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health + home

everything else in life.

a year in review - 2014 was everything

Caitlin Surakitbanharn

it's January 4th and we celebrated the arrival of 2015 here in Bangkok with...a bang, obviously.  free flowing champagne, dancing until 2:30 in the morning, sequins, sparkles, the most perfect sunset.  looking back at 2014, it's hard to even believe how incredible it was.  we did SO much, saw SO much, learned SO much, loved SO much.  i even finished up my Masters in engineering and now i'm rocking on towards my Ph.D!!!

i always like to think back on the year and reflect on what i, without further ado.....the life lessons of 2014.

1.  it's not where you are or what you're doing, it's who you're with

Jao and i were lucky enough to travel quite a bit this year.  europe, asia, the US.  but when people ask me about where we went or what we did, all i remember is who we were there with.  i don't really have a lot of commentary about France or about Amsterdam itself...but oh my god i still laugh out loud thinking about Philippe telling Kasper to wave at him from the other side of river and Kasper responded (in reference to his Bruce Lee tshirt)  "Bruce doesn't wave."  and i will never forget drunkenly dancing with Ivy at some dive bar we found.  or talking about online dating with Jason and Eli over some ice cream.  i realized this year that it doesn't even matter WHAT you are doing or where you're doing it...what matters is that you're with your people.   everything i love here in Bangkok i love it because i share it with Jao.  all our travels have been so spectacular because of the people we're cruising with.  i know that in most of the places i've been, i've missed out on seeing a majority of the attractions....but what i haven't missed is the experiences.  i may not have seen any of the "must sees", but i collected 365 days worth of hilarity, love, and happiness with my friends and family this year.

wild nights with the Kaz and Ivy

a bbq with my family and puppies

drinks with Ania 

Amsterdam with the crew

Bastille Day with Etienne and his family

a mountain temple in Japan with Nalisha

bachelor/bachelorette weekend with alex, jen, and andre

disney sea in japan with Jason and Eli (jason won't like this picture but i love it because it's very fantastically Jason!)

2.  Languages are still hard but confidence is key.  and mistakes are OK!

most days while living here in Bangkok and speaking thai, i still feel like this frog.  kinda silly, a little bit unsure, and unnaturally off-balance.  however, compared to last year, i'm making progress.  i've learned that confidence is key.  power through.  if the chick selling the fruit doesn't understand me, i just keep trying.  if they try to speak english back to me, i just keep responding in Thai.  like no habla english, you guys.  Thai is a HARD LANGUAGE. but turns out, i surprise myself.  i can have conversations with people now.  i can communicate. i learn more every day and i've learned that for every time that i screw up, i usually succeed the next 10 times.  i can like go shopping and totally conduct conversations with shopkeepers IN THAI.  and hey most importantly, i can talk to my nieces, Jaoka and Jaoying (pictured below).  we can communicate so much that Jaoka (the older one) actually sees me and yells out "AUNT CATE!" (in thai of course) and directs me over to where we'll be playing that day.  so while i was always nervous and afraid of screwing up before, i've figured out that i learn more by just making the mistake and being less nervous. it's still hard and i still feel weird sometimes but you guys, it's becoming natural.  i CAN do it.

3.  you can be too rich, too poor, too skinny, too fat, too loud, etc....but you can never be too well-read.

something ignited in me this year to learn.  i mean yes i'm a student, obviously and i learn a lot about my research topic continually.  but i was REALLY inspired this year by my trip to Abu Dhabi in the UAE...particularly our visit to a mosque there.  i wrote about it earlier this year, how wonderful our guide was and how much i learned, but once i left, i realized that i needed to learn more.  i started reading, reading, reading.  reading more and more and more about American and global politics, the wars in the Middle they started and how we got to where we are today.  i started reading about the politics on both sides, from both points of view, and seeing political issues not as an American, but as a global citizen.  i realized this year, through all of my reading, that if we ever hope to have any chance at ever coming to a kind of "cease-fire" between the west and the middle east, we need more people who are willing to look at things from their perspective too. and i've been inspired this year to help be that change, be in the group that's proactively leading that charge.  i've read more about the history and history of politics in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria in the past year that i have in my entire life.  and of course the more i read, the more i realize i don't know anything and just need to read more.  it's been a really rewarding succession.

enjoying tea, juice, and my book up in the mountains of Thailand.

visiting Ahu Dhabi, where my passion was re-ignited.  

