NaBloPoMo: Why I Stopped Posting

NaBloPoMo was supposed to go differently – I was supposed to write everyday for the month of November in the spirit of National Blog Posting Month, but  instead I stopped writing and posting on Day 7. The month was going to be about writing in the here and now, and my intentions were to write from Victoria, Vancouver, Bangkok, and some other Thai city.  I  managed to blog from Canada, but then I boarded an airplane bound for Thailand and something happened. There were a bunch of forces that transpired against me; I decided to give in to the here and now, and just live life without blogging about it.

So, why did I stop writing? Why did I stop posting for NaBloPoMo 2016?  Why was I able to post through my 2014 breakup and make it to Day 19 in 2015? What was different about NaBloPoMo 2016?  Why did I drop the ball on Day 8?  I’ve been asking myself these questions, and have come up with some reasons/excuses.

  1. I was told not to write.  On November 8th, while enroute to Guangzhou, I was told repeatedly to turn off my device.  I was mid-way through my post titled, “Giving up my seat for Love”, when the flight attendant spotted me. Stuck between a Bali-bound drinker and a China-bound meditator, I thought I would discretely get some writing in, since I no longer had the luxury of leaning my head against the window. The elderly man in front of me was now leaning his head against the window, as his wife rested her head on his shoulder.  Before the plane had taken-off, through hand-gestures and smiles, I had given up my window seat to this couple. No regrets, but I wasn’t going to just shut off my device with a smile. Well, I did shut it off momentarily, then she caught me again, and I reasoned that my phone was on airplane mode, but she countered that it could still receive calls.  I just looked at her, ready to continue the debate, but then she said, staring at me coldly, “It’s the law.”  With that, I had a flash of prison in China, and powered my device off, forgetting to save my work in progress.
  2. Jetlag hit me. I spent half the month of November in a jetlag induced brain fog. For my first week in Bangkok, I was up before 6am everyday, napping every afternoon, and in bed before 9pm. During my awake hours, I had no desire to sit in front of a screen. I wanted to eat Thai fruit, lounge by the pool, ride motorcycle taxis, hang out with friends, read books, and just enjoy my old Thai life.  Once back in Canada, I was hit with another week of jetlag, and just wanted to enjoy my life here in my sleep-deprived fog. I was a space cadet that was fit to decorate a Christmas tree, but not her blog, with random foggy thoughts.
  3. I felt that I had to censor my writing. I’ve never felt this way before.  My blog is quite tame — I think the most risqué thing I ‘ve ever written about was in Thailand Firsts. However, while I was in Thailand, I made NaBloPoMo Day 3 private at the request of someone close to me.  It was a heartfelt letter that sprung from the prompt, “If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?” Funny, I always believed this special person never read my blog. Turns out I was wrong, and after a sleepless night, I moved that post to ‘private’ and emailed her. At this point, I had already decided not to carry on with NaBloPoMo, but this just sealed it.  I want to be able to write freely on my blog.
  4. The heat made me cranky.  The Thai heat did not inspire me to write. I managed to get two 5-kilometer runs in, and then decided swimming would be my new form of exercise. Cooling off in the pool made me calm, but I had zero patience for trying to write a blog post on my cellphone. I could just imagine a bunch of posts that would start the exact  same way, “I’m melting….”
  5. Blogging was not part of my Thai life.  I lived in Thailand for a long time — it will always be a big part of who I am. I was never one of those expats that blogs about all the crazy things that happen living abroad. Thailand was my home, my life was there — it wasn’t crazy. It was when I moved back to the West that I felt off balance and started blogging.  In the spirit of revisiting my Thai life, I didn’t want to blog — I wanted to just be there. I visited my old neighbourhoods, took the bus out to my old university, caught up with my old friends, and enjoyed the simple things — eating fresh mango, speaking Thai, getting a pedicure, floating my krathong. Being back made me realize that Thailand will always have a place in my heart, but it is no longer where my home is.

Those are my reasons, my excuses, for not posting during NaBloPoMo.  Instead of being disappointed with myself because I didn’t post everyday for the month of November, I’m going to rejoice in the November I had to just be in the here and now.  In saying this,  my hat does go off to all the bloggers out there who didn’t stop posting.  It’s not easy — it takes incredible discipline. Well done — I will join you another year :).

