Happy New Year!

My New Year experience looked quite different this year. First of all, I didn’t stay awake until midnight. I don’t think I have gone to bed that early since I was a kid! Secondly, it was probably the quietest New Year’s Eve I have ever had.

Originally, we weren’t sure how much celebration there would be because the Thai calendar follows a different calendar - based on the lunar cycle - so the Thai New Year isn’t until April. But the Thai’s also recognize the western calendar, so we have been learning that they celebrate our New Year as well.

Fresh coconuts that we enjoyed on Christmas Day!

John and I were scheduled for overnight duty at the Care Center on New Year’s Eve. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect. Early on, we were told that if the drinking gets out of control, we could call one of our coworkers to help out. As the shift approached, we were told of a few people who live in the Garden with us - that tend to drink. And we were told there would be a countdown. So we started concluding that there might be a bit of partying going on!

John, being his usual thoughtful self, had baked and iced yet another round of cupcakes - to share with the patients, as our own little contribution. Of course, I panicked when the cook started offering other desserts with dinner, so I threw our cupcakes into the action - which was not according to John’s plan (which I discovered shortly thereafter). John had thought that the cupcakes may give an extra sugar boost to the patients who wanted to try to stay up later.

After a short cry (because I’m extremely good at crying & the normal amount of crying has increased over the holidays), I discovered that all’s well that ends well. The patients were too tired and went to their bedrooms around 8pm (after the last set of medications are dispensed) as usual, so the cupcake fiasco was less of a fiasco.

John and I stayed up for another couple of hours, watching a movie - which allowed us to check on pampers for one of the patients.

I headed to bed well before midnight. It was fairly quiet, except for the distant pop of gunpowder/fireworks (yes, sometimes they use gunpowder instead of fireworks here) - all the sound covered up by a fan on the low setting - because it’s too cool outside to have the fan at a higher level than that! (By cool, I mean that it’s technically 62 degrees as a low, but for those of us who are climate-adjusted, that is really cool and requires limited fan use and full use of blankets!).

John and I awoke to a beautifully quiet morning.


After feeling a little melancholy yesterday, I felt like this morning brought the freshness of a new dawn and a new year.

However, by the time I rolled into Hands of Hope for some internet time on our New Year’s Day morning, I was back to being sick - homesick, that is - the cause being “face-text.” It’s a newer phenomenon, as a result of the digital age. It causes an increase in a homesick feeling, by scrolling through Facebook feeds and Instagram photos, while texting friends and family via WhatsApp. So I have a case of the “face-text” today.

Hands of Hope in quiet mode - my coworkers got a couple of weeks off work to rest and recuperate. I spent a few days working on special projects while they were away.

At the same time, I had moments in the past day that I thought there wasn’t anyone else that I would rather spend my NYE with - than with the patients here and John. It’s the little things, like one of the patients caressing my hair when I leaned down to check on her. Or when John makes little jokes, like when we were trying to communicate to our patient who has suffered a stroke and cannot speak much. He was asking her if she wanted the fan on 1, 2, or 3.. or 5! But it doesn’t go up to 5, so we all belly-laughed in response.

Spaghetti! Thanks to our coworker's husband and his delightful cooking skills.

Or it’s interactions with another patient who is also a little melancholy. I think this might be her first Christmas away from her family. I had known there were some family issues, but I heard some more details from another staff member today: her mother shuns her due to her HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common experience here - one that’s beginning to change as more education is disseminated about HIV/AIDS.

However, this patient was a little sad and hung out in her room for most of the 18+ hours that I was at the Care Center. She does enjoy talking to me, so she put on a good face whenever I checked in on her - like when I dropped off John’s cupcake and a little sticker.

You see? I’m not the only one missing my friends and family. And my reasons were by choice. I chose to come here and do this volunteer year. This patient didn’t choose to be treated by her mother this way.

Then there is the patient who is no longer a patient. He was recently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and spent a month or so with us, after his diagnosis, to get back on his feet and see what the Care Center is like - so if he needs future assistance, he could come back here. He got back on his feet and left us shortly before Christmas - to go on living. Well, he surprised us and showed up on New Year’s morning, spreading cheer as usual. He bought a few snacks from the store and shared them with the other patients.

It’s reflecting upon moments like these that turn my melancholy into a peaceful contentment, with a slight upward turning of the corners of my lips.

I wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year, filled with joy, peace, and moments of clarity! Much love from the other side of the world!

We continue with the little joys: internet that works!