October 10, 2016

It is Thanksgiving weekend back in Canada. This is our first holiday away from our family and friends. We usually head to my Mom’s place this weekend and spend it with her on her farm. The weekend always consists of an amazing chicken dinner (my Mom is a fabulous cook) and a visit the Bridgen Fair. If the weather is good – we also have a campfire. It is one of our favourite weekends of the year.

This year on Thanksgiving, we are a long ways away from that typical weekend. We are:

  • 14,662 KM away from my Mom’s
  • On the 13th floor of a condo building
  • On an island full of hills
  • Not quite sure we can remember what Fall weather feels like

Even though our surroundings are different, and we are missing being with all of our family this weekend – we are grateful and practicing Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for, and our adventure is reminding us of that every day. Even though we are travelling slowly, and doing our best to “live” in locations (vs. tourist our way through them), sometimes it can still feel like a blur. It takes some effort to consciously sit back and “reflect” on what we are doing, and what we are learning through this. So, today, in honour of Canadian Thanksgiving – I thought I would share a few learning experiences that I’m really thankful for. Because, when you distill this whole adventure down, it is about learning.

I’m thankful for learning about food

Food is pretty important. Eating is something that we generally do several times a day, and is essential to staying alive. As I was watching Artie pull sushi off a conveyor belt the other night, it struck me just how much all of us are learning about food through this trip. We’ve eaten foods we never heard of before from grocery stores, restaurants, hawker stands, markets and farmers carts. We’ve seen food grown and raised in ways very differently from what we are used to in Canada, like the cows that graze on the side of the road in Thailand that you sometimes have to dodge on your scooter. We’ve used chopsticks, skewers, various breads and our hands as utensils, and learned that “butter knives” are not deemed essential in all parts of the world. We’ve learned how to buy non-Halal food (like BACON – which just so you know – is sold in the same area as the alcohol here in Penang… and you need to hold it up so it can be scanned when you go through the check-out line so the clerk does not need to touch it… and a special thanks to Sara for the heads up on this so I didn’t have to learn it myself the hard way).

I’m thankful for learning about other cultures and religions

Both here, and on Koh Lanta, our apartments were very close to Mosques. We hear the “Call to Prayer” regularly throughout our days…. and I’ve come to love the sound… and have deep respect for a practice that causes prayer to be such a regular and rhythmic part of life. Last night, we heard noise outside that we realized was firecrackers signalling the beginning of a parade that was part of the Double Ninth celebration (important in Chinese Culture). Our Uber driver a couple of days ago told us about this celebration and we watched much of the parade from the 13th floor. We are watching the progress on elaborate and beautiful displays that are being built for Diwali later this month. I’ve written all of this in one paragraph because all of these things happened in one day. Each and every day that we have been on this adventure, we learn so much about the people, the languages, the cultures and religions around us.

I’m thankful for the reminder of what it is to be the other… or “them”…

For the most part, people have been truly and genuinely kind and gracious to us. I am grateful for the regular reminder of how good most of the people in the world are. But… we are a tall family even in North America… our height alone makes us stand out in Southeast Asia. We are different here. Our attempts to learn and speak the language are feeble at best. We are the foreigners. We are the “other”. We are “them”… I think it does everyone good from time to time to remember what that feels like…  It doesn’t always feel good… Sometimes it feels lonely… Sometimes it feels very exposed… Sometimes it feels like shame… Sometimes it feels downright scary… The memory of that feeling when we experience it needs to be put into a precious little velvet bag and we need to keep it safe and CHERISH it… When we are on “home turf” and see someone else being treated as “them” – we need to pull that precious little velvet bag out and remember what that feels like… and let that memory, surrounded by compassion guide our actions… This is the only thing that I know that can and will bring peace and connection to a situation… and to the world… and I am grateful for the practice that all of us are getting in this.

Kay Green

About the Author

Kay Green

Professionally, I am an e-learning instructional designer who breaks down the barriers of space and time in learning. Personally, I'm the Mom in the Little-Green Family, and co-planner in our adventures.

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