Thursday, April 7, 2011

Laying the Foundation with Tepid Tools

I feel a little ill when I think about how long it has been since I wrote last.  But to all those who think I cut ties, my mind has been busy trying to cope with, well, itself.  And only recently did I finally feel compelled to sit down and share.  It came to my attention sometime a couple weeks ago that there was confusion by some folks back home concerning my reasons for being in Thailand.  And then it came to my attention sometime a couple days ago that I may be just as confused about this, myself.

On my YouTube video on the political struggles seen in Bangkok last year, my ever-insightful uncle commented that this topic had nothing to do with trafficked women's rights.   He had every reason to show concern, too, since he was one of the many generous individuals to contribute to the cost of my trip over here, under the pretense that I would be studying the trends of prostitution.  And not just him: my friends, my family, the family of my friends, my professors...myself.  But not one thing I have posted since arriving has been on the topic of sex trafficking; rather, everything is on agricultural trends, land rights, water management, mining, and their encompassing themes of globalization, development, and human rights.  However, to his comment, I saved face by saying that I was merely laying the foundation for my senior thesis by understanding first the major themes of human rights and globalization in a Thai context before physically researching the topic of human rights and Thai women's agency.  Honestly, that really was what I believed I was doing.

It wasn't until the night before we left for our 5-night-long Unit 4 trip (April 2 - 7) that I realized that I no longer had a grasp on what my future plans were, or what the importance of a formal education in Digital Media had in my life anymroe. Nor did I see the merit of leading individuals through group process so that they could eventually make a positive impact on the world.  For weeks there was an unsettled feeling deeply set in me, but it took a verbal vomit on my friend to identify where, exactly, these feelings were stemming from.  What began with utter resentment of the fact that I will most likely be in school for another hair-graying year and a half turned quickly into questioning the legitimacy of nearly all my goals.  Before I knew it, I was stressing how naive I was to come to Thailand, thinking I could seek to ignite change in a FOREIGN country, with a language and culture I wouldn't dare come close to understanding in a mere four months, when there are ample chances to make realistic change in my backyard - literally.

In the course of these last (not quite) three months my dream of wanting to be a Social Worker/documentary-filmmaker working to better the conditions of sex workers, transformed into wanting to get into journalism, to flirting with the idea of being a policymaker, to seriously considering the steps to becoming a Human Rights lawyer (an idea I'm still tweaking).  But recently, my spirits seemed to have reached their maximum capacity for learning about institutionalized corruption against the marginalized and "impoverished." I found myself asking helpless questions like, "Why should and how do I sincerely care about the progression of someone else's movement when the issue has no direct impact on my life?" and "What can I do as an individual to initiate change at the bottom level when it is macro-level policies which direct the course of status quo?"  This isn't to say I'm already desensitized at such a ripe age of 21, or that I'm so burnt out I can't continue any of my altruistic goals.  These questions are predominantly founded on completely selfish terms.  The seed which planted these aforementioned toxic thoughts is, Can and when will I have time to get mine?

Someone once said, "You can't understand the world until you understand yourself."  I feel I understand Thailand's interconnected economical and environmental movements more than the complexities of my own country's waves of social change.  And I could probably write a novel at this point describing the depth of the 20 characters I've grown to understand since the end of January when this program started.  But it feels like I am further away from knowing myself, and therefore further estranged from this world, than when I started this journey.

I feel I should take this time to brief those who had a part to play in helping me get to Thailand: In no way am I ungrateful or unsatisfied with my decision to study here. This experience is bar non the most necessary venture I've ever had, and there is no doubt in my mind that the experiences I will take from this semester will forever shift the course of my life hereon after. If it weren't for this program, these life-enriching, life-altering mental conversations would never have taken flight.  Or at least, they may have come up in the far future when it is too late. There's a saying that your ultimate goal in life should be to find the place where the world's greatest need and your greatest passion intersect.  I know my passions.  I am just still finding where in the world there is need for them.


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