It’s 9 months late, but the vlog from a Thai Christmas is finally here.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/50345196″>A Thai Christmas</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user7822821″>jenica baldwin</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
As I’m back in Seattle, one way I can continue to stay connected with the international community is by reading the newspaper. Even if it’s just skimming the headlines and reading bits and pieces of each article, I think it’s an important way to stay in-check with the rest of the world and be reminded that through this life I lead here at school, which can be very self-centered and close-minded, I should not get caught up in the everyday life, but continue to have my eyes opened to what’s going on in the world.
Yesterday, I read in the newspaper, what I would 6 months ago casually skim over and disregard, that Myanmar (Burma) is holding elections in April and Aung Saan Suu Kyi, the opposing democratic candidate is running once again. In 1990, she was voted into power, but authority was never given to her, but rather she was put into house arrest for 15 years by the military of Burma. Sounds strange, right? Normally, when someone is voted into power, they are also given power to make change. Not for Burma though.
My hope and prayer for this upcoming election is that although Suu Kyi’s power will be somewhat limited, because she is only running for a member of parliament, I hope that this is the beginning of peace in Burma. I hope that the future will look brighter for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been displaced from their home country.
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This here is Loi Krathong Festival from the middle of November. (An amazing, popular light festival in Thailand.)
And most recently, this is a farewell vlog that I made with some of my Thai friends so that I could remember the way they sound, but even more how they say my name (my personal favorite). 🙂
(This blog post was written 4 days ago. I am now home and headed back to Seattle tomorrow morning.)
I am currently on my way back to America. It’s been 135 days since my feet last touched American soil. I have grown in ways I never expected, God kept showing up in surprising ways, I made some of the most wonderful friends from all over the world, and I was challenged and stretched every single day. I think that when you study abroad and immerse yourself in a radical new culture for an extended period of time, all the above things (and more) I’ve mentioned are bound to happen to some extent.
Heading home, I’m just now beginning to realize how many awesome opportunities I’ve been exposed to through my program that I would have never been able to experience by staying in the states.
1. Staying in a Northern Thailand village with a host family for a week made me realize how simple peoples lives can be (especially when everything they ever need is in their backyard).
2. Traveling to Mae Sai (the most northern part of Thailand) and Chiang Rai to see the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, and Burma come together educated me on the rich history of a well-known area of Southeast Asia.
3. Traveling to Mae Sot, a city bordering Burma, what hundreds of thousands of refugees call home, opened my heart to the fact that no matter how much injustice is going on in Burma currently, that God has a purpose and a plan for these people, as difficult and almost impossible it is to see and believe. Despite the hardships these ethnic minority groups of Burma deal with daily with being displaced from their own country, there is a sense of hope for these people to regain the freedom to stay on their native soil someday soon.
4. Visiting China during my fall break was a restful time to spend with the Lord and family friends, but also a chance to see another part of Asia that is so different from what I experienced in Thailand.
5. Road tripping to Bangkok, even with the floods still affecting the people on the outskirts of the city, our educational field trip including a visit to Thai Parliament, visits to a plethora of NGOs and organizations within the UN that are all contributing to the solution of the sex industry that is prevalent and alive in Southeast Asia, and more specifically in Bangkok, and the realization that no matter where it is, there are politics in politics that are directly and indirectly affecting millions of people — whether it is the continued violations of human rights or the lack of identification cards that the hill tribe people of Thailand are unable to obtain because of a lack of citizenship or the fact that parliament members are denying the truth of prostitution in Thailand all together — those people in charge are continuing to corrupt the country when solutions should be searched for and rights should be implemented.
It’s these opportunities that were some of the biggest and most impacting experiences that I will take home and have a burning desire to share with others. I am preparing myself to accept the fact that not everyone I talk to will want to hear every detail of my trip — in all honesty, it is a challenge in itself to come home and share experiences accurately and in a captivating way so that listeners won’t be bored, but rather interested and engaged in a new kind of way. Furthermore, returning to a place in which I was so ready to leave six months ago is simply going to be strange and change is going to be a challenge. I’ll have to consciously live my life differently if I was truly changed from this experience. And as much as my abroad experience is over, in some ways, it’s just beginning.
The transition has already begun — small things like greeting people with ‘sa wa dee ka’ will not be a part of my daily routine anymore. (And for the first time in 4 months, people will not understand me when I speak in Thai. Shoot.) Every morning for the past 135 days, I literally had to remind myself as I rolled out of bed that I was in Thailand. It sounds silly, but I kept forgetting — perhaps it was partly because I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I just lived in Southeast Asia for the past 4.5 months, but now that I am homeward bound, I think that reality is beginning to hit me. (And I’m sure it will take a while for me to realize that I’m back in the states, too. Here’s to waking up each morning and reminding myself that I am HOME.)
And I am so, so, so blessed to be able to come home to a beautiful place filled with the people I love. Plus, I was privileged enough to have my family come over and join me for the Christmas season. As much as the sunshine and beaches didn’t quite feel like our typical white Christmas is the mountains, the time we got to spend together was very special. And I will be even more blessed to have them understand my experience better because they got to see Chiang Mai first hand – they will understand stories that connect with specific locations and the feeling you cannot understand without being there. (Stay tuned for photos from the end of the program, family Christmas photos, and vlogs from the semester that I have yet to finish.)
My excitement to return home cannot be expressed in words. (All I can do is squeal and squiggle with excitement. At this rate, I will be getting a stomach ache relatively soon that will last days — the more exciting life is, the worse the stomach ache is. It’s inevitable that I’ll have to deal with the pain for maybe the longest running time yet.) With my return home, one that I get to enjoy for 4 days, I will soon be headed back to Seattle, where I will be reunited with a number of my best friends after being separated for 6 months. Saying that “I’m excited” is very much of an understatement.
Upon my return to school, I will finish up this blog on life post studying abroad, the transition back to America, and what reverse culture shock will look like for me. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be wonderful. At the end of each day, though, it is an ultimate gift to be here on earth to experience the world in which God created for His plan and purpose. And I am forever grateful to be a part of the plan.
Stay tuned on information of how to get involved in many types of facets if you are interested. Please let me know if you have any questions/comments regarding anything I’ve written about. I am more than willing to share more with anyone who is willing to help/listen/be informed. You are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org whenever you’d like.
An extended thank you to all my followers and readers who stuck with me along this journey — the encouragement, love, and prayers throughout the semester seriously were gifts from God and I would not have been able to have the experience I had without the support and love. I am reminded of God’s faithfulness through you, because having people in your life that care about you is truly the biggest blessing ever. Thank you!
Sa wa dii ka!! (Goodbye!)
Pop gon mai ka! (See you soon!)