After 26 hours of travel, I made it back to the US! Here’s a few highlights from my last two weeks:
- My boyfriend came to Thailand and we spent a few days in Bangkok, then on Koh Samed (the island I had written about in the blog post “Magic”)
- Koh Samed was having a gigantic Gay Pride music festival at the time, so we got to see lots of Thai youths drunkenly celebrating
- We went to Hanoi, Vietnam and saw Ho Chi Minh’s body and an Army Museum dedicated to the Vietnam War (AKA the Anti-American Imperialist War)
- We drank coffee. So. Much. Coffee. I recommend making “Vietnamese Egg Coffee” – it’s sweetened condensed milk mixed with egg yolk. I could (and sometimes did) live on it.
- We ate Bahn Mi, which is a baguette sandwich filled with chicken or pork of BBQ and mayo, chili sauce, cilantro, mint and who knows what else
- Hoi An was full of floating lights on the river, coffee and card playing in any air conditioned coffee shop (and some that weren’t) we could find and the “Best Bahn Mi in Vietnam”
- Hue we spent a beautiful night on a lotus-shaped floating restaurant
- We spent a night back in Bangkok then flew from there to home!
As I reflect back on my abroad experience, freezing cold in 80 degree weather (I wore jeans and wished for a jacket at this temperature) I can’t help but note how much I took for granted. Here’s but a sampling:
What I took for granted in America:
- Cars and motorcycles give more than 6-8 inches between the wheel and the my ankle
- Knowing what I’m eating (animal? vegetable? mineral? was the constant question)
- The food doesn’t make me cramp, throw up, or have a problematic GI tract
- People refrain from commenting on my weight and how ugly the freckles on my arms are
- No need to take immodium or oral rehydration salts on a regular basis!
- Being able to read road signs
- The sun is a gentle source of heat, not a giant ball of oppressive flame bearing down on my being, making me afraid to go outside on blue sky days
- I can understand everything that’s being said the first time
- Tap water is drinkable and readily available for me
- I know where to find affordable food without fear of being charged extra because I’m a tourist
- I can google anything and talk about politics in the street without fear of being arrested
- I can put toilet paper in the toilet bowl!
- I can embrace a swarm of mosquitos without fearing dengue, malaria, or Japanese Encephalitis
What I took for granted in Thailand:
- Mango sticky rice
- Fresh fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, apples, dragon fruit and other unnamable, unknowable fruits) on most street corners
- Butt hoses next to every toilet making a hygienic and clean experience
- Being far away from my family (that’s a test to see if they actually read this blog)
- Amazingly delicious and fresh food available on the street
- Talking with people and hanging out at night markets
- The feeling of euphoria, relief, and internal peace when walking into a 7-11 from the cruel outside heat and humidity
- Home stays with genuinely kind, wonderful people who tried their best to take care of me
- Traveling most weekends around Thailand and Cambodia
- People asking me if I was lost or needed any help or water
- Honey toast (a thick piece of bread toasted in butter with honey, ice cream, whipped cream, fruit, chocolate and caramel)
- Never having to worry about dressing for the weather – I always knew it would be ungodly hot
- The people I had the privilege of meeting, living with, and talking to were very kind and we were able to make strong emotional connections despite language barriers
Overall it was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about myself, dramatically increased my self assurance and confidence during my travels and felt my eyes and mind being opened wider. As I am now (miraculously) safely back in the US, this concludes my time as a Whitman Off-Campus Studies blogger. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing!