2013 Spring Cambriae Bates External Programs Thailand

Final Days

This past week has been hectic. Finals and good-byes take a lot of energy and I found myself full of tension and stress. It’s hard to believe that I have been in Thailand for four months. Four months of making new friends, seeing new places, journeying to new crevices of the world, being an adventurer, and just living. Finally living.

Since this was my last week in Thailand I wanted to make it count for something special. I hung out with the people I loved the most, tried to eat really good food, went to a ton of markets for more souvenirs, and tried to laugh all the time. One of the coolest things I did this week was go to a reggae festival. In Thailand there is a pretty big reggae community that’s full of Thais with dreads in tight high waist pants, who flaunt red, yellow, and green as if it were their birth mark.

I went to a reggae club in Chiang Mai before and as I danced in the crowd, the lead singer on stage saw me swaying my hips to the rhythm. He smiled at me and I him because it is rare to see a Thai with a beard and coarse hair. He motioned me to come on the stage so I did and for about a minute I danced and accompanied him in singing “One Love” by Bob Marley.

The reggae community has always been a friendly one and the same smile that invited me onto the stage that night filled the crowd at the reggae festival. Everyone was there to just have a good time and enjoy the music. There was no anger or rowdiness in the crowd, just peace and love. Everyone was getting together to “feel alright.” I felt the love as I danced with friends, rolling my body to the rhythm and loosening my spirit. The reggae festival was a perfect place to be during my final days because it epitomized how I had been feeling the whole time in Thailand; I felt free.

The highlight of the festival was a Thai reggae band called “Job to Do.” I had been listening to the band during my time in Thailand. There were many times that I found myself singing along to the band as I drove in the car with friends. When I first heard the band I was so caught up in their sound that I didn’t even realize they weren’t singing in English. At the festival they sounded amazing. There was a guy in the band who had a voice similar to Louis Armstrong and he played the saxophone as if it was his third lung. I was mesmerized by the band and I didn’t want the music to be over. But just like my time in Thailand I knew it had to be. I knew that the music would end and the dancing would stop. People would go home and go to sleep. Then they would wake up and go back to their everyday lives, just as I would go back to my life. I couldn’t stay in Thailand forever even if I wanted to. Even though I fell in love with the land and the people I met. Thailand had become my home, but I had another home too.

A few days after the festival I found myself with mixed emotions as I packed my bags to leave. I began dancing when I thought about going home. I did a shake because there would be no more ants, a shimmy because I wouldn’t have a roommate, a bop because I could walk down the street without sweating, a hip roll because I would be back in my art community, a cabbage-patch because I could get all the foods I wanted, and a hands up in the air because I could laugh with my family again. Yet when I thought about leaving Thailand I found myself crying. I had blurry eyes because I wouldn’t be able to wake up to sunrises or witness clear sunsets, I pouted when I thought about never seeing the mountains, my eyes became puffy when I thought about never seeing the lakes and cliffs, my head fell into my hands when I realized I wouldn’t be able to zoom down the roads on the back of a motor bike, I sighed when I thought about leaving behind the relaxing attitude of the culture, and I shed a bucket of tears when I realized that I would no longer be able to hang out with the people I came to love, and for the people I came to love most cried enough tears to water one thousand rice fields.

I want to thank Thailand for changing my life, for opening me more than I expected, and for teaching me. Thailand showed me how to truly live, and as I leave I am closing my eyes, putting my hands in the air, and moving my hips with freedom like I did that night at the festival. Then I am wiping away my tears that are pieces of my sadness, but pieces of everything that made my time in Thailand wonderful.

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