Dreaming Wide Awake, Ecclectia

IMG_2714The first couple weeks of classes in Thailand my mind was overflowing. I would go to bed and though I was utterly exhausted could not, would not sleep. I would lay on my bed, barely close my eyes and the flood of buzzing thoughts, feelings, colors and scenes would settle here or there, in beautiful dreams of possibilities and ideas. I would tell myself: I don’t have enough time to day dream. This happens quite often to me. I get really good sayings about life, metaphors that roll off your tongue and leave a seed in your mind. Effluves. Things is I can’t usually remember my lovely thoughts the next morning. I can remember how lovely they were just not their form. I can remember their impact just not their incarnation. I can perhaps if I’m lucky remember the idea but not the incarnation of it.

These past weeks, I have been in classes that are giving me the framework, the language, the organizational tool to put my every thoughts in, wide awake.

A challenge I do not yet know how to respond to is how will I communicate the things I have learned in weeks to those I go back to? We have two and a half hour lectures twice a day every day except Thursday and the weekends. These are intensive times of exploring concepts, our minds and the world. We have an “art” class which is more like a philosophical aesthetics anthropology class and we have a community development class which makes me question even wanting to work in an organization. I just want to live with people. Truly. How to express the things I have learned?

I can’t even express how much of a freaking chemical reaction there is in all of this. The classes are built upon our experience. Like if our brains hadn’t been completely thrown up in the air with our experience in Thai culture and practicum then there would not have been the possibility of laying new foundations. Without our first round of classes, the easy intro where we interacted with Thai people in a comfortable setting for us and interacted with Thai culture laying a framework to understand it in our terms. Historical, political, economic information and analysis. All in a classwork, writing papers, doing our thing.

This experience has offered the possibility to provide a dissonance to our built up structures of being and seeing. This dissonance: I picture it as a building projection that you see as you would see Manhattan during a clear day that all the sudden gets static and you see there is something behind, beyond. And you can go through this momentary haze. The haze I always live in. Yet, as Michael said everything is a form. I learned freshman year that rejection of a form is still letting this form guide your actions. Rejection is a form. Today I learn that going between forms is a form. Ecclectia. Nice. Makes sense. Feels good to have terms to define your seemingly rash movements. To know they are actually guided. To begin to recognize this complex wave of seemingly unpredictable jumps and intimacies and hidings. It’s like how when I just need to write out a paper. And I think it’s absolute crap. And then I read it over and realize that there’s actually an argumentative structure to the whole thing and it makes sense and it flows and I’ve conveyed something. That’s what you get for having a French thinking structure and speaking in English. No it’s not translation it’s literally combining different tools that you equally master and using them fully yet there is a part of you that is not functioning. You can’t grasp what is happening in that moment. You can’t see. You are blind. But are we not all blind? Or perhaps this blindness will go away once I finally understand somewhat of this crazy spiral. It’s like I see spikes. Everything is spikes. But from miles away, from lightyears away, all these spikes make a perfectly round circle. It just has more .. matter? mass? width? thickness? This is my shape. Perhaps others’ shapes are simply thin lines that go straight and abruptly end and they intersect. Or maybe they are simple little dots that align.

I feel free. I know I am constantly changing I know it is nowhere near to being finished. I strive to continue to blur the lines between worlds, between masks and mirrors.

I have pretty much cried in every single class. The tears are different each time, though they are linked. Is it not beautiful how many different types of emotion we can feel? The different possible combinations, the acceptance of letting them all flow through you. The act of observing how they are touching you. How they are revealing parts of you. Parts you had forgotten, parts you had abandoned, parts you had hid, parts you had sacrificed or surrendered to the illusion of love, to the promise of security, to the structured education, to the pessimist world, to your own tired soul. Tired of loneliness and misunderstandings. With no way of expressing this.

First classes I was being told to think in a new way, to open my eyes to the world… Can you imagine ? Being told to abandon your way of thinking, of seeing? Difficult? Unheard of? I live not only with two different brains, cultures, lenses. I live with all of the beautiful, paradoxical and unsettling possible combinations of these. Everytime I go one place or another. A part of me dies. A part of my stifles. It cries to be let out. It cries for how blind everyone around me is. That they can’t see. Can you imagine? Being told after all these deaths that the in-between that I live in is how we should strive to see? That the magic, the beauty, the intersects, the dream is where we should live. GO AHEAD TRY! The underlying speech beneath all the complex concepts and sentences. The hidden, abandoned self. The dreamer. It’s like when you are half asleep. At a party, at a dinner. Everyone is talking about boring stuff. Things that seem just absolutely so so so pointless to you. Things you feel even they themselves know are empty. You go off even to sit on a different couch. You get forgotten there. Maybe you actually dozed off and everyone else went downtown for drinks. And then all the sudden you hear them talking about you. Talking about the research you’ve been doing. The project you’ve devoted your life to that literally has become your heart and soul and being. And they are not talking about you, but you open your eyes excited. Or perhaps you hear a song that you love. You hear it from afar. You open your eyes. Straining your ears to hear more. But maybe this happens in a split second and you are bouncing off the canopy and rushing in to hear more. Your heart thumping. So…. this is what would happen. Except is more than that. There is a pain. Let’s add the fact that the dinner party was more than just boring. Let’s say people were actually stabbing you the whole time. Crazy right? You’re invited to this beautiful party, by beautiful smiling, seemingly loving people. And You’re all excited. It’s like going to the disney land freaking castle for tea and cupcakes! Everyhting is sparkly. You are dreamiiiing! And then you are greeted. The smiles seem a little twisted. You’re a little apprehensive but you are too excited and innocent. You go to sit. And the feast begins. You are the feast. Getting stabbed. You would be shocked right? Scared and screaming and bleeding on the floor as they all leave you there. Tears and blood stirring on the linoleum floor. Staining the shimmering tassels of your sparkle dress. And you can just stay there. Like Prometheus. You’re not going to die from it just maybe pass out from the pain and always be on the brink, but it’s easier to act as if you’re dead and then when they come back you can greet them with a smile and go out to the bar with them, initiated into the ways. Or you can put some of the blood on your face, look at your self on the floor and decide in anger to exact revenge and retribution. Jump out the window yelling out curses, landing outside in the dirt, taking the glass shard from the window out of your bleeding arm and banishing it forth as a weapon, looking in the shadows for the cursed and dying who you can take forth against the shimmering gowns.

But oh. You have fallen down in the dust and worn yourself weary and in all of that you have brought the warrior and the follower together and you have gone forward in humility, trying to find in betweens, words, mindsets where you do not hate and were you do not bleed. And then a poet invites you to the castle and speaks to the two and  there are attentionate and their heart is beating and the poet is shining a light on the deepest wound that has been stuffed and beaten around and that you keep at the deepest. There’s the best makeup all around it. Did he know that the hole he was poking would go so deep for you? That it was the heart of it all? That its the core of your circle? The last, the truest, the fullest, the original hears herself being called. It’s like being saved ? If only you knew… This way, this new way is my way. This is me. The dreamer. And now she listens. With the three. All the more hungry. And still bleeding. The tears stinging the wounds but healing them at the same, gardening, flowers popping out almost instantly. And the three joining in hands. And all those that come from them. The dreamer reorienting them all, leading them. She wishes to speak now. She wishes to take the mind for a ride. She wasn’t asleep she was watching the reflection in blood and tears. And her eyes are still fill with it. She follows the wind and she smiles to the dreamer in all. I want to let her. I want to learn how to speak to her, I want to be her completely. Bringing shalom to the whole, the warrior needs the dreamer not the anger. The follower needs to be with the people. In their midst not staring in judgingly. But the follower needs the dreamer to not be fooled like all the others. And they both need the warrior to act it out…

Are you starting to get it? Well… I want to dream. And I am so so blown away. The ride I’m taken on. I seriously can’t wait for the next.

I’ve been asked to think of community development as Gandhi, mother Teresa and MLK would.  THANK YOU. I’ve been told we can think of ourselves as part of a whole because of the direction in which we face not form the qualifying, quantifying and organization of our actions. I’ve LITERALLY BEEN GIVEN A DREAMING MODEL. My last community development class. Asked to share three exceptionally positive moments of my life. We all were.

Here are mine:

1. My sister’s wedding. Watching her shine with joy and love and being a part of it. Of something that I had nothing to do with… So filled with euphoric pure joy.

2. Receiving my acceptance letter to go to Taiwan and Korea last summer. I cried from joy. I remember it so sharply. “Thank you God”. Literaly the answer to a prayer. The assurance, the unexpected answer to a request I had not even dreamt of asking aloud. In such a  sharp contrast with everything that surrounded me.

3. It took me a while to think of a third. To pick something. It came to me. I hadn’t realized it really. How positive. Seeing my brother performing on stage for the first time in 10 years? Seeing him doing what he loves, and my heart swelling with gratitude that I could see him shine.

