Have you ever planned an extensive amount for an event, done said event, then like a week later had it hit you that it actually happened and it’s gone now? For example, last year I went to Hawaii for a week and now I’m not so sure I didn’t just dream all of that. Now multiply that feeling by 20 and you’ll understand what being in Thailand is like all the time. So much planning goes into everything we do and we are so gloriously busy that processing time is minimal. Prime processing time for me happens when I’m standing in the back of Clifford, our big red truck, with the wind (and sometimes dirt, bugs, or rain) hitting my face, turning my hair into one tangled knot (seriously, brushing your hair afterwards is a nightmare). Sometimes I just close my eyes and realize that wow, I actually am in a country where I don’t speak the language and I know so little about the people I’m helping. I use the word helping loosely here because what we’re really doing is giving people the means to help themselves. For example, today we were supposed to go help dig a trench to keep water from getting into this community center we’re renovating, but we got there and it was pretty much done because they got so enthusiastic about fixing it for themselves. Also they’re like a zillion times better at all manual labor than we are, but they’re really patient and are always willing to teach us.
The more I think about it, the stranger it seems that I live here. But even stranger is how normal it all is. The most complex conversation I’ve probably ever had in Thai is asking a kid how they are, finding out their name, telling them mine, and asking how old they are. Also I can order and pay for food. Here’s the thing though: It doesn’t matter. People are people no matter what language they speak. Everywhere we go, people are just nice. If they can speak any English, they’ll do their best to have a conversation and if they can’t, sometimes they still try and fail pretty hard (I appreciate the effort anyway). No matter what, they’ll bring you glasses of water, which means a lot more here than it does in the United States because clean water doesn’t just run from the faucets. It either has to be brought down from a mountain stream or paid for. Anyway, as we drive back from playing soccer with teenage boys, teaching a lesson about the importance of drinking clean water, or doing Zumba with older Thai ladies, I get a chance to reflect on the few weeks I’ve spent here.
We’re going to call what I’ve learned so far redtruck insights and here they are:
1. You don’t have to understand somebody’s language perfectly to care about them or make communication work when you have to. Thankfully, we don’t always have to because of our awesome country coordinators (big S/O to Brooke and Jackson, our country coordinators here).
2. Love comes in lots of forms. Sometimes it’s a bunch of bananas, sometimes it’s a Thai kid pulling your hand to show you something or play with you, or maybe it’s just a simple “Khap khun kha” (thank you) because it’s the only thing you’ll understand. Love has no language.
3. You don’t need everything you have to be happy. It’s nice to have things, but people and relationships are much more important. We are fortunate to have the resources we have, but that being said, I’ve met a lot of happy people who have far less than I do, and I’d like to think I could get rid of a lot and still be happy.
4. Don’t take the things you do have for granted. Period. Actually, exclamation point. Don’t take the things you have for granted! Clean water, vaccinations, transportation, citizenship, doctors’ offices close by, knowledge about saving money and using it wisely (even if we don’t always practice it), and your education are all HUGE gamechangers. We have so much we don’t even give a second thought to. Give it a second thought. Well, that about sums it up for today, friends. Take a couple minutes to be grateful, then go and do something with your life! It’s an amazing thing that body you’ve been given to use. So much potential, so little time.
Heidi Dray, Team Thailand