Thai house

 

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NaBloPoMo Day 15: Saved by a Thai Commercial

Day 15 of NaBloPoMo, and I’m calling on the help of a Thai commercial. On Day 13, I had some Korean boys come to my rescue, but today it’s Thai Life Insurance. Thai Life Insurance commercials always manage to make me cry, and I hope this one will stir some emotion in you, too. Perhaps, it will  make you think about the things money cannot buy in life, and you’ll “believe in good” again. Get your tissue out!

 

 

NaBloPoMo Day 10: Night out in Bangkok

The first thing I ever published online was on a site called Bangkok Diaries. Despite the spelling and grammar mistakes in my post, it generated A LOT of attention, and the comments poured in for 4 years. It was one of those posts that was whipped up in a frenzy! I managed to offend people. A few people called me bitter, others called me unattractive, and some came to my rescue. Looking back, I can see how my post might have come across as bitter, and I did use some blanket statements, but there were nuggets of truth in it. As a young, Canadian woman in Bangkok, I did feel like one of the guys, and at times, invisible.

Here is the post. It is a snapshot of a night out in Bangkok as a young, farang woman.

I did have some cool sex-and-the-city girlfriends in Bangkok!
I did have some cool sex-and-the-city girlfriends in Bangkok!

NaBloPoMo Day 2: The Novelty of Living in a Foreign Land

Cooking a live lobster, experimenting with French cuisine, carving a pumpkin, finding a deer in her backyard — these are the stories that dance across my friend’s face as she tells me about her life in Victoria. She is embracing the novelty of living in a foreign land, and chronicling her journey via social media. Things that are familiar to local Victorians, like rain against our windows, Canada Dry on our grocery store shelves, and maple leaves scattered on our sidewalks, hold a special place in her newsfeed and online photo albums. I totally get it. This is a different land, one far removed from her world in Japan. As she shared with me, I was reminded of what I missed so much about my life abroad. Every day held a new surprise, every day was written by me, every day I smiled at the mundane novelties.

Living in a foreign land gave me an opportunity to reinvent myself. I no longer had to be the quiet girl with good grades. As an international student in Thailand, I started saying yes — yes to scuba diving, yes to traveling to new places, yes to skipping class to watch a cabaret show, yes to wearing a school uniform….even when I didn’t have class, and yes to staying out late and eating Mama noodles. My student days were never boring, even when I stayed on campus during the weekends. There was always the possibility of crossing paths with a 6-ft monitor lizard. There was always a novel experience to be had, and I was no longer held back by my Canadian shell.

Even though Thailand was my home for 6 years after my student days, I kept on experiencing the novelty of living in a foreign land. The monsoons and floods were my rain against the window, Thai iced tea with condensed milk was my Canada Dry……but it wasn’t bought in a store, and fruit stands and children’s laughter were my maple leaves on the streets.  And somehow I found joy in my daily 3+ hour commute to work, because I got to ride a motorcycle, take the sky train, and sleep on the bus on the way. For a couple years, I even took a boat to my office. All this was so far removed from my world in Canada, and although it was routine for the Thais, it was so foreign to me.

Thailand Collage

Living abroad is filled with novel experiences, and once these experiences become part of regular life, you’re reminded of how unique they are when you talk to people in your home country. You tell them about eating insects, and taking a boat to work in a river often littered with garbage and floating animals, and you see surprise, disgust, questions, and sometimes lack of comprehension on their faces. When you move back to your home country, you feel somewhat bored. Going to the grocery store is not an interesting experience, your commute to work is long and tiring, and the streets are filled with silence. It’s not that there are no novel experiences to be had in your home country, it’s that you must seek them out or learn to look at your world through fresh eyes again.

Misty Blue

Thailand is an ex-boyfriend I just can’t get over. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get him off my mind. “I think of the things we used to do and my whole world turns misty blue.”

First Impressions

I still remember the first time we met; touching down in Bangkok was like a dream; the sticky air enveloped me as soon as I stepped out into the bright night, and I found it difficult to breath; it was like being in a chaotic sauna. It wasn’t love at first sight; I recall pleading with the night guard at our guest house to use the phone to call my mom. He rubbed his eyes, and shook his head, while his four-legged companion barked away behind the counter. That night I did manage to reach my mom, and between choked back tears, I realized I was on my own. This wasn’t summer camp on the Island — it was a summer in Southeast Asia.

