Back in the Air

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that on a regular basis I am making my way to the local airport to take a voyage to various places around the world. With a pandemic taking over everywhere, this option has not been made available and I have not been on a plane since last January. Though I do not miss being packed into a tiny cabin with thousands of strangers and trying to find a way to entertain myself while trying to get comfortable, I do miss the opportunity that this minor inconvenience allows me to take. I miss the excitement of travel, going to see things I have not seen before, and eating new food and having small adventures. I get that this is not the way of the world right now, and there are people that are making bigger sacrifices to get through this trying time, but it has been my way of recharging my batteries and getting ready for another long stretch as a teacher. So when the first break came along this school year, I hopped on the opportunity to get out of Bangkok and visit another part of Thailand. Granted I only voyaged to a place where I have been before, Chiang Mai, but it is nice to have a change of scenery.

This was also the first time that I have gotten back in a plane for a long time. It was only a one hour flight, but it was nice to know that this part of my life was starting to boot up again. Of course there were come concerns. Is it safe to be in a cabin with recycled air with so many people? How will things be different? Are they going to be as strict or will there be even more regulations, making air travel even more annoying than it was before?

Would there be some benefits? Would they separate us even more on the plane, giving all of us a little more room? Would they stop with food and drink service because it would require us to take off our masks and it was only a short flight anyways? Would getting off the plane be more organized without people pushing and shoving each other to beat each other off the plane?

Well, all of my questions were quickly answered. It was basically the way it was before, except everybody was required to wear a mask, and we had to wait for them to dismiss our row before we could get our bags and walk off of the plane. I actually liked that part. There are places in Asia where it is ridiculous to get off the plane. As soon as they land, people lose their minds as they try to be the first person off of a plane, even if they are seated all the way in the back row. I have had people shove me out of the way to try to make it one or two rows further up and get off the plane a couple seconds before me. I get the idea of wanting to get off a plane quickly, but I think when you do this, it only slows down the process, and lowers the respect I have for humanity in general.

As for the recycled air, I did happen to watch a piece on the nightly news the day before we left that demonstrated that air travel is actually safe, and even though you are seating right next to a person, they way they move the air through the cabin makes it like you are seven feet away from each other. Basically all of the air is pushed to ground and they are constantly bringing new air in from the top of the plane to replace the air that is being pushed out at your feet. All small air particles are pushed down away from places where you could get infected by a deadly disease. It was reassuring to hear this, but I have gotten sick after many plane long plane flights, and wondered how this explanation could account for that. Luckily this was a short flight, and I can’t recall having the same problem with my health on flights like this.

Overall, it was a quick, easy, and now very affordable way to get to my destination. I am still not able to leave the country because of a fear of being able to get back in, but it is nice to know that air travel is an option if I want to use it. I noticed that many international flights were cancelled yesterday as I looked for where I checked in, and hopefully someday these restrictions loosen up as well. Until I can see other nations of the world, I will continue to explore this great country of Thailand.

Until next time, be safe, and experience something new.

A Note about Travel Now – Siam Summer

I have struggled with whether I should be writing this blog about the time I have spent in downtown Bangkok right now. There are many countries in the world that are still under lockdown and many place are only starting to open their doors back to the world to see what it is like out there. A bunch of uncertainty hangs in the air about what will happen next and whether it is safe to go out and enjoy life again. Bangkok is also going through this. They just happen to be a little ahead of other countries with getting back to a daily hustle and bustle, yet there is still a long way to go. There have been a lot of question bouncing around the back of my mind as I wonder who stayed in this place before us, whether the places I have been going to have been taking it seriously, and why do some people believe they are above common safety reason by walking around without a mask. It makes me wonder if we are safe by doing this.

Then I think about the other side of it. Why am I living overseas? I am here to experience other cultures, and travel and see the world. It is the main reason that we made this choice, and if I spend all of that time in a little house looking out at my mango tree and waiting for a soi dog to walk down my street, I am not really living the life that I wanted to. I know that there are many people out there thinking the same way as they spend another day in quarantine, and it would not matter where I was in the world, but I would have to go through the same kind of experience of staying indoors. Though some people might believe otherwise, this is not a problem that is isolated to one country; it is a worldwide problem. It is just some countries did a better job of handling the problem than others, and if I am living in one of those countries, should I take advantage of it?

Thailand is one of those countries that did a great job of containing this virus. It is not completely under control yet. There are still cases popping up daily, but they are so minor, the biggest spike being 17 people one day in the last couple of week with it usually being under five people daily, that it would seem silly to keep a population of people at bay. Like I have been talking about in my last posts, it is not completely opened up yet, but there are opportunities out there, and as long as I take reasonable precautions, I can enjoy my time out here, and still feel safe.

