Volunteer Pitfalls

Volunteer Pitfalls

Today's post starts with a small photo album. Jumping on my bicycle or going for a walk are how I find myself adding activity to my life, and finding peace and renewal. I have always liked photography, but now it is an inexpensive way for me to be reminded of the beauty, joy, and wonder the world has hidden around every corner.

I want you all to know that as far as I can tell, I am doing fine right now. There has certainly been a lot of change, and the normal stress that goes with change is compounded a bit in a foreign country.

I have some posts that I want to share because they are relevant to volunteering. The tone may not be upbeat, or positive, but know that these problems are resolved or resolving as we speak.

This post speaks to issues of boundaries, cultural differences, and how good intentions sometimes lead to unintended consequences.

Subscribe Now

It's Embarassing

Today, I am going to share a look back at my own history as it relates to diversity. I present this mea culpa for both your benefit and mine. I have had this prepared for some time, but have hesitated to share it on multiple occasions.

I believe that honestly putting this out there will help free myself from the fear of my reality becoming public knowledge. A history that I can justifiably be embarrassed about. So I put this out there to say I am very flawed, but I am going to try.

I am going to be honest and open to criticism. I am trying to learn and I am going to make mistakes. I can only learn from those mistakes if people point them out to me.

I can only learn from people pointing out my mistakes if I am willing to admit wrong: admitting wrong instead of the natural inclination to defensiveness, denial, justification, or excuse. And then, I can continue to imperfectly move forward.

Feel free to take this walk with me.


Subscribe Now

It's So Real

Dealing with the tragedies of the past week has not been easy. I cannot say whether it is harder or easier than being at home, but it is definitely different. Much of the reading I have been doing surrounds social justice throughout the world. Much of the living I have done has helped me understand marginalization.

I should share with you that there are probably only two things unique about these posts: 1) you know me so that impacts how you process my words. 2) I am having this transition or awakening in a relative vacuum here in Thailand.

Otherwise, you can expect to hear the voice of yet another white male coming to understand his privilege. How that privilege has shaped a huge portion of my life, and how I interact with the world. There are at least hundreds, hopefully thousands of thousands of men like me out there who have had nearly the same experience. I am aware that many have already written about the experience, and have likely done it more eloquently.

Much of the content I will be sharing this week has been in the works for months. I cannot keep it to myself any longer, and I can no longer try to perfect it. I am putting it out there with its imperfections and the knowledge that I have no control over what will come. But maybe, just one person will begin their journey to greater understanding because of it. That hope is more than enough for me.

Subscribe Now



Note: At the end of the post are some photos of the beautiful sunsets we have been having at the beginning of the rainy season.

So many of us experience discontent in our lives. Sometimes the discontent is chronic, sometimes it comes after reaching specific milestones, or sometimes it sneaks in shortly after achieving a goal we had been striving for. 

This week I share a personal experience with discontent and my progress toward living a life with a little more purpose, and hopefully a little less regret. Living my life in a way that when my values change, my past actions are less likely to feel invalid.

Subscribe Now

Bahng Fai!!!

We keep having amazing experiences in rapid fire. I have yet to write posts about our time in Siem Reap, Cambodia or the SongKran festival in Thailand. I am going to skip ahead to our experience from May 29. I promise that I intend to get back to those other highlights.

A few months ago my co-worker Krisida told me about a festival in his town where they fire off rockets. He said they do this before the rainy season to anger the gods and make it rain. Friday the 27th, Krisida asked if I remembered it and would we like to go. I said yes and jokingly asked “is it tomorrow?” He laughed, said no, and then called his wife to find out when it was - Sunday. Susan and I had no plans, so we were in - Pick us up at 11 (he said “Thai time”).

Sunday came and we were packed and ready, relaxed and reading when we got a call that he was running late. A morning deluge of rain, but by the time he arrived at 1:00 it was clearing up. I drove us the 45 kilometers to his home, and his father-in-law gave a chuckle when I got exited the driver's seat.

After lunch, we jumped in their friend's care and drove the 5 minutes to the town market and pavilion. There was loud music and people were drinking and dancing - a lot. Bottles of rum and whiskey, carts lined around the pavilion selling food, and drinks of all kinds. We enjoyed the music, danced a bit, and took selfies with a few people before walking off with Krisida and his son.

We headed to the field where the rockets were loudly firing off. Krisida says since the day is later then expected is it okay if we spend the night? We look at each other and say sure, but we don't have anything but a rain coat (the one time we travel light).

I was expecting the types of model rockets kids and dads make together in the United States, of course I was wrong. These are like giant, homemade, bottle rockets: made out of PVC pipe, wrapped with mylar, stuffed with propellant, and having a long bamboo stick attached. I was told that these were “long-tail rockets. Other villages have short tail rockets, or as I saw later on the news have horizontal firing rockets.

We sloshed our way into the muddy field filled with people and vehicles are all over finishing or polishing their rockets. Monks in mass are working on different rockets and some are blessing them, “rockets are the hobby of the monks” Krisida tells me. There was a ceremonial rocket built by monks that was fired off early in the morning. We stand and watch a few go off. It is a loud, neat, and intimidating experience. Then we walk back to the pavilion. 

At this point, Krisida has to leave because a school teacher from his youth is severely ill and he has no family to help care for him. We spend the rest of the evening with his family. Ning (Krisida’s wife) is constantly checking in with us as we take in the party and dance some more. One man decides we are friends, he won't likely remember much of the evening, and around 7:30 we head back to the house for dinner.

Ning has procured us American sized clothing, so we shower at their house and change into shorts and t-shirts. Ning’s mother is cooking on a small charcoal stove in the kitchen of their stilted house. This is the first time I have smelled beef cooking since I arrived here. What a fantastic smell that is, and I tell her so.


They know that I love sticky rice so that is what we tend to eat with them. During dinner, 2 neighbors come up the stairs on separate occasions and talk to us all for about 15 minutes each. After dinner, we sit and watch Muay Thai boxing and the news for a bit, while Krisida’s 3 year-old son runs around naked after his bath. We seem to laugh all night long, and at one point I look at Susan and say, “How amazing is this?” 

We head to bed and are sleeping in the main room with Ning’s parents (hopefully I don’t snore too loud.) The mattress is firm, the mosquito net has a whole or 2, and the ceiling is tin. I wake up several times throughout the night, but fall off again easily. The rain comes loud and then soothing.

In the morning I fight the urge to jump out of bed, because there is really nothing for me to do. I enjoy watching the morning routine as Ning's mother sweeps the house, both parents talk and joke with the neighbors from inside their house (the kitchen and main living area only has 3 walls), and then Ning’s dad goes out and catches us some fantastic fish for breakfast.

And then we are off, running late as Krisida often does, for a rainy Monday morning commute after a not insignificant Sunday.

Subscribe Now