Koh SametOver the next month, I fell in love with a place that I thought I would never understand. I was enamored by the beauty of the land — the ornate temples, silver beaches, bustling markets, and rugged forests — and the generosity of the locals. Even when my traveling partner abandoned me for a week on the beach, I hardly felt lonely. In fact, I befriended a sarong seller, and promised to return to Thailand within five years. Somehow I felt at ease in a world where there were so many unknowns. And when I left Thailand a quiet sadness came over me. I was no longer crying over the receiver because I was unsure how I would manage on my own, but because I was returning to a place so familiar — a place I was out growing.

Keeping Promises

I kept my promise to the sarong seller. When I was 21 I embarked on an exchange at a university just outside of Bangkok. Actually, Thailand was my second choice; I was hoping to go to Indonesia on a language exchange program. However, that didn’t pan out, so I was Thailand bound. The transition went remarkably smooth. I had a Thai friend over there who just happened to be looking for a roommate. We moved in together, and I had a group of instant friends! It was meant to be.

This time I fell hopelessly in love. I never met the sarong seller again, but I started getting to really know Thailand. The language that I once thought was impossible was now starting to roll off my tongue. I wore my school uniform with pride, and felt more comfortable chatting over a bowl of noodles with Thai friends than drinking with other exchange students. My weekends were spent studying by the pond, swimming in the campus pool, and visiting temples. When I did make a love connection, my world expanded as I discovered the many layers of Bangkok and Thai life.

Worst Breakup Ever

Leaving Thailand after my exchange was the worst breakup I’ve ever experienced…EVER. After a year as an international student, I was leaving a world that warmly embraced me and at the same time gave me independence. At the airport, all the faces that had come to mean so much to me were waiting to send me off with letters and hugs. As I moved through customs and converted my last baht to a foreign currency, I knew that I had also changed. Once on the runway, I had to fight the urge to fling off my seat belt and run off the plane. Instead of running, I cried all the way to Seoul, and then slept the rest of the way ‘home.’  While at ‘home’ for a little over a year, Thailand was always in my background; I wrote my final thesis on Thai lady-boys, took Thai lessons, experimented with Thai food, and dated a Thai guy.  Thailand and I had shared a lot of firsts, and I wanted to continue the history.

Thai_taxi

Together Again

In 2004, we were reunited. This time touching down in Bangkok felt like returning home. A Thai uni friend picked me up at the airport, and I spent my first few days and nights reliving my university days. For a brief period, I tricked myself into believing that I was a student again, but then reality hit. We were taking our relationship to a new level.

Over the next six years, my classmates and dearest friends, who had held my hand and introduced me to Thailand, started travelling abroad to continue their studies. I was striking out on my own and living in two different worlds — the expat world and the Thai world. Bangkok is a melting pot of contradictions, and as an oxymoron, I felt right at home. My Thai friends used to say, with equal parts admiration and disdain, that I was so (too) suphap (polite), and more Thai than falang (foreign). Funny enough, it was standing up for what I believed was right (in a not so Thai and suphap way) that spearheaded my job hunts more than once.

For the most part, I felt at ease navigating my life in Thailand, and through our ups and downs leaving never crossed my mind. Even after such a long time together, I looked at life everyday with fresh eyes. On my long bus rides to and from work, I kept my eyes and ears open to witness the vendors selling jasmine garlands, and my colleagues discussing office gossip. I never tired of mundane Thai chit-chat.

Farewell, My love

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.”

In 2010, I decided it was time to return to my home country. At the time, the little things were getting to me — the long commute, the falang treatment, the flashy malls –, so I thought I’d give the west a try. It wasn’t an easy decision, but somehow after postponing my flight ‘home’ several times and a meditation retreat in the mountains, I felt at peace and a bit excited …..maybe it was because I thought I had found a new love. That new love was no replacement though, and I  couldn’t get my mind off Thailand, even though part of me felt I should forget. I wasn’t glad we were through.

Hello, Again?

Last year I made two trips to Thailand, and contemplated getting back together, and in May I went back for a wedding, and started planning our reunion, right down to home decor! Needless to say, I am still in Victoria, but rather than trying to forget, I am trying to slowly rekindle the fire.

Thailand, you’ll always have a place in my heart. “Oh honey, just the mention of your name turns that flicker to a flame.”

Can you spot the Pepsi?
Can you spot the Pepsi?

