Monday, October 13, 2014

And then I broke down in tears.

Tomorrow I leave Bangkok. It's a little bittersweet to say the least. The city is insane, I've met some of the most life-changing people here, and I've gotten into a nice, little cushy routine. And it feels good to get a routine, you know? Of course, all routines get boring after awhile if they aren't remixed, but they are very much welcomed to help cure some heavy culture shock. I get to know the locals - they say hello (Sat-wat-dee kraup) as I pass them street, I run into fellow backpackers and end up going to rad jazz shows in the middle of nowhere. I stand to reason that the minute the workers at the coffee shops (yes, plural, I have a problem) know my drink without asking, I'm no longer a tourist. I'm part of the verse of the city.

But, as soon as this feeling gets comfortable and safe, I'm off and away to somewhere new and different and alien. And that's okay, because, traveling is never really about the sights and sounds and smells and experiences. When it comes down to it - like most things in life - it's about the people. It's about the real, human connections you make with others. Connections, friendships, and relationships, are what life is all about.

I met two really good travelers from Amsterdam the other night in my dorm, Hykle and Floor. If there's one thing that connects backpackers, no matter where they're from or how old they are, it's travel. It's the common love of adventure. We talked about the human connection of traveling (the hellos and goodbyes I've mentioned here before) but also how traveling friendships are much different than your normal friendships. Travel friendships come fast and hard (that sentence reminds of something...)

You unravel pieces of you that would take months and years back home to reveal, but when traveling, everything is just out in the open. You meet people only so briefly that filters are never an issue. You see people in their best and worst light - and there are no walls, no pretty makeup, no nice clothes, just them. It's wonderfully refreshing.

There are two human connections I've made in the last two days that have forever altered my life.

I ran into a fellow Washingtonian, Mac (who looks exactly like HRG from Heroes), who owned a hostel and bar with his wife, Noi, down the current street I was living at. They are without a doubt some of the most charming people I have met thus far. I ended up at his bar that night and got very drunk with a bunch of Thais. The stories soared out - I told these random people I had just met pretty much all my secrets - my greatest fears and hopes and lost and secret loves - because, why not? I needed it more than I thought. I felt a bond between these people and myself that completely and utterly reinforced - made concrete - the fact that this journey is one that is first and foremost about people.

And yesterday, Mac took me to see a school at Wat Worachanyawas in Bangkok, where I talked with the head assistant monk and his students. The man was a genius - a BA in Social Work, an MA in English, and was currently getting a Master in Computer Science!
I'll be dead honest, this is going to be hard to write, because I'm crying a little bit writing this sentence (I feel sorry for the random people in the coffee shop that have to deal with me). Simply put, I have never felt so honored and privileged to meet someone before. This tiny man, with his bright orange garb, and gorgeous smile and completely visible heart, was someone electrifying. My blood pulsed and I was even trembling. This man's soul radiated light and love and life just as bright as his cloth. There are no words and no pictures that can do this meeting justice. There really is not. I can hardly describe what we even really talked about. We laughed our way through stories about Thailand, my travels and his, Cambodian and Thailand government and history, and many other subjects. All the while, his students, who were on a break from their Thai history class, were racing around the room taking a million pictures of us and asking us questions in breaks in the conversation. Side-note: this isn't the rich Bangkok, this is most certainly the poor end of Bangkok, and these kids come from very poor towns, coming to learn at this school from 4-8pm, even on the weekends. These kids were amazing.

Mac met this monk years ago and has been good friends with him since, even learning Thai from him for absolutely free (as everything is. Nothing is ever, ever asked in return). During a break in conversation with the monk, Mac turned to me and said," Thank you for this."
"What?" I said. "No, no, no, I should be thanking you for this! This is the most amazing thing I've ever done."

He shook his head and indicated the three of us. His words were much stronger than before, emphasized and raw. "No, thank you for this."

You see, this monk was was the definition of humble.

In being so, he rarely talks about himself. Surprisingly, with me, he delved quite a bit into himself, mentioning the years he had been teaching and helping run the school, future travels to Burma, and other things. Mac was so thankful because our meeting gave him the chance to know just a tiny bit more about his gentle friend.

I've met a lot of "holy" men in my life, from priests to pastors, but this monk was different. He had the kindest eyes I've ever seen and it matched a strange, infectious laugh that escaped every couple minutes. You couldn't help but to laugh along.

I mean, I'm still wiping away tears right now, just thinking about this short, chance encounter with this man. This was something life changing and I have no idea how to describe what it was like to meet a man who really was and is holy. It was a moment in time that is sweeping and epic. A moment of true beauty.

We talked about social work a lot. About how rough it is to give a piece of your heart to the world. As I left, we both bowed to each other (typical greeting/goodbye). He shook my hand (not typical), and then put his hand over his heart. He praised me for my profession and my heart. Again, humbleness beyond anything I'd ever seen.

And then he said something that that hit me right in the soul. I unfortunately was too shattered by everything to remember it a 100%, but it went something like this:

"You and I. One in the same."

Oh man. I can't do this.
I'm sorry, I can't.
I'm stopping. I'll come back and write when I can process this more. I'm an absolute mess in this coffee shop right now.
It's too much.

All of this.

It's wonderfully and beautifully all too much.

1 comment:

  1. Your sense of compassion and love for the people around you touches my heart. :) thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more when you are able to write more.