I was before last in sharing my three and my voice was shaking as I shared them. Guila, my amazing professor than asked us to think of the commonalties, “what is the driving life force?” . Family. An “enormous sense of the presence of God”. I realized it was in the moments which you are still. There is a shift in time. You observe something beautiful and you see its eternity. My second one is quite different. Perhaps it is so important because it speaks of the underlying truths in the others that are not as able to grasp. The redemption that marriage represents. The redemption  of family that me being at my brothers play was. The rejuvenation and refining of humans and life.  We are then asked to dream. “How do these life forces factor into, where are they in the dream of my future?” and finally “How do I get there?”

Well dreaming and sharing them is a pretty awesome freaking darn start. Jah. Seriously I was so blown away by the last 20 minutes of class. I told Guila when she asked us to think of those three I was like “she’ got us”. Flashed to my last class in Social Problems with Winslow. Except that I actually totally started crying in that. hah. It was a little less expected.

But really how beautiful to share our happiest times? It is sharing out hearts, sharing what touches our heart. What makes us glow and letting it make others glow. It’s not that hard to share happy moments. But its very hard to share difficult moments. Darkness hates being in the light, darkness needs to be dragged out into the light. But light, it only grows and glows and makes everything it touches new.

Beautiful.

We have been to a shining white temple, to a happy happy festival of lights where the sky was alit with the dreams of peoples of the earth, we treked through the jungle and rode on the head of elephants, and have been taught to dance, we have harvested rice that shall be eaten by those who cut it and painted together and talked and laughed and dot dot dot lived and been. 🙂

It’s magical really. This life. I’m magical I guess. A freaking talking, thinking piece of flesh that can make pretty sounds and pretty things and can change this world with my hands. And it all flows together. I loved lights and soft things and singing things and holding hands and smiles and smells. 🙂

Just keep dreaming. Thanks for everything. I’m gonna go hug a pillow now and kick my feet up.

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Phuket to Pain

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I glimpsed the water, ran to the sand, stripped off my clothes and jumped in, rolling around in joy and laughter, ducking waves and summersaulting in the warm water. Phuket was a true place of restoration for me. I sighed in relief. I could not get out of the water to go have dinner after the sun had set. The whole rest of the crew was just observing the ocean from the beach… Like one of my dreams. clothed as they looked on to the liquid gold that i melted into. I felt alive again. I had almost forgotten what it felt like. To be completely surrounded and transported. On our way to the hostel we were staying at, I anxiously held my hands tight as I whispered to myself or perhaps too loudly “where is the ocean, where is the ocean”. I was soo afraid of ending up far from my love, I was ready to jump pout of the van on the next spot of beach I saw and just camp out there for a bit or forever.

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I was so surprised and delighted to find out that though our accommodations were not physically royal they were enough : a spot to sleep AND BETTER, a minute walk from the beach where IMG_2308I ordered coconuts from a chill restaurant pretty much every day. It was really cool, to meet this beach. I used to have a fishing game on my phone in like 8th grade where you could chose different ports to fish at. In the moment of observing the shore, the colors, the haze, the width of the ocean and skyline I realized how beautifully different and diverse beaches are and how lucky I am to know such a different array of them. The beach culture of different places is also lovely to observe. We came during off season, there are resorts further down the cove but the beach was very open and few people came while we were there. Mainly locals playing in the water, digging in the sand for crabs? and ridding their motos down the beach.

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The first night in Phuket was a nice time of fellowship, flowing conversation and interchange of our different practicum experiences as well as Adele and Michael’s time in the states promoting the program at different universities.

Our first day I reveled in the opportunity to roll in the sand, collect way too many shells, make some beach art, dance with Tippowan’s 2 year old Wana, do short spurts of yoga and of course roll in the water. Unfortunately I got pretty burnt. Oopsh. Not used anymore to my skin not being used to being exposed under the skin. Also not used to not having a huge amount of aloe verra on ready disposal.

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The next day I was sooooooo excited to go snorkeling in the clearest water I have ever swam in. Adele had asked that morning “who has never gone snorkeling?” I said I hadn’t because I didn’t know it was like ” a thing” though I totally have grown up snorkeling just not around such beautiful colorful fish and reef! We took a speed boat out an hour from Phuket to visit the Similan islands. IMG_2377 IMG_2381 IMG_2390 IMG_2524  IMG_2451 IMG_2418  We went around 3 of the islands, snorkeling at two different assigned spots with about 20 people and the best crew we couldve hoped for. We stopped for lunch on one island that I found out you can spend the night at and we had snacks and a nice hike up to a rock formation on another. Our guide played around with us, taking our picture, really intent on having a personal connection and taking good care of us, always offering fresh fruit and drink after every excursion. seriously such a good experience! I was extremely skeptical as we arrived at the company in the morning and van after van unloaded numbers of asian and forang tourists but it is crazy to think how awesomely organized the members are and how you actually feel like you are being welcomed to experience this alongside them as different speed boats headed off in opposite directions and routes. These islands used to be primarily inhabited by sea gypsIMG_2436ies, ethnic communities which completely resemble the hill tribes in their struggles as well as organization. I thought it interesting that this was the first of our encounter with the term. Our guide told us tourism is changing a lot for the people. Though I did also think about what unorganized tourism would do to the community. Would there be less because people are less likely to go rent a boat and drive to the reef or would the harm done in ignorance outweigh our impeding on the place in this way? Also IMG_2420though it might be false comfort I did feel a true enjoyment in the crew for sharing this with us… Though it was weird for me. Im used to being the insider or being with the insider, not an assigned tour. It was still an awesome experience. I got more sunburnt and went to buy an IMG_2454overpriced after sun cream which transformed practically overnight my awful deep pink burn.

The next day we ventured to the National Park and hiked a little yet unexpectedly challenging trail to a small sand beach where I yogad and swam in the rain. One of my fellow students remarked as we floated in the water “What are we doing?” we were talking about super hero movies and sports… I had just thought to myself how grateful I was to be sharing such benign conversation without angst or frustration but just small talk, sharing experiences and shallow interests as we floated in this perfect place. This was our life. in this moment. So beautiful. Perhaps it is difficult to live with this peace and awe and wonder, observing it unfold without always verbally expressing the immensity of it. Still I am seriously grateful that I can come into community with these people, that  I can express my desires and they be heard even if they are shallow things like where to get good hiking gear.

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We hiked back in an equally surprising time. It was sooo cool to be in a RAIN FOREST with rain. The leaves were shiny green, the trees and bamboos stalks brought refreshing aromas. We ate dinner at the restaurant at the end of the trail, with one of the best views ever. Perhaps surpassing my beloved Boat House in SB (though the boat house vibes cannot be equalled nor the site of bouncing dolphins. so ya.)IMG_2508 IMG_2513 IMG_2519

We rode back to the dormitory in the bed of a truck. The night life and lights bringing me new energy and excitement. I let my hair flow in the wind and took deep breaths as the scenery shifted. Freedom?

We spent one last day at our awesome beach. Lyndsay and I found some broken but willing boogie boards we had ALOT of fun with running into the waves.

I did some yoga. My favorite is going to the wake of the waves sun saluting and letting the water kiss my hands, flowing into my vinyasa with the water gliding over the whole front of my body in chatarunga and upward dog, when i take my deep breath and just smile.

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I did not want to leave. I could not get out of the water. I would start walking out and then run back to it. I finally tore myself away and went to shower and pack. It was raining. The ocean was crying. That reassured me. There was a response to our departure. There was room for it. This might seem melodramatic but its really just the truth of my state of mind and heart.

As we drove towards the airport I let my mind wander. SO IRONICALLY that day I thought about pain and memories. I thought about a quote I had read. Something about how sometimes to move on you must leave the pain behind. I thought of my garden. Of how I have left holes in it and how I have buried things I could not look at, and how now, through sweat and tears they have transformed. Like compost. Like compost the fumes arise and send aromas around us. The memories of pain and people and atmospheres and moments. This is what is left of them. They have fed your garden, they have made you who you are but you cannot return and you will never face them the same again. The fact that you can observe these elements, without them bringing on pain, with a distance and with the knowledge you are no longer connected to them, the fact that they have been composted and you know see the fruits and flowers that have grown from their compost is perhaps if not more painful just as breaking. I say Irony because these thoughts would seem irrelevant the next day. Upon returning to Chiang Mai I was contacted by a friend with a heavy heart and a difficult situation. The pain of my empathy and inability to make any action but speak words of comfort and encouragement that seemed so useless resurrected with a rushing wind all of my deepest fears, insecurities and broken dreams, hopes and loves. Memories that I had forgotten, words I had hidden came back with flashing clarity and searing pain. Things I have been pondering and trying to find answers to about how to direct my life now seemed extremely dire and at risk. Everything everything was painfully shitty. To top this off, my wrists and ankles have been very swollen so before this even fell onto me I had told myself to let my body heal, free of straining movements. Not having a yoga mat for 3 months and the difficulties of having correct alignment on slippery floors is really starting to show and to hurt. So where do you go and what do you do when you feel like absolute shit and you literally have no way out? In fact should you even have a way out? I have been saying I need to feel pain. What I have been doing is feeling ok pain like the pain of previous years, the pain of broken relationships, the immediate pain of broken heart that I could not face. I’ve “felt” this pain but I’ve also trained myself into feeling its arousal and finding ways to deal with it. “healthy” ways vs ways that can get you completely lost into the darkness you fell in and saw no light out of. I went to a coffee shop with Bethany, asking do you just sit in the shit? and after a while what? does it seep away? When there is no escape at all.

