Hello again! Sorry I have been on a bit of a hiatus in the blogging world. A combination of factors - being on vacation, unexpectedly having limited internet access while on said vacation, hosting two temporary volunteers for a couple of weeks, and more - have led to a brief interruption in my blogging schedule.
If you get John’s blog posts, too, he shared that we were on vacation, so perhaps you have heard this already. Our vacation was lovely - and different from any other vacation I have ever had. For several reasons. Even though we have been living in Thailand for 5 months (can you believe how the time has flown by??), we have not done any major traveling since our arrival. It was our first time really traveling in Asia.
It was also our first time traveling since we have been undergoing profound change this year. I have alluded to and written on the subject of privilege a bit, but really - the glasses of privilege are completely, utterly off!
...Okay, that is a little extreme: I don’t think the glasses are ever completely off. I still feel like there is more to learn about privilege, social justice issues, or anything else related to that. I just see the world much differently than I ever have. And it has taken hold deep in my heart, not only in the cerebral forces of my mind. In this newer state, it was hard for both me and John to transition to the world of vacations - and a world where people can afford vacations regularly. We are very far removed from that in our current lives.
As someone we have become close to said to me this week, we are consciously striving for ‘downward mobility.’ While the people we are with are striving for ‘upward mobility.’ She said that if given the chance, most (or all) of the people we interact with regularly would go on vacation as well. Which made me feel a little better.
John and I are intentionally trying to live the four tenets of Good Shepherd Volunteers (GSV): spirituality, social justice, simplicity, and community. When it comes to simplicity, we approached this vacation with more of a fiscal mindfulness than I have had to and/or chosen to in years.
There are some good aspects to approaching a vacation this way. For instance, when you spend less money, you really think about your choices of what you want to spend your money on. One of our choices of how to spend our money was to pay for a jungle trek and a short elephant ride. So we did! It was amazing. Well, the guided hike in the jungle was actually very tough. But I would have been disappointed if it was too easy. It had rained the night before, so it was pretty slippery - combined with the natural humidity of the jungle. We hiked up, along, and down a 500-meter mountain. It doesn’t sound too high of an elevation, but when you’re dripping sweat due to the humidity, believe me, it’s no small thing.
After 4+ hours of hiking (with some breaks along the way), we took a longer break by a waterfall. We swam in the cool pool that was part of the waterfall to reduce our heated body temperatures and ate some lunch. We finished the day off with a short walk to the elephant camp, where I was extremely privileged (there's a double meaning in there somewhere) to ride the real ‘king of the jungle.’ Our elephant caretaker offered the chance for me to ride the elephant bare-backed, and partly to my own surprise, I did! I’ll never forget that experience as long as I live. It was an honor, and I am still humbled when I think of it.
A downside is that when this way of life/vacationing is new to you, it takes more effort to plan and think differently. And really - we are processing new things all the time these past 5 months. It can be exhausting. As we have written already, that ‘excessive’ downtime that we have (when we still get it - and we haven’t gotten as much the past month or two) is really quite necessary.
Another change is that Nongkhai has become our home. When I was chatting with my sister and her husband (who came all the way to Thailand to vacation with us - thank you very much!), I called it my home more than once. Don’t worry - our friends and family back in the states are our home, too. But Nongkhai, and specifically the community we interact with, has become our second home.
Toward the very end of our vacation, John and I were looking forward to coming back to our new home and all the people here - just like I’m sure many of you often do when you start wrapping up a vacation and look forward to sleeping in your own bed. It was much the same for us. I wanted to see how the patients were doing (and hoped that they would all be in good health still - thankfully they are relatively in good health, as of now).
Upon our arrival back in Nongkhai, we headed back into the whirlwind. We continued to host the two temporary volunteers, welcomed two other important visitors for the week, had a visit from a prestigious government official, and had an overnight duty at the Care Center - all within 3 days of arrival!
Finally, the last two evenings (at the time of this writing), John and I went back to being our Community of Two. Although we enjoyed spending time with the short-term volunteers and watch them come to love this community that we love so dearly already, I have really come to love and treasure the time together that John and I have. His quiet nature nurtures my soul.
I wish all of you some eye-opening experiences in your future, with time to reflect and heal and grow from them, as well as someone as wonderful as John in your life to share them with.