It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon in Phuket, Thailand, and I’m sitting in a near-empty Starbucks trying to figure out these waves of emotions I’ve been feeling lately. I know for sure I should be outside with the passing foreigners either browsing through one of the busiest streets in Patong, or making my way to the beach (only a couple of feet away), but I’m not really feeling the urge to do so.
It’s been a little over three weeks since I’ve packed all of my stuff into three humungous suitcases and boarded a one-way flight to Thailand for my journey of living and teaching abroad. It hasn’t been the easiest adjustment, but I would say having met so many new beautiful souls has made it all the more a little easier transitioning in this adjustment period.
I’ve been wanting to check-in since my last blog post, but for some reason I haven’t been able to find the right (as if there were any) words to express my feelings and sentiments of these new new worldly experiences. As I sit in Starbuck’s familiar atmosphere listening to a good mix of Hip Hop and Soul, watching travelers come and go, I’m once again reminded that everything in this life is temporary and many times it’s so important to check-in with myself and document these life experiences – not only in hopes of providing some mental clarity, but to also restore some inner peace. Also, I’ve been met with some challenging times as a result of being immersed in a new country with new faces, bodies and minds, and I think it’s time to lay some of these frustrations to rest on my online journal.
Before I start, I have to mention that my new life abroad has been nothing short of an amazing experience (despite moments of culture shock and feeling very lonely and uncomfortable). Many Thais have made me feel so welcomed and warm as a ‘Farang’ (Thai for foreigner), and have been very open to me trying to learn and immerse myself in their wonderful country. I mean, there are occasional moments when I become a little frustrated because of inevitable miscommunication due to language barriers, and being on the receiving end of ‘bitter-business-moments,’ but for the most part I’ve been enjoying my stay here.
Also, I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to begin this journey with another set of folks that are equally as passionate about learning about others and participating in a necessary exchange of cultural values. Shoutout to one of my new (and woke) friend’s Danny.
No one person, place, space, land or country is perfect in and of itself. There are things about each one that make it easy to love or easy to have some indifferent feelings toward it – and of course, it’s all subjective depending on an observing persons’ point of view. When talking about communities and other cultures around the world, it’s merely the physical that make them challenging to understand in terms of their way of living, but rather the people that are equally curators of these social values and collective communal psychologies.
I’ve been introduced to numerous forms of culture shock throughout my 22 young years of living, but being a rookie-expat in Thailand has made me even more sensitive to these occurrences. I just don’t think it’ll be something I can get used to (tolerable, sure..maybe but it’s definitely hard).
While I was out with a friend and a couple of her friends last night (on top of other nights this past week), I tolerated all forms of micro-aggressions that I vowed to myself while at my HBCU, that I would never again tolerate outside of the comfy gates of Spelman. However, I’ve grown to learn that there is indeed a time and place, as well as a better opportunity to learn from being observant, critical and strategic.
I’m just not keen to people hapharzardly exercising their privileges to express themselves; as well as their learned racist behaviors, and using social settings to justify their actions. Because we’re out at a bar having a good time, please don’t think it’s okay (along with your close friend) to rub, grab and pet my hair as if I one, gave you permission to do so, and two, openly expressed my wanting of you to explore your unwarranted and unexplored self-pleasures on my body. The nerve of some people to think it’s okay at any given moment to bypass others’ authorization and enter their personal space. (whew, needed to get that out).
& to think, after years of shouting into microphones and constantly revisiting the words of the most impactful and powerful Black feminist ever known to the human world, I sat there.. soul crying, morals compromised, physically and spiritually violated, hiding behind one of the hardest smiles I’ve ever had to conjure.
While this was only one of the recent troublesome interactions I’ve had with none PoC, my spiritual, emotional and physical well-being just keep taking blows – and I haven’t yet found a healthy way to deal with my frustrations.
Maybe it’s just time to get back to writing..
Not to mention, these eye and ear sores that I keep having to endure while being immersed in the country’s tourist culture. From the population of tourist that come to take part in the ever-demanding economy of sex tourism, to people approaching me to take part in it as well as a supplier of services, to people subconsciously meddling heavy with cultural appropriation (please sis, take those braids out for goodness’ sake), to being interacted with as the “token black girl who’s familiar with all things black,” to almost everything else that I’ve learned about in school in regards to the oppressive nature of a far-reaching system.
Greater one, help us all.
Honestly, I’ve just been thinking about how I (now more than ever) need to complete my Graduate school application as soon as possible, so that I continue my education and explore more efficient and radical ways of altering ways of thinking through my favorite form of communication – through visual culture and creation. I need to continue learning about what I’m experiencing as I try to dissect and become a critical observer of human connection and manipulation. If I’m going to create content, I’m going to do it being conscious and strategic.
Nevertheless, I’m still very very blessed to be here living, teaching and learning in Thailand. These cultural exchanges are truly invaluable and extremely necessary as someone who’s devoting her life to making changes and leaving a legacy of being courageous in her own right and passion in the face of systematic racism. Thinking about the future and the endless possibilities of breaking barriers is the only thing that keeps me going. I know can do it or at least assist in the fight to do so. It’s only right. It’s my purpose.
(it got real, really quick – couldn’t help myself.. I needed something to lift my spirits haha). I’m sure this piece will be revisited. There’s so much more that needs to be explored. But, for now..
By the way, I finished the Sister Souljah’s, ‘The Coldest Winter,” in under three days. Two words, Amazing and Transformative.
Peace + Love.