4.  Don't focus on eliminating the bad, focus on increasing the good.

a lot of new years resolutions focus around...foods you shouldn't eat anymore, people you shouldn't be around anymore, things you shouldn't do anymore.  this year i learned that focusing on the good, on what you SHOULD do, leads to a more fulfilling life.  i know snickers are bad for me.  i still like them.  but i also really love green mango, boiled chicken and rice, green curry with fermented rice noodles, E-San style sausage, coconut juice, and som tum, which are all not bad for me.  so instead of telling myself YOU CAN'T EAT SNICKERS....i think more about omg the sausage lady is at the market today!!!  eat more sausage!!!!  and then who wants a snickers when you're full of delicious sausage and green mangoes?  and i mean, there are lots of people who stress me out.  but there are also lots of people that i love being around.  so instead of worrying about the ones who stress me out, i'll focus my energy and effort on being around the ones that are awesome.  i'm not actively angry at the stressful ones, i just choose to focus my energy towards the good ones.  it's way easier.  and you know, life isn't supposed to be hard :-)

5.  having everyone you love all together at once place is SO RARE.  cherish it.

Jao and i had our wedding earlier in 2014.  it was spectacular.  but when i think back to it, what was most spectacular is that every person we love and care about...everyone was there, in one place at one time.  and the more i think about that, the more i realize that that moment probably will never happen again.  and WOWZA!  how lucky were we to have that moment! wasn't even about the wedding, it was about all the people that matter being there with us.

a chat with Bryce at the monastary.

my new crazy family.

sarah :-)

my grandpa, Popsie.  one of my favorite memories of that day was seeing how happy he was that entire day to see me happy.  he was so overwhelmed to see how HAPPY i am.  i've been his little Kitty since i was born :-)

whisky with the Purdue guys.

the best and oldest friends we have.

my beautiful parents.

Bill and Steve raging.

Garrett, my bestie forever and ever and done.

dancing the most perfect night away with Alex.

6. the place where fit in might be somewhere that you stand out.

living in Thailand was never something i expected.  i had always just hoped to visit, never even considered the possibility of imagining that i'd live here.  i never expected to be able to speak thai and i certainly never expected Bangkok to feel like IT.  Bangkok has a unique grip on me.... i can't really even put it into words but i f'ing LOVE IT HERE.  i love every piece of this city, the good and the bad.  jao and i feel like this is HOME.  i love the people, the rhythm, the pace of life, the food, the attitude, the "do your thing" mantra, the openness, the wildness.  i can be myself here, no expectations from anyone.  and ....i look different.  i (obviously) don't look thai.  i'm not thai.  but no one cares here.  at the market we go to in the morning, they know me now and no one even looks twice.  at the fresh market at the university, i order my e-san sausage and talk to the coconut juice lady, and the only thing they ever say about me is i'm the white girl who speaks thai!  the coconut juice lady told me a few weeks ago "i always remember you - you're the only westerner here who speaks thai!  have a great day!"  

living here in Bangkok is IT for me.  i am so obsessed with this city, and now that i have permanent residency, coming and going with Jao is easy.  living here becomes more awesome every single day.  

2014 was a fantastic year full of LIFE.  i said it last year and i'll say it again.  the more i learn, the more i realize i know nothing.  2014 was the BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE.  (i said that about 2013 last year too....) - it's so AMAZING to know that life just keeps getting better.  the best is yet to come.

CHEERS to 2015!  May ALL your pain be champagne!