Almost a month ago now, we had the amazing opportunity to visit Thailand. Due to the unrest regarding the elections in Bangkok, we chose to visit a more remote area called Rayong and then traveled to Pattaya to explore as well.
Visiting Thailand brought a few revelations to mind for my husband and I. We are blessed beyond our imaginations. This life we’re living was not even on the horizon for the little knock-kneed girl who sang to passersby from her side porch in the SWATs or the precocious little boy who saw the treasures and ails of living in a predominantly black impoverished neighborhood in liberal North Minneapolis. We knew we were special in the sense that we’ve been afforded opportunities that others have lacked, but we never imagined this; living as a family in Asia and traveling freely through the world around us.
Most of the time in Thailand was spent relaxing at our resort, which is my type of vacation. Show me scenic mountainous or tropical views, and I’m a very happy woman. I am most at peace in the quiet of it all. My husband prefers a more metropolitan state of mind, so this trip was definitely more for me.
We made a day trip to visit Pattaya and see “The Big Buddha,”which had to be the largest symbol of any religious figure I’ve ever seen. It was bigger than “touchdown Jesus!” There were other Buddhist deities present as well, each one representing a new day or a type
of sacrifice or path of life. There were alters for sacrifice and burning incense and oils. The instruments for rituals were all present, but there was no one there “worshipping,” or meditating or reflecting. This was clearly a time and place for the tourists, so we did what tourists do and took pictures.
We also visited a social enterprise which housed a restaurant, a beach resort, and a school; the two former financially supporting the latter. The theme was based on sexual revolution and looked like the 70’s stopped there for a smoke and never left. The food left much to be desired as I was served pad thai with spaghetti noodles, but the signs along our path to the restaurant, the great work they’re doing with the school, and the message of peace that echoed throughout the estate made it worth the trip.
One of the things on my “must do” list while in Thailand was to ride an elephant. It’s just something I probably read somewhere as the thing to do and it stuck; not to mention one of my best friends has the same desire, and because our friends and family are exploring through us, I had to do it for her too.
While mounting the putrid gentle giant and riding along the guided path, a few observations scrolled through my mind:
1. “We on that rich people shit,” he exclaimed when we mounted “Gumbo” (my daughter named him), the elephant and began touring the grounds of a zoo and garden in Pattaya. My husband doesn’t mince words and usually finds himself in a commingled state of disbelief and “survivor’s guilt” when we do extra-ordinary things like this. The truth is, the things we’re doing as a family, the experiences our daughter is having (that she may or may not remember), are far from the imagination of our parents and youthful selves. We’re doing things with relative ease that our respective upbringings couldn’t have afforded us. All we need and want is within our grasp, AND this is actually true for most of our friends. We’re in a whole new league, and the education and opportunity that our ancestors and families sacrificed to make available to us is the only reason why. We get that. We will always remember that.
2. If I’m doing well, and everyone in my circle is doing well, and everyone in my network is doing well, but the majority of my people are suffering, then WE are NOT doing well. And, WE have work to do. We must lead with a plan or follow one.
3. Seeing weathered wealthy European men with significantly younger Asian and African women and girls is becoming to commonplace to be bothersome. That, in itself, bothers me. Girls, dressed as working women too afraid to look me in the eye, avoid my inquisitive stares. I’m asking if they’re alright, if they’re safe, but they never hear me or acknowledge me to reply. The exploitation and degradation of women and girls will only stop when it’s no longer profitable and when we say so.
4. Oppression has affected every single place I’ve ever seen, some more than others, and all that I’ve seen affected have been black and brown people. If oppressors saw us as one unit for the purpose of domination, why don’t we see ourselves as such for the purpose of liberation?
5. If nothing else, living abroad has made me more grateful, reflective, fearless, at peace, forgiving, and dismissive of ignorance. I’m definitely feeling this.