When I moved to Thailand I never thought anybody that I knew from the States would see me in Thailand. I did not think my family and friends would be able to make any sort of trip out to visit and I didn't really expect them to. Of course I was hoping that they would be able to but I understood that it was very,very unlikely. And I was okay with that, as I have said this move to Thailand was really just for me and something I believed I needed to do solo.
This was until one of my friends from college messaged me telling me she was coming to Thailand. She was not coming to Thailand to see only me, she is traveling the world on an amazing fellowship (check out her blog for more info on it, it is on feminst perspectives around the world: https://www.sarahbarbara.me/). She messaged me, however, hoping to be able to meet up and do any sort of get together. So I took a few days off of school to meet her down south in Phuket for a weekend. After the weekend she wanted to come back with me to Khon Kaen to see my school and what a non-tourist area of Thailand looked like. I am not sure what I was expecting from having her visit. I knew I would have a blast with her and it would be nice to see someone from home but I also was a little nervous. I was not really sure how someone who I knew before I came here would fit into everything I was doing here.
In all, her visit was a lot of fun. Traveling down south with her was a welcome break from teaching and I loved sharing Khon Kaen with her. Not only was she able to come teach with me for a day but she also visited my local market and met my friends here.
What struck me most about showing her around Thailand was how much I actually know about Thailand and how comfortable I am here. When I first got here I was definitely amazed and (more notably) confused by almost everything in Thailand. I also never thought I would feel okay being here. But, after living here for the past 5 months (another shocking thing to say) I am relatively used to what Thailand throws at me and I am not very shocked by things anymore. Many things that have now become so typical to me were shocking to her. For example, she was astonished by how overwhelming traveling can be when that is something that I have a lot of experience with. Even smaller, silly things like her being confused why Christmas cups were still being used in February; if you live in Thailand you know that Christmas decorations basically stay up year round so having a Christmas cup months after Christmas is very, very normal. It was a strange feeling to realize how comfortable I am in a country that I once felt so foreign in. My friend saw me speaking Thai, navigating Thailand and even teaching. She told me that she was amazed by what I could do here.She was especially impressed by the teaching I had to do and how much is expected of me at my school.
I do not know if I would have had this realization if she had not come and visited me. I think it is easy to not really reflect on how far you have come. I had not really given it much of a thought. I was very much in my routine of teaching and daily life and it did not strike me that I was finally comfortable in a new place until my routine was thrown off. Before her visit I was somewhat aware that I had changed since before I got on the plane and that being here has given me regressed perspectives but I guess I was not really aware of how much I know about being here. I was really not used to being around people who do not know much about Thailand or who only know it from the perspective of visiting.
Having a friend from home visit was amazing. It was nice to have that sense of comfort that I have not had in a very long time. It was a very special experience to be able to show someone a piece of my life that most of my family and friends back home will never see or really understand. It was also a little strange to share my experience with someone. It was not the context that I ever thought somebody I went to college with would see me in. I think that anyone who gets visitors from home needs to be prepared for that momentary strangeness. It is weird to see someone that ties you back to home but it is also worthwhile. Being able to share the experience is something that I will never forget.