Nearly two weeks ago I arrived in Bangkok to live and study Anthropology and International Development here. I keep pinching myself as I look out onto my balcony, breathe deeply and smile as I know, for 7 months I have escaped UK university life which, for some reason, I find deeply depressing, dissatisfying and hard. Despite living in the bustling city of Brighton where nearly everyone eats plants for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and cares, or at least pretends to care about the environment, I’ve never really felt at home there and my heart always longs to return to the slow-paced, close-knit community of my home in Wiltshire, where people seem less concerned with saving the world, and politics, and more concerned with day-to-to living and happiness. Whilst arguably the ‘small-town’ mindset in someways pushes me away, I find it refreshing to be around people less concerned with things so serious. In my experience, city folk often appear more fast-paced, and miserable than your average-Joe, and I guess that is why the green fields of Wiltshire may always call me home.
On the other hand, travelling East has always seemed to be ingrained in me. Here reflection on my privilege is necessary, for it is not overly common for a rural, British girl to have seen India 3 times before she’s 15, the middle east multiple times for long periods of time, and other parts of Asia and Africa throughout her childhood. Fortunately my self-employed, working class dad, ran away to work as a water man in Zambia when he was 21. As he continued to work abroad throughout his adulthood, myself and my family were left reaping the benefits of living for weeks or months in local apartment blocks of rural areas in the ‘developing’ world, which contrasted greatly to our small-town lives back home. It was not often 5-star travel, and my most poignant childhood memories really are of asking my mum to buy me a headscarf in rural Egypt when I was four, being chased by huge groups because the colour of my skin and hair was alien and wrongly ‘desirable’ by the local teenage girls, pealing oranges under the tree in a Gambian compound, or making street friends in Agra, India, where we stayed for a while breathing in the local life. Whilst I don’t wish to boast, and am aware of how lucky I was to experience such things as my delicate, young mind became shaped by the outside world, I mention them only because I know and feel that such experiences of my childhood are so integral to my memory, and soul that they truly are, and have always been an part of my ever-growing and evolving ‘self’.I can’t help but wonder if this is perhaps why I feel so free and at home in Asia. As I turn my head up to the sun and feel the beating of rays down on my pale, face, my depression lifts, and I feel home.
Last night was the first meal I ate alone since I arrived. It was wholly enjoyable, I always appreciate time I have to myself these days. Despite this I have met many beautiful people, and haven’t really had a moment to think since I arrived, which tends to be a good indicator that you are enjoying yourself!
It’s day thirteen of my stay, and unfortunately the last week has been preoccupied with completing last terms essay’s for my university back home. I was obviously supposed to do them before I traveled here, but as we all know, life, Christmas, and pubs get in the way and here I am suffering the consequences, glued to my laptop with the whole of Thailand outside (also writing blog posts to prolong the process further). Its a shame really, other international students began their first weekend trips away on Friday, two of my newly acquired friends headed to the beach a few hours away. Of course I was overwhelmed with a pang of jealousy as I accepted my weekend would be spent here at my desk, trying to figure out how best to write 3 essays in 4 days…It really is okay though; the topics are interesting and I am always grateful that when I do have to study, it mostly concerns subjects which are important to me. From religion, global affairs, consciousness and environmental and humanitarian issues, it is engaging most of the time! After tomorrow, I shall be free to explore in my spare time, and I can really begin to really get under the skin of this place.
I’m constantly in denial about university, it somehow gives me bad vibes hearing the privileged world view, of privileged kids wanting to save a world, from which they have never known anything beneath their sheltered lives of their wonderful grammar schools. But intentions are good. We are all only a product of our experiences and lives, and so it is of no fault of their own, or mine that it should be this way- I am no different from them really either. I say it is more a fault of our way-of-being, our self-interested, self-righteous philosophies which manifest as us, individuals, trying our hardest to find our place in the world. For many, the most obvious way to do this is by trying to make it a better place.
I am that person, like many others, who yearns twice-weekly to drop out, run away to a beach, and sack the whole education thing off, but in reality I have grown to love and be thankful for the experience of learning, and writing more about the world in which we find ourselves.
Such knowledge has been lost, and society and its people’s disengaged from questioning that which we know as ‘life’. It is therefore only right that those of us who are called to do so, engage with, and enjoy, the secrets which studying the world around us and it’s peoples, has to offer.
#anthropology #travel #thailand #studyabroad #spirituality #self #journey #life