Thailand Chronicles: Final Stretch (16+ Weeks In — Less than 7 Days Until Reentry)

I write from a Vietnamese hotel room overlooking the famous Dragon Bridge that spans the Han River in the heart of Da Nang (a coastal city). My friend and assistant coach, Pi Klouy, chats in Thai in her bed as we unwind from our post-dinner excursion with the team searching for street venders selling coconuts and trying sugar cane juice. We arrived in Vietnam yesterday afternoon and have already experienced a panorama of new sights and sounds, misunderstandings, communication breakthroughs and breakdowns, successes, failures, frustrations, elations, and rogue shower heads — and we haven’t even started competition.
I can’t believe how quickly the summer has flown. Here I stand, on the doorstep about to leave Bangkok (and the people, friends, family, challenges, and opportunities for growth I’ve met here) in the past. I don’t think about it too much. I don’t really want to preview how sad I will turn out to be when I’m leaving it behind.
We’re going to hit the sack so I can’t write too long, but here are a few recap lists for your reading pleasure:
Things I will miss terribly about Thailand
  1. Riding my bike frogger-style amongst the crazy traffic.
  2. Greeting the security guards and condo workers I passed every day.
  3. Being able to buy fruit literally everywhere.
  4. Popping in to the BSAT office and hanging out with some of my favorite people (including my Thai Mom).
  5. The abundance of interesting foods available about every 100 meters from street vendors.
  6. Getting around by water taxi.
  7. Hanging out with my team.
  8. Getting to live a lifestyle that, on my favorite days, looked like this: Wake up, go to the gym, go home, get something done, go to the gym, eat, go ride my bike around, go to the gym, go home, eat, plan, sleep.
  9. My cozy high-rise apartment.
  10. My wonderful church family at EveryNation, Bangkok.
  11. My fantastic friends — from people I ran into in the street to people connected with basketball in various capacities, fellow coaches, athletes, musicians, referees, vendors, teachers, missionaries, and more. So many dear people that I will miss.
Things I won’t miss about Thailand
  1. The heavy fumes of pollution inhaled whenever you were anywhere near a roadway
  2. Some of the smells you experienced while out and about that were, shall I say, impressively pungent and not altogether pleasant
  3. Not having a kitchen
  4. The ants and occasional baby cockroach in my room
  5. The language barrier — though it’s a good and worthwhile challenge, this sometimes made it deeply difficult and isolating
Most memorable moments while in Thailand
  1. Our practice gym and the things we had to bootstrap to make the place work. We used a propped-up table for a whiteboard. We, on several occasions, put holes in the floor while trying to move monstrous basketball hoops back and forth over ancient wooden flooring. A bat usually greeted me in the early mornings when I arrived to turn on the lights. When it rained, sometimes the roof would leak. And through it all, we managed to make basketball happen. It was glorious.
  2. My Mom’s visit. Because whose Mom comes to visit them when they are living in Bangkok? I haven’t heard of many!
  3. My trips to Ratchaburi and Chiang Mai with the BSAT team. So many good memories.
  4. My travel to Hua Hin with a friend and his extended family, and my trip to Bang Saen to meet another dear friend and her family. Both were priceless.
  5. Getting to slosh through 8 inches, 12 inches, on occasion even up to maybe 20 inches of rain in the streets when it rained. So fun. (Mom might disagree? She got to experience the most exciting instance.)
  6. Taking the fitness test with my team. I did reasonably well and didn’t hurt myself. Two pluses.
  7. Hitting a car while on my bike. (I’ll tell you the story if you want. I promise I’m a good rider. I just happened to not have brakes at the time.)
  8. A few incredible conversations about God, both with fellow believers from church and friends who don’t yet believe in Jesus.
  9. Eating the. strangest. things. I’ve ever eaten. I think I compiled a list elsewhere in this blog. But a few notables include gelatinous drink made from bird spit, congealed lobster blood in coconut milk, a dessert consisting of a wet egg yolk inside a warmed pastry ball crusted in toasted in watermelon seeds, fried fish spines, chicken feet, fish eyes, etc.
  10. Learning how to make a team hum by utilizing everyone’s strengths. I think we began to achieve this point of flywheel-like momentum and that glimpse was immensely satisfying and tantalizing.
I will write again soon — and the next post may come from the great city of Chicago rather than the incredible Orient. Can’t wait to see a lot of shining faces that I haven’t seen in a long time. Keep moving forward.

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