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Bring it, 2014

It’s the eve of the new year, so of course, I’m reflecting on the past year.

I rang in 2013 surrounded by new, yet lifelong friends on a beach on Koh Chang, Thailand with a bucket in hand, and I’m ending the year in the exact opposite way. It’s absolutely freezing in Toronto and I’m getting prepared to get all dressed up and head downtown to one of the fanciest hotels in the city for a party that I wouldn’t have been going to if it weren’t for work.

Throughout the year I’ve said emotional goodbyes to friends, my students and colleagues and had emotional reunions with my truest and dearest. I’ve gone from being gainfully employed, saving to travel to being contractually employed, saving to pay off debt, with a large period of (f)unemployment in between. I’m not really ending the year with a bang, but I’m ending it on a high note.

I’ve done a lot this year that I can be proud of. Of course there were low moments, lonely moments, but there were also (and continue to be) moments that I wished would never end.

I’m not too psyched about this New Year’s Eve, as I can barely afford a glass of wine at this hotel, let alone a buckets worth of alcohol, but I am excited about the coming year. I’m working with a company that I love (and think they love me too) and feel secure in what’s to come.

I’m preparing to move out with a close friend, and I feel like this is the year for growing up and doing things the adult way. I know that I’m ready; I can feel it in my bones. I’ve grown so much this last year, through so many unique and wonderful experiences, that I can hold my head high and say “Bring it, 2014.”

Missing life’s little pleasures

While I’m in the process of planning to move towns, I thought I’d reflect on some of the things about Thailand that make me instantly miss home. Things that I see or do that without hesitation or actual thought process can cause a pang of sadness.

Napkins vs. toilet paper rolls

There was a time a couple weeks ago that the group of us from the course were eating dinner at a Western restaurant for the first time in what felt like forever. They actually brought us a fork and knife(!!?!?!) wrapped in a napkin. This is unusual for two reasons: napkins in the customary folded in four, thick cottony soft facial tissue are hard to come by in Thailand. Everywhere has a roll of toilet paper in either a plastic or rattan container. Completely useless for anyone who either makes a serious mess when eating (uhhhh, ME) or is used to paper that doesn’t crumble when anything wet touches it, leaving streaks of paper all over your face and hands. Considering I had been complaining for weeks about the lack of real napkins, I used that napkin until the last drop of ketchup was gone from my face and my hands were insanely clean of all sticky cheese mess. (Yeah, I had a cheeseburger in Thailand and it was like eating chocolate for the first time, I missed them so much)

The second reason it’s weird is that I hadn’t seen a real knife in about the same amount of time. Thai style is to use your fork to scoop everything onto your spoon, only barbarians stab things with forks. The only time you’ll see these items in a restaurant in Thailand is if they cater directly to farang, and even then I’d only ever seen it at one of my few breakfasts when I would use it to smear jam on my toast.

Cooking

On the topic of food, I miss cooking my own food. I miss grocery shopping in the sense that I could make a list (<3) and plan out all my meals for the week, including leftovers and lunches. Trying to cook here is a pain, considering that I don’t even have a kitchen, but it really is more expensive than eating out every night. The difference ends up being hundreds of baht. Considering that a Thai meal could cost 35 – 60 baht at any of the restaurants or street vendors in town, cooking just doesn’t add up when some ingredients cost that much or more. Eating out every night at home would be absurd, but I miss being able to make random snacks. I’ll have to satisfy myself with peanut butter and jam sandwiches and instant noodles.

Easily accessible wifi

It’s not in my room. Enough said. I’m being a princess, but this I cannot get used to.

Chill in the air

Vietnam was a weird cold– I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s just something about the smell in the air during a Canadian winter that makes me heart melt. It smells like home. I predict that the thing I’m going to miss most about home is the changing of seasons, as opposed to varying levels of heat.

Doing my own laundry

I used to hate doing laundry at home. But there’s something about going through my own clothes that is oddly comforting… I still don’t feel too good handing over a bag of my unmentionables and seriously sweaty clothes to some poor old lady. Luckily, all she has to do is throw it in the washing machine, but seeing my underwear neatly folded together and my socks paired makes me oddly miss my separated laundry hampers of clean and  dirty clothes that I keep at home. (Yeah, folding only happens when I feel like it – so I should be welcoming this as the luxury that it is!)

Randomly calling  or texting people with news

I don’t want to continuously talk about how much I miss my family and friends, – because I seriously do! – but when something exciting or newsworthy happens, it takes everything out of me to not pick up my phone and call people. First of all, the time difference makes it that much harder as when I would generally want to call people (my afternoon) would be the middle of the night at home. Second of all, it costs almost a million baht to do so, and I need to be saving pennies (satang) until I can land a steady job. I can see myself gradually giving in to this more in my near future.

My own kind of Zen

I’ve always been drawn to friends who are louder, more social and generally more high strung than I am. In the past few weeks, traveling with one (and a few previously!) of these people, I’ve come to realize a lot about myself. I can not only keep calm under pressure, acclimate very well to new surroundings and read a map without getting (too) stressed out, but I understand when things go wrong, have very little to no expectations of anything around me, and can think ahead instead of focusing on the problem.

While I do get frustrated once in a while with things that happen (i.e. cab fare in Vietnam jumping suspiciously from 10,000 to 16,000 VND – seriously dude, I’m watching you! OR, OR, the many times we’ve gotten lost, backpacks on, for over an hour) I don’t let it get to me and I can immediately move on.

I don’t know how I got so relaxed and care-free. Maybe it was lying on a beach without a care in the world, maybe it’s the plethora of massages I’ve had. Maybe it has a lot to do with the fact that I have absolutely no responsibilities at the moment. The only thing I have to worry about is getting on a plane on the 28th back to Bangkok. From there, and once I figure out where I’m going to live for the next month, I can start accepting the stress of real life. Right now I’m in transition, a journey to the new me.

While I’m in this transition, it’s been incredible that other peoples stress doesn’t get to me, that only one time in the past four weeks did I get so angry that I actually lost my cool.

There have been many times in the past week that Melisa has said that I’ve kept her sane, by thinking logically and quickly when necessary and just by being calm when she’s freaking out a little bit.

I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but I think that I’ve been many people’s rock, the thing that keeps them sane and thinks of the big picture when things get too stressful. I’m not too sure how that particular bond can be translated into a career or even make me a better partner, but it’s a skill that I’ve finally recognized fully and one that I don’t want to lose.

I don’t need to meditate for this brand of Zen.