January 15, 2011 6:30 PM
I’m sitting at a little outdoor restaurant called “Jimmy’s” waiting for my first taste of Thai food since I’ve entered the country. I ordered vegetarian Pad Thai with egg and tofu. From what I hear, this place is owned by an old, fat, American farang, named Jimmy, who is usually reclining on his hammock right by the eating area. This is my second time here, but I haven’t seen heads or tails of him yet. I’m relieved though, from what the other volunteers tell me, he has a rather tasteless sense of humor—they say the only two things he cares about are women and alcohol.
The two Thai’s that have been running the place are very accommodating. The Thai (or maybe Burmese) woman noticed me scratching at my ankles, and before I was even aware what I had been doing, she set a glass bottle with some kind of burning incense in it by my feet. I think it must be meant to keep away the bugs. I must not have put enough bug repellent on this morning. I have two huge bug bites—one on my right ankle, and the other on my left shin. I hope the bugs weren’t carrying malaria…. I haven’t been taking my meds. According to the other volunteers, it’s best not to take the antibiotics. They say it has nasty side effects, and really isn’t good for your body to take it for six months. They say just to protect yourself from bug bites the best you can, and if you get malaria or dengue, deal with it then.
Jimmy’s is definitely geared toward westerners. I was expecting my Pad Thai to at least bring a tear to my eye with spice, but it was actually pretty bland—not a hint of fire at all. It still tasted divine though—even the tofu =)
Walking home tonight was so beautiful, it was nice to look up at the sky and see the same one that I’ve known all my life. It makes me feel a bit more comfortable here. I’m getting used the humidity quite quickly. I think it makes the night air feel magical and I imagine that I may miss it when I leave. I think it won’t be long now before I’m comfortable enough and excited to be here. Maybe all I needed was some sleep and some solid food in my belly.
Woah…speaking of solid food in my belly…suddenly it feels like something is alive and pulsing in there. I feel like I just ate an alien! Maybe I over did it on the food, after going for a couple of days just drinking liquids and eating Pringles…
I’m going to go take another refreshingly cold shower, and then I’m going to try and get some sleep.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
I think my dream woke me up, though I have no idea what I was dreaming about. I got out of bed to use the bathroom, and now I can’t go back to sleep because the baby next door is crying. The neighbors on either side of us live so close that they practically live with us. Anything they do we hear: When they cook, clean, listen to music, or even just have a conversation. Sometimes as I’m drifting to sleep my mind “translates” their chatter into English…it makes for some pretty strange dreams.
I just tried to turn the light to my room on, and I majorly shocked my hand…I’m not really sure what I touched that gave me the shock…but it was bad enough that it made me drop my flashlight. OUCH. I’ll have to be more careful in the future.
I’ve been here for two days now….I still feel totally clueless, and very lonely. I only saw two other volunteers yesterday and both of them were very brief run-ins…. I spent a lot of time at my little Internet Café trying not to cry. I talked to Kyle and my Mom a little bit on Facebook. It means so much to know I have family and friends back home who love me and who are praying for me and cheering me on. This experience has given me a lot of sympathy for the missionaries that come home because of homesickness. It hasn’t even been a full week yet, and I’m already wondering if I made the right decision to come out here. I think I made a good decision, but I definitely didn’t make an easy one.
I am so thankful for the power of prayer. I feel incredibly blessed that I have the opportunity to talk to my Heavenly Father at ANY time in ANY part of the world. I said one of the longest prayers of my life yesterday, and just the act of praying helped me feel calmer. I hope that being out here away from the people and culture I know, brings me closer to God. I want to find that even in a remote part of the world where no one believes the same things that I do, that God still exists.
I keep reminding myself that the reason I came out here was to prove myself—and I can’t give up just because things feel tough right now. I knew things were going to be tough at times. That was part of the plan. Hard things build character. I even knew I would be lonely—in fact, I wanted to feel lonely. I wanted to give myself a chance to discover who I am, when it’s just me. When I’m away from the people and the places that have certain expectations of me.
Things will get better. I’m already used to my accommodations, and I know my way around the town pretty well. I’ll start working on Monday and maybe once I’m busy and feel useful I won’t keep wondering why I’m here.
For those of you reading this who are the worrying kind, please know that I’m safe, and I have a heavenly father who’s looking out for me, and that’s the most important thing. I’m here by choice, and if I wanted to come home, I could choose to do so at any time. Right now though, I think I’m just experiencing a bit of culture shock, and I need to give myself a bit of time to adjust. I really think that this is going to turn out to be one of the coolest adventures of my life. I’m already learning so much. My sense of appreciation and gratitude for the things have been blessed with in my life has deepened infinitely. My sense of patriotism has grown—one gains a truer love for their country when they have the opportunity to live in someone else’s, I think. I’m so proud of myself for just finding my way here—I survived airport security, got on all of my planes in good time, and even figured out transportation in a country that doesn’t speak my language. I’ve learned that it really doesn’t take material goods to make a person happy. I’m living in what would be considered poverty, were I back in the states, and yet, I have absolutely everything I need to live, and I’m grateful for it. My loneliness has only deepened the love I feel for my family and friends, and hope I never lose that depth. I’m realizing what a pampered life I’ve led, and if that isn’t a great thing for a person to learn, I don’t know what is. More than anything, I’m grateful for the church, the gospel, and the plan of salvation. It really is a perfect plan, and sometimes I think we take it for granted. I’ve taken a lot of things for granted throughout my life—and if all I gain from this experience is a deeper sense of gratitude for my blessings, then it was worth the trip.
I want you all to know that I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for caring about me. Thank you for thinking of me once in awhile. Thank you for praying for me—I’ll take all of the prayers I can get.