The Fear Isn’t in Leaving – It’s in Coming Back

I’m sitting in one of my most favorite restaurants, Lamuan Seafood, where for 10 months I’ve come to many times over and have been adopted into the hearts of the owner and the staff as part of their family. It’s been 10 months here in Khao Lak, and it’s about to end. Sitting here in Lamuan’s drinking my Chang beer there are a number of thoughts running through my head. It’s not being out of work – I’ll easily land a job with my background. Nor is it finding a place to live – that’s actually sorted out already in Austin and I’m really looking forward to that new adventure of a new city and new relationship. No! What I fear isn’t that stuff. It’s more along the lines of coming back to a culture I’ve grown so far away from while I’ve been here. And it doesn’t live in my heart that I made the impact I set out to…

The U.S. Failure

God! My journey away from the U.S. has led me to see the overwhelming arrogance of a nation, the uselessness of it’s government, and the complacency of the majority of it’s citizens. It’s not that I detest the country, I truly love the United States of America, I love what it stands for, I love the opportunities I’ve had. For those things and more I’m grateful to the ends of earth and back.
However what it stands for now means nothing to the harm it’s done. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty says:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

That promise hasn’t been kept. To it’s own people let alone the “Free World” the government says it protects. The “Free World” is now the most skeptical and guarded of all in relations to the U.S.

Bush has pulled out of so many pacts and treaties that I’m sure Fijians are shaking in their loincloths with fear of upsetting Junior into a possible war.

What is disturbing is that the people of America are OK with it!
The people of America don’t give a damn.

They were too busy watching Seinfeld when Clinton authorized weapons to be sold to the Indonesian government which went on to massacre 200,000 East Timorese people. They were too busy sucked into American Idol when Bush defied the U.N. and went to war with Iraq.

It took leaving the country and seeing these things happen from outside in to realize what I didn’t when I was there. What will it take for the rest of the country that silently cares but for which it hasn’t spawned yet? I don’t know, but I hope it happens soon – a revolution is necessary now!

This is one of the things that scare me – the complacency, the resignation and the beat down demeanor of the people that is supposed to be lifted and inspired by it’s government, but ultimately is just that: beat down by it’s own government. Oppressed by the Autocracy with no balls to do anything about it but enjoy the little sanctity they possess in their televisions.

My Failure

This doesn’t so much scare me but, it definitely weighs on me, as I prepare to go home, is that I really don’t think I’ve accomplished what I should have in the time I’ve been here. I came to Thailand with a strong vision to use my background with buildings to help others.

I don’t know if it was my stubbornness or the lack of competent management with the organizations I’ve worked with that was the hindrance, but there have been many breakdowns and I just have not been able to deal with them. I can forgive the lack of efficiency with the Thai people, it’s just a hot environment and the ordinary Thai or Moken villager doesn’t build 50 homes at a time. I believe the breakdown comes from not having a focused project manager with construction experience that has direct interaction with the village superior. Any other attempt is pointless and leads to misdirection, misinformation and misunderstanding amongst the people we’ve come to help.

It’s possible the misunderstanding is on my end. We are here to help, but with my experience and background I expect my “help” to be on a different level. Maybe make things a little easier or go a little faster. Maybe I’m just frustrated over my own ineptitude. I look back and here’s what I’ve accomplished in ten months:

April through July: Helped build 42 houses for a Moken Village. Quit working at the village because of the lack of experience of the volunteer manager and the reluctance to which my opinions and thoughts were accepted.

July: Created a database for which to track donations and contributions to an Adopt-A-Child program which offered aid to orphans and disadvantaged children. After this was completed I do not actually know how much this database was used and I now question the integrity in which the program was run.

August: I ran off to be an extra in what I though was to be a Hollywood blockbuster starring Patrick Stewart, but ended up being a double for Angus MacFadyen in a Hallmark mini-series.

September: Spent an entire month and all the money I had from the Blackbeard mini-series on an island cut off from the world and enjoyed the isolation.

October/November: Designed a new website for the Tsunami Volunteer Center.

December: Helped a local Tsunami Craft Centre with their promotional print material and then took off on a two and a half weekend with Heather for Christmas.

January/February : Started another construction project only to walk off the site again for similar reasons cited from the first foray.

My last job: creating a website for a homestay volun-tourism project that will bring volunteers into the homes of villagers that survived through the tsunami.

It sounds good and all, but walking off the job sites has probably been the hardest part for me to accept and one of the hardest aspects of my persona to confront. I quit on ninety-some households because I couldn’t get along with the people running the projects.

I want to say that I have values and wouldn’t let something slip through my fingers that wasn’t satisfactory, but I have to question those very values when I would quit on something I specifically came here to do because I didn’t believe in the leadership.

The Houses? Yeah they got built. They were gonna be built with or without me. But to recognize this failure is not something I’ve really enjoy seeing and really wish things were different.

How much have I really changed? I can’t quite say. Have I grown at least? I think in ways I’ve advanced more than any other year in my past, and in others I’ve regressed to stages I’ve far grown from. I’m positive this has been a life changing event for me and I will never forget my time here, yet I’m certain I’m not prepared to rejoin the culture I’ve left a year ago or move on from this beautiful place and the failure I’ll be leaving here.

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A short novela recounting a surf trip to Baja turns South when the engine my '71 Volkswagon seized, leading me on an adventure down Baja 1000 roads, encounters with transvestite prostitutes, and drought ending weddings.

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4 thoughts on “The Fear Isn’t in Leaving – It’s in Coming Back

  1. Hey William,
    Don’t go kicking yourself too hard bro, You followed your convictions around the world and, yes you did make a difference there. You made a difference here too. So, ya didn’t do what didn’t do and, ya did what ya did. F___ing brilliant! Really, I raise a glass to you and your stand in the matter. You’re and inspiration and an exceptional man. Be well and enjoy Austin.

  2. You need to stop immediately with the boo-hooing. You have done enough. You gave enough of a shit to travel there and do your part. If only everyone could say that. We as Americans are so comfortable in our little nests.Selfish and numb, myself included. We are spoiled. You see how those people live. Still “surviving”. We are a greedy bunch of stupid sheep.God Bless America, we need it.~I Love THE THAI!~Candi(from Blackbeard)

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