After an increasingly restless (and teach-less) week in Pla Pak I decided to make a trip into Nakhon Phanom on Saturday. The main reason for the trip was to run some errands for my upcoming month of travel. However, once I was settled on the baht bus and zooming past sprawling rice fields and small villages towards the “big city,” I realized I was getting a lot more out of the trip than dental floss and lotion; it had been several weeks since I last left the boundaries of Pla Pak and I was excited to move.
Once in town, I was making my way to a Kodak shop to develop film when I passed by the “Fresh Market, ” a bustling open-air market that sells items ranging from fruits, veggies and fish to clothes, shoes and hardware. As I walked past trying to locate the stall where I recently bought two skirts, I imagined telling the shopkeeper how happy I was with the purchase and how much cooler I’ve been in the classroom the past month. All of a sudden I heard a woman exclaim “…song ga-pong…” (or in English, “something something … two skirts … something something”). I turned around and there was the very shopkeeper, smiling widely at me! I couldn’t believe it-she actually remembered (if I understood correctly) me as one of her customers. Through my utter surprise I tried to convey how much I liked the skirts and that my students had complimented me too. I continued walking down the street with one of the biggest smiles I’ve worn all week.
My quick trip into town included most of my favorites: dinner at the Night Market, coffee at Meringue, and time with fellow WorldTeach volunteers, Kara and J (who says hello). While I admit I have long established my “favorites” in the city, previous trips into Nakhon Phanom did not feel like home to me. Though it still stirs some tumultuous emotions I formed during orientation, this trip felt different. Maybe it was because a street vendor recognized me. Maybe it was because I finally knew my way around. Or maybe it was because I had people to meet up with once I arrived. Whatever it was, this sense of belonging made me feel both at home and homesick. Ironically I found that these feelings of comfort only reminded me of the places back in the States I call home.
Perhaps it’s time to add one more place to the list?