Shannon Garrity, Study Abroad Student at James Cook University – Townsville
No feeling can honestly compare to how free I felt on the streets of Bangkok with thousands of smiling people from all over the world laughing, dancing, and soaking each other. My friends and I just so happened to arrive in Thailand for our lecture recess on Songkran, their New Year – where they participate in the largest water fight in the world since it is the hottest month of the year. Thai locals pour flour all over internationals and everyone soaks each other with water guns and buckets. I was continually amazed at how peaceful the celebration was…
Part of our tour group getting ready for the water fight!
Though, it was only a few days later, after coming out of the absolutely stunning Koh Sok National Park that I heard there was a bombing in my home city of Boston. One can assume the fierce amount of panic I felt in that moment until I reached my family and friends who could have been in the city or attended the marathon I attend almost every year. Though blessed, all I know who were there are okay, my heart hurts terribly for all of those directly affected.
Breath-taking Koh Sok National Park, on our small wooden boat ride to the bungalows.
It was after this that I truly appreciated every moment of peace around me. I looked back at my experience at Songkran and smiled at the utter beauty in the ways the people treated each other. Since I’m studying to become a humanitarian worker and ironically taking anthropology of violence class in Australia in the hopes of becoming more aware of issues throughout the world…I did see some of the worst slums I’d ever seen on our travels from place to place, but I also met some of the friendliest people in the world whose dependence on material things like the majority of the first world simply was not present.
Floating Bungalows on Koh Sok National Park.
Not only that, the beauty in the land itself was one of a kind. So, whenever worries turned toward back home, not only was I surrounded by the incredible Thai people, I had so many back-packers in our group who were the first to comfort me…one of the absolute wonders of Thailand were the bonds of back-packers are unlike any other due to the being the number one destination in the world.
Thus, part of my studies is realizing the reality that violence exists and it can strike at any time. Yet, part of overcoming violence is recognizing the beauty of the different forms peace takes. So, though I was half a world away from my home that was in lockdown – what brought me peace? The kindness in the Thai people unlike any other, the placidity while sleeping in floating bungalows in a national park and the adventurous feeling riding an elephant in the jungle…it’s in moments like that which I found peace within myself, it’s in moments of bonding with other backpackers that I found peace in others, and it’s reflecting upon the strength of my home city and the beauty of a foreign one celebrating the most magnificent holiday I’ve ever been apart of that I see peace in other cultures.
My friends and I elephant trekking in the jungle, incredible!
I am so incredibly grateful to have ventured to Thailand when I did, learning of another culture’s whose ways were unlike anything I’d ever seen. Personally, professionally, and culturally I learned first hand that though violence will always be present, the power of peace can prevail in so many forms. Every culture has a unique sense of serenity and despite the chaos of being hosed down by water all day; I found my serenity in Thailand on its busiest streets and its craziest holiday…such an unpredictable, wonderful place to find it!
Sign to the road with the biggest Songkran celebrations in Bangkok.