The irony is that I was in pain about there being a separation and then the first feeling of actual pain that arouse, I felt a connection in that pain. In conversations with my mother I’ve come to understand the relationships of my past and understand how they had such an impact on me and my heart. How we find comfort in each other in our pain and we were salvations to each other… How I will never again be so low again and so lost so I will never again feel the deep connection of what it is to be in continuous pain, fear and angst with people that you find joy and happiness with despite. Those moments were so sweet and strong because of the intricate pain they were built on.

And now I have opened my eyes to feeling and not fleeing. And yes, it does shift away once you let yourself to sit in it. Still. My heart has been continuously tightened. Still, I have been turning my mourning into dancing 🙂 And I have been strengthened and comforted in this and in my vulnerability and knowledge that this is not the end and perhaps this very weeping and pain and sweat and sore has something more to it. That it shall bring forth new fragrances.

I am having new visions and dreams and will be putting them before you. I want you all to be a part of it, its based on the interaction and mutual inspiration of our hearts and minds 🙂

“When we walk through the valley of weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!

A single day in your Temple  is better than a thousand elsewhere! I would rather be a doorman in the Temple of my God than live in palaces of wickedness. For Jehovah God is our Light and our Protector.

He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will he withhold for those who walk along his paths.

O Lord of the armies of HEAVEN, blessed are those who trust in you.”

I have been in His Temple Today. I have been within myself and I trust in the good things coming.

Today was our first day of classes. I read and follow a lot of inspirational yoga teachers and motivational speakers. The other day I was reading a post of a great writer Jennifer Pastiloff who I hope I can have the privilege of going on a retreat with, about “opening your heart”. How this is not simply something to think but something to intentionally think about and do. She stared at herself in the mirror, saying this “open your heart, open your heart”. I thought it was good practice of intentionality and engaged in it. Be careful what you ask for 🙂

Today I ended up in tears after my first class and spent most of the second in aroused emotional anguish. This is ME. The Me that feels and sees the world as so much more, so much deeper and that has felt misunderstood and shout down and could not handle the harsh reality of no one engaging on this level and of facing the crashing waves of my extreme emotions. And yet when you hear that door creek open again, when you hear whispers of dreams and inspirations how can you not go home to your abandoned cave of a locked up heart?

So I will continue to shed layers and I am so beyond grateful for these experiences and for these teachers, for this life of pain and sorrow and the beauty of what you can compost from this shit. Just keep dancing and you will shed.

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You know? But I don’t know

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Our last week of practicum was amazing. What I was initially apprehending as a trying experience in a dark, secluded place with no internet or electricity, running water and some sort of beat up hut of sleeping accommodations was so far from reality I wonder what the heck brought me to imagine such an awful thing haah.

One of the former forang project workers we met at Pete’s house had already dispelled those misconceptions and gotten me excited to go to what he called “heaven”. He was expressively envious of the time we were about to have and this was enough to dispel fears though it did not come close to painting the beautiful picture, atmosphere and just plain breathtaking peace, light and awe that encompass this Chit’s village.

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We ventured off the main road after about 2.30 hours of driving and the scenery went from beautiful mainstream Thailand greenery and architecture to a breathtaking shining lake seen through glimpses between trees.  IMG_2176 IMG_2173   IMG_2191The car climbed up the mountain that was still arrayed in fields of rice and passion fruit orchards drying corn stalks and smiling surprised and intrigued Karen faces. We passed several communities, still climbing with the blue jeep up the red red dirt road. Finally a single stretch and some wood houses on stilts, we went up a last little hill and parked. The lighting was eerie. Yellowy orange shining and warming the humid saturated green grass, the surrounding jungly hills; the rice fields, the orchids hanging from the trees, a little terraced ledge from where Chit’s boys David and Sung and their cousin were rolling down in spurts of giggly laughter and energy. Chit’s wife we met as she ran out of the shower still dripping in her Karen skirt. What was weird is IMG_2221that this wasn’t even awkward. It was just rushed because of the need for her to get dressed quick after her shower to be able to be with us and make dinner.

Chit’s house was a bamboo weaved house on stilts though there is a structure in IMG_2187front of it that he has begun building out of wood that is very high and large and has the common Karen wood table and 8 tree stump seats around it. Chickens wander around on the wood stills that make the structure on the low and higher level. I think its pretty safe to say that Chit’s house has one of the best views of the whole village though it is not always considered best in tribal society to be slightly removed from the rest of the community.IMG_2188 In fact Chit, his wife and children spent a lot of time in other members homes be it their respective parents who lived in the IMG_2260main conglomeration of about 10 bamboo/wood houses or simply with relatives or friends. We would walk down the steep hill from his house on tire stairs. It was pretty cool.

I mentioned on my last blog that we were tired and exhausted and on edge. Thoruhout the week we did struggle with being totally in love with the community and yet very ready to be done with practicum. I knew that this wasn’t completely true. Now, as I am about to start my last set of classes I seriously wonder wWHY THE HECK I even had the feeling of wanting to be back. I guess the main thing was being tired. The sleeping conditions were not bad at all but the harsh reality is that sleeping on hard surfaces is really not that restful and pretty difficult to fall asleep. Maybe our minds were also just completely overloaded. Also we had been moving around so much, it was difficult to have any sense of comfort and we were ready to have and be around a familiar atmosphere. Unfortunately this was not the case upon returning to Doi Saket. As soon as we began our relatively short journey home I realized it. How seriously spoiled we had been. How we were about to go back to a world that had no idea of the one we had just come from that was so full of love and light and welcoming hospitality and care and concern for our happiness and well-being.

City life culture shock was intense. The reality is that I deeply love the jungle, the mountains and its people. I thrive on the tribal spirit. This comfort and understanding was made clear as soon as we arrived at the village.

We were not staying at Chit’s house, he brought us to the pastor’s assistant hosue and the house we were to stay in. It was a large wooden house on stilts. We are still unsure as to the usual use of the house. They set up bedding for us in the single closed off room of the house which was lined in windows overlooking the main fields of the villagers in the valley down below, just a few 100 meters away . Not even maybe.

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There was a TV in the main room. We think it might have been the “common” room. Whatever the case, after Chit had us drop off our bags, we ventured up for a delicious dinner his wife had prepared and then he took us to meet his father and have some hot tea in a bamboo house.

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Chit’s father was intensily sweet. He never did not smile to us. A tender, concerned smile of genuine happiness and comfort. There was so much in this smile that I was sometimes shy to look at him because I felt the urge to just hug ang laugh and dance with him whenever that smile fell on me for too long. The Karen are the most affectionate people I have ever encountered. Touching isn’t that common of a Thai thing. Though I know with my interactions with the Lahu students in Chiang-Mai that physical affection is expressed, I have not personally experienced the scope of that expression because of the framework that the Bible school imposes. It’s tribal people not really in tribal culture. The other interactions with tribal people have been too short to get really comfortable. Not here. Here the village is family and if you are in the village you are family. We were so at ease and at peace. The tone was set from the start as Bethany wandered off to shower in the outside tin shower and our host wandered off to give us both Karen skirts to go to the shower draped in. Chill. I’m down for a lack of prudishness when most technically useful. or always.. ha. In fact as I was practicing yoga that night in the closed room in my usual extremely minimal attire, our host opened the door as I was in a held plié position uttered “ma pen rei” and started making our bed. Slightly surprised for about half a second, I was more than happy to embrace this attitude of total chillness as to my sweaty practically naked self. My mom and Californian homies are the only ones that offer this level of nonchalance so I felt right at home. This feeling was only further enhanced as after the most frightening shower experience OF MY LIFE (took a really lame flashlight to the I later found out wrong shower that was covered in spider webs as I freaked out the whole time, trying to hastily dumb water from the bucket on my head to get the shampoo mostly out of my hair). Anyways I mentioned there was a TV. Every night there was a TV session and the best cuddle puddle of my life. seriously. So much love it was a cocoon of comfort.

The next day we were asked to teach English which then changed after I had prepared myself to teach into simply teaching a song which wasn’t too difficult though one never knows how much the kids actually retain.

