The I’m-here-but-far-away fog is unsettling.
It first began in southern California in unexpected ways. Kindness communicated in the form of direct eye contact and a strong smile rattled me. The combination was too bold. An afternoon barbeque filled with guests; one woman, bare shouldered, speaking, shouting, swearing, dominating, another in a bikini top and short shorts. People asking me innocent questions about my life in Thailand. I froze before I could respond. What is acceptable? What isn’t? Why does it even matter?
Currently, the Canadian city I spent, I believe approximately the first twenty-four years of my life in feels more alien to me than Thailand did the first time I touched down in Asia.
The energy of the conversations around me sound hurried, aggressive and neurotic.
Notions of personal space elude me. (Did you just touch me?)
Riding my purple ten speed bike from the eighth grade on the correct side of the road continues to challenge me. Driving is out of the question.
My friends’ lives seem both familiar and strange.
I feigned mild interest in a male friend’s updates because I wanted neither he nor I to deal with drama from his wife. This feels ludicrous to even write.
I fought back tears after meeting my friend’s bi-racial six year old son at school because the entire pick-up area was busy with children and adults of different races, ethnicities and mixes of. The reason for the unexpected blast to my heart? Everyone treated one another as equals. And it was normal.
I continue to speak English translations of Thai words to express Thai ideas that make perfect sense in Thailand yet confuse the people I’m around.
Strangers see me as Canadian thus expect me to know how to behave socially in situations in my reaction time is slow. For example, when asked at a coffee shop what I wanted in a coffee, I forgot what my choices were.
A little awkward. A little distant. Displaced.
I haven’t always been this way.
The week prior to leaving Thailand I was at an outdoor market with friends. Something exploded meters ahead of me. Nearby locals turned and ran in my direction. I followed suit. As I sprinted away, I glanced over my shoulder to determine the whereabouts and condition of my friends; they hadn’t moved. The explosion wasn’t one of malicious intent, rather something had accidentally blown up. I was shaking from adrenalin but not from fear.
Approximately three to four weeks following this event my hearing was momentarily lost in a small crowd at an evening festival with family. Mentally I felt fine, but something deep inside was screaming.
The above mentioned are examples of re-entry shock.
Life has been and continues to be one interesting ride.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
For Thailand solo travel and safety tips, in addition to Thailand information you won’t find in traditional tourist guides, please visit my post Tips For Women Traveling To Thailand.