The Four Week Silence in Thailand is Broken!

After a month without internet access, how can I possibly begin to catch up? Yes, I am still in Thailand and I have been living high in the mountains among some of the most amazing, friendly people I’ve ever met. It will be impossible to blog about everything, so I shall begin a series of posts in themes.

Beginning with just what I’ve been doing during my prolonged silence! (From my short conversations with my husband when I could get cell phone reception, everyone has been asking – did she make it?)

I arrived in Chiang Mai four long weeks ago (for it truly feels it’s been profoundly long. I may be fundamentally changed at my core.) without an expectation except that I would be picked up by a Karen man named Somnuk and driven up into the mountains of northern Thailand to live and teach in a village called Omkoi. Of course, this imagination of mine always runs rampant in true bookworm style, so I painted up a series of possibilities, running the gamut from modern mountain living to the most rustic of the rustic. Would I have running water? Reliable electricity? A Western toilet or a squatee? A fluffy bed or a simple mat on a concrete floor? And would anyone like me, the farang, the outsider? Amazing how I’m embarking on something as profound as servimg as a mission teacher, and my chief concerns were the everyday comforts and my own selfish self-esteem! Very human, I guess.

Of course, the reality never matches the imagined. Pastor Somnuk, all smiles and speaking perfectly understandable English (and a fellow Paul Simon fan!), picked me up in his rugged truck, along with his very sweet wife. We drove gradually up into the mountains, out of the city and into the wide open country, of dusty road construction, rather nasty looking motorbike accidents, and swelling rice fields. Imperceptibly at first, we climbed into the mountains, until it hit me we were flying past forests that reminded me suspiciously of home (Oregon, at least). We wound up the highway past cliffs, muddy swollen rivers, motorbikes laden with people, trucks filled to the brim with supplies and produce, and sedate cows munching on the side of the highway.

And finally we reach Omkoi, a village stretched out in the mountains, the center packed with shops and people and schools (always recognizable by the huge portraits of the king and rows of smartly snapping flags). We drove a little further on to reach the Omkoi Bible School and Church, my home for the next few weeks.

Life in this part of the mountains is a mix of modern and not so modern (at least by American standards). I started out living in a house owned by the church, used for visitors, that caters to the Western standard of living. An electric shower that would turn the water warm. A Western toilet (though, yes, I still had to manually flush it with a bucket of water). A stove and big kitchen and microwave. A bed. Really, nothing more does one need.

But within a day I was invited to live at the childrens home at the Bible School, as one of the teachers wanted to practice her English with me. I hemmed a bit – it sounded a bit more rustic. And then I mentally beat myself up for being picky and took the leap. Why not?

I share a room with Anna, a lovely young woman with a glorious laugh and a twinkle in her eye that means lighthearted fun and an immense depth of passion for life. A gap exists at the joining of the wall and ceiling, the windows have no screens, but wooden shutters. In short, bugs and mosquitoes can easily find their way in. I sleep on a hard low bed, really a board with a thin mat. We strung up a pink mosquito net to keep me (hopefully!) bite and malaria free at night. The bathroom is a squatee. Baths are a cold dousing of the bucket. And the children’s laughter and whispering keep me up at night. The first night I lay there and thought – “What did I just get into?”

But I got used to it. And then loved it. I come home to a huge family of children. And by getting rid of the luxuries I’ve grown used to, I begin to question the need for most of the “stuff” we accumulate in our homes. We pack our houses with stuff. Lots of stuff. But I watch the children find the purest joy in the simplest of toys. Rubber band braided jump ropes. Simple twigs for jacks. A soccer ball. They don’t have much, but the joy is everywhere.

I’m running out of time, so I bid adieu for now. I’ll write more about teaching, the people, etc. Promise!

Alas, I will not be posting very many photos of the children. Maybe it’s my teaching background, but the thought of posting photos of my students to the world makes me feel uneasy and protective. I hope everyone understands.


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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2 Responses to The Four Week Silence in Thailand is Broken!

  1. mgannett2014 says:

    Just starting to try WP, so there’s nothing to share, yet. Looks like I am able to comment because I prematurely paid a fee to Have read a few of your entries and am touched by your zest for life and travel lust. March on! Posted by a Lawrence grad of ’65, who’s been traveling for nearly 50 years. Will bookmark your blog to follow Travels with Karina. Mike Gannett, Burlington, VT. mgannett@aol(dot)com

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