Seattle Works

A blog that documents all things Seattle Works…and much much more!

Lost in the Clouds of Thailand January 11, 2010

Filed under: Service Trips,Volunteer — seattleworks @ 10:46 pm

I’ve felt a little lost in my own world ever since I returned from Thailand. I wanted to write about the experience – but I still feel like I’m in limbo. For a month my travel moleskin with notes from the trip has been in my purse waiting for the magical moment when I’m done ‘processing’ to come and inspiration to hit. Today I reached the decision that it won’t come unless I drag my head back down from the clouds. Please join me as I take a journey to reconnect my head to the ground.

It’s slightly ironic – or perhaps just meaningful – that the first memory that drops from my head to my hands on the keyboard is of the sky. One of the most beautiful magical moments in Thailand was a moment when our entire group got lost in the clouds. It was a moment of mysterious rainbows that would not be captured by a camera. They demanded to remain free and to stay in the moment. They refused to be brought home and shared with our friends and family abroad. The beauty was only for us. It was only for that one moment on a deserted beach after a day of planting mangroves, sharing a meal with our Thai hosts, cracking and preparing coconuts, and before the magic of singing and dancing with Sea Gypsies fueled by whiskey. That moment of mystery was ours and ours alone.

I still can’t answer the ubiquitous question “how was Thailand” without feeling like it’s a cop out. I can talk about the amazing people on the trip. I can talk about the $6 manicure/pedicures. I can talk about the Burmese children, our host family, the food, or the work. I can tell stories about pink taxis, tuk tuks, river taxis, long tail boats, subways, trains, and tractors. I can talk about Seattle Works, Crooked Trails, and Andaman Discoveries that made the trip possible. None of that truly answers the question.

Not having the answer makes my eyes burn with frustration. It’s not just that I don’t have a good 30 second elevator speech for the trip. I don’t even know what to tell my nearest and dearest loved ones. I think there is a part of me (heart? mind? soul?) that is stuck in that “miracle” in the clouds. At first I explained the fog as jet lag, then it was the darkness at 4:30 compared to the near 12 hours of light when we were traveling, but I’m running out of excuses.

Somehow, the trip was easy. I mean – it wasn’t. I didn’t speak the language. There were toilets that were completely alien to me. I couldn’t drink the water. The heat made the treated water I drank drip from my body faster than I could replenish it. There were mosquito bites that made me consider gnawing off parts of my legs. And yet, my default answer to the ever-frustrating question is “Thailand was amazing”. None of the challenges seemed to matter. It was worth it.

It occurs to me that the reason I can’t wrap my brain around how to describe the trip is that I haven’t decided what it means for my ‘real life’. I do think it means something. It inspired me. But what am I going to do about it? I don’t know yet. I have a good life. I have family. I have friends – the family that I have created from wide arrays of interesting people. I have more than I need when it comes to physical possessions. I give back by volunteering. I work for a company that is working to improve things all over the world. Looking at my life on paper, there isn’t much that I’d change. I am blessed to have the life that I do, but since I’ve returned I still feel disconnected from it.

Suddenly, I feel like I just saw that miracle again. My epiphany: on this trip abroad I found something I hadn’t been able to find with the small projects I do here in Seattle – passion. It is that thing that keeps me from making excuses, and makes me fight my way through even if it’s hard. I fight through the struggle only because the experience is worth it. Passion is the source of our finest moments. Seattle Works and Crooked Trails provided me with an experience that allowed me to rediscover what passion really does for me in my life. Now, it’s up to me to figure out how that passion translates to my life. My head is back on my shoulders and my feet are back on the ground, I just have to start running.

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” G. W. F. Hegel

– Nora Robertson (Team Captain)