But this is not the worry that I have while writing this blog. My thought is about all of those people who are reading this still stuck at home while I am out there enjoying life again. I know that I have a lot of readers in America and they have been going in and out of quarantine. I understand your suffering because just like many other people in the world, I have gone through the same experience. It was not fun, and the walls of my place started to beat down upon me and I felt like I would never leave that place. But the time I spent in near isolation paid off as the causes of the disease died down and Thailand is now a safer place to live in. Yes, there are a couple of inconveniences. I have to wear a mask when I go out and I have to be aware of my proximity to other people. They ask that I check in as I go into stores so if there is an outbreak they can contact me about the way I have been exposed, but this is a minor problem compared to the bigger ones that could happen if I contract the disease. It is then that I become a danger to other people, and I do not know if I could have that responsibility on my conscience.

This whole summer has been great to see Thailand without all of the tourists. I have been lucky that way, despite the fact that things were not always open the way that they usually are. I know people are suffering right now, but it is nice to see that things are starting to turn around for them, and the economy is starting to pick up again. But know that just like you, it has not been an easy journey, and they is still a long way to go to fully recover from this. But they understand that everything is very fragile right now, and another outbreak could cause everybody to revert back to the devastating lifestyle we had to endure earlier this year. I hope that never happens, but I am also doing my part to prevent this for coming back as well.

I guess the reason that I wrote about my travels this summer was not to cause you frustration and anger because somebody was able to do something that you were not, but instead I wished to give you hope and inspiration that if you do the right thing, that travel could be in your life again as well. It may not look the way that you had thought it would, and many opportunities might not be available to you, but make the most out of the situation, and you will still find that life can be rewarding. Just know that it will happen again someday, but until then, do you part to help mitigate the problem and you will enjoy that reward even more when you finally achieve it.

Some Truth about South Korea – The Move Day 19

I was recently introduced to an individual in my parents’ neighborhood, and he was told that I was living in South Korea, but was making the move to Thailand. His first response was that at least I would be moving some place safer.

Over the four years that I have lived in South Korea, this notion has come up time and time again, that the people of this nation are always on edge because of their neighbor to the north. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The danger that is being discussed in the United States media makes the situation more desperate than it really is. In fact, Seoul is probably one of the safest places on the face of this planet. Yes, there is some discussion about Kim Jung-Eun and the threat that he poses, but it mainly centers around the idea of reunification of the two countries, and the big worry is about what that would do to the economy of South Korea. They are not worried about a nuclear threat, or an invading army coming from the north.

In fact, when I come back to the United States, I need to remind myself that I cannot be living the same life style that I do in Seoul. I need to lock my doors at night, or when I get out of my car. I need to be aware of my possessions when I am out in public so they do not suddenly disappear. I need to make sure that I do not say the wrong thing to the wrong person so they want to pull a gun out to prove that they are correct. These things do not happen in South Korea.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are still some risks involved with living there, but they mainly involve the air quality and the drivers on the road. But as far as somebody getting into a fight with you, it just does not happen. I think I only saw somebody lose their temper a couple of times while I was out there, and one of those times was while I was standing out in the cold at the ski jump during the Olympics, so he might not have even been Korean. But I think he was.

Things do not get stolen either. I have left my phone on the steps of a public building while I coached my cross country runners, and it was picked up and brought to me by some random stranger. My friend left his wallet on a public bus, and waited until the same bus came around again an hour, and it was right where he had left it. People do not steal things in this country unless it is the answers to an SAT test, but that is a subject for a different blog.

They actually did a study where they put random backpacks on the subways seeing if people would take them. At first, they were surprised because all of the trackers showed that somebody had picked up the backpack and were moving with them. But then they all started moving to the same location which happened to be the subway system’s lost and found. I have not found a more honest group of people than the South Koreans that I have come across.

So what I am trying to say is that you have to take the media you watch and be critical of the message that they are trying to present to you. They know that they will gain a greater viewership if they hype up the hysteria a little bit. You can get more accurate more information if you go to the source. Now I know that a lot of people do not know somebody living in South Korea or any of the other places that are under turmoil as presented by the nightly news, but look to what other reports are coming out of the same region. How could a place that promotes huge bands such as BTS and BlackPink be under attack all the time from another country? The pop culture that is coming out of the country might tell you the truth about what is going on there. And finally if you are really curious, see how easy it is to visit. By being there you will see the reality of the situation, and please stop telling me that South Korea is a dangerous place to live in. If you have ever been there you will realize how foolish that statement actually is.