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health + home

everything else in life.

lessons learned in 2013 - a year in review

Caitlin Surakitbanharn

2013 is almost over (what?) and it's also been just a bit over a year since i peaced from the US for my embarkation on a Japanese adventure.  and i was thinking...wow this last year has been crazy...i saw the world, met great people, and i learned soo so much.  so in retrospect (it's always good to think back)....these are my biggest 2013 lessons learned!

1.  wear a helmet - the most important lesson i learned in 2013 was the importance of wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle.  now, i don't do any kind of aggressive bicycle riding, just casual to-and-from school, but as i learned, that's more than enough time/distance to effectively take you out.... so i learned that if you decide NOT to wear a helmet, you can end up laid up in a Japanese hospital with a bleeding brain and looking like this.....



i wish i could tell you what happened but i have 0% memory of it (i suppose that's what happens when you slam your head into the sidewalk) and none of the memories have come back. it was like someone took the memory card out of my brain for 6 hours and cleared it.  if i would have been wearing a helmet, i still may have been scraped up but who gives a shit at that point?  cuts/scrapes are small potatoes compared to a BLEEDING BRAIN.  although Japanese hospital gowns are actually really chic pajamas...4 days in the hospital was 4 days too many!  if you're getting on a bike, motorcycle, snowboarding, skiing...whatever...WEAR A HELMET.   i will NOT get on my bicycle without one now.  (FYI i'm fine now, i healed 100%).

2.  languages are hard - it's been a year since i started studying new languages, and DAMN you guys. but hey....i can now read japanese.  and i can speak thai.  like i actually sit down and tell you about my day in thai (slowly...but i can do it).  i don't speaks Japanese as well because i decided to focus fully on Thai.... it's more valid to my life now, with a Thai husband and Thai family, and we want our future little one to speak Thai... but i can still read japanese which makes me feel awesome.  

i guess the lesson here is that ....Thai is probably one of the most difficult languages for western folks to learn; it's tonal, it's confusing, it's tonal (oy)..it's HARD.  but when aptly motivated, when it's about your family and about your future...it's amazing how easy it is to sit down every day and practice, and that's what it takes.  i learned that no matter the size of the task, it's doable.  


the most rewarding thing that has come from my study of Thai this past year is in September, we visited Thailand again, and we got to see our little niece, Jaoka, again.  Jaoka is my obsessions..she's the sassiest, cutest, most amazing little 2 year old girl and she's MY little niece and i love her so much...but when we first met earlier this year, we couldn't communicate.  she doesn't know any english and i didn't know any Thai.  but in September, i sat down with her on the couch and we looked at an animal book, and we were able to talk to each other, telling each other which animals we liked (and which we didn't), we taught each other the words for the animals in our respective languages, and it was amazing...i was able to talk to this little girl, to communicate with her...it was the MOST amazing thing in the world.  like i literally felt my heart burst.

3. racism is happening & it hurts - it's naive of me, i know, but i genuinely don't view the world in black, white, asian, middle eastern...whatever.  i don't look at someone and see them as black.  or asian.  they're just..whoever they are.  i am unaffected by the issue of race, and it blows my mind that people still are affected by race or even notice it.  i KNOW its naive...i know tons of people are full of hate but i've never experienced it really.  when i met Jao i wasn't like..omg he's asian.  i thought..he's wonderful, he's gorgeous, he's smart, he's kind.... but wow do other people see that he's asian!  

i had friends tell me "i can't believe you're dating an asian!" (not in a hateful way, but they noticed nonetheless), and when the two of us were traveling together in more conservative New England...WOW were people highly disapproving of our interracial relationship.  

and now living in Japan... the older generation (the first post-WWII generation) really disapproves of me being in their country, and they really disapprove of me being with an asian man.  they think Jao is japanese...and they've TOLD me in the locker room...told me to my face...that me being married to him is a degradation of Japanese culture and our child will be an abomination.    i mean minus the fact that he's not japanese... it BLOWS MY MIND that this is a real thing that is happening.  and it's painful and it has made me cry and it makes me angry...but it's made me a better, stronger person too.

4.  home is a person, not a place - i have truly found my soulmate and home is no longer a place, it's being with him.  whether it's in our beautiful home in our bed, or on the most ghetto train traveling through Myanmar, or our friend's apartment in Lyon or a small bed in the south of France....or on an airplane crossing the world a million times over, i'm home as long as he's next to me.





5. the world is enormous but smaller than you think - in the last year i've been around the world and seen some of the most beautiful things my eyes have ever seen.  i watched the sun rise in Tokyo, got on a place and chased the sun around the world and then watched the same sun set in Milan.  and in this process i've met some of the MOST incredible people.  people who took me in as their family immediately.  people who love Jao and because i am his, immediately love me too.  the world is a big place, but with all these people all over the world that are in my corner...the world feels small and cozy. so small that i know if something were to happen anywhere in the world and i needed someone...within 12 hours, these people would all be at our doorstep to take care of me.  that's a pretty incredible feeling.









i'm sure i've learned a lot more this year - but those are the big ones....and pretty good ones i think.  the past year has been really good to me, i feel like i've learned more in the last year than i have in my whole life....and i feel like i know nothing.  

i think the old saying is true...the more you know, the more realize that you know nothing.

cheers to an incredible year, and to what will surely be an AWESOME 2014!