When we first arrived in Chiang Rai, Miranda and I agreed that we’ve never felt more like foreigners. We had the main phrases written down in Thai but that was about all. The brain has a funny way of working. For some odd reason, whenever I wanted to communicate to someone in Thai, I would revert back to Spanish if they didn’t understand me. Miranda found herself doing sign language on one occasion. Many times, locals would stare at us blankly when we were trying to communicate with them. Our host Ulf happily told us that he likes to roll down his window and yell “foreign” when he sees someone who is visiting the city. Ironically, Ulf is from Germany and has blonde hair and blue eyes so I’m guessing whoever hears him doing this is be a bit confused as to why. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure if Miranda and I weren’t staying with Ulf he would have been yelling foreign at us because we definitely stuck out. Despite the fact that we didn’t always know what was going on or how to communicate our needs verbally, Miranda and I have been able to connect with others in Thailand.
After traveling through Europe, South America, and now Thailand, when it comes down to it I think the majority of people have more similarities than differences. Yes, there will always be people out in the world who don’t care about others. That’s everywhere. However, from my personal experience that’s few and far between. Overall, I think that most people really just want to be connected to others while figuring out their lives. After all, humans are social beings by nature.
Throughout this trip, there have been so many instances where laughter has really been a binding force. When Miranda and I visited Wat Rong Suea Ten (e.g. The Blue Temple), we were greeted by what appeared to be a local on the staircase leading up to the Blue Temple. He couldn’t stop laughing when he asked us using gestures if we could take a picture of him standing in front of the temple. This man then asked Miranda and me if he could take one with each of us. We both thought it was so funny that we got one with him as well. Whenever I look at the picture of us together it cracks me up and I can’t stop laughing at how happy both of us were. Even though I’ll never see him again, we’ll always share that snapshot together laughing.
I forgot how important it is to laugh through your struggles. It can also become infectious. A few days ago, Miranda and I were getting a Thai massage. I don’t remember what happened but one of us started to laugh and it was contagious. After a few seconds, Miranda, our massage therapists, and I were all snickering uncontrollably for about 1-2 minutes. This is probably one of my favorite memories from Thailand because all four of us from all different walks of life were on the same wavelength connecting through laughter.
Another instance where laughter was vital was with our taxi driver Cha-veng in Chiang Rai. Even though he spoke Thai and we spoke mostly English, we were able to communicate with each other. Did we play gestures with Cha-yeng with certain phrases? You bet. We were able to laugh and keep communicating through the language barrier? Of course. Cha-yeng taught us many basic phrases in Thai. Most of which, we are continuing to use on our travels throughout Thailand. He taught us the pronunciation of these phrases as the tones vary and can change the meaning of what you are expressing. Again, laughter helped us bond with each other. During our 3-hour car ride from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, we would try to pronounce the cities and he would correct us. Although we weren’t able to have long conversations with him, we shared a meal with Cha-yeng and laughed most of the day away. This is also a memory that will stick out for me during my trip to Thailand.
Traveling to another country where the primary language is not your own can be incredibly intimidating. I have so much respect for people who come to the United States where English is not their primary language. It can be challenging and frustrating when you aren’t able to express your desires and may not fully understand the customs of another country. What I have also learned on this trip is that a smile and laughter can go a LONG way. You can find laughter wherever you may be heading. It really is everywhere.