A Meditative Weekend at Home
This weekend I had the options of going to Bangkok for a boat cruise, going to a music festival nearby, or possibly solo traveling to a nearby province. Instead of doing any of these things, I decided to stay home in Saraburi. I have been deep cleaning, organizing, and planning for the next 4 months of travel. Before deciding to stay this weekend, I reflected on the fact that I am leaving this place, where I have been living and teaching for over three months, in 3 weeks. Three weeks! Just like that, the most challenging and life altering experience that I have had in my life so far is coming to a close, as I journey on to new places and new experiences.
My friends from home have been asking me how I feel about leaving so soon. My answer has been that it is very bittersweet. My first couple of months here were filled with newness, excitement, fear, travel and complete chaos in most of my classes. January was different though and February is continuing on the same path. I am adapted. My senses are no longer in shock and living here and teaching feels very normal, almost like I've been here twice the amount of time I really have.
I have learned how to control a rambunctious class of 50 hormonal kids ages 13-14 whose level of English is drastically low, without the help of any Thai teacher. Each time I enter the room to these classes, I try to keep a straight and serious face, so they know they can't get away with running around the room, throwing things, smacking each other etc. Of course, occasionally this still happens. Then I proceed to write on the board "music and game= no talking, no standing, no sleeping." At this point, my students can recite these words before I have even written them and I smile to myself, proud that they know my rules. I have engaged the most challenging students, learned classroom management, made connections with students who were only annoyances in November and truly adapted to a school culture that does not entirely take foreigners seriously.
So, how do I feel about leaving this place? A place where I am the only white person in my town and am constantly listening to other languages and making new friends. A place that has challenged my soul more than anywhere, without the cushion of living or working with other Americans. A place where I have learned to live by myself for the first time. A place where I have discovered who I am and what matters to me the most in life during the nights alone I spent in my apartment, contemplating thoughts, learning to play the ukulele, painting, writing, and noting down influential quotations. A place where I have distanced myself from relationships at home and thus become closer to myself than ever. Again, I feel bittersweet.
I am lucky that they next part of my journey is going to be so incredible, or I might feel even more bitter about leaving. I have recently finalized (finalized with others, but not booked) my travel plans for after teaching. On February 28th, I finish teaching. I will leave March 1 to go up north in Thailand to Chiang Mai and Pai for about 10 days. After that, I will fly to the south of Cambodia and teach stand-up paddle boarding for a month, with free riverside accommodation and food. I will leave Cambodia and head to Bali for 3.5 weeks to live with a couple and their son in their incredibly beautiful home, where I will help them edit and write for an online magazine about yoga, health, spirituality and places in Bali. Finally, I will fly to India in May to take a yoga certification course for a month at the base of the Himalayan mountains, in the yoga capital of world, Rishikesh. I applied for a scholarship and was awarded a free 200-hour certification, which usually costs about $3-4,000 in the USA.
Everything seems to be lining up for me.
I will be going home to Boston, MA on June 1st. I am trying to remain in the present, but already I am thinking about what I will do when I get there. "Will I need to get a job that I don't love just to pay bills? Will I have to live with my mom for a while? Should I travel more? Will I have money for that?" AGH!
I came to Thailand hoping to develop a deeper spiritual connection with myself and I believe that is something I have found. During my stay and travel in this country I have been influenced by others that I have met that meditation is an incredibly profound and life-altering journey. I recently met up with a 4 times removed family friend, long story, who is a wonderful and energetic Thai woman in her mid-50's. On the way to dropping me back off at my apartment after dinner, she shared that she has been meditating for about 17 years, ever since she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told me that the tumor wouldn't go away until a few months after she began meditating and now she does it every single day, morning or night.
I also met an English guy during my stay in Koh Chang who suffered from an extremely painful neurological disease and sent me an hour long Youtube video that he swears changed his life and occasionally depressive mentality. Last night, I began listening to the video that he sent to me. "Meditation is the way to discover the truth of your soul," says Barry Long. Why are we alive, if not for this purpose? Why I am I here in Thailand, if not discover the truth of who "I" am? I will try to continue to develop this skill to quiet my mind, something I believe will be more than necessary when I go home to the fast-paced and stressful USA environment.
My last few weeks in Saraburi include teaching, a 3-day trip down south to Krabi, a visit from a friend from America on my birthday, and the Wonderfruit music festival in Pattaya. This journey continues to be amazing, as I discover more of the world and myself daily.