Thailand Firsts

Looking out to seaI’m guilty. I’ve neglected my blog and it needs to be revived. It’s not ready to rest in peace, so here I am breathing life into it.  Life’s been hectic these days and my inspiration has been hiding, but somehow it’s random followers and new friends that are inspiring me to share my thoughts again.  So, to you guys, a big thank you.  I needed a friendly shove to find my voice again.

If you’ve been following me or poking around my blog, you’ll know I’m going through a transition and I’m not over Thailand. Did you notice I didn’t add ‘yet’ ?  That was intentional.  Anyhow, tonight I’m going down memory lane and sharing some of my Thailand firsts with you.

1. First spontaneous kiss

My first kiss was premeditated at the age of 16.  It was like kissing a puppy who’d been chewing strawberry flavoured Hubba Bubba gum.  My first spontaneous kiss was at the age of 18 on the beach;  it was like kissing a snake that had been drinking Sang Som and Coke. Thankfully, kisses get sweeter with practice and I’m no longer kissing puppies or snakes!

2. First tattoo

Surprise!  I got inked in Pattaya with a little purple heart with รัก (love) inside.  At the time, I couldn’t read or write Thai, but four years later I could.  When Thais asked me who I loved, I would tell them it was a secret, but over the years, I’ve realized it’s not someone –  it’s  someplace.

3. First cell phone

And if memory serves me right, it was a Motorola.  I never had a cell phone in Canada and it wasn’t until I turned 22 and went abroad to study that I succumbed to being reachable 24/7.  I quickly adapted and enjoyed being able to make last minute plans, discretely text in class, and notify my friends about the horrible traffic jams on the way to Bangkok.  Oh, Bangkok traffic, you’ve made me late for so many things!

4. First bikini

My Thai boyfriend told me I looked like a grandma in my one-piece.  Wearing a bikini on the beach was a big step out of my comfort zone.  You’re probably thinking, “What?! This girl has a tattoo, and she has qualms about exposing skin on the beach?!”  Well, yes, I’m an oxymoron.  I would have been quite content to swim in my clothes like the locals. However, wearing a bikini made me get over my self-consciousness, and appreciate the body I have.

5. First time living on my own

While I was studying at college, I had Thai roommates, but once my semesters were over,  I didn’t want to return to Canada, so I rented my own room in a building across from the campus condos.  The room was nothing special, but it did have air-conditioning and an outside bathroom.  Let me clarify, I had an outside bathroom with hot water and a flushing toilet. It was so small — perfect for multitasking!  Anyhow, the point was, I had my own space for the first time in my life.  I could come and go as I pleased, and stay up late. There was no one to answer to, but myself.

6. First time paying my own bills 

I had bills to pay living in Thailand. I had expenses — I was all grown up.  I finally got to experience college life living away from home.

7. First ‘real’ job after university

After university, I headed back to Thailand and began working full time as an English teacher.  For the next six years, I continued to work in the education field and my last year and half was spent working at the university where I had been a student.

8. First time I believed I was enough

I was able to just be me. I no longer had to be the shy quiet girl.  I discovered that I was capable of so much more than I thought.  I no longer had to fit into someone else’s box. And I realized that even though I’m not ‘perfect’, I am enough.

9. First spontaneous same-sex kiss

My 29th birthday was a bit crazy. The highlights were tracking down a bouncer who took my passport , club-hopping til 6 AM, and kissing my girl friend.  It was my first and last girl kiss.  And although it wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t something I wanted to do again .  Sorry, Katy Perry.  I didn’t like it.

10. First time playing by my own rules

I was living on my own and paying my own bills, so of course I was playing by my own rules.  For the first time, I took risks, did things that scared me, and didn’t think (too much) about what others thought of me.

Music mix

February 5: What are you obsessively listening to?

For many of you, you won’t understand this, but I’ve never been one to obsessively listen to music.  I usually listen to music when I’m cleaning, dressing up to go out, or just before bed.  In the past, I used to put together playlists for the various parties I would host at my grand studio in Jirathit Mansion. It was all part of the fun preparation.  After a trip to Villa for cheese, grapes, and all that fancy foreign food ex-pats tend to miss in Bangkok,  I would sift through my songs on my laptop, and create the fitting background , keeping in mind the occasion and the guests.  Usually, I would throw in some Thai songs from Big Ass and Potato, sprinkle in some Cranberries and Evanescence, add a twist of Gwen Stefani, a little bit of Bon Jovi, and top it off with Alicia Keys.  My aim was to please everyone’s ears.  Most of the time I think I did, and on the occasions that I tossed in a little too much R&B, my friends would happily take over as DJ, and/or drink a little more Sang Som.   Food, music, and friends; it’s a simple recipe for good times and sweet memories!

