The Quiet, mostly

Today I was more quiet than usual. So much so John was wondering if everything was okay. Everything was okay; I was simply reflective and taking in the beautiful Thai countryside as we went for our last outing with the outreach team.

The fields were dry and mostly brown, with random pockets of bright kelley green fields of rice, for those with deep enough fields or alternate irrigation to harvest rice in the off season of northern Thailand. The sky was clear and blue, and the weather was quite perfect - a high in the 80's, which feels cooler to our adjusted bodies.

During our rounds, we saw several patients that I was already acquainted with: the baby who used to cry all day now only cries two hours per day and his body is much less rigid. The man who is paralyzed and swings his body with the momentum of his head and neck was in better shape too: better hygiene and ears more healthy. Two other men who are mostly paralyzed from different accidents were faring well too. The harder part of the day was our visit to a new patient, who hasn't always consistently taken her medication, can't eat much, is very thin and malnourished, and has recent problems with diarrhea. Phermsak asked if she wanted to come to the Garden for awhile, and after communicating with the staff, navigated the plan for her arrival later that evening.

Another from the series entitled A man and his dog, who will be missed.

Of course, that wound things up for John. He handled the processing of her as a new patient in the evening hours after all the staff had gone home.

Thrown in the mix was a patient's offer to teach us how to make green curry. A little bit of Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, and a couple of spice packets - led to a delicious albeit delayed dinner. I have been lucky enough to have a few Thai cooking lessons with different people in the community in the last two weeks.

This week I have also had more conversations about our impending departure, and it helps to have that acknowledged, to pave the way for the inevitable. It's becoming on most everyone's radar now. And let's just hope that the gift-giving that is inherent in this culture and especially this community doesn't get too out of hand - because we only want to ship so much stuff home!

I will miss the quiet that is inherent in our life here. Reading, journaling, limited TV and internet make room for reflection and conversation - a more wonderful, grounded life.

Lauren, on our weekly bike ride to the local market.

A few housekeeping items..

  • We depart Thailand on February 1st. We are grateful for the many cards and packages we have received during our time here, but please don't send any more to our Thailand mailing address. I hope to email out a temporary address stateside soon.
  • While John plans to continue blogging, I'm not entirely sure of my long-term plan. In the short-term, I plan to share a bit of our travels throughout Indonesia and Australia via the blog - but perhaps not weekly - as well as process what our return to the U.S. is like. Stay tuned in if you so desire.
  • I'm slowly ramping up the job search, and I'm looking for jobs in the non-profit sector in Chicago. If you know of any openings or good non-profits, please let me know. John plans to return to nursing, but he's not quite sure where yet.
  • We return to Chicago on March 17th (St. Patrick's Day!) and just in time to celebrate John's Grandma's 90th birthday.

Something else I learned in the kitchen recently: gapow (pork, basil, a variety of peppers, etc.). Delicious and spicy.

During my check-in with Kimberly at GSV this week, I realized that I had made a good spirituality habit this year and wasn't totally conscious that it was ingrained. One of the many alterations to myself and my worldview that I'm grateful for and attribute to this experience. I don't think I could have done this without the support of so many people, many of whom read this blog. Thank you all for all the things that you have done and are doing - not only for us, but for making the world a better place.

I thought it was quite fitting that I happened to begin reading Race Matters by Cornel West just before MLK day. In other recent reading, here's something that I know I may struggle with (although to a lesser degree) in the coming months. Taken from A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal, about his experience as a 10-year old at Auschwitz and other concentration camps:

"[at least for one portion of his experience]... Our barrack boss treated us well and distributed the rations fairly. Only rarely did the rations suffice to overcome that lingering feeling of hunger that had become part of me. Still, I always resisted eating anything we found in the garbage. Since we were also responsible for what was thrown out of the SS kitchen, the temptation was great to eat the remains of a sandwich or to lick a can that still contained a few slivers of food or some drops of soup or sauce. Whenever I saw such items I would remember my father's repeated warning never to eat anything from the garbage lest I get terribly sick. Once, though, a special opportunity presented itself. While collecting from outside the SS kitchen we looked through the open window and saw that it was empty. Near the stove stood a pan filled with milk. It had been years since Michael, Janek or I had tasted milk. We looked at each other and, without a word, Michael climbed through the kitchen window. He took a big gulp of milk, then passed the pan through the window to us. Janek and I took a few sips from the pan and handed it back to Michael. He put whatever was left of the milk back where he had found it and climbed out again as fast as he could. Have we been caught, our punishment would have been a very severe beating or worse. But we were not caught, and to this day I can still taste that heavenly mouthful of milk. No milk has ever tasted as good. Years later, when my own children would have to be coaxed to drink their milk, I would think of that day in the SS kitchen and be grateful that they never had to risk their lives to get it. At the same time I would have to hid my anger that they did not appreciate what it meant to have milk in abundance. But how could they? For many of us who survived the camps, food took on an almost mystical quality." (85-86)