An Expat's True Story
It is the 15th of April 2015, Songkran festival in Thailand and I am standing in a field of sunflowers with the king in the background and a man that has taught me what it is to love has brought me here. I am celebrating my 4th Songkran festival since moving to the Land of Smiles in 2012. Each one has had it’s own charm and has had a healing impact on my very soul. You see I have gone home for the holidays. I found my spiritual home in the province of Suphan Buri, and my Thai family resides there. They have brought me in as one of their own as if I have been with them a lifetime, and in many ways I have, since I feel like I didn’t really begin living until after my arrival in Thailand.
Songkran is a new beginning. It is the cleansing of the past, the washing away of one's sins in order to clean the slate for the upcoming year. In order to appreciate how incredible the Thai people have been for me, and to really understand their hospitality we have to revisit the first time I celebrated the Thai New Year in Koh Samui only 13 days after my arrival in the kingdom.
I walked out of my hotel onto the street and before I reached the first corner a Thai man who spoke very little English invited me onto the back of his motorbike, I feebly argued for a few minutes and ended up getting on the bike, little did I know this was a direct path to Thai people, their culture, and everything I love about this wonderful country.
We rode around the island visiting everyone he knew, which to me seemed to be the entire island, we enjoyed coconut ice cream with sticky rice while overlooking the
cliffs of Samui. We climbed on the rocks, we circled the island several times, we stayed wet the entire day our faces white with powder and when the sun went down it was time to eat. He took me to his mother's house where she had been cooking all day. We enjoyed a feast with at least 7 different dishes, I experienced my first Thai shower, and a squat toilet, and could not have been more delighted by the people who had invited me as a stranger into their home to enjoy a family meal and celebration. I felt my heart lift and warm to these people who could treat me as family when I was a stranger in their country.
I never saw the man again, but he made an impression on my life that will last until the day I die.
Now let’s fast forward to 2015, I am now living in Pattaya. I have committed to making a life in Thailand. After the first year I returned to my home in Hawaii to pick up my little dog, Chibby to come back to Thailand with me. Since Thailand I have learned the art of being grateful and I have found that when I have a true need it is always provided for, this weekend was no exception. I have had a rough time of late with people not treating me very good and rather than tolerate toxic people in my life I have been cutting them off.
This holiday came around and I was feeling particularly lonely. I spent my first two years in a small town Suphan Buri, which I consider my spiritual home. The friends I have made there are my Thai family and they showed it this holiday weekend.
My friend Laem called me on day 2 of a 5 day weekend from Pattaya, he was in town for another 5 hours and wanted to see me. It had been just over a year since we last saw each other. I went straight to Pattaya beach where he was and he asked me if I was working the following day. I wasn’t and that is when things shifted. He asked me to come celebrate Songkran with his family in his home town of U-thong. I had 100 baht, not even enough to feed myself on this journey much less pitch in for gas and whiskey. Without a moment's pause he squashed my hesitation and told me not to worry about anything, that all would be taken care of.
Was it because he had the funds? No way, but what he does have is ultimate faith in his friends and family and in the universe to provide, and boy did it! We loaded in the truck all 11 of us and let the adventures begin. One thing about Thai people, they hate to see anyone alone and will go to great lengths to include someone. The road trip began.
Chibby and I loaded in the truck, we traveled to Lop Buri, Suphan Buri, and U-thong in the space of 48 hours. We visited family homes, neighborhood bars, the sunflower fields, the summer flower festival, and the temple where Laem built the Big Buddha statue near his home. The last time I was there was for a fundraiser to build the statue and they had not broken ground yet, now it was standing with the setting sun in the backdrop and it was gloriously beautiful.
When it was time to return I had 20 baht to my name. My friends, my boss, and a whole lot of love, saw me home in time for work, a full belly, and some spending cash to get me through. I’ve not got two half days to work, and two friends at my home waiting for me to continue the celebrations through to the 19th which is Pattaya’s Wan Lai Festival.
Sawadee pbee mai na ka, choke dee ka. (Happy New Year, Good luck)