Thoughts of Termination and Tapeworms

I was driving the other afternoon and all of a sudden I had to slow down because of an accident: a couple teenage schoolgirls had fallen off their motorbike, with the bike on top of them. It wasn’t horrifying or anything, but here in Chiang Mai, these accidents are actually quite rare. But what happened next was really interesting – so many people came running out of nowhere to help these two teenagers. And I mean, everyone and their mama: shopkeepers, drivers, and about THIRTY other students who were probably their classmates (picture a bunch of Go-Go Yubari’s minus the mace). There was so much concern, and it felt like this impromptu community formed right before my eyes. I pulled over and wanted to help, but I saw that the girls were more than taken care of by their peers. I know that in the States people can be good Samaritans as well, but it’s different compared to Chiang Mai. There’s something about living in a certain space and social context that promotes this sort of vigilance for your fellow human.

When I went to Sydney a couple weeks ago for a brief vacation (and also because I had to leave the country to renew my 3 month education visa), that city feeling of doing your own thing and not having to really talk with strangers came back to me. Bleeeeecccchhhh. It was just kinda hit or miss when it came to politeness during interactions. Then again, according to the friend whom I was visiting, I was mostly staying in the Bondi Beach area, which is apparently a nexus that is a combination of Los Angeles and San Francisco’s Marina area. UGH. I had a good time, nonetheless, and I got to see that Sydney Opera House and also catch up with this aforementioned friend who was also from San Francisco and is now working at Google Sydney. It was nice to fly back to Chiang Mai after a week in the Land Down Under, though.

The point of all this is that the end is near: 6 months exactly from the day I arrived here to the “Rose of the North,” and a couple more months left. I’m starting to feel an uneasy burgeoning growth in my stomach, like a little tapeworm festering. An unappetizing analogy, I know, but it is accurate. I’m gradually anticipating the period of our internship that we social workers call “termination” – saying goodbye to clients, co-workers, and supervisors. Any sort of loss in my life right now is momentarily triggering, such as the departure of a couple Thai interns from Payap University at work, for example. Moreover, I also just started working this week at an orphanage with little boys 6-8 years old, and I’m already attached to them, as they had warmed up to me instantaneously. I need to get it together. I need to prepare myself to say goodbye. But it’s going to be real tough.

How is this different than before, though? I’ve said bye to clients at my previous jobs in residential treatment, an elementary school, and an outpatient clinic. I think it’s because emotions run stronger over here in a collectivist, community-oriented culture. The Chiang Mai lifestyle has encouraged me to grow close with people at work, and for an Asian/Filipino American like myself, it meant getting in touch with my ethnic/cultural side, and letting go a bit of my Western side. This meant allowing myself to not fight the feeling of looking up to my supervisors as surrogate, protective Thai parents, and giving hugs and piggyback rides to my little guys, without me saying to them, “Excuse me, but I have to watch my boundaries as a social worker. So you have to ask first if you need a hug.” I’ve also met incredible friends, whom I will miss so much when I go back to the U.S. I’m also probably even going to miss the janitor at work and the person who sells me banana, egg, and chocolate rotee.

Two months left. Then it’s back to Cali, then back to grad school, and then a final goodbye to my cohorts at graduation. (Don’t get me started on THAT termination!) All I can do, I guess, is just not dwell on the future and stay present in the moment. Damn, though. Tempus really does fugit.

it sucks falling off a bike and eating it!

it sucks falling off a bike and eating it!

go 'head, Go-Go!

go 'head, Go-Go!

Boo for impolite folks in the city!

boo for impolite folks in the city!

yay for piggybacks!

yay for piggybacks!


~ by wannabejochen on 28/02/2009.

One Response to “Thoughts of Termination and Tapeworms”

  1. Goodbyes suck! I always have to hold back the emotions. I guess the good thing about every sad goodbye is that we had the blessing of a great experience? 😉

    I have a void that needs to be filled with more time in Thailand! I think I’ll go back no later than early 2010..Koh Samui is calling my name!

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