After lunch we wandered around the village with Chit’s sister in law and her babyIMG_2246 IMG_2250 IMG_2243 as they showed us Muré, the pet monkey that I fell in love with and visited every single day, some bunnies she didn’t seem to understand why I wasn’t as stoked to go see and some frogs in a brick circle that they bread for food. Around the village there were sooo many chicks and their mommas and beautiful colorful roostersIMG_2255 that were not as loud as the ones at the Hmong dormitory in Naang Province at Jah’s. There were also a lot of pigs and piglets and dogs. super cute.
Khun Chit also brought us down to the fields for the first time that day, the villagers laughed and smiled and stared. One particular character walked by and handed us his scythe montinonning to already cut stalks? of rice. I was a little confused. How am I supposed to cut something that’s already cut? He just wanted us to know what it was like to cut so we both tried it out and it was pretty cool.IMG_2217 IMG_2208 IMG_2209 IMG_2204IMG_2205IMG_2206IMG_2212IMG_2254IMG_2214IMG_2190IMG_2191

The next day we went into town with Chit and his wife to witness so we thought the milling of rice. What actually happened is that we dropped off the rice to get milled and came back once it was done. We were astonished at the fact that the milling reduces the size of the bag the rice is in to half. We were astonished through the week to think of how much effort it takes to cultivate rice and how little is gained. We remembered how Boon, the MMF worker who’s farm we visited with Pete the week before had told us the rice yield this year was not good. IT was also amazing to think of the fact that we were eating rice which had been cultivated by these very people. Very cool. Also interesting to think of what Chit said: “we cultivate to feed ourselves, not to sell”. But then how do they get money? They obviously need money for some things. Even if that’s meat or gas for the car or motto…

IT was really fun going to the day market with Chit and his wife. obviously not a common place for forangs ot be. I definitely felt like I was hanging out with some older cousins or older brother or something. They bought us pad thai to eat on the go and even coconut ice cream with sticky rice as a snack. My obvious favorite. I sadly have not been able to get my fix since then 😦

We picked up the rice and then stopped for qué ti ao because Chit was hungry. always. though interestingly throughout the week there were still times when we got extremely confused about the fact that no one seemed to be eating when we did. be it dinner or lunch we couldn’t understand how chit or his wife did not eat seemingly some days and then others ate 2 as much as one would expect. the lady at the qué tiao shop was a little senile. She commented that I was pretty but my feet “not good”. I had been sitting crossed so as not to turn my back to Chit but pointing ones feet towards anything is very disrespectful in Thailand so she was not happy about that. oops.

Chit brought us to the orchard he was setting up with his wife and we also spent some time with him and his family in their particular set of rice field as they picked up the cut rice form the previous day(s) and slammed it onto a laid out tarp (that would then be tied up and sent off to be milled) that had a rock slab on it to get the rice off of the stalks. I actually understand where the rice is now. They feed the stalks to the cows.

The villagers and specifically Chit’s dad were so very concerned about us. They are used to working hard and it was amazing that they knew that we are not used to this type of work. Totally different from American society where I believe there would have been a type of shaming for not doing the work hard enough or well enough or some comment about not feeling well in the heat and sun… This is a definite cultural gap that we had the refreshing opportunity to experience. A different type of human response that proves that we DO NOT have to interact with each other in negative ways. We felt so at home, accepted, able to ask questions, able to stumble…

As we waited on the side of the road to catch a ride back to Chiang Mai I literaly felt like an abandoned kitten that has to venture in the dirty city to find subsitence. I actually was singing a personal rendition of the old blues. But seriously, it shed a whooole new light to the knowledge of “forced” urbanization. If this is how displaced and depressed we felt after having experienced the comfort of the village atsmosphere for barely a week and having to leave it for something we have somewhat come from and been able to function in previously…CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW TRIBAL PEOPLE FEEL?? When they need to venture off to this cold world they have such limited knowledge of social norms. Where people walk past each other without acknowledging each other, where there is no depth, no affection, no grace… This reality was a lot to come to terms with.

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It was really interesting and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I spent time with the village kids, one rowdy little extravert boy in particular that would come up to us to sleep on our stomachs or run after me with my hoola hoop. The day of our departure however, I was outside throwing away our trash and was so surprised that I hadn’t realized he was squatting between the two houses the whole time. He was being so quiet. He seemed sad, a little angry. Il boudait.

Our eyes met and he turned his away. We went up to eat breakfast and were surprised when Chit asked us if we were ready. We hadn’t seen his wife or children. His family was in the field. We packed up our things and headed out I nthe car. I was still surprised once we passed the lake that we hadn’t stopped on the way out to say our goodbyes. I was still half expecting it. What is the tribal costum for semi informal goodbyes? Do they shy away from departures? Did we not really mean much? Do they expect to ignore departure as something important so its just like any other day till the day we come back? It was difficult. Yet another connection that had no real closure. But maybe it is for the best. To not always be saying teary eyed goodbyes forever, around the world. Just to say hello, to spend good times together and to flow in and out of the different parts of my family. the different homes where I have left a aprt of my heart.

Our last night of practicum was surreal. Sureal because it was surreal to think that it was so benign what was happening but so wonderfly unique, so sweet and so ful of the peace of God. We have shaped a deep bond with Chit throughout our practicum. We have seen him in different situations. At work at the office where he is the “new kid” still to some extent, at work in Hmong villages, interacting with Karen villages and completely in his element in his village. We went on a long drive on Thursday with Chit and the 18 year old kid we had interacted with. Chit had been working in the field but had just showered, had on rolled up worn out jeans, a beautiful traiditonal Karen red woven shirt and powder on the nape of his neck. A different attire than the usual shirt he wears when interacting with villagers or at the office.

We visited two villages that were both quite dark feeling. Our last night I asked him through broken translation “Was there a problem”. Yes he said “but I can’t tell you.” Language barriers.

Our last night was a night of jokes and laughter that carried on outside in the light of the bright stars and the open fire we had and where a cricket Chit’s wife caught ended up getting grilled before chewed up “arroy”. Apparently the whole village thinkgs we’re monkeys because of how many bananas we eat. Fine by me as I laughed swinging from one of the stilts of the house in construction.

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We also grew addicted to instant coffee. On the day we rode off to the villages I had already consumed 4 cups… oops. “I feel weird” I told Bethany as The car bounced up and down the windy dirt road. We soon figured out change in altitude+fatigue+absurd amount of caffeine = weird drive. Chit and Chacha? soon figured that out as well as on the way back I got Behtnay to sing a song with me and soon Chit was asking us “Sing a Song”. Which we did the whole hour and a half ride back. It was hilarious. though we may have scared the kid ahah. Chits words still ring with joy and laughter in my ears “I think tonight you are very happy! You make me very happy!”.

As we stared into the warm flames, Chit expressed how sorry he was he didn’t speak English. Moment fort. “We don’t understand your words” I said “but we know your heart. You know?” Yes I know he replied.

We spent a lot fo time talking or looking for words in our dictionary that night. I asked Chit if he liked working at MMF. “Yes because I like MCMP project”. True, seeing him interact with the Karen villagers you could tell how passionate and dedicated he is. I asked when he would come home again after being in Chiang Rai. Only in a month. He comes home once a month. He’s only been working at MMF for 3 months and it then dawned on me that Tim had told us before we knew any faces or stories that Chit’s wife was hoping ot find a place to work in Chiang Rai. But seriously… Who would want to live in the city when you live in the most beautiful place ever?

I tried to ask about missing his family. Chit and his wife spoke across the table in Karen for a couple minutes. It was so beautiful to watch them. “I work at MMF. My wife work at the village. You know? “ Bethany and I both chimed in Yes! and he instantly clipped this to our reply “But I don’t know.” This statement carried all the weight of the situation we had observed and been a part of. How much his wife and 7 and 8 year old must miss him, how dedicated to work he is…

We were enjoying each others presence and I was thinking about how this moment was a gem in a life. How anything added or substituted to it would render it unfeasible. After having shared our hearts, our music, our fears and hopes through language other than verbal, I asked if we could pray “atitan”. I led a short prayer in the light of the fire that I hope was stornlgy felt. We stayed a little longer and Chits wife brought us down to the house were the pastor’s assistant wife’s family was cuddling in front of the TV. She stayed a while and eclipsed herself into the dark night. Perhaps that was her goodbye. I hope I’ll see her again.

You know?

But I don’t know.

Thank you for SEEING ME.

I did not want to blog. However I am about to head out to a village for a week without electricity before heading back to Doi Saket and speaking with mi madre last night I thought I might give a heyo before this last stretch.

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This weekend was a nice time with Bethany and Pete’s family. We relaxed, went to the mall, did my Christmas shopping in October, killed my feet walking around walking street for hours carrying my heavy computer ridden bag, the new hoola hoop I acquired and eating coconut ice cream.. Hmmm. The half and hour foot massage we had I feel was enough to rub into the tightness and awaken the pain. I was sooo sore all over saturday night but specifically my knees were very swollen and my feet. Still, I didn’t manage to sleep well nor did I sunday. We are tired and worn out and a little on edge. I know for myself I am at the point where I would usually retreat to gather myself for I am beginning to hear the things that come out of my mouth and know the way people think I am looking at them and I don’t like it!

