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hello from the other side.

travel + culture

on the road and what's out there.


hello from the other side.

Caitlin Surakitbanharn

after 5 years, 4 countries, 4 universities (Purdue + 3 partners), 6 moves, and an immeasurable number of tears, anxiety, and frustration....I did it

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I finished my Ph.D.!  I write this to you from the other side.  I am done, I am Dr. Caitlin Surakitbanharn.

some people that get their Ph.D's or MD's or whatever, shy away from that use of Dr. with their name.  they think it makes them sound pretentious or not humble or that it's used to make you feel fancier than you really are.  but I'm not one of those people.  it's still fresh and new, and I still really love it and i don't feel bad using it at all.  DR. Caitlin Surakitbanharn, if ya nasty.  no shame in that game.

I haven't been blogging much since I returned to Purdue in January to finish my degree up.  I had eight months to 1. finish all my coursework requirements 2. teach the class I was teaching 3. finish my research 4. analyze my data 5. write my document 6. have committee meetings 7. prepare my defense 8. pass my defense and 9. have my document completed and approved.  plus cook 3 meals a day, exercise, clean the house, be a wife, be a partner, attend my sister's wedding, attend friends' weddings, travel for  there were even a few surprises - a blown up hard drive and a blood clot!  not a lot of time for blogging!

i also realized recently that i actually really hadn't blogged since the election in 2016.  every time i would think about writing, i'd stop myself because it felt frivolous.  people are losing their rights, their livelihoods are being threatened, our democracy feels threatened.  it felt silly to write about how fly the Korean girls dress on campus, or the challenges of platinum blonde hair care.  

it's not really a secret that i voted for Hillary Clinton.  and i didn't vote for her because it was a vote again Donald Trump.  i mean, it definitely was a vote against him.  but i voted for her because man...i believe in her and she inspires me daily.  i think she is incredibly bright, incredibly poised, extremely prepared, and i actually believe that she aimed to serve and better the country and the people in it.  she was, as Barack said in his speech at her nomination, the most well-qualified person to ever run for office.  and a WOMAN.  i was so ready to see a woman lead this country - i was so ready to see Hillary Clinton, this bad bitch, run this country.  

i woke up on election day in Bangkok.  i cried laying in bed, scrolling through my facebook feed, seeing women placing their "i voted" stickers on Susan B. Anthony's grave.  it was already halfway through the day there in the US, and i was so optimistic.  i was so overwhelmed by the thought that a woman was FINALLY GOING TO BE THE PRESIDENT.  that the people of our great country were going to stand up and say...NOT a man who expressed so much hatred and misogyny.  i was hoping for a landslide victory - that we as a nation would overwhelming reject the man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy or who was so violently uninformed and so comically ridiculous in his responses to serious policy questions that it made ME look like a foreign policy/economy expert (which i am nothing of the sort).  and that they would instead choose this smart, prepared woman who, while imperfect, had been preparing for this moment her entire life.  this woman who knew the world stage like the back of her hand, who was ready and willing and able to move us forward.

and i cried on the bed when the New York Times declared him the likely winner.  i cried because for all the progress we were poised for... we fell backward in a very bold and grand way.  i felt reduced down to a pussy to be grabbed by all the angry men who chanted "lock her up" and "trump that bitch" at rallies.  i felt like JUST a woman...a cog in this "man's world" yet again.  i felt like men would be emboldened by this moment, that they could again engage in sexually abusive and harassing behavior towards the women in their lives. that men would feel free again to catcall women out of their car windows, or even to their faces.  to me, in that moment and on that day, the power of what it meant to be a woman felt dimmed.  and not just because Hillary lost.  it's because she lost to him.

and then again i felt fear because i'm married to a man who isn't white.  white nationalist rage had been stoked and it was no longer politically incorrect to discuss the deportation of non-white folks or their denial of entry based on their religion.  white nationalist power groups started showing up in public, putting posters on MY GODDAMN COLLEGE CAMPUS, AT PURDUE, to promote white power and white culture, and the reports of hate crimes towards non-white people skyrocketed all over the country.  and we were poised to return to the US within the month.  i was SHOOK.  

some days i still feel that way.  i'm reading Hillary Clinton's book right now, "What Happened," and i was in tears reading her chapter about why she ran.  my god, you guys.  she was so prepared.  she cared.  she wanted to help people.  was she wrong about things? of course.  had she made mistakes?  OF COURSE.  but all of her errors and mistakes were within a realm of reason.  she wasn't outside the bounds of being human.  and no person on the face of this earth could ever deny that she was not the smartest and most well-prepared candidate for president..ever.  you may hate her, but you could never deny that she KNOWS HER SHIT.  

and to anyone who argued that she was just way too corrupt and voted either 3rd party or for him (due to that reason)'s that working out for you?  how's this whole banana-republic family authoritarian regime going for you?  i may be wrong, as i frequently am, but this whole thing is not looking super squeaky clean.

and all of this feels such a stark contrast to our environment today.  the concept of "experts" and their "expert opinions" is also known now as "fake news" or the "liberal media."  as if the many, many years you've dedicated of your life towards becoming this expert...can all be reduced down to absolutely nothing.  climate change expert?  fake news.  world-class economist?  liberal media.  lifelong foreign policy expert?  no thanks, lib.  i'll just make my own facts up.  what a time to be alive.

there was a particular incident that really bothered me.  Trump gave an interview to the editors of the Economist.  and it was just ...honestly, it was fucking breathtaking.  they didn't even write anything about it - they just transcribed the interview and published it.  he had absolutely no concept of economic policy, or honestly of the economy at all.  he just kept repeating that it would be great, greatest you've ever seen, and that things are bad. really bad, and they were going to really make it great.  

and then he told them that he'd invented a term called priming the pump.  and asked them if they'd ever heard of it.

i was so mortified for our country, reading that.  and i think the editors of the Economist deserve a Nobel Prize for not just laughing in his face and walking out.

and all of this on top of...the muslim ban, the spectacular failure of repeal and replace, the alleged repeal of DACA, A STRAIGHT-UP NEO-NAZI MARCH ON THE STREETS OF AN AMERICAN CITY ARE YOU KIDDING ME? the russian investigation, pulling out of the Paris Agreement, the insane twitter rants full of lies, conspiracy theories, and misogynistic slurs, the repeated assaults on our media and judicial systems, the pardon of joe arpaio, AND the defunding of scientific research by the EPA and their demand for prior review of any publications.  oh - and this chaotic administration that has more people quit than you could possibly imagine within the first 8 months?!  our standing in the world is dim, ya'll.  it's dim.

so yes, it felt inappropriate to discuss fierce Koreans and the fly Chinese kids that drive Ferraris at the gym on campus.  or to talk about the BEST at-home toner for platinum blonde hair.  it just felt wrong.  and so that's where i've been.

but i'm trying to pull out of that.  i don't accept ANY of this nastiness as any variation of "normal" and it will never be "the new normal."  but i also know we cannot let our lives be devoid of happiness forever (or for the next 4 years).  and as Hillary said in her book - the first step is kind of getting it out there.  so there.  it's out there.  and maybe i'll think about fly Korean chicks soon.

  but until then....i'm enjoying my new job, and still relishing my Ph.D. :-)