Miss You

The texts usually come during the night.  I wake to see “Miss you, teacher” on my screen from students at Mae Ra Moe refugee camp in Thailand and from Big Brother Mouse in Laos, the last two places I volunteered.  Their messages bring me back to a different world than the one I am living in now.

I have bought a used car, rented a condo, ordered beds to be delivered, am scoping out furniture deals, have a fancy new phone, and still plan on upgrading my computer and my camera.  I’m disappointed at how quickly I’ve become drawn to the latest deals and how easy it is for me to spend money on these material comforts.  I resist the urge, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

The choices are dizzying.

I drive everywhere and live in air conditioning.  Everyone complains about the heat and I can’t even manage to break a sweat.  I rarely see anyone walking in the street.  I sometimes wonder where everyone is.  I’d become so accustomed to being surrounded by people and to being outside.

I eat whatever I want.  I try to eat less meat, but it’s everywhere.  It took two weeks for my stomach to get used to Western food again.  I don’t think that’s a good thing.  I ate a much healthier diet overseas.

My grandson has introduced me to Sarah and Duck.  I’m addicted.  (I love the Shallots.)

And then I wake to reminders of friends living on the other side of the world who are living on a few dollars a day (or less), eating rice, sleeping on the floors of bamboo huts, working hard to improve their lives, and always keeping a positive attitude.

A young Austrian economics student I sat next to on one of my last flights was bored one day and decided to figure out the probability of being born with all of the privileges he enjoyed.  He was shocked to see how incredibly lucky he was to be born in a developed country with so many economic advantages.  It was like winning the lottery.  The vast majority of people in the world do not live the life we consider to be normal. 

When I answer my students in Asia, I always tell them I miss them, too.  I miss them, their hospitality, the peaceful way of life, the lessons I learned and the kindness I encountered on the road.

There are now three Thai restaurants in my small town, so that’s a comfort.

Comments (9):

  1. Amit

    July 24, 2017 at 21:06

    Beautifully written Tim and right from the heart. We in the western world are the poorer souls. Something most of us are not even willing to acknowledge or even have the capacity to fathom.

  2. Lori

    July 24, 2017 at 22:03

    Just beautiful, Tim. I am sure your students miss you……we did, too……I am looking forward to learning about your adventures in person and growing from your incredible experiences…….You have so much to teach all of us here!

  3. Gail

    July 24, 2017 at 23:48

    Nice to run into you the other day, of all places a coffee shop! Lol
    Happy to have you home.

  4. Rosie

    July 25, 2017 at 06:42

    Life as we know it is so important to us. We often forget to reflect on our gifts and those who live differently than us. Your posts certainly provide and opportunity to reflect and appreciate but also question why all of this is so important, so necessary, and often expected. You opened my eyes for sure!

  5. Paula Agins

    July 25, 2017 at 07:47

    Spot on! Just spending a week in Germany I was able to see how we Americans have become so “me” focused, always wanting more for us and in return, missing all the gifts we have at our disposal. How did this happen??

  6. LInda A Wight

    July 25, 2017 at 07:50

    Hi Tim, I started to reply three times. Amazing the things we take for granted. Glad you’re “home” and getting settled before school starts.. You’ll have many “homes”. IT’s where you leave a piece of your heart. It’s nice to be missed and reminded of the people and places you’ve been and the lessons you’ve learned. Come to Maine. We still walk and see people on the street; although it has changed quite a bit in the time I’ve been here. I didn’t drive for the first 15 years and now it is very easy to hop in the car. I think our world just moves at a very fast pace. We are really blessed. Love you.

  7. Vicky Ann Deledda

    January 23, 2018 at 10:09

    How did I miss this “Alternate Route” at the time it was happening?
    Could I have been swimming?

    • Tim Flanagan

      January 26, 2018 at 11:45

      Probably, or babysitting.


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