As an expat, one of the Choose Your Own Adventures you have to engage in is finding stuff. There is no Trader Joe’s here. Huge bummer but there you have it. So you have to use your Thai language skillz, map reading abilities, and unpack your sense of humor and rub on a little patience cause you, my friend, are gonna need it.
I remember when I decided I wanted witch hazel in Cuenca Ecuador. Yeahhhh. A fine idea if I may say so. I even brought my dear compadre Jamie whose Spanish skillz are muy bueno on my broomstick pursuit. Afterall, I went with her on her strange quests for hair thickeners and hamburgers the size of football fields. We were companions in medicating ourselves via Tutto Freddos and sweet oreo cookies, I miss their ice cream. The best.
On the other hand I remember when the ex-‘s aunt asked if Thailand had toothpaste. Yeahhhh. I guess that was not unlike the time when someone asked if Hawaii had electricity or if we had recess on the beach. In any toothpaste case, Thailand has a lot modern conveniences. (Who knew?) You just have to pick and pluck what is considered important to you because there are differences.
If you like neat and tidy (smooth sidewalks, garbage in trash cans, etc) and are very much attached to your brands (of food, clothing, etc), then you might not do too well over here (see brain aneurysm). Although Thailand not only has toothpaste (Thailand has toothpaste! Honey, bring the kids!) but mouthwash and floss too.
So besides missing Trader Joe’s, Target (okay I said it!) and Cheez-its that don’t cost their weight in gold and a few other important things that I have forgotten (*pause here*), what I do miss is Punchbowl Cemetery. I can’t see my father’s grave. I can’t sit down on the grass or dig up the flower vase that lives upside down just below his headstone.
I can’t simply hang out in one of the most scenic cemeteries and well, my favorite place in the world. I can’t do the ritual drive up the dead volcano, stoppover at Chinatown, the Airport or the grocery store for flowers. It is of no surprise then that I started to get a hankering for a good old fashioned graveyard or sù-săan สุสาน. (my new favorite Thai word)
This hankering started back in April during Songkran before I fully appreicated that travelling anywhere during that time would be ludicrous. Without consciously realizing this, my last cemetery fix was when I was in Ecuador visiting Biblian’s 200 year old church. I was fascinated by the wall burials, especially the empty one but for fear of being disrespectful I didn’t take any photos.
When life slowed down I headed to Chiang Mai’s Foreign Cemetery. It wasn’t the same as Punchbowl but my heart felt so happy that: a) I finally made it (such a procrasinator), b) I was around dead people (some folks prefer pets because they don’t talk back but that’s not true), and c) who the heck knows? Why do cemeteries give me joy?
My Thai teacher thought I was SO weird. This led to an interesting discussion on why you don’t see Thai cemeteries. In a bla bla word, ghosts. He’s terrified of them. Ghosts. Graves. Etc. But he thinks there are many individual or family graves next to homes out in the countryside. (Yea! Three propositions!) Although I must say I was a little saddened by the fact that there were not any more cemeteries to visit. Maybe you know about the so-called archaeological dig going on by the bus station?
Anyway I can’t say why I enjoy plots of land set aside for the dead. I’d like to say it’s the “soft scientist” in me, but honestly I think it must be all those childhood visits. (Some people go to grandma’s and we went to. . .) Of course, I hate going to the dentist but when I walk around a final resting place, I will feel like a thirsty person who has just been given a glass of water.
A lot of expats miss particular food like cheese (see Cheez-its), and friends and family. I miss a particular place. But not enough to go back there to live. I feel my father here more in Thailand as it is. This is where he wanted to retire. This is where he breathed his last exhale. And this is where I want to live.