While I have been scribbling down tid bits of thoughts, I haven’t been able to process all of my feelings… errr… maybe I just haven’t been willing to sit down and sort through them. As I get more comfortable I can feel my eyes and my brain starting to open up. My subconscious is slowly letting in more and more information and inspiration.
For those who have expressed interest, the following is an attempt to express the inner journey so far…. It is not a post about how beautiful and lovely it is here–although it certainly is—although I am sat on the porch of a café, sipping coffee and looking off into the jungle covered mountains, this is a post about my first month, adaptation, and strength.
Week three was really tough. REALLY tough. Settling in and realizing that this is it, while jumping right into the middle of multiple work projects was a lot to take in. It’s only within the last few days that I feel like I have some kind of clue to what is going on, giving me the motivation and confidence to finally write this post. I still see myself in the mirror and think I look a little too thin, my face is puffy, my skin and hair are terrible and the bags under my eyes are a little too dark. But as I’ve found some solid ground for these feet, I am feeling a little healthier and sleeping a little better.
Last Saturday evening I sat on the edge of my bed, face in the fan and eyes on the wall thinking, “I am not this strong person. I can’t do this. I’m not having fun. Everyone will be so disappointed when I move home.” But that night I was forced to go out with some of my new friends. They knew the rough afternoon I had had, piled on top of a sparse and broken sleep cycle. We stayed up drinking beer and gimlets until 4am. They listened to me vent and were able to bring a few things into the light for me—things that I guess I didn’t realize were taking their toll on me, things I thought I could handle, or I didn’t notice were bothering me.
I realized that I had really been struggling with my “westernness”. Surprise! Yes. I had been feeling… almost… ashamed… of my “falang”-ness. I know its strange, and I’m not sure if any other expats have felt this way here? But, hey, the truth is I am a westerner. I like western things around to make me feel at home. I’m never going to be Lao. I like yogurt for breakfast, not noodles. I can’t stand to eat soup everyday. I have to wear shorts and a tank top sometimes because it’s damn hot outside. I hate how everything feels dusty and my hands always feel dirty. I don’t like that I need to go to four different stores and the market to get everything on my shopping list. And I especially hate when I have to throw my toilet paper in the bin instead of flushing it.
I understand the privilege I come from to be in a place to feel this way and I know that in time I will accept and get along with much of the lifestyle here, but I also need to give myself permission to miss my big soft, plushy bed back home. It’s ok that aircon, a dip in the pool and the option to close my windows make me feel more comfortable. It is ok to be tired and intolerant sometimes. And its ok that cheeseburgers and gin and tonics help me deal with it.
When I moved here, I felt like I was supposed love everything and melt into the culture because it is an incredible, unique place. But it took a friend to tell me that it’s ok to not be totally comfortable and happy here, especially after only a month. And it definitely gives me new respect to all the foreigners I have met living in the US throughout my life. Cheers to the courage and the journey of people migrating to new places and dealing with racsism, discrimination and all the other bullshit going on. Be brave, speak your language, wear your clothing, pray when and where you want. Make your little piece of home wherever you need it.
My next concern… So, am I strong enough?
Well… Only I can decide what is strong for myself. I think being strong is just another choice we make for ourselves. I think it is understanding that strength is not lack of weakness. I had this idea that being strong was about not letting things bother me. It was to handle things well, without flinching. Strong people brush things off easily and don’t let bad thoughts or emotions penetrate them, right? Maybe not.
You wouldn’t be human if you were never sensitive, sad or angry. Being strong is about learning how to live with and among the things that bother you– but also knowing its ok if you mess it up a little too. Wouldn’t it be too easy if you could train yourself not to flinch at anything? I guess that strength to me, right now, is surviving the day and still being capable of taking on the next one. I wish I could do it with a little more passion, a little more finesse—and I will, in time–but right now I just need to find my routine, build a home, make more friends and start creating pretty things.