In the United States today, everyone is celebrating the adoption of our Declaration of Independence from the British Empire in 1776 with burgers, beer and fireworks. I remember as a child in Kingman, Arizona, every 4th of July, my little sister and I would eat watermelon, make snow cones with my “Snoopy Sno-Cone” maker, and in the evening, the family would head to the fairgrounds to watch the fireworks display. It was always quite a show, with nearly the whole town sitting in the bleachers watching the spectacular starbursts. Half the time, I would run around under the stands, meeting other kids I rarely saw outside of elementary school. It was also the first time I experienced the “Frito Pie”, which was simply a small bag of Frito’s corn chips split open, with a big dollop of chili ladled on top, served with a plastic fork. Good times!
July 4 has taken on a new significance for me. While it’s not a holiday in Thailand, it is my own personal independence day. I arrived in Bangkok on July 4, 2016, which makes today my official two-year anniversary in the country. I am still proud to be an American, with 26 years of military service to back it up, but I am very content in my new home. The past two years have been full of adventure, self-revelation, and the occasional sad moments that come with being a human. My adventure began in Bangkok, took me to Phuket, and finally led me to Chiang Mai and a lifestyle I enjoy.
If you are wondering from what I am declaring my independence, I would say mostly from working a regular job. If you don’t count my paper route or mowing lawns, I started my first real job at 16, at McDonald’s (like so many others). Since then, I never stopped working. I served fast food, sold shoes, delivered groceries to grocery stores, painted buildings and dorm rooms, delivered auto parts and silk plants, painted machinery at an oil relay station, built fence, hauled hay, and cleaned offices. That was all before I joined the Navy! I’m lucky enough to be in a position now, especially with the lower cost of living in Thailand, to afford not to work. I am also independent from the PC insanity going on in the States right now, along with the constant bickering between the political left and right. Since moving here, I am in a better position to pursue what I want to do, instead of what I have to do.
Last week, I wrote a song. I recently dated a Thai woman who has a former boyfriend in Sweden with whom she still regularly corresponds. I told her if she continued to talk with him, I couldn’t stay with her. She kept writing to him, so I had to say goodbye. I was a little sad to lose her and thought the situation sounded like it could work as a song, and at the same time help me get it off my chest. I wrote the song and had it recorded at a Thai person’s home studio for $40. This is just an example of something I have the freedom and time to do now. If you would like to hear it, send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you an MP3. I have the time to pursue hobbies and activities I enjoy. For me, writing songs, working on my book, and even writing this blog are very therapeutic endeavors, and something I rarely had the time or energy to do when I was working.
Another thing that makes this particular July 4th worth celebrating is the 12 missing boys and their soccer coach, who were lost in a cave for 10 days, have been found and are all alive and healthy! The international community pulled together and found them, which is a miracle unto itself. As of today, they are still in the cave awaiting extraction, but now have food and supplies. The water level is still too high, and it looks like they may have to use SCUBA gear to get each boy out, one at a time.
While I miss the star-spangled celebrations in the U.S., I am enjoying my new found independence here in Thailand. So, in honor of Independence Day, raise your glass for a toast to the USA, and the miraculous discovery of those 12 Thai boys and their coach. Cheers!