My sanctuary in Bangkok
Jirathit Mansion, Bangkok

Security or adventure?

January 22: Are you seeking security or adventure?

Security.  No….. wait…..maybe it’s adventure!  I want both.  I feel like I should be seeking security.  I feel like I should be seeking stability.  And I do want security and stability.  I do want to walk along the path that leads somewhere and not anywhere. But every time I walk by a travel agency my eyes light up.  As my eyes dance over the colourful advertisements for exotic destinations,beach  I wrap my scarf a little tighter around my neck, and dream a little.  Silver beaches, coconut juice, blue-blue water.

But maybe that isn’t such an adventure.  Maybe that is my security. Somehow everything fell into place in Thailand, and for six years, I always felt certain that things would.  I somehow knew that I would always find another job or another apartment, and that whatever drama I was going through would pass.   My life wasn’t perfect, but even when things got a bit mucky, I continued to grow.  I felt secure in Thailand.

In Canada, I feel uncertain.  Maybe this is my adventure. Somehow I am not so sure everything will fall into place.  I’ve always got one hand on my passport and the other’s flipping through the classifieds.   Maybe this is what I need to embrace.   I need to embrace this new adventure, and navigate this new world with an open heart and mind.  Perhaps, in Canada, I can find security and adventure.  And to be honest, I really wouldn’t want to settle for just one.

 

Being an egg & sentimental over liquorice

January 19: List 3 foods you ate today.

1. Hard boiled egg:  I don’t usually eat eggs, but when I do they are either hard-boiled or scrambled.  I’m a bit of an egg myself —white on the outside, yellow on the inside.  I think I must have been born in Asia in a past life.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I am more Thai than farang…..in many ways.  After living in Asia for so long, I eat comfortably with the absence of a knife, prefer to sit on the floor, cringe when others wear their shoes inside, and live happily in a shoe box.

2. Cheeseburger: I can’t believe I am admitting this. I wanted to order the healthier choice –the chicken  burger, but my friend had already ordered that.  So, in the back of my mind I was thinking that if the cheeseburger is gross, I will convince him to swap burgers. Anyhow, I ended up enjoying every juicy bite of my cheeseburger.

3. Soft eating liquorice from Australia – strawberry flavoured:  I went to a movie.  That’s my excuse.  I’ve always loved liquorice.  My mom used to mail it to me when I lived in Thailand.  Then I discovered soft eating liquorice in Bangkok.  That became my new sweet addiction, and I am sure it made my mom happy!  She no longer had to spend $20 to send me some Twizzlers.   So, as I was enjoying the imported liquorice last night, I was getting sentimental recalling my nights in Bangkok, curled up in my futon with a good book, and my foreign treat.

PicMonkey Collage

The joy of bargaining

January 17: What’s the oldest thing you’re wearing today?

The oldest thing I’m wearing today is a 5-year-old nautical baby blue tank. I bought it on sale at Mango* in Bangkok.  It’s too cold to be wearing a tank top this time of year (in Canada), so I’ve layered it over a long-sleeved white shirt.PicMonkey Collage

I’m usually wearing a piece of clothing or an accessory from Korea or Thailand.  And I’ve almost never paid full price for it because my bargaining skills are THAT good ;-).  Bargaining is like a ping-pong game, and when you are playing it in your second language it is so much fun! It almost doesn’t matter if you win or lose. In that shop, whether it is in the bustling underground in Seoul or the sweltering Jatujak Weekend Marketin Bangkok, you are a part of the living breathing fabric around you.  You can’t just observe like you would most tourist attractions. You have to touch the clothes, smell the candles, and engage with the locals.  Haggling takes skill; you need the right amount of charm, patience, and words. Once you start the game, you never know what to expect. Remember, never accept the asking price.  Ping-pong is much more fun, and you might get yourself an amazing deal while bringing the shopkeeper good luck at the same time!

 

 

* Unfortunately, you can not bargain at Mango or most shops in air-conditioned malls in Bangkok :(.