Beyond the Cave


Life is very fragile and can change within an instant. Shortly after arriving in Chiang Rai, Thailand I was informed that 12 boys and their coach were stranded inside a cave when it became flooded by rain. Throughout my time in Thailand, like the rest of the country and world, I have been following their story. Periodically, during our yoga classes, Pook would remind us of how lucky we were to be safe. The remarkable story of the 12 boys and their coach reinforces how resilient the human spirit can be in times of fear and uncertainty.

One cannot begin to imagine what it’s like to be trapped in a cave for 18 days, where water levels and oxygen are unknown variables in a life or death situation. Many times, I have tried to put myself in the position of the coach, wondering how he felt while in the cave. Did guilt consume him for deciding to venture into the cave with his team? Was his mind constantly racing and analyzing what his options were to ensure that the 12 boys would be safe? Did he hold onto hope that they would be discovered? Based on all of the news reports that I have read, he sounds like an incredibly brave and kind individual as he withheld food for himself to give to his players even if this resulted in his death. When in this situation, I am unsure of how many people would be this selfless.

So many people from around the world were invested in the Wild Boars soccer team’s safe return from the cave. Parents held onto hope waiting outside of the caves. I’ll admit that when I first heard that 12 players and their coach went missing, I was unsure if they would be alive. The parents and rescue team believed they were still alive and celebrated when they were discovered. When you think about it, without hope there is nothing. All the members of the rescue team believed that these children and their coach would be saved. Saman Kunan made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure saving these 13 individuals when he lost oxygen and consciousness and passed away after delivering oxygen to the 12 boys and their coach. What greater gift is there than that?

The events that unfolded in Chiang Rai within the last two and a half weeks have been an incredible depiction of resilience in times of adversity. They have also helped heighten my awareness of how delicate, precious, and unpredictable life can be. When I watched video of the boys being discovered by a UK diver initially, even just seeing how sensitive their eyes were to the light was shocking. We are given gifts everyday, from the air we breathe to the sunlight on our skin and faces that are very easy to overlook. I know I do this frequently.

The moving story of human strength and survival of the 12 boys and coach rescued in Chiang Rai has many valuable lessons. It helps remind me how powerful hope can be to help strengthen us in times of fear and hardship. This story has also made me more aware of how important it is to really appreciate the gifts that surround us everyday if we just take the time to see them. We never know when we will see them again. Cheers to all the brave individuals who assisted in the triumphant rescue of the 12 boys and coach from the Thai cave.

Sarah Masse

Laughter is Everywhere


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.


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Sarah Masse


Sad to Leave Chiang Rai but Excited for What Lies Ahead


As I sit hear listening to the music of the insects and birds outside, I’m sad that my time at Omsara Yoga has come to an end. A week has already passed. It’s bizarre how fast the time has flown by and all that has been accomplished in a week.

When I first arrived to Omsara Yoga, I was on my own as my friend Miranda would not be joining me for another 3 days. This was the first long flight that I have done solo. I was feeling incredibly anxious and uncomfortable about it. Part of me dislikes airplanes because of the fact that you are out of control. You need to trust someone else. I’m so glad I was able to get out of my comfort zone and fly to Thailand on my own. Along the way, I met fellow travelers as I made my journey from Chicago to Chiang Rai. One such person was a girl named Lina from France who was relocating from Korea to Chiang Mai for work. We exchanged stories and phone numbers as we were both trying to keep each other awake at 5 am in the airport of Bangkok.

Before Miranda arrived, I didn’t think 2 yoga classes a day would suffice. Boy was I wrong. 2 ½ hours a day have been quite sufficient. My first yoga class on my own was a bit rough as I hadn’t been practicing it lately and was incredibly stiff from my flights. I could hardly get into downward dog because my hamstrings were so tight. My balance was not the best either. As the days went by Pook, my yoga instructor, kept reminding me that there’s no need to rush into poses as they will come with time. She was right. Pook knew when to challenge Miranda and me. This petite Thai woman who weighs less than 100 pounds and is not even 5 feet tall, would tell us periodically during our classes that she would kick our asses. That’s for sure. I’m glad that she continued to increase the difficulty of the classes. Slowly, I’m gaining confidence in my abilities. I can feel my arms and stomach getting stronger. My downward dog is getting higher. I’m starting to touch my feet to the floor ever so slightly when doing Halasana. Holding plank pose for longer periods of time is getting easier and I am balancing during half lotus pose while standing. Little by little.

Miranda and I were talking about when we leave Omsara Yoga that it will be important to continue to practice our poses every day to keep making gains and growing. Pook told us it’s better to do a little each day then 1 or 2 classes for an hour each week as this is how you build endurance and strength. According to her partner Ulf, it takes 21 days for the body to get into a routine. Bring on the next 14.


One of the highlights of being in Chiang Rai is living with Pook and Ulf. They have given an inside look into what life in Thailand is like. While here, Miranda and I have gottento watch Pook cook. I never thought I would eat vegan food for an extended period of time. As Pook is an exceptional cook, I’m not afraid to admit I was wrong. The meals are so colorful and bright. Having only 2 meals a day has been quite enough as well. Miranda and I can’t finish most of our meals on our own. I can’t get over how genuine, welcoming, and kind Pook and Ulf have been to us.

Yesterday Miranda and I finished our meditation course with Ulf. He taught us more about Tibetan Buddhism. We were introduced to mediating using a mantra while counting the beads on a mala. Something that Ulf told us that stuck out to me was that life changes all around us constantly. What he has learned from meditation is the one thing that doesn’t change is our inner joy. As difficult as life gets, no one can take our joy away or our ability to view the world as beautiful. I have heard the phrase the only constant in life is change but I like his outlook better. That there is a constant aside from change and that is our joy. We need to celebrate more of what we are grateful for and have because there are so many treasures that exist in our day-to-day lives if we just open our eyes.

For our last day in Chiang Rai, Miranda and I rented bikes at Singha Park. It is so beautiful there with tea plantations surrounding us. Riding our bikes through these narrow secret paths made me feel more alive and free than I have felt in years. I’m really sad to be leaving Chiang Rai but excited for what adventures come our way as we continue to explore the many regions that Thailand has to offer. Pook and Ulf have taught Miranda and I many invaluable lessons. I will make sure to carry those with me as I continue my journey through Thailand and beyond.


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Sarah Masse