Well I meant to post this on July 29 so I could say, “20 years ago today . . . “, but it’s now August 4, so I can’t! At any rate, 20 years ago on July 29 marked a huge change in my life. I left the United States to go live in Bangkok, Thailand. I was eleven years old. We moved to Thailand for my parents to be missionaries there. I still remember the early days there . . . it seems surreal in some ways, and yet very vivid in others.
The days were hot and steamy, and my brother and I didn’t have furniture at first, so we had to sleep on mattresses on the floor of our parents’ room. I was surprised to see that our house was surrounded by a huge wall on all four sides, with a metal gate that had to be slid open and shut every time you brought the car in or out. We had a very small yard, but there was a large front porch with a gazebo and a mango tree in the yard.
One of my first memories was when the maids (yes, we had a maid – that’s another post) took my brother, my friend, and I swimming one day. We were told that we could walk to the pool. I was shocked when after walking down the street for about 10 minutes, we turned down an alley and came to a klong (a stinky canal of sewer water) and there was a sidewalk crossing the klong. Just a sidewalk. No rails, no bars to keep you from falling, nothing. We had to walk on that sidewalk for about 5 minutes until we reached the street that would take us to the pool. After swimming, we’d buy a bag of chips for 5 baht. All the chips were weird, nothing like what we have here.
I stayed in Thailand until I was eighteen. While I was there, I made so many wonderful friends and memories. I am glad to have reconnected with many of them via facebook, but it’s sad to think that it will never be the same. Even the times I’ve gone back to visit, people have moved away, new people have come around, things have been different. But Thailand is truly what shaped me in those teenage years as I was growing up. For a long time after I came back, I still felt “Thai” or at least bicultural. But now, 13 years since I got back, I feel very Americanized, like I’ve lost some of those roots.
Right now I am trying to regain that connection through writing. My experiences in Thailand are an untapped wealth of topics for writing. For some reason, though, it has always been hard for me to write about. Maybe it’s just so close to my heart, or maybe there is guilt from not have visited as much, from not have kept up with some of those friends and loved ones as much. However, I keep trying to write it, in one form or another, whether I write about myself or people I knew or make up a character, I keep writing it. I had a unique experience that many people don’t get to do, and I need to treasure it and remember it.