The Land of Smiles

Hello from Thailand, The Land of Smiles.

I left the US one week ago for Asia. Flying to Asia is different than flying anywhere else for me. insights, thoughts and emotions of every kind. Annoyances too. I’ve been to Asia three other times, alone. This time my mom and dad are with me. It is a very different experience to go and be here in Asia with them when I’ve always been here on my own before. When I was growing up our trips together were to places like Disney World and Branson, Missouri for Silver Dollar City and dinners with cornbread. So it is meaningful to me that we experience this side of the globe together. It’s also not without challenges. My parents are even less familiar with Asian culture than I am. My mom’s experience with Asian food is Panda Express. Asian culture of any kind was not part of my life growing up so in many ways I am a beginner in learning about this part of myself too.

We flew to Detroit, then Tokyo, then Bangkok, then Chiang Mai — then Bangkok again. I think we are still tired from all the flying! Being in Asia are the only times I’ve ever been among people who look like me in majority. It’s a surreal feeling and a foreign feeling. It is both comforting and bewildering.

Comforting and bewildering is just fine as I find Chiang Mai very comforting and bewildering too. I fell in love with this city when i first visited in 2018. It is a really neat place and full of juxtaposition. Simplicity, sacredness and soil. There’ll be a street alley full of garbage next to a beautiful Buddhist temple. Motorized scooters roaring down the streets that slow down when people cross the street. Walking into a pharmacy and getting medicine, whether it be natural or allopathic, easily (no questions or arguments about insurance coverage and co-pays). A child crawling around on the street next to a wandering stray dog. Glowing lights filling up the night air (my favorite part). The juxtaposition is humbling.

Although I can’t converse at length with people here, I do understand them. There is a quiet energy in Thai people that I can understand. It radiates kindness. I feel it very well here. How beautiful it is to me that no matter where we are in the world and no matter what language we speak, kindness is a language we can all understand. And the more open we are to it, the more it magically shows up.

We’ve seen mountains, waterfalls, temples and elephants here. We’ve had pad thai and Pizza Hut (my mom has wanted to eat at chain restaurants every day). We’ve met people who live in little wood homes with just one room, no showers or toilets (as we know them), and a rooftop built out of leaves. What I love most is when I communicate with these people, they don’t complain. There is no talk about things we are often accustomed to having like wi-fi, washer/dryer in unit, air conditioning, Lyft and GrubHub. They don’t complain about lack. They smile. And I love it. It encourages me to be more like them. These experiences remind me how fortunate I am. And how I am quite good at enjoying these modern conveniences of life that many consider luxuries. These experiences make me so grateful. For the stuff we can easily take for granted. Clean water. Homes with walls. And a roof that covers the entire house. Everything is both comforting and bewildering. The juxtaposition is humbling. Again.

Thailand, you are a land of smiles indeed. You teach me to be thankful for things I take for granted. You remind me to appreciate beauty in all forms and you show me there are many ways to meditate. These are the best lessons. I love meditating with you and smiling with you, even when you challenge me and I know the best lessons come from the biggest challenges.

Seoul, you are next.