Berline Exume, 130 TESS
At some point in our service, volunteers will forget for a moment what being “home” feels like. We get caught in between two worlds, this new world and life in Thailand, and the one we left back in America. We don’t quite fit in our new world, as we are foreigners who are constantly adjusting and we forget what it felt like to be apart of our old one. We start to lose sight of what and where home is. During our time here, we’ll have to define and redefine what “home” is to us, especially when our view starts to get foggy and our perspectives shift. It is an internal conflict that takes time and intentionality to work through over and over again.
I am at a point in my service where I’m redefining home…again. When I originally moved to my site I lived on an island, Koh Tammalang. After five months, I moved off the island and found a new place to lay my head. I started to feel a disconnect between where I currently live in the city and where my school, the heart of this mission, is located. I travel to this island everyday, but I couldn’t quite call it home. It made me feel like I was on the outside looking in, all the while I was on the inside
For the sake of all things and people involved I had to step aside and apply a new lens. I stopped looking at my island as just this place where I work, and started to look at it as the home of the students that I love so terribly. This is their refuge. This is where they get full on love and joy. This is where they feel the most free and comfortable. This is where they attend family weddings. This is where they attend family funerals. This is where they gather to play volleyball and celebrate holidays. This is where they pray together. This is where they don’t feel like the “other.”
Living in a community that is “othered” for being different in Thailand has given me the opportunity to expand my understanding of diversity. As well as, what it means to be truly empathetic. I have lived my entire life as an “other,” I get it. I understand why they stick together and are cautious to venture outside of their comfort zone. I understand why they sit at separate tables. I understand how the negative actions of one community member still falls on them as though they are not all individuals. I understand the importance of raising one another up, because if it does not come from within the community then where else will it come from?
How do I currently define “home?” I don’t. For me home is where there is love and food. Yes, that sounds awfully cliche, but it’s true. If I feel welcomed, loved, and invited that is home. If there is delicious food awaiting my presence, I will make it home. It’s in our human nature to want to be able to identify a specific space and place as “home” because we want to feel belonged and cared for. If I have learned anything about living in Thailand is this, everywhere and anywhere here can go from being just a place to where your heart is very quickly, we just have to be open to receiving the love and hospitality that comes with it. Yeah, perhaps it will require some work, to undo our previous beliefs about what falls under the “home” category, but it can be done and it’s worth it.