It’s alright ma, it’s only Cleveland

“Advertising signs they con you into thinking you’re the one that can do what’s never been done / That can win what’s never been won / Meantime life outside goes on all around you.” – Bob Dylan

I received a letter – a real one sent through the postal service – from a friend and returned Peace Corps volunteer (RPCV) in St. Cloud, MN.  She said she’s enjoyed reading my blog and then wrote, “Enjoy every minute of it – eventually you’ll miss it.  I know I do!”

Thanks, Tammy.  I will.

As a kid, I did it every Christmas.  I loved Christmas morning and always tried to remind myself to enjoy it while it lasted.  This was after the age of nine, whereas before that, I’d rip open every present faster than Ronald Reagan could forget what he just said.

The trick is to enjoy the moment now and later.  Enjoy the present and the memory.  Thankfully, I have a good memory and like to write, so little gets by me.

I was 15-years old and I was riding with my mom and dad through Cleveland.  I was a crabby teenager and my mom told me I should learn to enjoy every situation no matter how bad.  Mom, I do listen sometimes.

There were moments I wanted to get out of in Thailand (and will be more) and I can laugh at them now.

–          Sweating profusely while I interviewed a nurse at a local clinic.  I’d biked for 25 minutes in the heat and she spoke at the speed of light.  I listened for about 20 minutes and caught about 10 words.

–          Biking in the rain to the school in Uthai for training.  What made matters worse was when I got to the school I’d found most of the other volunteers got rides from their host families.  I was not offered.

–          Anytime I’ve talked to a drunk dude.  I’ve learned to avoid them.  I pulled my bike over a few weeks after getting to Surin to a large party of men.  It was 10 a.m. and they reeked of whiskey.  Funny enough, they spoke broken English to me (“Where … are…you…from?”) and I spoke Thai in return.

Ah, but the good always outweighs the bad and here are a few of my favorite moments over the past year.

–          My going-away parties.  There was the sushi/baseball/burgers-and-beer party in Eau Claire with my friends.  There was the family party with my aunts, uncles and cousins as well as Christmas at the Wightmans, the off-the-wall New Year’s Eve with Erin and Libby, and lunch at Khan’s with Chad.  I can’t forget watching the He-Man Christmas special with the Spinlers, either.

–          Staying up late with Ramona, listening to records and enjoying my last days of solitude in my apartment.

–          Having a Summit with my dad at Running Aces a few days before leaving.

–          Every time I stop and listen to “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”.

–          The excitement and awkwardness of meeting my first host family in Ayutthaya.

–          Stumbling through the strange streets of Bangkok with Erin, Andy and Dom – not knowing where I’m going and not caring one bit.

–          Listening to “Icky Thump” on my iPod as my bus rolls through the Thailand landscape and thinking, This song fits the situation perfectly.

–          Being sick with fever on the van ride from Ayutthaya to Uthai.  A good memory?  Yes, because amid all the conversation and my fever, Erin was holding my hand, knowing I needed it.

–          Being sworn in as an official Peace Corps volunteer.

–          The first time I said a complete sentence in Thai and it was understood by someone other than my instructor.

–          Reading every Philip Roth novel for the first time.

–          Reuniting with all my friends in Bangkok and Supan Buri.

–          Dress shopping, yes, dress shopping with Erin in Korat.

Perhaps the present can’t all be good, but in hindsight, it can be.  George Harrison once sang, “All things must pass.”  That’s true, but they don’t have to go away all together.  Don’t forget.  Take your vitamins.  Take pictures.  Wear your helmet.  Write it down.  Draw a picture, but don’t forget how good life is.

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