There has been an extremely amazing flow from the Spirit however. IMG_2158On Sunday Pete’s wife, Mary brought us to theSingha tea plantation. I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Despite my tired, need of alone-time usual poised self I let the mazes and trees and light awaken that little childish girl that ran around giddy as can be and then enjoyed some delicious roselle mulberry tea on big fluffy cushions.

Here I enjoyed speaking with Mary and Bethany. A question arose that I was thankful for the approach it allowed me to take. Mary, who graduated UC Davis with a Music Major asked me if I was going to pursue a career in music. This allowed me to express my desire to connect and help heal through art, self expression and acceptance. This is not something I can usually express and I was so very thankful.

It has been on my mind a lot lately, the gratitude I have for people who have SEEN me. How this is what I have always wanted and have been hurt by not being seen, by  what I’ve felt as being judged, being rejected and being painted as something I did not appreciate. I was always afraid hurt and mad about this so I would decide to paint myself as a statement. If people wanted to judge I thought, at least I want to be in control of what people are judging, I want to be the one that is making them have this reaction of repulsion and I want to be the one despising. But it is the people, friends, teachers, mentors, strangers who have not assumed or have seen something else. Who have engaged me in a way that recognizes an inherent value and uniqueness in my personhood that is not something strange or displaced but that is useful and powerful. People who believed without me having to do anything whatsoever. People who help me dream and own the true me, not the one that I have built up to fight off the fear of being misunderstood, rejected and alone. It is in meeting and interacting in these ways that I have the assurance that in owning myself, in assuming that others can see me even if it might take time, I know that along the path more of myself, of this world and of unique individuals will reveal themselves. I’m not sure where this initial thought comes from, but each person in our lives reveals a part of ourselves. How beautiful toIMG_2126 know there are parts of our selves we have not even met yet. Do not be afraid, in vulnerability you find the greatest strength.

There is a balance in accepting yourself, not being sorry for who you are and being willing to humbly, lovingly interact with others to understand differences, to accept their own differences and to be at peace. Recognize their might be a mistake, a miscommunication of intention and have room to forgive, room for grace and yet still have your own personhood and be ok with owning, growing.

So much is happening in my heart and mind, bridges being built that might lead me to many places, yet I am trusting I will know each step to take day by day and not fret over what next month, semester, year will bring.

Yesterday was our last full day at the office, spent working on children’s profiles from the Burmese center. Last night we went to Grace Home for the last time and ran around the Night Bassshaar 😉

Another short and troubled night of sleep brings us to this morning and yet a great time of learning and inspiration as we visited an organization started by a lawyer who had been unjustly accused of involvement in the drug trade, fought his charges and cleared his name and is now very involved in defending and educating people on their rights and on fighting corruption.

We had to write reports and evaluations of our time here wish was a good source for reflection. I am very thankful for the diversity of situations we have been in and the ability to sit in  on so many different meetings, witnessing first hand the inter workings of an organization on the ground and on paper.

We are about to have a staff lunch and then will be heading off to Khun Chit’s Karen village up in the mountains.

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Please send blessings of grace, peace and tidings of love and connection as we enter this last stretch with slight ailments and raw edges.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support. I love everything I have been speaking to you about and please please please continue to let me know what these musings have arising in your hearts and minds it is very inspiring and affirming for me and I want to continue to help break down other’s walls as well as my own. We can do this together.

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Much love and light

Soul Grounding, Soul Blessing

I don’t understand weeks or days anymore. Time in Thailand is so effervescent. Things go by slowly really fast! There are hours on end where we do nothing and hours filled with intense cerebral activity where we are surrounded by new noises, languages, places, people, smells.

I have not blogged since last Wednesday and as today is Friday, trying to figure out what happened to recount it I actually wondered if everything had only happened in 3 days.

Last Wednesday was our last day at the Burmese Child Center and though it was a sweet time is was a sad sad parting. We left without saying goodbye as the children were napping… Who knows if we will ever see these kids again… Who knows if they will even remember those two forang girls that came those two weeks.

We arrived at Grace Home, surprised to see a large banquet had been prepared! It was Graham and Lorri’s last night and it was so beautiful. The kids entertained us with  Ahka and Lahu traditional dances in their gorgeous outfits, and worship songs in Thai and English. We stayed a while longer upstairs talking and drinking coffee, going home around 11Pm.

Thursday was the monlthy MMF staff meeting. IT is super interesting to see MMF function and to assess its place as an organization. There seems to be a weight on the staff and directory. A feeling of failing. Depression. Yet when we hear the reports there are so many good things happening! The issue I think has to do with the very mission of MMF. The position it takes on how to help people. They have understood and want to move past simply helping people and they wish these people to help themselves. This includes inspiring them and empowering them, working alongside them but not financing them or doing the work for them. It requires a true change of mindset. Indeed Thailand is very dependent on outside aid, mostly because the government is not supporting their people. Still this will to empower others is mixed with a slight resentment that this is not happening. We still wish to empower others in the way we want, we want them to follow our path on their own. How can we empower and inspire them to just be themselves? People see material goods others have and want them. They do not understand why they do not deserve these if others who possess them do not seem deserving to them.

I am very intrigued to see where MMF goes in the future, I hope it will involve more structural change and power of the employees who will rise forward on their own and also protect their heritage. Yet, the reality is that change is inescapable. Will village life survive the transitional period Thailand is engaging in?

I have been reading a biography of Galileo and have loved picking out the fascinating simple items of every day life that seemed so normal in the 16th and 17th centuries. And I could not help thinking of how sad it is that our societies have changed so much so as to not encompass barely any of these elements anymore. And I think of this world we live in today and how amazing it is, how built on these pasts things it is and I marvel at our evolution and transition and think of where Thailand will be in a couple years, a couple decades, centuries…

Our time in the villages this week has been very thought-provoking, given the previous outsider knowledge we have gained.

Thursday evening we drove to the airport to see Lorri and Graham off. It was tender goodbyes, hoping to someday meet again. Something Graham said to me though simple observation marked me a lot. On wednesday after the children’s performances and emotional card givings he came over to me and told me “I know you’re not a hugger” I was very surprised at this. Anyone who knows me intimately knows how much I require hugs. I demand them on a regular basis. It is difficult for me to even begin to explain and express the gaping wound that leaves me unable to be perceived by people in general as someone who’s love language is very much so physical touch. Graham’s observation touched me as I realized how people perceive me. I have been actively pursuing the task of letting myself be seen, letting myself be vulnerable. My personal issue is far too often that I have huge walls up that one little thing can break and then I am completely without boundaries. Either way this is not a healthy approach to relationships. Graham’s remarked made me realize how much of myself I hide from the world, how cold I seem and truly ponder what things in my life have led to these barriers and instinctual need for protection. Physical touch is something that nowadays I am very weary of. I would like healing from this. I want to be someone who can touch and heal and bring warmth to others I do not want barriers though I want to have boundaries. How do I put in place more of a comforting atmosphere around my personhood? So please, if you are reading this, tell yourself you will send blessing for this violated body and fear of anyone laying a hand on me, that you will send restoration to my minds interpretation of physical touch and that the next time you see me you will lay hands on me and pray for the uplifting of this temple.

Thursday night also marked the beginning of my awful stomach clenching turning and upheaving sickness. Luckily our day off was Friday and I did not miss out on anything as I lay on the bathroom floor with the shower running trying to imagine myself in the ocean. Yes. I was bitter that I could not go to the ocean to be healed. This period marks the longest time I have ever been away from salt water and my heart is sick as well as my bowels. I miss fresh water that kick starts my spirits, I miss running on the beach and rolling in sand, or searching for stain glass and summersaulting with waves. I was worried I would still be too sick to travel on Saturday to the Hmong Dormitory in Naang Province but I got enough fluids and rest to be ok on the 4hour beautiful drive up up up and around mountains of jungle and fields.

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I love the mountains. We arrived in Naang and had dinner with the children who were not back home for school break. Apparently there was a lack of logistical understanding of the situation and we unfortunately did not spend barely any time with the kids the time we were at the dormitory. I felt awful on sunday so it truly was by grace that I was ok on the drive. Unfortunately Bethany was not able to join a funeral service because of my indisposition 😦

Monday we went with Jah and Chit to a Hmong Village to have surveys on Human Rights filled out.

