Driving in Los Angeles
I remember at one point while I was in Thailand someone told me “When you get back, all of this will feel like a dream”. Well, it’s true. The good and the bad have blended into a hazy dreamlike thing of “Was I really in Thailand?” Even still, some evident factors remain that I have been somewhere else and I have experienced mild reverse culture shock. It surprisingly hasn’t hit me too badly as of yet.
Benjamin and I’s friend and musician Kevin
When I first arrived at the Los Angeles airport (LAX) and began to go through customs I found myself resisting the urge to wai and say “sah wah di kah” (hello) to the airport security. I found myself having to force myself not to smile at everyone I saw or met. Most of all, I found myself absolutely exhausted by everything. When we passed security and went to grab our bags I noticed feeling comfort by looking at Thai people with white string around their arms or Buddhist amulets. For me they were a piece of Thailand and a piece of comfort in this now alien airport.
We exited the airport and made our way to our destination. I found myself drawn to the empty looking streets of Los Angeles as we drove. The streets were wider than I remembered them, the sidewalks more empty. I thought about how silly it was for a street to be so wide. In Thailand dozens of motorcycles are constantly driving past as you walk down the sidewalk and vendors surround you on every street. It was strange seeing a place with no one around.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night, sitting bleary eyed and wondering where I was and then waking up to the morning light of Los Angeles. It took me a few minutes to adjust to my new now unfamiliar surroundings. Being here is certainly different than being in Southeast Asia. We met up with a friend of ours and went to an Indian grocery store. He recounted how different he found Los Angeles after being in New York City for a month; how he realized how much LA wasn’t built for walking, without sidewalks and big gaping streets. We drove into Balboa Park and sat watching ducks while we ate samosas. I couldn’t help but notice how many tiny dogs there are in LA as people walked by. We watched runners in groups and old men fishing at a lake in front of us. The whole time I was thinking what a stereotypical American park it was; picturesque, runners, dogs, and kites flying in the background.
A man I met in a small Thai village
Even now that another day has passed I am finding it harder and harder to encompass the idea that I was in Thailand. That it wasn’t part of my imagination or a lengthy dream. I can look at the white string around my wrist that was placed in blessing or the fact that I leave my shoes outside of houses as evidence that I really went, that it really happened. I am now faced with the inevitability of jet lag, a more intense one than I have ever faced before. I find myself staying up until three, waking up at four and again at 11:30 only to have to take a nap for three hours at 12:30. So I apologize for any incoherency.
Benjamin playing banjo
We’ll arrive back in Ottawa in a few days from now and in a few weeks my life will re-assume studying, buying groceries and scheduled dinners. I find myself incredibly lucky that I was granted this opportunity and even now, in Los Angeles I can’t help but dream about what my future excursions will bring.
- Leia Atkinson