Today, Alan and I drove our truck to the river that runs through Chiang Rai province. We also brought Egg, the kitten who has at least doubled in size since we got her.
We put Egg in her little harness and walked along the sandy edge of the river.
We stopped to get out of the sun and order a round of beer and chicken wings from a riverside restaurant. Egg sat comfortably on Alan's lap as we lounged in a little cabana overlooking the river.
The experience was surreal for me. It was exactly what I've always wanted, but rarely achieved, from life abroad. It was easy, exotic, and it involved people and a cat that I really care about.
One of the greatest challenges of living abroad is loneliness. At times, it's a self-created challenge--in that I seek out alone time to recharge, but in the process miss out on opportunities to spend time with others. As a teacher, I'm surrounded by people all day; yet, loneliness and a longing for deeper interactions is something that I definitely struggle with.
Not being able to speak the local language plays into loneliness too. I often feel alienated by menus I can't read or interactions I can't have because of the language barrier. Sometimes it's hard to play it cool when you just want to communicate something simple, but can't.
Moving to new places year after year also creates a lonely dynamic. Most friendships don't continue after a change of location. When it comes to friendships, I feel like I've had to pretty much start over three times in the past four years. It's hard to maintain the deep friendships I crave when I don't share a location or cast of characters with my friends from past locations.
Anyway, I just wanted to commiserate with anyone who has felt lonely this week, or this year. Loneliness is a formidable challenge, but I believe it is only temporary.