Sunday, 27 August 2017

#28 Thailand part 7: A fire in my belly (and no it's not because I ate some bad chicken)

It's a dreary Sunday morning in Phibun Mangsahan. I can hear the forlorn sound of a rooster crowing in the distance and the occasional whirr of a skilsaw as a new flat is being built next door. A cup of very average instant coffee is steaming beside me.

Despite the romantic ideas I fed myself with about travel I've realised you can never escape the mundaneity of the everyday. You can only learn to embrace it and that, quite frankly, is a relief. Once you've managed that you can stop running.

I have to admit during the last month and a bit my brain has been in New Zealand following the election news. Everyday there have been new campaign promises, policies, interviews, live press conferences, posed photos and opinions splashed across my newsfeed.

Some opinions have sparked heated debates between me and my friends and politics has been the topic of most recent conversations.

If there is one thing that's finally sunk in over the last few months, it is the amount of room for improvement there is in New Zealand at the moment, despite us having a comparatively high standard of living.

There I was, desperate to get out of New Zealand and volunteer in Nepal, when there is so much work to be done in our own back yard. My mother told me this before I left and she was right (as usual) but I guess sometimes you have to experience things for yourself before you fully understand.

Travel has definitely made me glad to call NZ home and the recent conversations have made me want to protect what we have and stop things slipping back any further. When I return I'll endeavour to harness some of the anger that's been stirred up and use it as motivation to actually DO something instead of just talking about it.

I've also been thinking a lot about empathy and what it means. It's been something that's come up a lot lately.

The more you learn about the world and the obstacles people face, naturally, the more understanding you gain. Simply being exposed to people who are different to you can change your perspective and this is why travel can be so eye opening.

At the same time I think empathy is something that doesn't necessarily have to come from experience. Just because you haven't experienced something yourself doesn't mean you can't try to understand it. This was a discussion that came up a lot with my friends and in the media recently. It was leading the national conversation about what kind of world we want to live in especially after Metiria Turei announced she had lied to WINZ in order to provide for her child. Her defendant's begged for the other camp to have some empathy.

Perhaps, because of the way our society is organised under capitalism, empathy isn't immediately financially rewarded and therefore we are taught to see it as weakness? I'd like to think that helping people up instead of kicking them when they are down leads to closer, happier, healthier communities, which results in a flourishing economy in the long run.

This conversation about what we value as a nation is so important and whilst we are on the subject I'll take this opportunity to remind everyone to vote on September 23rd! It's a privilege and throwing it away is an insult to everyone in the world who wishes they could vote but can't.

Back in Phibun there's only one more week of teaching left before I hit the road. It's weird to think I won't ever see my kids again. They'll grow up and go on to live lives I'll know nothing about. I'll miss them a lot.

It's always surprising the things you learn from each new experience. I never thought I'd learn so much about my own country whilst living in rural Thailand. Nor did I think I'd find out what lights that angry fire in my belly whilst being so far away from the things that light it.

So long Phibun Mangsahan! I'm glad we met. Another chapter almost over.

All you need is...

Helping out with a Saturday class at the 'I'm Growing' learning center.

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