Therapy Post Thailand?
on Bangin' in the 'Desh (Bangladesh), 04/Mar/2010 08:05, 34 days ago
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This blog post has been rattling inside my head for over two months now. The way I’ve been feeling recently has been extremely hard to articulate and I probably won’t do a good job of describing it now, but I feel it’s time to try.When you live somewhere that’s hot all the time, you don’t think about the possibility of having the ‘winter blues’. Being depressed by dark days and cold nights doesn’t even cross your mind but the feeling must be suppressed somewhere in one’s subconscious. Well, my subconscious anyway. Perhaps it was because I ‘missed’ Christmas or maybe it was because of the New Year’s resolution tradition, forcing you to look back on the year that’s passed and into the year ahead. Regardless, I had a bad case of the blues. Realising this fmade me feel like I had been in a dream these past few months - numb - and finally woke up to reality in terms of how I felt.At the end of December, Rosa and I went to Thailand and arrived on Christmas Eve. Bangkok airport shocked us. No, really. Starbucks, sushi, Boots, lattes, short skirts, white people… we could hardly speak. I know this sounds extremely overdramatic but that is honestly how we felt. We hardly said a word to each other and just stared. It was if we had been transported back to the future by a time machine. After getting a connecting flight from Bangkok down to Surat Thani in the south east, we made our way by boat over to Kho Pan Gnan.I felt a nervous sort of exhilaration as we made the journey south. Everything seemed so… easy. Even though it was Thailand, so many people spoke English, we could find exactly where we needed to go, we could buy whatever we wanted, we had air conditioning, hot water, garbage bins, beer; convenience was EVERYWHERE. It was like travelling for dummies. Truly surreal.Sitting on the roof deck of the massive ferry on Christmas Day, I sat with my legs over the side, iPod in hand, watching the water and islands go by. It was calming, peaceful, serene. When we docked at the port on Kho Pan Gnan we fired into a pick up truck to take us over the rolling hills of the island to Haad Rin. Rosa and I just kept looking at each other while we were flying around the corners of paradise island. Were we really here? It didn’t seem real.But, we arrived at‘Coral Bungalows’ with a crash. It was like a nightclub for drunken teenagers. The main restaurant was playing some hyped up late 90’s rave and the rooms resembled prison cells with everything bolted down so nothing could get destroyed. This was way too much for us but, love it or hate it, beggars can’t be choosers around peak season so we had to embrace it. We dumped our bags, got changed and headed along Sunset beach to find the real oasis of our holiday, Seaside Bungalows. Seaside was the epitome of hippyville; hammocks, Bob Marley, candles, and mats on the beach to dine by the water. Perfect heaven. The first few nights we stayed on the Sunset side of Haad Rin, sunbathing by day and floating between the Seaside and another favourite, the Tree House bar at night. Even though we’d always get back to Coral quite late, we went to bed with ear-plugs because our room was conveniently situated right next to the DJ booth. Coral only started to get going around 2am and my stamina for all night partying had been lost somewhere between Toronto and Dhaka. Had living in Bangladesh made me ‘old’?After a few days though, the reverse culture shock started to wear off and we started to get into the swing of things, embracing all that is Thailand; pad thai, beer and Sang Som rum. I’d like to think of Chang and Singha as personal friends of mine now – only 40 Baht for a nice cold one. We frequented nightly beach parties on the other side of Haad Rin, on Sunrise beach. Bar after bar featured constant happy hours of infamous buckets of booze and DJs pumped a variety of musicaccompanied by fire throwers, entertaining the masses dancing on the sand. We met loads of people from all over the world; Americans teaching in Korea, travelling Vancouverites, a smattering of Europeans and a sea of Brits.Over the days we spent there, one thing really started to hit home with me; this trip to Thailand was just about having fun. It wasn’t about ‘struggling’, ‘trying to make a difference’, proving that you’re ‘hardcore’ enough; it was simply about people having fun. Realising this re-awakened me. It doesn’t need to be a competition of ‘I’ve done this’ or I’ve done that’ but sometimes being in Bangladeshis like a personal test or challenge, and frankly, it’s exhausting. Since Thailand was so easy it was a welcome relief and shifted the balance of my priorities. Of course I wanted to be in Bangladesh for a variety of reasons, but the possibility of leaving for somewhere else, a different experience, never crossed my mind.On the otherhand, Rosa was having problems with her placement in Bangladesh from the start. VSO didn’t properly assess her role before she arrived so technically, her job didn’t exist. After months of meetings back and forth with VSO and her organisation, they decided to withdraw her placement. She had talked about starting another placement but being in Thailand also changed her perspective too and raised questions. Maybe it was a sign things weren’t going to work out? If VSO screwed up the first placement, what guarantees were there for another one? And finally, after a lot of talk over Changs and Singhas, Rosa decided she was going to leave Bangladesh.Realising that she was going to go meant that my life in Dhaka would change too and questions also started to weigh on my mind. What if I left early? What if I travelled for a bit longer? What if I just spent some time enjoying myself? Mmm… The seed of doubt had been planted and there was no going back. I felt like I was in a state of turmoil, my mind swirling with possibilities about the course of my life changing once again. Even though three months had passed in Bangladesh, did I really want to stay until September? What would happen if I left in June? July? The option of leaving early never crossed my mind before but of course, it was a possibility.Once we got back to Dhaka after Thailand and started to re-adjust to life here, I was still confused.What did I really want to do?I couldn’t sleep at night. I would lie awake, staring at the ceiling, contemplating my life. On one hand, my job was great and I came here for the work but on the other hand, living here is a constant battle; the lack of freedom, the lack of comfort, the language, the food… I needed to make some decisions.After talking it through with some family and friends, I realised that for the sake of my sanity, I have decided to leave in June. I will ensure I get all of my work completed by then and financially, I only miss out on one quarterly payment from VSO which is about $300. I haven’t talked to by organisation about this or to VSO but I know that I need to give them as much notice as possible. I don’t know how I’m going to broach the subject with them but I think I am going to wait until the draft of my strategic plan is complete, which is at the end of March.So, with the advent of this news, what lies in store for me next?The rough plan right now is to leave at the end of June, travel around South East Asia for a few months and then go to the UK. I have made some valuable contacts at the BBC here so I am going to try and leverage those sooner than later. I'm not sure but I'm excited.Watch this space…