I have clearly been neglecting the blogosphere as the last four months have gone by in a blur of activity which I’ll try to sum up in a short and succinct manner.
Enter 2012. I spent NYE in Bangkok which was quite possibly the best NYE I’ve experienced in all my years. There is nothing like dancing from a rooftop club overlooking the Big Mango. I even had a NYE kiss and I never have a NYE kiss. On January 1st, I flew to India. My month in India and Nepal was incredible. Nepal blew my mind. For more on this, check out my previous post, Naughty in Nepal. My days in India were spent taking Bollywood hip-hop dance classes with my dance guru, Govindji, visiting the red light district, dancing in the street as Varanasi celebrated Saraswati Puja and generally exploring the Holy Hindu City. The beautiful thing about India is I never hang out with farangi (foreigners) and only get the local perspective on life and living in India. It was a delicious break from the Land of Smiles. And India, true to form, never ceases to disgust and delight.
I returned to Bangkok, experiencing mild reverse culture shock. The sweltering city reminded me how ancient India can feel as if it somehow escaped modernity which has both its pros and cons. Varanasi is conservative. Bangkok is promiscuous. Varanasi is filthy. Bangkok is clean. Varanasi is rich in culture and tradition. Bangkok can appear to lack both. Women in Varanasi are generally unfree. Women in Bangkok can do as they please. Prostitutes in Varanasi are clothed head to toe. Prostitutes in Bangkok are scantily clad and some can light cigarettes with their vaginas. A two hour flight; two worlds apart. February brought two sets of visitors which was fantastic – my dear friend Julia and her family from Denmark and my dear friends Doug and Hodie from Montana. I don’t know why I don’t have more visitors. The door is always open! Buy the ticket, take the ride!
On Friday, March 2nd, I got in a motorbike accident. It was by no means severe, but it was enough to land me in the hospital thinking I’d broken ribs (which I hadn’t). Still, when a man in a truck slams on his brakes in front of you and you go nosediving into his backend only to land on the cement in the middle of rush hour traffic on the superhighway, it can shake a girl up. I don’t know which was worse – the driver fleeing the scene, dealing with the Thai police who were as useless as a fart in a jacuzzi, driving myself home, or not hearing a peep from the directors at my NGO. That being said, I consider myself super lucky that it wasn’t far worse and that I healed up just fine after two weeks of severe pain and bruising. Big thanks to the girls in the ID office who helped me out and to my CLC students who went out of their way to make sure I was okay. Motorbike accidents aren’t uncommon here. I’ve seen many, several resulting in death. It made me think about my life in a way I hadn’t before and and reminded me to live fully. It can all go in a flash.
The rest of March was sheer madness as I found myself in a gnarly grant cycle with my NGO. Four due in six weeks and not a large team to do them. All four were submitted after hours and hours of work with positive feedback from our donors as we hit our deadlines and improved on our grant writing capabilities. Yay! I had a few weekend excursions to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai but mostly the month was work, work, work. I decided that 2012 would be the year I would actually start freelancing instead of just talking about it. I had an article published in Latitudes: Your Gateway to Southeast Asia! I decided to resign at my NGO for numerous reasons. I’ve been here 15 months now and it’s become quite clear that it’s time to move on. It’s been an incredible experience no doubt and one I am grateful for. But this tadpole is ready for a new pond.
April 1st saw Burma’s by-elections. The whole world watching with bated breath. The NLD was voted in and it is an exciting time for this region. The media would like you to believe that Burma is changing, opening up, stepping towards democracy. The Burmese people who live here are far more skeptical and cautious. They aren’t jumping on the bandwagon just yet. We all believe change is possible in Burma. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Speaking of Burma, I submitted a photo I took while visiting an Akha hill tribe village in Shan State to a contest this month and won! Check out the featured image here. April 6th was my last day at work and that afternoon I hopped a bus for Chiang Mai. Then a bus to Bangkok. Then a flight to Krabi. Then a taxi to Ao Nang. Then a longtail boat to Railay where I would spend two uninterrupted weeks island hopping in the Andaman Sea. Two uninterrupted weeks of beachcombing, snorkeling, nekkid nightswimming and stargazing. It’s the Thai New Year (year 2555 by the Buddhist calendar) celebrated as three days of Songkran. Last year I was in the midst of the nationwide water war. This year, I opted for something more reflective.