I’m back from forests. Expedition two of three is complete. And I’m halfway through this entire experience.
When I came back to Chiang Mai from Agro, I was ready. I was tired of talking about sustainable food systems and thinking about the various ways we are destroying the planet to feed ourselves. Mainly because it is a fairly open-and-shut case: industrial farming = bad, but inevitable with the manner in which we are living as a society. It was an interesting course, but I already eat from the farmer’s market, get eggs from a woman down the street, grow asparagus in the front yard (among other things, but no one in my family is particularly gifted when it comes to keeping plants alive – asparagus is just too stubborn to die).
But forests was centered around an abstract question: is there a place for people in nature? We went to five different Karen villages, backpacking through the mountains of Northern Thailand over two weeks, lived with five different families, talked about urban influence and conservation and definitions of wilderness and by the end I was mentally exhausted but not ready to leave.
At this point the only thing I know for sure is that people were not meant to live in cities. The air is dirty, you can’t see the stars, all of our food is trucked in from abroad, and despite being densely packed with people there is absolutely no sense of community. I was never homesick in Huey Tong Kaw (the most remote village we went to), despite it being about as far from Michigan as conceivably possible, because I could feel the connections that everyone around me had with each other. In Chiang Mai, despite the luxuries city life affords, the act of living is so much less comfortable. I’m a small-town girl at heart with the brain of an artist – the biology/ecology/sociology/anthropology students that populate ISDSI can make sense of the information we gathered and come up with a sensible explanation as to why the communities we went to should be allowed to stay where they are – but that connectedness people had with each other and their environment was all the answer I really needed. The rest was simply supporting evidence.
I’ll put up pictures soon, and talk about some of my more exciting adventures (including the story of my newest scar – it involves an epic showdown of wits and fortitude… that I lost) but I needed to set the stage first. When people talk about “finding themselves” on study abroad, I think this might’ve been what they were referring to.
Sorry, I think this course is making me even more cliche-soaked than usual.
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I’ve been in a sentimental, reflective mood lately. Maybe it’s because we’ve moved into the apartments (last Saturday… bad blogger, no cookie) and finally have a bit of breathing room, maybe it’s because we’re getting ready to go out into the field and be even further isolated from all things farang, maybe it’s because I ate half a jar of nutella for dinner last night, I can’t really say. (I had a salad first Mom, stop looking at me like that).
And there are a billion things that I think Thailand does better than the United States. From the major – families that cook and eat together every night! To the minor – Chang apple mint soda water! And the major-that-seem-minor – tonal languages sound like singing at times. It’s a stunningly beautiful country with wonderful people, delicious food, and weather that is gorgeous when it isn’t trying to kill you.
There are some things, even if they are inferior, that I am jonesing for right now. Some of them tiny, “gosh, I just remembered…” some of them monumental, “no, seriously, I would trade my first born child and half my teeth for…” but this is what I’m missing right now. In no particular order (and leaving out people because that is just implied at this point, you know who you are):
- Changing leaves
- Baking cookies so good they ruin peoples’ day
- Sweet-potato smash fries
- Not wearing a uniform to school
- Apple Pie (no, seriously)
- Humidity below 90%
- Cowboy boots
- Steel grease under my fingernails
- Showers with doors
- Supernatural marathons
- Pokey Sticks
- Blasting music at obnoxious volumes
- Flannel shirts
- Conversations going on hold while the train passes
- French-press coffee
- Humanities-y classes that don’t make you depressed about the state of the world
- No seriously, can I just talk about metaphors and historical context for a while?
- Building things
- Venison with mashed potatoes
- Curling up by the fire to read a book with pages (not off my computer screen)
- Beds that have any resistance whatsoever
- Skirts above the knee (colorful tights optional)
- Enchiladas with salsa verde
- Weighing the pros and cons of the different Green Lanterns throughout DC’s history
There’s more, sure, but I’m cutting the list off there. I’m afraid this might create the impression that I’m not happy to be here, that I’m dying of homesickness because that is simply not true. Given the choice, I wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world right now. But it’s healthy to acknowledge the little things that make us want to return home, I think.
If we don’t have a reason to come home, then we aren’t traveling, we are just floating from place to place. That’s my reasoning anyway.
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