A good friend recently interviewed me about my not-so-recent time in Thailand. There were plenty of cases of going off on tangents, of course, us remembering our summer and planning some sweet time ahead. Her last question, however, was back to the point. She asked me about the things I’ve learnt during my stay.
Not gonna lie – I did have several years to reflect on my Thai experience, so I didn’t have a hard time answering her inquiry. The first thing I told her, kinda jokingly (but actually not), was that working with children made me discover how much my creativity has been crushed by simply growing up. Another thing I told her – not in a seemingly jokingly way – was that I have been learning a great deal about…kindness. Fortunately, this trend seems to continue after having left Southeast Asia.
How does that learning go? It’s very simple: being surrounded by kind people.
Whether it is a welcoming Couchsurfing host (ah, too many stories to tell!), a guy who is selling vegetables at the market and gives you some free onions (!), or a vet who kindly takes care of your cat: as soon as you open up the channel of observation, kindness is not the difficult to spot. To replicate it is another thing, but noticing it doesn’t need to take much effort.
My mom was travelling in the region with me recently and, in addition to being fascinated by almost everything she saw (yes, ‘almost’ refers to some unique political arrangements here…), she had a hard time here. She had a hard time…accepting people’s kindness. She couldn’t just genuinely appreciate and enjoy people’s hospitality and niceness: “they’re too nice, we must buy them something” would be her initial thought that would stick with my mom for days, preventing her from truly enjoying what she was doing. I don’t know if she’s ever met people that kind before, but, in any case, learning to accept kindness is a huge step to take.
Interestingly, I think even some bullshit, a cloud missing its silver lining, can be wrapped into a great deal of niceness and warmth that comes in a shape of support from your friends. Like some leukocytes reacting to messed-up-ness (this fake-sounding disease has real symptoms!), they come and help your nerdy (using anatomy as metaphors) self. Once again, that happens as long as the channel is open.
Channels of observations, leukocyte friends, free onions in the market… I guess I’ve also learned not hide my weirdness so much.