Oh! The Places I’ll Go

IMG_3036, originally uploaded by linseyis.

It’s New Years Eve. The Thai sun shines in across the far east wall of the old city of Chiang Mai. Paper lanterns line the street, the stage at Thape Gate, poised for song and dance. Someone tests fireworks in the distance. Another year has passed. One-hundred-and-ninety-two days traveled. Six months. The teacher in me wants to assess.

If I had to nutshell the trip so far, I’d say I have: spent more money, drank less booze, seen more villages, learned more new languages, eaten more rice, received more massages, studied more things, and felt more fulfilled than I ever have in my whole life.

At this moment, as the city begins to throb away 2008, I feel lonely—still in shock that my boyfriend found a way to escape the county whose airports were closed. In my loss, I’ve yet to activate my “normal” outgoing Linsey self, introducing and being a part of those around me. Though, I have to keep in mind that solitude and loneliness does not always equate to being unhappy. My writing, and my yoga practice—both of which I said I’d dutifully attend to on the road—need some help. These activities I must do alone. And, quite simply, it’s okay for me to be lonely once in a while. I can’t always commune with the elephants and backpackers of the world.

Part of the reason I set out on this journey was to discover an organization with which I could donate my time, energy and funds. As I’ve traveled from Africa to India, Nepal, Thailand and Laos, I have encountered numerous places that need aid. I’ve seen humans at their worst: governments participating in the disenfranchisement of minorities (the Maasi in East Africa, the Tharu in Nepal, the Karin in Burma and Thailand) parents selling their children, owners stabbing elephants, and, on a smaller but equally inhumane scale: thieves snatching from pockets, a woman struggling with packages and not one of the hundreds around her to help, dogs and humans left listless in the streets. Small and large scale atrocities not even whispered about during the five o’clock news.

Thankfully, however, my travels have also uncovered a brighter light. For every heart-wrenching problem I witnessed, I can honestly say at least one organization exists to alleviate that ill. A free dog clinic in Goa, India. A bear sanctuary in Luang Prabang, Laos. Myriad AIDs groups in Tanzania. Though their niches and radius may span small, concerned, humane and involved citizens do exist. Looking around, it would be easy to say that the world is truly going to shit. Normally, I’d jump right on that tuk-tuk. But the people like Michael Hess, Jenaya Rockman, Lek Chaildert, Elle from Paris, Classisa and Nathan of Perth—these everyday people with big ideas and bigger hearts have become my heroes.

And I’m happy to report that I have found that organization with which to work. The Working Elephant Program of Asia (WEPA) is a grassroots program who has started to make headway in Nepal, though serendipitously, I ran into them in Thailand. Because Nik was in country for an extra week, I pushed my time at the elephant sanctuary back by one. It was that second week when Helena, founder of WEPA and Andrew, trainer for the organization came to ENP. I missed most of their presentation because I was too busy watching a friend receive her first tattoo, but the message did not slip past me: the Asian elephant is in grave danger, physically and emotionally. We must do what we can to help. In this case, it means implementing a humane training program for mahouts, who normally use abusive tactics to get the animal to obey. After a few minutes chatting, I knew the program was where my heart was, and Helena invited me to begin working with the team, in the form of writing grants.

Earlier I mentioned my loneliness. It is said that when you do things for others, you feel better about yourself. I can attest to this on many different occasions as they have occurred on this trip. Just last week, I have learned the Japanese healing system called Reiki. After my level one course, my instructor invited me to go to a local hospital to practice on its patients. I found myself in the Chiang Mai psyche hospital, home to approximately 200 women, 49% of who suffer from schizophrenia.

I treated two women, the second, so fidgety that I found it difficult to perform the session. I spent about ten minutes giving Reiki to her head, at which point she fell asleep. When I finished, I watched the woman sleep. I suspect that our session was the first time in a long time that the woman was touched in a loving, healing manner. The first time she felt comfortable enough to fall asleep while a stranger laid hands on her body. And then I took stock of the fact that I was in a mental hospital in Thailand. That I had wandered around Burma two days earlier. That I spent Christmas at an organic farm where the sun glowed an impossible scarlet. That I had spent fourteen days feeding a blind elephant and as much time trying to befriend a sixteen year old Nepali girl. That I participated in a religious frenzy in a rural Tanzanian village and watched the sun set over the world’ highest peak. That the Great Migration had moved under me as I soared above in a hot air balloon.

Oh! the places I’ve been! The people I’ve met! I think back exactly one year ago, when I was dumbfounded by money and how to get out of the country and how to realize what seemed an impossible dream. About my first day on the road, where I cried out of loneliness and fear. Sure, I may be alone tonight, but I’m living my dream. Found what I set out to find. The sun shines its last light of 2008. And maybe I’m PMS-ing, or maybe it’s the 9% beer, or the realization that the world is both much lovelier and sweeter than I’d imagined…These days, it’s clear that I—little ‘ole me, with weak upper body strength, stubby, almost webbed toes and a heart that believes—can do just about anything. I can change the world.

Happy New Year

Picture: Linsey’s booty up the granite at Crazy Horse Crags, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Oh The Places You’ll Go


5 Responses to “Oh! The Places I’ll Go”

  1. 1 Mom
    January 2, 2009 at 3:30 am

    Damn good thing your mother didn’t see you doing this!!

  2. 2 Erin
    January 4, 2009 at 5:21 am

    If you really like to rock climb, you should come with me to “Pump Wall” sooo much fun and it’s an amazing area. There are huge rocks maybe 2 ft. behind where you climb and the ocean crashes up against them. All of the kinesiology majors love it there…

  3. 3 Adriana
    January 5, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Damn girl, love reading your updates. But you make me jealous!!! I wanna leave again!! Can’t wait till hear the rest of your adventures!!! Great pictures too!!!

  4. 5 Romy
    January 9, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Beautifully written! Isn’t what you’ve found what everybody wants? Yay you! 6 more months to go, or will you ever return? Love, Romy

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