Tis the Season: A Thailand Christmas and a New Holiday Perspective

I’m delighted to make an appearance on Amelia’s blog for her 2016 installment of “Tis the Season.” Hop on over to her little corner of the internet to read about how my Thailand Christmas last year has affected how I view the holidays this year and in the coming years, and maybe stay for a bit to check out some of her book reviews, travel stories, and librarian adventures.

Keep Your Feet

Today’s Tis the Season post comes from Britta of  It’s a Britta Bottle!


A Thailand Christmas and a New Holiday Perspective

One of my absolute favorite Christmas memories is a relatively recent one, in what some might see as a most unconventional location.

The Setting: A shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand

The Event: Christmas Ice Skating

The Players: A group of Western English teachers

unnamed A visual image of the scenario

Christmas in Thailand! Say what!

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The Nature of Goodbye

What is in a goodbye?

Goodbyes are small moments in the grand scheme of a relationship.

Some goodbyes are forever goodbyes and some are temporary.

I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people in the last year. I’ve been on three continents in the last year (North America, Asia, Europe). I’ve lived on two (North America and Asia).  In the last twelve months, I’ve called five different cities and towns home (Chiang Mai, Thailand; Nakhon Chaisi, Thailand; Bloomington, Minnesota; Arlington, Virginia; Washington, DC).

With this constant moving, I’ve met so many people. I’ve lived with some of them; I’ve begun to love some of them; I’ve learned so much from most of them. With this constant moving, I’ve said goodbye to nearly all of them.

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Green Group, TESOL certification, October 2015. It’s amazing how much people can affect you in the course of one month. Saying goodbye to this group was certainly hard.

Some of those goodbyes I surely thought would be temporary. There was the kiss on the cheek at a 7/11 in Bangkok–someone I thought I’d certainly see within the next couple months, if not weeks, but whom I left Thailand without seeing again. There was the slightly awkward, rushed goodbye the day before New Year’s Eve, also in Bangkok. A goodbye I also Continue reading “The Nature of Goodbye”

My Search for Personal Independence

One of the things I have always prided myself on is my independence.

I have never felt the need to go along with the most recent trends (as teenage Britta proclaimed more than once with much disdain, “Ugg boots are so appropriately named…because they’re soo ugly”) or to go along with societal ideals that make little sense or seem soul-sucking (there seriously has to be a more productive and effective method of working than the 9-5 job construct). I am a firm believer that we have built a society around ourselves that is much too complex, and the idea of having to participate in it is, really, somewhat maddening.

I listen to my heart and do what feels right, regardless of what other people think.

I mean, this is how I ended up in Thailand in the first place. That independent spirit, that desire for adventure and, quite frankly, the desire to avoid our ever-complicated society for as long as possible.

Seemed simple, right?

In fact, for me, it was almost too simple.

When I tell people about my Thailand experience, I often hear, “Oh, you are so brave. I could never do that.” Meaning, they could never move to a different country with a completely different language and culture.

Well let me tell you, it was hard. Living there was hard. The country and the culture were so exhausting to me and, as much as I wanted to become more comfortable there, to call Thailand a long-term home (because, oh, I did want that), it eventually became quite apparent that that wasn’t going to happen.

So, yes, actually living there didn’t work out for me. But–getting on a plane and actually moving there? Geez, that was almost too easy. Too easy that I barely even thought about it. And you know why? Because once I got there, I didn’t have to Continue reading “My Search for Personal Independence”

#BeReal – BRITTA BUCHANAN

Back in February, Hasty asked me to write up a post about what it means to Be Real for her blog. This the result.

I’m currently back home in the U.S., taking some time off from the blogosphere to recharge and catch up with people in real life…but I’ll hopefully get back to posting soon!

In the mean time, I invite you to hop over to Hasty’s blog to check out my guest post and perhaps peruse around the rest of her site while you’re there.

HASTYWORDS

My #BeReal guest today is Britta Buchanan.

britta

What does it mean to #bereal?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, in the context of how I perceive myself and in the context of how others perceive me. As I write this, I am wrapping up one semester of teaching English in Thailand with the intention of heading back home to the United States after a bit of travel. Six months ago, I would have told you that I’d for sure sign on after another semester in Thailand; the idea of living abroad was still enticing and new at that point and I couldn’t imagine any context where I would want to come home. In fact, back in September, upon my arrival in Thailand, I wrote in my journal that going home would be a step back.

