only afterward wondered if it was appropriate, culturallly), who took me to the airport's 7/11 to find "first day" groceries and to a taxi. After a 40 minute taxi ride, we arrived at my new apartment in Salaya. 
  • I walked into my apartment and took in the place that I would be living for 6 months (which really is about the size of a dorm room): everything was white and perfectly clean, many things in the room still had plastic wrap on them, you had to put the key in a slot to turn on electricity, the beds had no bedding (which I was not prepared for), etc. So much to take in! The only part that I was thinking I would need to fix is the lighting-- flourescent lights just aren't my thing. Luckily, the daylight showed the room's true beauty!
Only downside....
But major upsides!!

  • I spent the next 3 hours unpacking-- despite my swollen ankles, bags under my eyes, and knowledge that the smartest thing would have been to sleep. I can't NOT unpack in a new place!! Plus, I wanted to wake up and get going
  • Somewhere within that 3 hours, I took one of the best showers of my life. There's nothing like a hot shower after 31 hours of travel, very little sleep, and worry that your apartment shower would have only cold water and a hose-style shower head. 
            • After a few hours of sleep, my eyes SHOT open and I hurried to get ready and greet the day! I thrust open the sliding doors to my porch and took in the temperature, smells, and sounds of a bustling Thai morning. Thailand did not disappoint my senses. Not only could I comfortably stand outside in JANUARY, but it smelled like barbecue and sounded like a happy, spring morning. Thais politely greeted each other and exchanged money for breakfast, maids chit-chatted as they swept the poolside, and foreign birds and insects completed the soundscape. 
  • Figuring that I needed to pay for apartment first thing, I went downstairs and encountered my first major language barrier issue. Luckily, Karn gave me his phone number for times like these and we decided that I would come back later with him after they created an English apartment lease.
  • Next, I asked the apartment for a ride to the University to go see some familiar faces and places. A nice man took me in an apartment van. When I asked him how much I owed him, he said it was a FREE service! Never in America. He also arranged a time to pick me up from the University that evening. Wow. 
  • It felt so great to finally be back at the Music Therapy office at
    Mahidol and see everyone! Has it really been 2 years since the last visit? For the first day, I mostly hung out around the office, checked out the additions to the MT instrument collection, reacquainted myself with Thai food, and found a computer to contact everyone for the first time since I arrived.
  • After school, we hopped on the Salaya Link (bus to Bangkok for less than a dollar), went to see Dr. D's apartment and retrieve her family, and headed out to the new night market for an evening adventure. 
  • The night market trip consisted of a ride on the sky-train and a boat ride to the market after the hour long bus ride. As you can imagine, my stomach definitely started to say "hey now... take it easy". The night market actually reminded me of home-- specifically fancy parts of Texas-- and make for quite the classy outing. Thailand certainly has an interesting mix of slums and class. We dined, shopped, talked, (I yawned a lot-- jetlag), and found a super cool ferris wheel at the market: 

  • After a lovely dinner with my new "Thai family", I took a taxi ride back to Salaya on my own. My first taxi ride on my own. Which proved quite interesting as this was probably the first time I've truly paid attention to evening traffic in Bangkok. The amount that we were in a lane was significantly less than the amount that we were weaving between cars and dodging motorcycles--just millimeters from taking off mirrors. I probably have video evidence, but I don't want to scare you-- mom :)
  • The rest is history! More posts soon. 
Fyi, I don't plan on journaling any other day in such detail but there is something so memorable about the first day that I want to preserve. It seems incredibly long because the body and mind are going through too much to comprehend in the waking hours that day. 


General thoughts after a few days of being here now: Being here a second time is really so different than the first. On the first trip, I was so excited to take everything in and try to comprehend what I was seeing that I was certainly in a state of shock and awe. This time, I feel like I can relax and take in one thing at a time. Eat at a random food vendor and not worry that I'm not eating at the absolute best place in the area. Relax on my front porch and listen to the birds without worrying about missing out on what's happening in the market or on campus. Or stay in and watch American movies when I'm dead-tired to preserve my precious energy for the next day. I hope I have time to write often and reflect upon everything that is happening to me and the amazing things that I see--both in daily living experiences and in the clinic.

What a Wonderful World, indeed.

One more apartment shot-- my roof :)

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