Better late than never---some reflections!
Nearly 3o hours after leaving America, the glistening wats below welcome me and my incoming plane "home". The 3 weeks spent in the US were great. It was a whirlwind, as can only be expected, but great nonetheless. I slipped more comfortably into my previous life then I anticipated, having only to remind myself to say "thank-you" (and not "Kaupkunka") and drive on the right side of the road. I have grown to love Thailand and the people here, but being away from my own Country has only strengthened the bond I feel to it. Being on foreign soil has definitely made me "proud to be an American." The omission of "more" was not a mistake---there was indeed a time that I was NOT proud to be an American. One of the many things I have noticed in my travels is that being American comes with it's price. It's a tiny one, considering the price that so many others have paid, are paying, and will pay to make America what it is, but it does have a "break the stereotype" price. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that every non-American I've met has said something alone the lines of "you don't quite fit my idea of an American". I've come to understand that as a compliment---being assured that the "insult" part of that wasn't directed towards me. Though, in a more defensive mindset, I would say it kind of reminds me of someone saying "I hate gay people---but you're not like them". Um. Okay.
One of the key turning points, hands down, was the election. I went to watch the inauguration with hundreds of other Americans and the pride that filled the 3 story, packed building was nothing short of amazing. It was in those moments of complete togetherness with complete strangers that made me realize how special America really is. For everyone there, it wasn't necessarily about Obama---it was just about change, about Hope and new beginnings. Most people cried, hugged, clapped, smiled, high-fived. I took part in all of it---sharing a moment with strangers who, at that time, we're as good as family, was something that really changed my thinking. It opened my eyes to a bond that goes beyond the surface. Beyond my intolerance of the ignorant, loud, obnoxious American stereotype. Beyond the surfacy things that have kept me from "claiming" America.
When I traveled home, with a new found hope, appreciation, and excitement, it was as if I was stepping on American soil for the first time. I was taking it all in as an outsider---a view, I would argue, that gives an amazingly fresh, appreciative perception. The first thing I remember thinking was "wow, people here are super friendly"---and then, in my layover in the Atlanta airport, I got a treat. Troops coming home. I didn't fully know what was going on at first, but, because I have gotten so used to "going with the flow" living in a foreign country (if you're walking, and all of a sudden everyone stops, you should stop too---even if it takes you a long time to figure out that the King's song is playing---), I just...well, 'went with the flow'. Before I knew it, I was on my feet, applauding with the hundreds of other people around me. When I saw the troops, I got chills. I always admired the pride---the honour---the love---in Thailand. The respect they have for their King and their Country is amazing and at times, it leaves me awestruck. But the experience I had in the airport that day will always be a reminder that 'we have that too'....it's just that I've been too spoiled by it to recognize it as "special".
I continue to be in love with my life here. The culture. The people. My kids. The language. I enjoy the bonds that I've formed, am forming, and love the challenge that a culture/language barrier gives me. I face it everyday. Some moments, it's incredibly uplifting, and others, it's incredibly frustrating, and sometimes even painful. It's truly amazing how, at the root of it, people are people. There is so much that can be learned, understood, even when words aren't available. Yet, during those moments of frustration and pain, it's difficult accepting that bonds may only go so deep with these kinds of barriers. It's difficult, at times, knowing that I may never fully be able to know my kids without the help of a translator. And even then, there are many things that culture and/or language won't have a translation for. But, I'm still welcoming every aspect with arms, eyes, heart wide open. Through all this, I think I've discovered that I have a real future in education and am excited to continue running with, and growing with, that possibility. I do occasionally watch my 'homeroom teachers' with a bit of envy---and think eventually I'd like to be a 'homeroom' teacher who can actually FULLY communicate with her class! But for now, the fulfillment I've gotten from watching my kids grow (I get to keep 'my kids' through 3 grades ....that's a perk that homeroom teachers don't get!), teaching them a language that I know will help them as they get older, AND teaching them to READ ( :) :) :)), is unexplainable!