Why go home when there is a world of opportunity to explore…

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From a Five Month Expat, With Love

Thailand,

It has come to my attention that I will be leaving your borders for the unforeseeable future quite soon. It’s an ending that’s coming quicker than I anticipated and it’s an ending that will fill me with an equal amount of joy–at the prospect of returning home–and sadness–because, well, Thailand, you’ve become a new home. Feelings aside (because we all know how much I love feelings), it’s an occurrence that will inevitably happen sooner than later. Well, Thailand, before the onset of said occurrence, I have some words to get out there regarding my time here.

— — — —

Oh Thailand, it’s been such a wild ride. One that I will never forget. One that has shaped me in more ways than I ever possibly imagined. Thailand–you are everything: frustrating, beautiful, frustratingly beautiful. You are exciting, an adventure always waiting to happen, a whirlwind of crazy, wonderful, exacerbating, so much life. You are an endless array of oxymorons and you never get old.

and Thailand…oh Thailand…

I love you.

I love you a lot.

Adjusting to you was far from easy. Sometimes, adjusting to you was downright the worst. Chief among the struggles I  encountered during my adjustment period was your food–because although there is so much to love about Thai food, eating it day in and Continue reading “From a Five Month Expat, With Love”

Twenty-Three

Today is my twenty-third birthday.

Today is my twenty-third birthday and I am not in Bali celebrating with TESOL friends as I had planned; I am not off having wonderful travel adventures after the close of a semester of teaching English, as most of my TESOL friends are by this point.

No. Today is my twenty-third birthday and I am in Nakhon Chaisi, my Thailand home, very much alone…taking time for myself.

Really taking time for myself.

Not thinking about classes or school–school finished last week; not worrying about the future–that will come in time; not investing so much time in what other people think of me and how I’m spending my time–because I’m so tired of that; not expecting so much of myself–because I keep pushing myself to do things that won’t serve me…and that needs to stop.

— — — —

Last week, I was crying in a Thai hospital after a doctor had just diagnosed me with the early stages of pneumonia. I was crying because of the inconvenient timing–how I was supposed to administer exams the next day and how I was supposed to fly out of Bangkok to Bali on Monday. The doctor told me I could still go to Bali–as long as I didn’t spend any time in the water on beaches–but traveling is exhausting and I didn’t feel comfortable exerting myself in that way while sick (not to mention that spending time in the water on beaches was something I wanted to do…and I didn’t want to travel all the way to Bali if I couldn’t make the most of my experience because of illness). I was crying in this hospital because this was only the latest in what seemed to be a continuing list of physical maladies that have been plaguing me in Thailand and I was crying because I was angry at Thailand for doing this to me; more than being angry at Thailand, I was angry at my body for not holding up in the way I wanted it to in the face of adversity. I was crying because, dammit, life has been really hard these past couple months; when I’ve just wanted to make the most of my time here in Thailand–both on my own and with my TESOL friends and new friends along the way–my body and soul have consistently been telling me Continue reading “Twenty-Three”

Late February, 2016

Currently feeling: Vulnerable and confused.

Vulnerable because I’ve been doing things and having conversations with people and just generally putting myself in situations that are outside my comfort zone pretty consistently these last few weeks.

Confused because I’ve been constantly questioning myself lately–who am I and what am I doing in this life and what do I want? I feel as if I’ve having an identity crisis of personality and ideology and values. Am I really an introvert or do I just have social anxiety? But can I call myself an extrovert–that goes against everything I know about myself. Maybe I’m somewhere in the middle because I do need my alone time but also have discovered over the past few months how much I thrive with people. What do I actually want and how will I accomplish that?

Thoughts and feelings and ideas are racing through my brain at lighting speed. I don’t know how to silence them. I’m struggling with concentrating. With just sitting still.