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Village life was really mind-blowing. I was especially surprised that I was not at all digging the vibes. “No I couldn’t live here” I thought to myself. Still, wanting to reconcile with my expectations I thought hard “If I had a job it would be chill!” and then I stopped. Hm… A job… What a different concept of occupation we have in our urbanized, “developed” fast passed world. People work here. For a certain season. The spend the rest of their time weaving or chilling, speaking with neighbors, cooking food… Do they want something different? Do we have a right to tell them to pretty much get it together and start developing? It feels like we’re telling people they are lazy and need to be as busy as us, not have time for day dreaming, not have time for spending time in each other’s presence… I truly wonder what these people want yet at the same time I see no future in this way of life though I strongly advocate and yearn for a return to it in my own countries… How to conciliate this?

IMG_2087Bethany got a serious case of cabin fever on Tuesday. Check her blog if you don’t believe me. Luckily by that time I had recovered health a little and was able to enjoy a practice that grounded me and evacuated tension. We went for a walk around the dormitory but left on our outing only around 3pm. We had taught english the evening before. I was a little apprehensive but actually really enjoyed it, going back to the amazing times I spent in Korea and Taiwan last summer and marveling at how experience really makes space for comfort. We unfortunately were not able to teach again because the Hmong community we headed out to was far and we arrived back in the evening. It was fun though, nice to be out and follow the beaming moon overhead.  IMG_2092 IMG_2093IMG_2090  IMG_2075 IMG_2078

On wednesday we headed out to a veeery remote Hmong village. I have loved seeing and feeling the different atmospheres in these communities that are all Hmong. We had visited a tribal museum with Dr Chulee and seen different models of tribal houses Ahka, Lahu, Hmong which didn’t seem so different yet being in them you can tell the difference and it makes sense that in the high altitude the house would be so. Dirt on the floor, bamboo woven walls vs on stilts. That night we camped in the church and I was plagued by some pretty intense night terrors, the howling dogs and blood moon making me feel very spiritually attacked and a sense that a lot of really dark stuff was happening. I had a very clear image of the Hmong pastor Kim we had visited mimicking the witch doctor rituals and chants and thinking this was the perfect night for such a ritual. The Chrisitan community we were staying with was sweet and welcoming, had been “asked to leave” by the village we visited in the evening. The village is big and very removed, it is the most remote place we have been that does seem totally self sufficient and “stuck” in a different time. The elders were wearing traditional clothes and hats, there were many large wood buildings and a pretty large road with many houses. It seemed to me like an old border town. Especially the feeling of unwelcoming of strangers that reigned. I felt like some westerner who rides into a new town and walks into the saloon getting stared down and then gets a shoot out in his hotel room. Hence the spiritual attacks. I prayed a good amount.

We were awoken at 7am to have breakfast and left around 8. Chit drove back to Jah’s and then Chiang Rai. It was good to be back in somewhat of a personal environment.

Yesterday we went over to Pete, the old MMF director’s house to spend the weekend in what feels more like downtown Chiang Rai. We were able to enjoy a really great house group with a couple of the family’s friends on Psalm 103.

I am continuously taken back by my only recent discovery that you can speak to your soul that you can direct it’s thoughts and feelings with might and mercy. The psalmist is telling his soul to bless bless bless. to remember. I’m having a hard time focusing on the depth of feelings and thoughts I experienced last night as I am sitting in a coffee shop that is playing extremely shallow and annoying remakes of classic songs that are stripped of any emotional expression.. HA.

But don’t worry, it’s all jotted down in a journal and if you talk to me in person aka chat on fbk or Skype we can pull it out i’m sure. The spirit will guide. This is what I am counting on. Also Angels. I love angels, lets stop acting like the bible doesn’t talk about them and assure us they are working all around us. HOW COOOOOL.

Also, here are interesting things I observed in the book I finished Thursday:

-Back then wine was seen as a great medicine and referred to being drunk with medication far more than water. I don’t think people drank water. But seriously medication was prescribed to be taken “with a glass of wine”. It makes sense, fermented stuff is really good for you. Having your own produce of wine or from areas that are rich in anti oxidants and such is very beneficial.

– Pope Urban the VII got made at an astrologer for predicting his death. He wrote an edict that prohibited predicting papal death or the death of a papal family member… Astrology was as valid as any science. How crazy is it to think people then took that seriously and it was totally normal. NOwadays you are seen as a heretic and as having crazy bad spiritual darkness all around you if you even refer to anything that has to do with astral science… Just interesting what is normalized or rejected in societies that see themselves as PURELY following the path of Christ…

We have tomorrow off and might go to a village, today we are hanging out in Chiang Rai and then next week, our final week we will be in Chit’s Home Karen Village.

Pray for the little things. Health but also fresh spiritual and emotional strength. Happiness, openness, space for the spirit to flow and work and a time to consider these works and bless them, calling on more. For us to be tools of renewal and uplifting of the wonderful souls living and working in Thailand.

CALL ON THE BLESSINGS!!

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Also we sang at house group. That was nice 🙂

Much love to you alll!

Retrouvailles. Happy Soul.

Woke up this morning beautifully rested. Apparently Bethany has been hearing my giggling in my sleep. Must be having a blast! As I was practicing yoga tonight a different thought came to me though. I have been feeling under the weather so I have not practiced for about 4 days, though I did a different grounding routing. Tonight I was yearning for physical grounding through effort and I did a moon flow I have done about 4 other times. I put much focus and effort into movements, getting deeper into my muscles and strength, pushing through the ache and burns and revelling in the yummy stretches that followed. I felt a lot of opening in my hips, which is tissue where we store a lot of past emotional trauma. For me this is also physical trauma. I reached pigeon pose, a place where I often find much release and about 2 breaths in started to giggle before I let out uncontrollable sobs. This was not only surrender it was spiritual and I felt the giggles and the sobs and the sweat and the movement and breathe and air to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I think the sleeping dreaming giggles are that as well. As I was trying to recall during my breakfast what I was dreaming of, images of Gold rooms and dancing, belly-dancing in beautiful gem translucent shimmering scarfs and skirts. Filled with joy and moving in the Kingdom. This fills me anew with awe and wonder and Shalom in in my heart and mind and soul.

Today has been a beautiful day I can’t help but blog about it. De bonnes retrouvailles.

We began the day with a time of worship and prayer at the MMF office. Standing in a circle holding hands and praying and humming together was bliss. We headed over to the migrant children center and were greeted by all the kids “wai” ing and cutely mouthing “sawadikaa”. Heart blooming. We took pictures of the kids one by one to compile a report for the donors and I was happy to spend the morning interviewing Samila about the individual children. Interesting recurring themes. PArents calling their children stupid, not spending time with them, not thinking about the future; siblings going to school in Burma; kids wanting to be doctors to help their parents health; kids liking construction and wanting to work with their parents… I was so happy that I was blessed with the time to write so much about these kids, to have someone gift me their time and attention; spelling out names and giving details about their personal knowledge only for my benefit. I loved it and marveled at this anthropological endeavor. At play time Samila told me she had gotten Burmese food at the market and Manila called us to lunch. It felt like ages since we had had such soul food. Infused with love and care. We definelty took extra rice. We finished up in the kitchen as the children were bathed and basked in Samila’s soothing presence as she layed the kids down for nap. I still stand in awe of how healing being in her proximity is. Samila and Pimali went to have lunch. We watched over the sleeping little ones, soaking in everything I knew about their lives and families, wishing blessings, healings, love and gifts to them. Back in the kitchen we joked around with Pimali and Samila and were able to ask them about their own backgrounds as Pimali brought us tea and Burmese tea salad. How to resist? Pimali wandered outside and we asked Samila many questions about her family and Burma. I want to go with her! It was a beautiful time of bonding. When Tim popped his head in to bring us back, we had prayed together and as we went outside and said goodbye Bethany and I both leaned in to hug our loving friend. See you tomorrow! Can’t believe it will be our last day 😦

We shared our thoughts with Tim on the ride back to MMF and made plans to help develop some social media elements. Interesting how it is a second nature for our generation yet uncomfortable for others. Glad to be of service!

We hurried down the street to get some tea from the cute lady we hadn’t seen since last week. Another retrouvaille. The sun, the night of sleep, the soothing presences at the Child center filled me with joy as I danced and hopped down the street; Bethany running towards Jebu and Som San, the dogs that keep us safe.

Anna, Abé, Graham and Lorri were supposed to be coming back from Chiang Mai today and we were very excited to be back at Grace Home. We hadn’t heard from anyone at 5.30 and we couldn’t find Anna’s number so we got on our mountain bikes with some giggles and uggs. The seats are super high. I was able to get Bethany’s down with some help from Nuna, Nam who were still at work and soon our Lahu family was also surrounding us. Sara even had her pet scarab on a stick with a pink bow around its neck. Yup.

We headed out, arriving a little shaky at Grace Home. Coffee was made and we headed to the Night BASHAAR to meet up with Anna, Abé, Graham and Lorri. I was definitely giddy. It was like meeting old friends after a journey, we shared stories about what we did this weekend and today and ate good food and laughed a lot. Happy, full, fat.

