I have to remind myself that I live in Thailand.  I’d have to remind myself that I lived anywhere, really. I feel myself getting caught up in the daily details of life and living, and just the simple statement, “I live in Thailand” is my ejection seat button from my current reality.

Or perhaps this seemingly simple sentence, isn’t an ejection seat propelling me high above below, but my reminder to place both feet on the ground and breathe.


Not so recently, I went on a TED talk video binge, and perhaps one of the most intriguing talks was by Chimamanda who warns us against having a “single story”.

A single story is a single perspective. A single dose of reality, a singular worldview – and what comes to mind, quite plainly, at first, is when we hear one side of a story, and we think it is the TRUTH! But then we grow up and learn that there are many truths, and sides, and you can almost hear the squeaky door opening as you realize another truth.

I think because I live in a community that comes and goes, ala expat, my mind meanders towards what folks did before they washed up on the isle of Thai, and where they are headed to next.  It makes me think of the clichéd turtleneck saying, “as one chapter closes, another one starts…” Kind of like that Office TV episode where Michael Scott says to the telemarketer, “I wonder what I would have been if I lived in India.”

My mom is the perfect example. In the States, she’s just another immigrant. She’s undereducated, quiet and polite to the unsuspecting paintbrush. But in another gallery, on another canvas, she is witty, smart and sassy (not unlike her adorable daughter). She is so many stories.

When I hear of a coworker or friend’s other life, the life they had back in their passport country, their jobs and marriages, I feel, squeaky door opening. I think about how we have just uncorked a bottle of this year’s wine, and how many other stories stir within the cellar. And I kind of like the mystery behind people, what they were like, and try to imagine them in their previous roles.

photo by: http://pcsitaly.wordpress.com/

But what I don’t like is when folks forget that we all come from varied and full bodied backgrounds filled with the kind of flavor non-fiction delivers so well. Because we assume the person standing before us is a single story, a dimension without time and space. But if we can remember that this person is a multi-storied tower, I feel we will find our interactions more pleasing and fascinating. I think this is why it’s harder to respect a younger person, as oppose to an older one.

However, regardless of age, behind the single story is another story, waiting to exhale, waiting for its turn around the spotlight.  And I hope to remember that I am seeing just one story in the multitude of storylines, because stories make up who we are.

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9 replies on “Life before expat

  1. Exactly! Which is why I travel…I want to engage someone new into revealing some of their truths, stories, realities! Great post Lani!


    1. Thanks so much. Your comment reminds me of when you meet someone randomly, like on a long bus ride. When your an expat you meet some colorful people!


  2. WOW! I’m so glad you posted that video! She’s such a great speaker- I am totally moved!


    1. Hey, good to hear from you. I’ve been thinking of writing for an update 🙂 And yes, she is amazing. I loved hearing about her experiences…


  3. One of my favorite Chimamanda talks, and a spot on post. It’s amazing how even knowing about the single story we’re all still so susceptible to limited world views. An excellent reminder that we really need to think more broadly about the things presented to us as fact.


    1. Oooo. I didn’t know she had more than one talk. I will have to look them up. Thanks for the compliment, I love me some compliments…Cheers, yo.


  4. THIS is why I follow your writings Lani. THIS is amazing. The video of Chimamanda warmed my heart and re-opened my mind. Your comments actually gave me chill bumps. THIS is enlightenment of a sort; a sort that can help to heal everyone in this world.

    I have been in a racially mixed marriage for thirty years. Between that and my travels I have seen and had to deal with the “single story” many times over. What shocks me is that for all I have learned, for my relative open mindedness and tolerance of others, that sometimes I still fall for the “single story”. Every time I feel ashamed for my overly simple judgments of other. I have concluded that the opening of my heart and mind is a never ending story.

    A final thought. The media in the US is one of the saddest stories of the “single story” ever told. The slant and bias sold to Americans as news raises so many emotional reactions in me that I do not know where to begin. It is completely disgusting. Currently, we have alternative news choices thanks to the internet. This is a time, who knows how long it will last, of true light and wealth for knowledge seekers. Thank you for what you contribute.

    Regards, Jim


    1. Thanks Jim. It’s really lovely to hear positive and uplifting remarks on my own blog!!! I like your line: “I have concluded that the opening of my heart and mind is a never ending story.” Believe me, I definitely have that ‘knee jerk reaction’ when I see expats or tourists. CM is an easy place to judge and ‘single story’ people into a small existence. Why can’t I be perfect already!!!!! 😛 (Oh, and don’t get me started on the media!)


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