Thailand is a fascinating land full of seeming contradictions…The flora and fauna are exquisite, yet the air is choked daily with smoke and ash from the custom of burning trash and rice fields. There are Buddhist temples everywhere, yet the people love the flash and zing of all things western. Tourists wander in traditional (and not so traditional)Thai clothing and the young Thais wear t-shirts with American slogans while sporting “designer jeans.” The elephant is a revered symbol of Thai pride, yet their fate is uncertain because living “wild” is no longer an option. After years of domestication for logging and labor, elephants are mostly dependent on the care of humans to survive. We met many wonderful people who have dedicated their lives to save the elephants,yet the Mahouts, who are most essential for elephants to thrive in captivity, live mostly in poverty and with little societal respect. It would be easy to get discouraged given all these tensions, yet the Thai people stand so courageously in the midst of all these tragic gaps. Perhaps their capacity to do so is rooted in their Buddhist culture, but then again it is the monks who seem to smile and laugh the least. Most Thai people I have encountered smile easily and laugh often. They take things in stride and are happy to help “the foreigner.” I am so grateful for the many ways that my life has been enriched by these gentle people and all they hold. In the words of one special monk: Happy, happy, Lucky, lucky…Pass it On!
On a personal note, in the midst of writing and thinking about the tragic gaps in Thailand, I too was called to live into a tragic gap of my own. News from home indicated that my precious child would require exploratory surgery. I considered flying back to be with her, but knew in my heart that she would have plenty of support around her and she was adamant that I stay put. Needless to say, it took all the courage I had not to go home. I really had to go inward, to calm my heart and listen to my inner teacher (It wasn't lost on me that I was in a good place to be doing just that).In doing so, I was trusting both her and my capacity for courage. Just today, she was able to fly back to school and join her wonderful Mt Holyoke community! I am finally getting the rest I so longed for when I embarked on this journey, having learned so much about what is required to set my own heart to rest. Until I wandered up from the beach to have a bit to eat and write this blog, I spent the morning alternating between lying in the soft, white sand of Railay and swimming in the warm, blue waters of the Andaman Sea. Happy, happy, Lucky, lucky…Pass it on!