Recently I went with my host mother to travel through a central province of Thailand called Kanchanaburi. Here, I was able to sit among and pet sleeping tigers at a temple that serves as a tiger reserve/zoo.
At a waterfall we visited I sat chatting with a boy from Mumbai as piranha-like fish in the clear blue water nipped at my feet, cleaning them free of charge. The day before we returned home, my host mother and I explored an unassuming vegetable market that flips up its tarp overhangs to let a commuter train pass dangerously between its stalls every 20 minutes. That’s the kind of year it’s been — a year of inexplicable joy, struggle, hilarity and triumph. I am privileged to have caring parents on both sides of the Pacific, unending support from those around me and endless opportunities for adventure. This year has been one too weighty to be able to convey in words. “How was it?” just won’t do as a practical question to ask me because there really is no simple explanation for the life I’ve lead here in Thailand for the past 10 months.
The only quick explanation I can offer for something such as hiking through a shrouded jungle to discover an ancient hill tribe or entering Angkor Wat is “breathtaking,” and even then the idea of compounding profound experiences like those into one word seems inappropriate.
How does one describe the sense of humility one gets when a princess of Thailand smiles directly at you after you bow to her, or the feeling of startled excitement when being investigated by an elephant’s wet trunk for the possibility of a second basket of bananas? Ohe feeling derived from sitting in the street amongst hundreds of people, chanting a Buddhist prayer in unison on Makha Bucha day, the day of Buddha’s first teaching, is one that defies description. You’d have to be present as I was to fully comprehend each such experience, since no single word or phrase seems to do justice to memory.