Four weeks ago I picked up my things (three 50lb bags) and moved to Southeast Asia. The flights were not terrible, though they were terribly long. A total of 26 hours traveling, we arrived in Chiang Mai at 10pm on October 4th. To my everlasting shame, I forgot my camera eight times out of ten while getting to know the city during the first couple weeks, but here we have what I could muster to explain how settling in has been.
The first thing we did was take in the subtle beauty of our new home. Since we weren't given pictures beforehand, all we could do was wonder and hope that it would fit our needs. To our pleasant surprise, it exceeded them beyond anything we could have thought up! Homes in Thailand are pretty spacious, but ours is just the right size for us, cozy as can be, and full of beautiful lighting. We are getting used to line-drying, intense vegetable washing and not having an oven, but we could not have asked for a better situation. Close to everything (work, shopping, major highways, the necessities, etc.), we feel at home and it hasn't even been a month.
Maybe it's the fact that I just got here and everything intrigues me, but I have yet to encounter a place that I can't find beauty in somehow. Be that a dusty market street, a crowded trafficky highway, or a intricately decorated home. The flora here are big, bright and overwhelming, typically growing all over the roads, homes and sometimes abandoned cars. Spirit houses draped with wreaths and floral garlands are everywhere, greeting guests at houses, malls and any other place where crowds frequent. Though lovely, they have a haunting darkness about them, since locals tend to believe the spirits in the empty structures provide protection or bring good luck. Like churches in the states, wats (temples) are on every corner in some areas of town. They are insanely bright and beautiful, bringing tourists from all corners of the world.
The people here are equally if not more beautiful. I have walked directly into a store and after ten minutes of chatting in a Thai-English mixture have been invited back to practice language or ask questions about Thai culture and answer ones about America in return. Markets are full of happy, smiling faces, crazy smells and helpful voices. I know I'll be buying vegetables from the same girl who taught me to how to identify each veggie in Thai. I attended a Thai birthday party that pulled me out of my corner and got me dancing to songs I didn't know any of the words to (because they were in Thai), taught English to adorable kids who wouldn't otherwise get to learn. I taught some Thai school girls to bake cookies (yes, those cookies) for the first time, and a translator friend helped them to understand. I'm falling more and more in love with this country, it's people, and their easy, laid-back culture. Not to forget the food. [Left: Fried pumpkin with egg, chicken and wild rice; Right: Penang curry with chicken.]
It's only the beginning of this year-and-a-half stint, and I know it will fly by. There are too many places for me to explore in this city, this country and this part of the world to even know where to begin, but here's to wandering.