It will be hard to leave these beautiful people!! Thursday we have the monthly meeting; Graham an Lorri leave and Saturday we will be off to stay at the Hmong Dormitory in a different province for a week.

I am so thankful and blessed and joyful and beyond ability to wordly express the deep contentment and connections of my heart.

Thank you everyone.

So much love. 🙂

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Opening The Flood Gates

Back in Chiang Mai on the Lahu TLCC Campus a couple weeks ago as I lay in bed trying to force myself to sleep yet being flooded with extreme joyous energy, beautiful creative thoughts and passionate ideas, I realized I do not have enough time to day dream. My mind feels like it is going to exploooode! I have so many thoughts, feelings, perceptions, misconceptions, paradoxes, images, smells that I am processing! I can literally feel the ideas and concepts twisting and tossing together in the layer of subconscious, baking my lenses of this world. A recurring thought of mine this past week has been that I am afraid to open up a door to my thoughts, picturing an overpowering flood washing over me and never ending. Today it is pouring rain. I worked on some MMF Program Evaluation Paperwork after sitting in on the weekly staff meeting and a delicious lunch at a cute “forang” loved restaurant. I feel a little rested, having spent a good half an hour chatting on Facebook, marveling at the different paths people take to bring light to this world and letting the VERY LOUD RAIN flood out all the jumble in my mind. For the first time since I’ve been here I feel calm and grounded. The large hard surfaced bed surrounded by a swooping mosquito net in the corner of two windows which at night I toss and turn in, plagued by sooo many itchy bugs, is in this moment a very very peaceful space.

Our first staff meeting was last Monday. We have now officially been interning for a week though it seems like an eternity. Space and time are operating on very different frames here and it is difficult to align in a balanced way. The mornings go by very slowly, the evenings in the blink of an eye. There is a continuous paradox of feeling like everything is going by very fast and yet taking foreever to do so.

We have been working at the Migrant Child Center which is an MMF(Mekong Minority Foundation) Program. The center is run by Samula and Memali, two immigrant burmese woman who tend to about 16-24 Burmese children under the Montessori system. I cannot express my amazement in the workings of this program. I am still unsure of how much of the sweetness and attentiveness of the children is linked to the program itself, how much to Burmese, Thai or Asian culture and how much is simply due to the soothing presence yet firm reactiveness of Samula and Memali.

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The first days it was difficult to know what to do. The status of intern throws me off as I want to meet and go beyond expectations. Though in this context I was sooo unsure of what those expectations were or if I was expected to wow by just aparessing great work without being told how or what would help or benefit. I had to go back to the idea of missions, of “owning” poverty. That we want to DO to help but often that is less than helpful, and yet we feel uncomfortable not actively engaging in an activity that rewards or sense of self accomplishment. Still, just being here, percent with the kids, smiling, helping if possible without language is what we are doing. It’s ok to feel useless. I’m trying to shift my understanding of what we see as “useful” and to let go of those expectations I expect others to have of me. We haven’t been to the childreIMG_1901n center since Thursday and I miss the kids!!! We will be back there only two more days… Harsh reality of short term involvement. Need to conciliate the wonderful opportunity of the blessing of simply being with these children and Samula and Memali.      IMG_1793            IMG_1776IMG_1834 IMG_1807

Thursday Bethany and I will be sitting in on the monthly MMF meeting which I am sure will be extremely insightful and helpful in understanding the process of the different programs being established and managed, how they are welcomed and such… Also most likely very long and perhaps frustrating win having to apply office etiquette, our status being pretty jul; not really being in  a position which is allowed to take peoples time and ask questions about random things (or seemingly random to those who are operating in a particular mindset and only after a particular goal)… Anyways the world! Today as I zoned out in the meeting, (it was a long Thai stretch) I thought about this experiencing. I thought about Bethany’s blogging. How well she seems to find a meaning to everything she is experiencing. I was thinking about needing to write and ardently searching for a meaning, for a framework, for a leading thread of sense to tie all these CRAZY THINGS together. Nothing makes sense. I thought about our meeting last Thursday and Friday. MMF had visiting Program Directors from one of their main donor agencies, Cedar Fund. Bethany and I had the opportunity of sitting in on a meeting  Thursday and joining the site visit on Friday.On Thursday, Burmese migrant worker MMF volunteers came to the office to speak of what they have been working on and what challenges they have faced and had to deal with. During this meeting I might have committed slight faux pas in office etiquette but I could really not shut my mouth. I kept on thinking of Ajun Christa’s rants on how much she wished people involved in NGOs would take her class and had the framework for what they are doing. I wanted to ask more questions about the migrant community and the interactions within it but it seemed unwanted. Today the main thought in looking back on these was of wanting to have the status of someone who is listened to. Or more like to come back and be a person that people allow for there to be time spent on. I want to be the person who is allowed to ask questions and think about these, not the one who cannot speak out the questions and thoughts that want to burst out. Friday we were taken to the Office of Social Welfare and Labor Protection. THIS WAS AWESOME. I felt so so so privileged to be sitting in on this meeting. I was marveling  that this place is where it happens. These people make decisions, make accessions, see what can be done and DO IT! It was so inspiring and refreshing to see the relationship between the MMF staff and the Director of the ministry. We then visited a Hmong Village in Chiang Kong where MMF has implemented numerous leadership trainings and was to have one the very weekend. I was so blown away by the beauty of the place.IMG_1918   IMG_1945

We crossed a stream to get to a beautiful church on a little hill top where we were greeted by a spirited, playful bantering pastor full of energy and laughter. We sat in the church and were brought heaps of delicious fruits which he at the end told us we couldn’t leave without eating all of. We were all introduced (apparently Pastor Kim thinks I am more beautiful than the Leah in the bible) and Pastor Kim spoke of his community. I was completely entranced by his description of his culture, of how the Church has engaged with the community and how very very real the spiritual world is for them. Pastor Kim told us of how they have engaged in 19 organized debates with the witch doctors in the community and that they have only lost twice and have been tied twice. I excitedly imagined what debates would look like in this culture. Pastor IMG_1935Kim spoke of the main concept they use in engaging with the witch doctors has to due with the Hmong belief that the soul is everlasting and that upon death, witch doctors guide this soul back to its source. Pastor Kim tells the witch doctors that this notion of the soul’s eternity is in the Bible, that this is the source of the witch doctors beliefs. We were handed a guest book that I wrote in, thinking the whole time of how much I want to return here and spend time learning of their spiritual and cultural ways. IMG_1938

Saturday Bethany and I met up with Patricia Wolf, a perky french ex pat who had the kindness to take us around on an adventure. We were hoping to see more of Chiang Rai but were so worn out. Apparently even after a coffee as Anna, a french girl who is right off the boat commented we are “unable of enjoying life because the energy is sucked out of us”. or something of the sort. Patty had planned on taking us to the Opium Museum IMG_1969in Mae Sai, which we had already been to so instead she took us to see the elephants at the Karen village! I was very excited when I saw them up close and we got on a ride around the block. The excitement slightly died off as I thought of this elephant walking on the side of the road for our eterntainment. I asked the driver’s name, his elephants name and age (25!). And as I watched him sit with his legs crossed on the elephants head, his hand behind the ears I longed for a context in which I could do the same. IMG_1962Not stupidly sit on a makeshift car seat getting stares from the local souvenir shop keepers. Patty then took us to lunch at a resort next to the elephants she wanted to check out. 950 a night for the bungalo, 1000 for the room she energetically stated “good price, very nice”. I was a little complacent. The food was good but I miss Pawnee’s cooking. Patty told us about all the adventures we could go on for good prices: take a boat to Laos, go on a jungle elephant trek for only 2000 Baht. Anna the next day told me how she has pegged me as a “aventurière frustrée”. Yes. definitely. I wish I could go off on random adventures, get lost, meet crazy people, have a fire dance, sleep under the stars… Right now though I am here and I am happy, things are not the way I prefer them but it is good to affirm yourself and find ways to be yourself in each situation. I am learning a lot and seeing a lot that I would not in a different context. And the other reality is that I actually do not really feel the urge to go adventuring as I usually would because I like to let the culture overwhelm me. And here, I do not feel that it is the culture to do such things. I am observing the culture and not wishing to make it into something else of my own liking. So adventure is awesome, but this is my adventure now and I will let the wind blow through me and be still and dance and jump when I feel it flowing. IMG_1982

I have been so so so so intrigued, fascinated and weirded out by the ex pat community. I came to Thailand stoked to experience new cultures, fascinated by the tribal communities, by Burma, by every day thai life and Buddhist practices. I have been extremely surprised by how constructed of an ex pat society there is. I inadvertently was aware of this when I was at the pie shop in Chiang Rai. The feeling of a nostalgic sentiment for colonial times, a feeling resembling of the African Queen. I hadn’t yet realized how this is not a lost sentiment but something VERY VERY PRESENT. Thailand is overflowing with tourists. I was surprised to realize how many french tourists there are. Interacting with the Buddhist Monk and now with Patty I am not sure if this is the only such connection but there is a definite link in French and Thai culture of shutting off deep personal emotions or importance of those in connection with others, a sense of fatalism and a deep reference of elitism. The French see Thailand as a get away, one that offers answers to their issues but still in the comfort of cinism, with the interesting part of exoticism. The tourist industry of adventure is catered to foreigners longing for this exoticism. Makes me think of Bride and Prejudice and Lalita’s rants “You think this is India?”. I never understood how real this disconnect and illusion is.

