This is my friend Ann. Today is her birthday. She is a Thai woman who works in Bangkok during the week and goes approximately 90 miles via a commuter van to her home province every weekend to be with her family.
I know Ann through another friend. I’ve never met Ann, but when I became friends with one of her family members in the United States many years ago, she friended me on Facebook. In her initial message to me, she said “hello my sister”. In the years that have gone by, Ann has treated me like a true sister. I have biological family, I’ve had plenty of chosen family, but she encompasses what sisterly love truly looks like to me. She is the only sister to call me a sister who feels like a sister.
I can’t exactly explain how important she is to me to her as even though her English is pretty good, a lot gets lost in translation. No country is perfect, but the way the Thai people encompass community and giving, always inspires me.
Each year, I get excited to read her birthday message. It’s very different from the United States where we expect people to celebrate us and give us things. She offers thanks to others. Last year she thanked her parents for giving her life. She thanked her friends for holding her up in sad times. She thanked the “god in the sky” for blessing her with a baby girl that brought her smiles.
I know Ann doesn’t have a simple and easy life. She is joy filled, gracious, and I learn so much from her. This was her birthday tribute today.
I love that she wishes blessings for others. She gave to her country and donated to the monks today. It wasn’t about what she got. It was about what she receives and her wish to give it to others.
A couple weeks ago she sent me a message that said, “Lizzie. Please come back. Show my daughter what it is to live”. I hope someday to be well enough to go back for an extended period and of course the world has to heal from COVID.
When I went to Thailand at the drop of a hat nearly two years ago, I planned to stay longer and was going to go with her to her home province and meet her family and her very young daughter. I didn’t get to go. I had to get home.
Ann was a huge reason I went to Thailand. I didn’t think she would be as gracious with sending her massage therapist to me and giving me ideas where to go and how to circumvent tourist traps like taxi gouging, but I was honored. It wasn’t even Ann that made me go exactly, it was just the kindness and kindness I experienced from her family member that I wanted to go see where this kindness was created.
I wrote about my trip to Thailand awhile ago. It was the craziest thing I ever did. It also gave me the most sanity. I went alone and booked my trip just a couple days before I left as I had a moment of feeling better and was honestly cheaper than staying home. It was the last of my savings. It was the best thing I could have spent it on. Everything aligned for me to go.
I need to do something a little “crazy” soon. I’ve felt like I’m in some kind of weird sadistic experiment lately as it’s just felt like how much more can be piled on me before I break. I don’t break. I get sad. I get upset. I sometimes lapse into hopelessness. I don’t discuss the complexities of all I manage, but I’m feeling heavy. I still maintain hope. It just feels a little different lately. It’s not depression at all. It’s just a lot.
Looking at the handful of pictures I took in Thailand, I will just leave you with this one. When my plane pulled out of the gate in San Francisco heading to my first layover in Tokyo, I thought of faking a heart attack so the plane would go back to the gate as I had a huge rush of anxiety of realizing what a crazy idea this was. I was on a Japanese airline, the only white person, ok that didn’t bother me, but no one was speaking English. I was going to a country I knew nothing about except that google said it was safe to travel there as a woman alone. I didn’t even know what I was going to do there honestly.
Just as I was about to hit the call light to alert them to my fake heart attack, a little Japanese toddler in the row in front of me turned around and gave me the biggest smile. I knew it would be ok.
So this isn’t a picture of how calm I felt there or pictures of Bangkok. This was a picture of my plane descending into the airport on the outskirts of Tokyo. All I had seen was water below me for 10+ hours. Suddenly, there was green land. I was arriving in Japan! A chronically ill woman alone. I wasn’t looking backwards towards that gate in San Francisco. I was looking forward to navigating making it to my connecting flight to Thailand with silent tears streaming heavily down my face that after so much of a lifetime of being afraid. I was definitely being crazy. I was also being brave.