My time here is more than halfway over. Days are disappearing and I’m realizing how important every minute of each day is. I still have items to cross off my “Chiang Mai Bucket List”.
One piece of advice – if you study abroad for the year (or even the semester) never put things off for later! Do everything and anything as soon as you can because the opportunity may not arise later.
I look at my calendar, counting the weekends I have left to spend in Chiang Mai, to camp at Doi Inthanon or Sri Lanna National Park. There aren’t many. But I’m lucky this semester, as my classes are scarce and my mornings are free.
Looking back at the last five months I’ve lived in Chiang Mai, it has flown by faster than I ever thought imaginable. I knew to be cautious of this, but my awareness didn’t save me. I remember the beginning of first semester, everything new and exciting. By the end of the semester we were all so comfortable. Comfortable with each other, with the city, with the culture, and even the language. Starting second semester renewed my culture shock, but left me with guilty feelings of superiority that I tried to suppress. I just wished these new students could respect and appreciate the culture, to let go and not depend on Western amenities like hairdryers. But I guess we were just lucky with our first group.
Thailand has really made me grow. I appreciate the beauty in simple things. Colors are vivid and alive. Smells grasp my memory. People are happy and kind creatures. Nature is fascinating. Tradition is meaningful. There are many times in my journey that I’ve been in disbelief – is the image I’m seeing with my eyes real or just something my mind is imagining? I’ve grown emotional in happy times, tearing up at a kind gesture that seems so rare back home.
I’m not ready to say goodbye. I guess that’s good since I have about three more months here. But the thought continuously crosses my mind. Getting on a plane to San Francisco seems so far away, almost the same way getting on the plane to come to Thailand felt. I know it’s real, but it feels like that day will never come, like it’s just a dream and my reality is here, in Chiang Mai.
There are so many moments from my experience that will always make me smile. Traveling to neighboring countries, no red trucks late at night, live music, street food, shining temples, stray dogs. A learned politeness that will remind me to wai even when people won’t understand my gesture.
…and a smile that has come from pure joy :)