I don’t blog much anymore. After the cancer series of posts, I felt uncertain how to move forward with writing. I was (likely) headed to Bangkok. Then I went to Bangkok. Now I’m back in the U.S. I don’t know what’s next.
While in Bangkok, I made multiple attempts to write about what I experienced:
- Entering a wholly different culture.
- Learning who I was in another context.
- Being a Christian when 99% of the people around you are not.
- Understanding the eastern worldview.
- Understanding what it means to be an American.
- Experiencing unyielding spiritual warfare.
- Being new in a huge city, trying to make friends.
- Being an immigrant.
- Being illiterate.
- Starting stuff from scratch.
It wasn’t so much that the internet needs another white foreigner writing about Thailand. That’s been done by thousands of ex-pats who all write better than me. I didn’t want to be an ex-pat sampling Thai culture and commoditizing it into a blog entry. I tried writing because I needed to process.
For the most part, though, I had no words to describe what that was like, evidenced by the long hiatus from the blog. Words, once nimble friends I wielded confidently and often sarcastically, were now vague, loose, hard to find, hard to handle. Learning a new language does funny things to your brain.
I focused on learning the new language, enfolding myself in a new culture, discovering how Thais think and feel, discovering how my expression of thoughts and feelings could be done in a Thai way. My life became very small – I stopped reading American news (imagine coming back to the US to discover that the Donald Trump campaign wasn’t just a joke!) and struggled through Thai news articles. What does it mean to be Thai? What does it mean for me to love and appreciate Thais and Thailand? How is the gospel good news to Thais? How do I give my life faithfully to this place and these people I hope to call my own?
Abruptly, I was wrenched from this focused life. I had oriented myself around Thais and Thailand. Then in a span of 24 hours, I went from sweating out the early days of hot season to waking up cold under a pile of blankets on a mattress in a friend’s office. Bewildered is a kind word for the discombobulated state I was in. What happened? How am I in America right now? What language am I speaking in? Thinking in? Is this a dream, or was Thailand?
Now I’m going through a whole thing. Thailand was turbulent, rough, destructive. Thailand was also joyful, full of intimacy and growth with Jesus, hospitable. In this liminal space I am in stateside, I feel many things keenly and questions are rumbling up from the depths: is my heart in this? Is returning what I want? What do I want? What do I feel? Ugh, is my heart even in this, or is Jesus calling me somewhere else by letting these embers cool?
I mean, do I even WANT to smash cities anymore, or is that just what’s expected of me..?