I’m eager to go home, yet want to make the most of my last month and a half abroad. Do I really want to spend all of March and half of April traveling? Honestly? No. I’m so exhausted from everything that my time abroad has taught me and I just want to go home. But plane tickets are bought and budget airlines aren’t about convenience and getting your money back in ticket canceling and I don’t want to lose that money. I want to go to these places and I’m going to go to them, even though I don’t really want to right now…because I know I’ll regret it if I don’t.

I’m in a weird place right now. A place that is really hard in some respects, but I also know it is serving me so very well.

I don’t shy away from vulnerability and I guess it’s natural to feel confusion now and then, especially at 22.

So that’s me.

How have you been lately?

 

My Pursuit of Happiness

A handful of days ago, I was sitting in my friend Mo’s Bangkok apartment in tears. I had come to Bangkok for the weekend to celebrate the birthday of one of my TESOL friends; I had been so excited before leaving Nakhon Pathom for Bangkok–I was convinced the weekend would be fabulous. I recall thinking it might the first weekend in a long time that I’d be excited to go out with friends…

Well. It wasn’t.

Instead?

Instead, I spent the whole weekend feeling incredibly sad. Incredibly homesick. Incredibly lost. While I watched all of my friends have an amazing time, I felt like I was only half there. I wasn’t enjoying myself and all I wanted in the world was to go home…and not home to Nakhon Pathom, mind you–but home to the United States, to Minnesota.

It was only when I broke down at the end of the weekend in Mo’s apartment that the clarity I had needed all weekend came to the surface. “I just want to go home.” I blubbered to my friends. “I don’t know what’s happening to me…but I feel so lost and sad and just want to go home.”

It was in that moment that my friend Sarah looked me right in the eye and said something I knew instinctively to be true: “Britta, you’re not happy here. You’re not even happy with us.”

Her words rang in my head: You’re not happy here. In a matter of moments, the state of mind that had made up my whole semester made sense. Truthfully, in the last few weeks, I had come to realize this. Deep down, I had known that I wasn’t happy in my current situation. I was afraid to admit it to myself, though, because I was so determined to stay in Thailand and live my life as an expat.

Sarah was right, though. She is right. I love teaching and I love my students, but I haven’t experienced a true and lasting feeling of contentedness in Thailand since leaving the emotional high of Chiang Mai. I come home from school at the end of the day and don’t know what to do with myself. I haven’t been successful at meeting Thai people here and more so, I’m finding that I don’t want to. When I do meet up with my TESOL friends, I find myself not wanting to do anything. I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore partier in the slightest, but I do like to go out on occasion–and I have had absolutely no desire to do that at all here. I feel uninspired and lost and although I’ve learned so much and tested myself in many ways in these past few months in Thailand, my life has felt more lifeless than anything. There have been moments, yes–mostly while traveling with TESOL friends, but also instances at school when I had a really successful class or after I’ve had a great interaction with a local in my town–but they have been far and few Continue reading “My Pursuit of Happiness”

To Be a Traveler

When I first decided to come to Thailand, traveling wasn’t a priority.

I came to Thailand because I’ve always been interested in living abroad for a time and I had recently developed a interest in education.

Sure, I guess I figured I would occasionally go on trips and I had talked with blogger friends who live a reasonable distance from Thailand about potentially visiting them.

That said, I never considered that traveling would ever become a part of my identity.

Than again, there’s so much about Thailand that I never considered would happen–the amazing, life-long friends I’d meet in my TESOL course…how deeply I care about my students and how badly I want them to succeed…how in love I became with this country in such a short amount of time…how I sometimes think about how I’m twenty-two years old and I live and work in the Bangkok Metropolitan Area and holy man, this is the amazing, post-college life I have created for myself. No, I never considered any of that. How could I? When I signed myself up to move to Thailand, I knew I’d learn a lot in the process–but didn’t realize how fundamentally it would change me.

As I move on with my life here, as I become more aware of why I’m here and what I hope to accomplish as an expat, I’m realizing more and more that I do identify a a traveler.

To be a traveler requires a whole different mindset. To be a traveler requires less of a concentration on material goods and more on living and breathing and experiencing. To be a traveler requires an understanding that money is necessary to get from place to place–and that a lot less of it is needed than one might think.

As I look ahead to my two month semester break in March and April, I’m realizing that if I want Continue reading “To Be a Traveler”