When I first set foot on Thai soil, the fear lingering in the back of mind was, “I’m afraid that this experience will change me.” This was kind of silly really, since the whole journey would be pointless if I didn’t gain something from it and find myself somehow strengthened or healthier for it. But the real fear was in how my body would be affected.
Since I was a child, I’ve always been very safety-minded. I rarely played rough or took risks that could end of bodily harm. I never made it through hell-week when I joined the football team. Rarely did I not cry when injured, usually due to fear. For example, my knees were giving me pains as we prepared to move to Thailand. The nurse in me was diagnosing it as osteoarthritis, and I began to fear that I wouldn’t be able to walk in a few years. (Very dramatic, I know….) And then, being explained the reality that I was 100% guaranteed to get intestinal worms in Thailand, I wasn’t sure I’d last too long.
However, I’m proud (and a little surprised) to say that four months into our move to Thailand, we’re all still alive, healthy and having a great time. My knees feel better than they have in the last 10 years. We’ve survived staph infections, worms, lice, and colds with skin reactions. I even crashed my scooter in the rain and sustained a few gashes, which have developed into small keloids. Back in the states I would probably have visited a few doctors to figure out how to deal with them. Here, I’m content to wait and see what happens.
As I look back, it all seems normal. Life here is beginning to feel just like it did in the U.S., dealing with the day-in and day-out issues we dealt with there. We keep experiencing things that would cause any parent to forbid their teenager from traveling abroad and yet, we’re still okay… and we’re not stressing like we initially did. So what’s changed? Perspective.
Living in a new culture is abrasive at first. It’s scary and overwhelming because you don’t have a schema developed to interpret this new something that you’ve never experienced before. But, just like a child takes time to make sense of the world around them, we continue to do the same thing and we naturally develop a schema for worms, lice, or skin infections. What was new and exotic to us a couple months ago is now common and familiar. Worms are just part of life here (but don’t get me wrong, we still don’t drink from the tap!). We check the kids’ hair for lice and their skin for staph infections. Our initial fear and anxiety is being replaced by routine.
Experiencing life in the way we have has given so much more meaning to these words of Jesus:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? ~Matt 6:25-27
We’re changing. Life has a little more context for us now. We live in a strange exotic land, from a Western perspective, but now it’s somewhat familiar. The fears that we had as Americans are being quelled, at least for now, and life, indeed, goes on. Oh yeah, and it’s REALLY Good.