A week before I left, I was having wine with a friend when I expressed an insecurity I had about when I return from my trip: my identity. I’ll be almost 27, unemployed, looking for a job, and struggling for money. I don’t think that sounds very attractive or impressive. Especially in a city full of ambitious and successful people.
He stopped me and said, “You’re looking at the glass half empty. You need to look at the glass half full. This experience will show people you’re adventurous, can save money, and aren’t afraid to take risks.”
I’m sure hundreds of people have told me in my life to look at the glass half full — not half empty — but this time it really stuck. And I’ve been thinking a lot about it since I’ve been in this village because, well, I’ve had a lot of time to think. There really is nothing to do, and the Internet only works half the time. Last weekend I kept asking, “What do people do here?” There’s one restaurant, but like the Internet, it’s only open half the time. Same with the coffee shop. And that’s because the people who run these establishments live in them, too. Their hours of operation are at their mercy.
But this week I finally got a glimpse into what the locals do for fun. Wednesday night, I saw flashing Christmas-like lights and heard music across the street. My roommate Eva and I decided to take a look. Turns out it was a little girl’s birthday party. Her parents were drinking beer, and the kids were running around playing games. They invited us to join and insisted we eat a slice of cake. They taught us a few Thai phrases, and we shared a couple laughs over our funny pronunciations. It was a great evening.
The next night they were outside in the front yard again, so I stopped by to say hi. They were making a list of items they needed for a weekend camping trip. When I returned to the school the rest of the volunteers were chatting in the common area, so I joined them. Elisa — who is a 64-year-old French woman — was talking about a solo retreat she went on a few years ago in India. A solo retreat is when you seclude yourself from society for as many days as you want. No Internet. No human connection. She did this for 40 days. I asked her what surprised her the most during that time, and she said, “that you don’t need much to be happy.”
In a way, I felt like this notion of the glass half full — as cliche as it is — came full circle. Here I’ve been looking at what this village lacked, rather than what it has. It may not have a movie theater, town bar, good WiFi, or a shopping center, but it does have kind people who love and care deeply about each other. It also has a school with great teachers who really care about the kids. For them, that’s all they need to be happy. And that’s the glass half full.