I have been feeling the urge to go around SHATTERING GLASSES. I have a vision of people holding up mirrors, individuals who are not only looking at themselves but at others in their midsts. The mirror create the illusion that the whole world is this way. The people are not touching though. I want to break these mirrors. And yet I love the idea of reflections and mirrors as a way to understand and look into the reflection and see a different meaning, learn a story, learn a medicine. This vision is not totally explained. I have mixed feelings about the ex pat community. It is also interesting to see  or feel the differences here and in Chiang Mai. I keep thinking about Tender is the Night and how I was enthralled by Fitzgerald’s portrayal of the ex pats in the South of France; how I found a place of understanding and excitement in these characters. It felt like home. Flash forward to now and the understanding I had for these erring eccentric characters does not necessarily transfer over. The international church we went to our first day in Chiang Rai was a trip. Seriously. I was pretty uncomfortable to start. I almost felt panicky. I’m not always sure what this feeling is but I tend to seek prayer whenever it arises. Sometimes I think its just a jolt of the Spirit crying to be let out, but when I first feel it it seems more like an attack. The church service was very out of the ordinary, which is how I like them. What blew my mind was in how this is weird; yet for them it is normal and they wouldn’t necessarily be open to a different layer of weird. I’m not sure they wouldn’t, I felt pretty at home once I started interacting with people. I guess what was surprising was how this place seemed like a different world but because there were enough people from a different world, it created a new, accepted world. I wonder what the impressions of our Church in France are. The second church we went to with Patty (she took us to an English speaking church because we wouldn’t understand the thai… :/ ) was “big”. There were many missionary families and people from China and Vietnam, college students and kids… It was very diverse, worship was in two languages, the message was well said and true and yet I just didn’t feel it. Writing out “there were many missionaries” maybe made me understand the issue… haha. I want to break the mirrors… The message was about leaving our wordly culture and being Kingdom culture (not in those terms.. ) . I do not want to act as the outsider coming in and saying what is wrong. Yet I want the spirit to flow. And maybe its my own fault for not letting it flow freely yet when I speak of Kingdom culture I see weird stuff that we don’t expect and I want to be weird and happy and crazy… I DONT SEE THIS HERE. This community is like “lets not worry about cultural norms but only to the extent that its comfortable for us and maybe a little uncomfortable or awkward”. I WANT MORE lets push it farther and just CALL ON THE SPIRIT TO FLOOD THE GATES THAT SEPARATE US ALL. I’m so tired of standing when I’m told, of snoozing off during worship. WHEN DID PEOPLE STOP DANCING TO WORSHIP? WHY IS THAT NOT A THING? SERIOUSLY!? If we’re talking about doing what’s in the BIBLE ITS IN THE FREAKING BIBLE.

K. My rant is over haha. But really ex pats; let the gates flood, thank you for your work it’s awesome, don’t stay in your comfortable recreation of a western  world bubble. I’ve noticed it’s uncomfortable for me at times. People suppose that because I  go to school in America and grew up in France that I must be interested in doing certain things certain ways. I’m really not interested in eating bread, in going to Starbucks, in going to english speaking churches… People seem surprised when they hear what we’ve been doing, where we eat, what we don’t eat…

It has been oh oh oh so sweet to spend evenings at Grace Home. Anna and Ubé, a Lahu couple hold Grace Home, a place where there are about 50 kids from 7 to 17 about that sleep in a couple “houses”. I can’t express how soothing this place is. How much of a sacred space it is. It is so filled with the spirit of God, it takes my breath away. From the start the kids came up to us, arms outstretched for hugs before they even spoke. The first day Abé ran through the rooms and showed us the pigs introducing us to a forang man standing by the kids “Graham” before beckoning us upstairs. “They’ll steal your heart away” were some of his first words to us.

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Abé made us coffee and we sat at the living room table of the second floor apartment with a beautiful view of the green mountains and blue sky. We were introduced to Lori, the wife of Graham. A couple from Australia who have been coming to Grace home for 6 years. We confusedly rushed back downstairs into Abé’s truck where the kids had already pilled into the back. One of the most Thai things I feel like I’ve ever done. “EXERCISE!” Walk along the beautiful river, with different activities on the side, a garden and trees: tennis, basketball, that thing that’s volleyball but actually kicking. Grammas listening to thai music and doing their slow steps. All with children holding your hands and pulling you forward. After the walk you can do the speed dance routing . I got pretty crazy with it the second and third time. “Sweatastic” as Bethany would say. Quelle bonne humeur! We head back buzzing with endorphins and the windows down, sticking out my hand which gets grabbed by kids on the back who smile perkishly to me. Lahu dinner with Anna, Abé, Lori and Graham is so comforting. I loooove me some steamed pumpkin!

It has been such a blessing to be in this home, we never want to leave. We are placed exactly where we need to be. Lori and Graham being at Grace Home have offered us the great opportunity to engage with Anna and Abé in an intimacy we might never had explored without them. At the night market after Anna, Abé, Lori and Graham came back from a fay of visiting the Lahu villages, Anna ordered food for exhausted Bethany and Leah. We jokingly called her “Mé”.. but the feeling is real and she laughed sweetly.

Graham and Lori evoke many things for me as they are dedicated parents of 5 grown children but have also been the loving foster parents of many children. I often thank them for what they are doing as after having studied intimate violence and been so linked to teen homelessness I know the difficulty of finding good foster parents and of being good foster parents. They are so sweet and playful, open yet with boundaries of personal sharing that make me feel that everything that is shared is very deep.

We have not seen Grace Home or the Burmese kids since Thursday and I am missing them. We have been feeling very weary and I think this is amplified by the lack of emotional well-being that we get from the presence of the children and of our Lahu and Australian family. I am very excited for tomorrow!

Our last class with Dr Amnuy, we had us respond to a series of really interesting quotes. I have had a recurring thought that I only just know pinpointd the original forming of to one of my responses. As I realized this, I grew very thankful for this exercise he had us engage in and it has got me ready for something I have been thinking about. (more on that vey soon 🙂 ) . SO One of my recurring thoughts this past week  has been that I WANT TO SUCCEED. I WANT TO PAVE A NEW PATH. I do not want to be afraid, and even do this in the dark so that if I fail no one will notice. I BELIEVE WE CAN LIVE ANOTHER WAY. I BELIEVE WE CAN DREAM AND ATTAIN. I WANT TO SUCCEED IN THIS TO SHOW OTHERS THERE IS ANOTHER WAY. I don’t care if people do something the way I do it, I just want people to do it the way the want it SHATTER THAT STUPID MIRROR YOU’RE HOLDING. Look inside!

Today I was very happy because in the meeting we were asked in which way we are acting out our life as ambassadors for Christ. We were asked by Pao to meditate alone about this for 10 minutes and then report back. I was being pushed to share and was very happy that I followed that push and as I saw heads nodding I was encouraged.

I thought a lot about what I have been experiencing. The tensions. The main ones being that I want to be ON FIRE for God. And yet there is a reality of often things seem forced. We are not actually feeling the spirit, we are expecting something else of it. ANd we think that being on fire looks a certain way. It is uncomfortable to be still. It is sometimes disheartening to not feel a great big woof of spirit. The tension lays in accepting where we are. Yet in this ACCEPTING we must not stop EXPECTING. This is a difficult balance. I have been growing in acceptance of where I am. I have been trying to expect. Also, in order to grow we must not accept that it is difficult and here but not yet. We must not force. I have adopted the vision of a garden. I am the garden. It has been weeded out and raked and seeds have been planted and I are being watered and I am so impatient to see the beautiful trees and fruits and flowers that will come. I am soooo impatient. I keep on seeing a vision of a person that I will be but that I am not yet. And yet I think in looing forward I am not taking into account alll the little tiny blessings and spirit flows that surround and bless me every day. I am not seeing my own eternity and marveling in it each and every day. I want to and want to be in the Kingdom now and every day and I shall continue knocking and praying and asking . And when I realize how filled I am I BETTER OWN UP TO ALL THAT PLEADING.

Flood Gates Open Yo.

Please pray for good health and protection. Sleep and bugs and food.

Thank you for all the love you surround us with each day!!! Would love to hear the thoughts and words you have had in reading this or thinking of us. 🙂

In Love & Light.

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