“It’s now or never. I ain’t gonna live forever. I just wanna live while I’m alive. It’s my life.” Thank you, Bon Jovi, for those immortal worlds. Being a millennial, I am a member of an exclusive group of people. I would even go so far as to say that we are the luckiest generation which has ever set foot on Earth.
It’s absolutely insane how much I have been given over the years. I was raised in a suburb just outside New York City, the greatest city on Earth. Yes, that’s a fact and no, I am not biased. I was given a fantastic college experience and walked away with a hard earned bachelor’s degree in biology. And I have been given the amazing opportunity to travel to and live in Asia in the twenty-fifth year of my life. I mean seriously, how many people do you know who can say they lived in Asia? I promise, I am not trying to brag. I’m really not. But my point here, is this… On the back end of my parents’ hard work, and that of each generation before them, I have been given an opportunity. And you can bet your ass that I will not let it go to waste.
I have now been in Thailand for just short of two months, and I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. In just five short days, I will be passing out midterm exams, and a quarter of my time teaching will already be in the past.
In past posts, I’ve commented here and there on life in Thailand. I’ve even dedicated most of a post to a key aspect of life here – loneliness. But that was a mistake on my part. Not putting my heart on paper. No, that was super hard to do and I applaud myself for doing it. The mistake was giving you, my audience, a negative view of my time thus far. And for that, I’m sorry. Here’s the truth. Life always has wins and losses. We can celebrate the wins, but it is the losses that make us better versions of ourselves. Since moving abroad, that ideal has solidified itself in me. While I have already grown so much from a variety of failures, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the successes as well. And trust me, there’s a lot of them. For the sake of my fingers, and to avoid a ‘TLDR’ (too long, didn’t read) on your part, I’m only going to go through the big ones.
So let’s start with travel. When we first arrived in Thailand, which already feels like a lifetime ago, and completed orientation, we were advised not to travel every weekend, or else we might burn out faster than we’d hoped. Despite the warnings, many of us have done exactly the opposite. About twenty other OEG members and I all live within an hour of downtown Bangkok. From there, it is incredibly easy to catch a bus, van, cab or train to virtually anywhere within a six hour drive of the city. And it’s cheap, even when you’re no longer converting Thai Baht to US Dollars. So far I’ve experienced the exquisite moonlit water and blue ocean of Koh Samed, the lush green rainforests and thankfully abundant wildlife of Khao Yai National Park, and, most recently, we ventured over to Kanchanaburi and Erawan National Park. There we visited Erawan Falls, a beautiful cascade of seven different waterfalls, each unique and gorgeous in its own right. We were able to swim in multiple pools filled with skin eating fish – an experience of which I am honestly still unsure of my feelings – and also slide down a natural slide which resulted in a multitude of ingested spring water. Kanchanaburi is also where the famous Death Railway and the bridge over the River Kwai are both located. So on our second day there we hopped over to the railway museum and even got an underwhelming glance at the touristified bridge.
On the weekends when traveling outside of the city isn’t in the cards, there is still plenty of time to explore the city of Bangkok. In the many weekends when this has occurred, I have yet to repeat an activity. It’s easy to spend a whole weekend in Bangkok, and I honestly prefer it. Finding a cheap hostel, usually on Sukhumvit Soi 11, is easy. After that, the city becomes my oyster – from China Town to Fourth of July picnics to Lumphini Park to the occasional wandered upon Buddhist temple. There really is so much to see and do in Bangkok. I know I’ve only scratched the surface.
Recently we were able to take part in an event called Bangkok for Orlando. Early last month, forty-nine innocent people lost their lives in the largest mass shooting our country has ever seen. I’m not going to get into how horrible it was or any of the politics behind it. I do not believe it is my place, nor do I have the right, to comment in that respect. What I do want to comment on is the outpouring of love shown by everyone around the world, even here, in our tiny little corner of Southeast Asia. Numerous members and allies alike of the LGBT community came together in Bangkok and brought together people from all walks of life in mourning and in celebration of the lives lost that day. After a few speakers said their both their piece and their peace, including my friend Colleen, who is proud to call Orlando her home, we stepped outside to make a human chain down the length of Silom Soi 4. Standing there, hand-in-hand, we closed our eyes in silence for forty-nine seconds.
Lastly, let’s talk about my teaching. After all, that’s why I’m here, is it not? I know that in a previous post I talked about various failures, both minute and massive, with the result being feelings of loneliness and sometimes inadequacies. But I’d like to put the record straight. That’s not even close to what the majority of my days are like. They weren’t the majority then, and they’ve grown fewer and farther with every day since. Every day I come to school, I am blessed with a truly great group of students. Sure, there are days when they have no desire to listen and quieting them down seems like an insurmountable exercise. But then I remember that I wasn’t exactly an angel when I was in middle school, either. On other days, they are attentive and they answer questions with thought out responses. And they’re smart! They really are. They’re so intuitive about the world around them, and sometimes I think it is only my lack of enthusiasm for the English language that is holding them back. Recently, we finished up a unit on the environment and its pertaining issues. We didn’t even come close to finishing the lesson because one student’s answer sparked a class discussion that went right up until the bell.
And let’s not forget the view. My little district of Saphan Sung is located a short distance from the capitol city of Bangkok, and on a good day you can see the city and beyond. One particularly beautiful day, I decided to take my first adventure to the seventh floor of our school and the result was well worth it. With one of the many lakes of Sammakorn Village setting the stage, with ocean blue skies and wispy white clouds, the not so far off city really does look fantastic. The picture, I promise, does not do it justice. To come to work and see that every day lets me know that I’m doing something right. I’m not some high profile executive in a Manhattan high-rise. But who cares? I sure as hell don’t. I get to experience life on my terms. I would much rather be traveling the world, using this opportunity to the fullest, than sitting in an office 24/7 whittling away at my keyboard.
I have not had to fight for much in my life. Much of what I have now has been handed to me on the shiniest of silver platters. I am the grandson of immigrants, whose families traveled to America circa World War II, in a successful attempt to better the future for their families. I am the first in a long line of Rosens and Fehers who has, quite literally, been given the world.
From a young age my parents both stressed that I should do what makes me happy in life. No matter the path, what was most important was that I find myself and stay true to myself. I’m only twenty-five years old. By no means am I all knowing about life and its innumerable intricacies. But I can assure you that I have found the right path for myself. I have no idea what comes next, and I don’t think I want to know. But what’s important is that I take what I learn here in Thailand, and make sure that I use it in life to the best of my ability. It’s my life. I am most definitely not going to live forever. But it the time that I do have, I’ll be damned if I don’t live it to the fullest.