A Thai Mother’s Day and Playing in Mud

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in Thailand. It also corresponds with the queen’s birthday. What does this mean?

I was inundated with flowers from the children I’ve been teaching. Not real flowers, the fake kind that never fades, and maybe some would see that as cheap, but honestly, I couldn’t stop crying. The symbolism gets to me. This is a gift to be honoring a mother, and the children have decided to so honor me.

Yes, I’ve been sniffling and red-eyed for a good 24 hours. And just when I think I’m all out of salt and water, my body delivers more.

In the morning, the older school children, looking smart in their school uniforms (an almost colonial British look in blue), flooded the streets of Omkoi, planting little trees all along the highway into town. Men and women in uniform, in blinding dress whites, gathered to honor the queen and mothers in Omkoi. One of my new friends (and like a mother to me here in Thailand) spoke about the specialness and responsibility of being a mother. She looked beautiful and radiant, in her handwoven skirt of colorful red patterned stripes and a flower in her hair. The whole celebration was a sight to behold as you drove past.

And I keep looking at my bouquet of fake flowers and the mist covers my eyes once more.

On a different note, the other day I dared to play a little football (aka soccer, my fellow Americans.) I held off at first, contenting myself with occassionally pausing to watch the almost daily football game of my adult Bible school students and the teachers that materialized on the somewhat muddy field above the school. I never saw a single girl kick a football. I expected this. Around the world, football is very much a man’s sport. But the tomboy and former goalkeeper in me yearned to play. But a woman, and a teacher and farang no less, deigning to play football with the men? Yes, I figured I’d prudently sit this out.

This past week I taught the children how to talk about their hobbies. (What do you like to do? I like to play guitar and jump rope.) I always use my own life to model for the kids, so naturally I mentioned I like to play football.

Well, obviously that stuck. As I was walking up the muddy lane past the soccer field, one of the older boys calls out, “Teacher, play football!” I debated a moment. Should I? Shouldn’t I? What hive of gender rolls would I potentially be stepping into? But only a moment. I figured – this is an invitation from one of the boys. So I took the leap.

It was just a shootout on the goal in a patch of mud. (Rainy season, alas!) Me and a couple of the boys and adult students. I thought, I’ll just shoot a couple of times and be on me way.

Hah. Apparently when you break the gender barrier, God has a sense of humor. Oh, yes, there were consequences. I took the approach to shoot on goal….until my flip-flops went one way, I went the other, and the forlorn ball continued to sit in the mud. One of my adult students tried to hide his laughter, until I broke into my own fit of laughter, flat on my back and shoeless in the mud.

There really was no point in trying to stay clean anymore. And I am by training a keeper. I went into goal and relished every muddy dive after the ball. Some of the most fun I’ve had in weeks. The bath afterward was just as enjoyable, as was the raise of my roommate’s eyebrows at the sorry state I was in when I called from the door for a towel. The inner tomboy continues to sigh – so, so worth it.


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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