There is something waiting for me, just on the other side of this summer, and I am breathless to catch it.
It is a dream I’ve wanted to chase, but never have before…for a lot of reasons. For love. For stupidity. For knowledge.
For fear. Maybe most of all, fear.
But now I have a partner in crime. Someone to make a leap with me and I’m not so afraid.
And now I’m a little older. Not too old, but I’ve seen enough to know how to put aside fear.
In approximately six or seven months, my husband and I will move. Not down the street. Not upstate. Not even to another state, but to another country.
We’re moving to Thailand. I’ve never lived in a foreign country before. I’ve been there a few times before, but never longer than a month at a time. I speak some of the language and pick it up quickly when I’m there, but I will still be bewildered and out of my element. Here in America, I’m conscious of my Thai heritage. I suspect, in Thailand, I’ll become aware of just how American I really am.
We’ll be there for a year or two and then…we’ll see. My family is in Bangkok, but we want to live up in the north (where it’s cooler and a little less intense), preferably in a home that looks like this. Except with 4 bedrooms instead of 2 because we want plenty of space for family and friends to visit!
For so long I’ve wanted experience living abroad. It will an adventure and a challenge, from little mundane details on up to my sense of self. But especially since my writing deals with issues identity and culture, I think living abroad will give my writing more credibility.
And yet…writing is not all I plan to do. I’m getting the wheels rolling working as Project Director for the SOLD Project, an advocacy group in Thailand dedicated to preventing and helping victims of human trafficking and sexual servitude. I want to do what I can to help the girls (and boys) who go into the city trying to find work in restaurants or bars to support their families, but then end up abducted into prostitution. It is a black market so large, it competes with drugs and guns. It is so pervasive, numbers so large we can’t even comprehend – numbers of little girls and sold into slavery every day. It even has an impact, not only on national health, but also on GDP and terrorism. It is a problem we know about. But we don’t really know.
While I am in Thailand, I will help tutor these kids in English skills, accounting, and computer literacy, to help give them the tools they need to make a better life for themselves and their families. A better life for girls like her:
The really sweet spot is that my dissertation (which focuses on school environments and how the community you come from shapes your political attitudes, beliefs, behaviors – the values and skills you develop in becoming a citizen in a democracy) helped me form valuable relationships with local high schools in California. I am setting up a pilot program (and I already have a few teachers on board) creating an email penpal partnership between the kids in Thailand and their counterparts here in the U.S. The goal is, through this email relationship, the kids in Thailand will not only get practice in English literacy skills that can help give them an edge in finding a job, but also hopefully learn to dream about a better life, have goals for something better, through which they can gain the motivation to stay in school and not end up in brothels. The goal for the students here in the U.S. is to increase global awareness and cultural sensitivity – and learn how their simple actions can have far reaching implications. My program is called “Operation Shackle Free”. I’m starting with just a few classrooms, but pending success, I hope to grow the program over time.
Over the next few months, I’ll probably be posting quite a bit about our preparations for leaving. But once I’m there, I hope my blog will become a chronicle of the daily challenges, struggles, and – hopefully – triumphs as we embark on this journey. I hope to bring these kids’ stories to you too. To share their faces, their smiles and their dreams with you too.
(And we’ll avoid wearing red or yellow shirts.)