By the fire I sat down and pondered

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GIF courtesy: RSVP Magazine

“Self-evaluating” is what I would describe the moments of last night. After 5 months of living a new life here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, it took a bonfire in the woods before I could finally say “I’m living it.

I met with Diana (or Di) on one of my very serendipitous bike rides around Doisaket, the little countryside I currently live. I have recently discovered a Wat (temple) with a serene lake covered in lush trees where locals fish on a regular basis. Over it stood several gazeebos and wooden docks, all picture-perfect as the sun is setting.

Di and I met on the very same spot. We were both capturing the reflection of the trees towards the lake at sunset. From a casual hi-hello, we strangely met again a week after in a very local bar few kilometer away from the lake. But this time, it’s with Zoe (Di’s daughter), Rufus (Zoe’s partner), and Leif (my colleague). Few beers after, we found ourselves having a cultural cook-off in their “home stay”.

All three of them are Artists from the UK who are spending four and a half weeks in Chiang Mai for their Artist-in-Residence Program under ComPeung, the only AiR and longest running Program in Thailand since 2007. Doisaket or Chiang Mai in totality is undoubtedly the perfect place for artistic inspirations. From the tranquil of natural surroundings, succulent fresh food, recently cool weather to the general mellowness of the local community, I am no artist but I’m glad I’ve chosen the right area of seclusion.

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Then the enlightenment happened.

Last night, I had the chance to feel the artistic value of being surrounded by not just Artists themselves but of people who actually levels the mindfulness my soul aches for the longest time that I have been here. It’s Di, Zoe, and Rufu’s send-off dinner before they go back to the UK.

All four of us have profoundly been talking about self-development and how we would like to see significant progress in our chosen passion. For them it’s their Art, for me.. I literally cupped my face out of cluelessness. But what I admire about them is their level of commitment to their passion, it’s infectious that it transfers through another person–Me. They have encouraged me on the perspective of follow through but most especially the perspective of now.

After a sumptuous home-cooked dinner (literally all kinds of pizzas and salads, roasted pork, and freshly-made drinks), we gathered outside under the trees in wooden chairs and circled around the fire to keep us warm on a Thai-winter night. Our discussion varied from food, politics, life, family, languages, and traditions but all were complexly discussed. It wasn’t just a great brain-sparring, it was an absolute cultural understanding.

Then this question was raised:

“How would you describe your 2016 in one word?”

10 adults. 10 words.

I answered “risk”. But the word that outshine the most is “love”. It wasn’t delivered by the person nor accepted by the listeners in the mushiest way you could think of. He, yes a man, only said it in the most truthful almost non-romantic way possible.

That is probably one fact I learned about people who even though they are on a continuous quest for self-development, they have reached a certain realistic maturity that no 20-something I have met so far (at least here in Chiang Mai) will ever be comfortable of admitting: feeling feelings and saying it.

As the night wears off  and two whisky glass-deep, I looked at the flame and remembered how much light this particular night has given me and how it will forever be one of the best nights, if not the highlight of my new life in Thailand.

I may have felt like a tiny molecule from a group of cell, but these people never made me feel like I do not belong nor can’t I “make it” regardless of circumstance.

Do I want to keep on teaching in the next 5 years? After I make it to South America, where to next? When will I invest more time and money on turning this blog into a passive income? What are the steps I’m doing to building that Recipe book or that application for a Culinary Scholarship? Do I really want to embark on a new journey alone?

I felt alive. I felt the crack of my comfort zone. I felt my heart beat in bliss. I felt present.

There is only 13 days left for 2016 yet I still feel like I’m not even half way through it. From the moment I flew  out of the Philippines with a one-way ticket to Thailand, to stepping into my first class as an English Teacher, to being in that momentous circle under an 18 degree breeze, I learned that what I need to focus on is integrating myself in the moment. To not putting too much pressure on plans nor the future. To settling never. To expression. To just fucking relax.

Just like how ComPeung explores the interdependence of art and society, my Art is my now and my society is myself (at least for now) as I should maximize the potential of people coming and going into this new life.

Whoever you may be, thank you for adding fuel to my flame that I promise to keep on burning.

Cheers to new,

Charlene

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