Tag Archives: family

LA Trip: Family Reconnected

I’m back in Bangkok as usual for this time of the year. But there’s a detour to Los Angeles for a few days before heading to Thailand. The main reason is to visit a long lost cousin and his family. Reconnecting with them is something I have to digest more than it was anticipated. And this blog post should be something that I need to articulate it.

I remember they were the only relatives from my mother’s side my in childhood’s loop. Over 30 years ago, they left for the States and we lost touch since. So, apart from step dad’s extended family, growing up, it was a huge gap not connected to any of my own large families. Neither from mom’s side nor dad’s (the tie with him was cut off since the divorce.) That gets me excited to meet them.

A quick note on how we found each other. With the power of social media, my cousin was able to track my brother down on Facebook. It started from there. And I’ve got a luxury to physically be in just across the continent, not the planet.

A short time I get to spend with them includes. The first evening in LA, my cousin, with his wife, and I catch up at a Thai place called Palms Thai Restaurant. They drive me around Thai Town, which I plan to explore it on the next day.

The day after the following day, we—the couple with their son and his wife and I—had a yum cha lunch in Monterey. We get back to my nephew’s apartment in Art District. My nephew (with small age gap, I prefer him to call me brother) and I do a pub crawl in the area. I find that we have similar tastes and even some good core values. Our conversation over good craft beers in local breweries is very enjoyable. We finish the evening in Little Tokyo. The rest of the family joins us there for dinner at a place that my cousin-in-law is long-time regular.

The day with the long lost extended family is so overwhelming that I need to wind down in a bar by myself. And the plan to get somewhere, like Venice Beach, on the next day is scrapped. I spend most of the day being a veg in the room until my cousin and his wife pick me up for dinner at a famous Thai boat noodles. And that is it, mission accomplished.

I can’t help thinking about when I travel to Nong Kai to catch up my father in 2014. That one got me to the mindset to get on with my life. But this reconnection shines some glimpse about family. Frankly, that doesn’t come easily for me. I’d say it is one of those missing puzzles in life. In the End, we can’t reverse how we grow up. Certainly, we could pick up some pieces together to understand it. This one is definitely a real reconnection.

Drinking with My Old Man

My old man

As the first destination of my travel this year, I went to Si Chiang Mai District in Nong Khai Province with my brother to spend sometime with our long lost father. We haven’t seen him for two decades or so. We lost contact a long time ago. I remember the last time we met. We were drinking together at an aunt’s. That was way before I decided to move to Australia.

All those years, I wondered where he was and even considered to seek for him as an ultimate life mission. But he found us first, with the help of a life insurance salesperson. It could be a good idea to pay him a visit. But this reunion might not be as easy as catching up with old friends over some drinks.

He was working overseas most of the time when I was a little kid. At eight, my parents were devoiced. Unlike my two brothers—six and seven years older than me—I didn’t really get to know him as much. There were fragments of memories of him but I could not put those pieces together and make sense of it. Surely, there was a father figure that has been missing in my life. It was a sense of a longing for something I have never had. This visit might help answer something in my head.

We met him and he took us to a restaurant by the Mekong River. We ended up with another one next to the motel he booked the rooms for us. My brother didn’t drink (he doesn’t at all), my father had some moderately (in my standard), and I binged (as usual).

As the night turned out, it was filled with the conversations that didn’t necessarily answer my quests. However, it became a revelation to me.

Metaphorically, there’s some ingredient missing in a traditional food when you live in another continent. You’d like to make it. By all means, you have to work around it without that ingredient. It may tastes different but you develop it into another thing that makes it you. And I’d like to think that my dish is now quite amazing without that ingredient.

I have been thinking too much of what if he would be around when I was growing up. Would be I like others with perfect family, whatever it is?

I thought I needed that component to resemble that traditional dish. But in reality, our minds have coped with it all along. I have already worked on my life with what I have and don’t. I have my own spice in my life to go on now. This event made me realise that my food is already yummy without it.

Now, that missing ingredient is back in my life. Honestly, I don’t know how to incorporate it with my life recipe I have been working on. That’s something I might have to work on it.

The First Week in and Beyond

Dawn at Rayong Refinery
Sunrise at an oil refinery in Rayong through a back seat of my parents' car

I spent most of my first week back in Thailand with my mom and stay in Rayong where she lived for three days. On the final day, we went to the local district health clinic to have her blood checked. While we were waiting in the queue, I sat down and let my thoughts sink in and contemplated what I had learned in the past seven days in my home country.

We got to four Thai temples for different purposes: to wait for mom while she was having physiotherapy, to see an astrologer, to get a Thai massage and, finally, to make a merit as advocated by the astrologer. That was a triple dose of my religious journey in the decade.

It reminded me of the conversation with tweeter friends of mine: Tony, Jenny, Rai and Frances at a Yum Cha lunch before I left Sydney. We talked about some aspects of reincarnation and I told them I didn’t know what to believe anymore even though I had been raised as a Buddhist, however, I believed that religions and psychotherapy were designed to make sense of our lives.

The question I asked myself about a week back in Thailand became a bigger quest of soul searching—what I had learned about life in the past nine years living in the isolated continent, focusing the last three years that I started to make changes in my life: fighting depression, visiting Thailand, studying a Master degree and so on. Moreover, how I would optimise those lessons in the next chapter in my life.

First of all, I used to point my finger at the dramatic childhood that shaped my today. The depression and anxiety in I suffered while residing in Australia was a product of myself created from the past echoing the present then. It was not easy to be able to see that. Time to let go of it or got stuck with your own misery.

Secondly, when I looked at my mom, I saw a lot of me in her and could not help thinking that if I was sometime that unbearably passive. In fact, I had a despicable feeling for her for not being able to be an assertive role model. But how could you expect someone to teach you something they did not know how to and blame him or her for not doing so. Besides, as I grew up as an adult, I could now be assertive without being an aggressive person. And that was a credit to her because I also got her kind heart (which I did not realise it until the moment I wrote this paragraph). And she should have been applauded more for that.

And lastly, my mom kept telling me to make more and more merits because you would never know those good karmas would return you some favours. For her case, she did not have to wait for the next life when someone, whom she helped a long time ago, offered my parents some relief of home and work when they were about to hit the ground. They have been struggling for years and I felt guilty that I could not be much help. I have been back in Thailand now, might be able to do more merits and could start with my family.

After she finished with her blood test, we had breakfast and they dropped me off at bus stop to Bangkok. When I arrived in the city of Bangkok, it felt I now could look into the future. You definitely could not change what had happened but you could understand the relationship of the environment you grew up with. I just wanted to make sense of it so that I could be able to move on.

Mardi Gras Fair Day 2008

Rainbow Boy

Fair Day is one of the key events of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. It is actually the most inclusive and diverse program of the festival. Kids run around with their straight and gay parents. Dogs sniff and play with others. Friends and families drink and BBQ together while watching stage entertainments. Dressed-up queens gracefully glide to demonstrate their pride of beauty. Half-naked men and, sometimes, women lie on the ground, flirt with each other and finally end up on the dance floor.

Although it does not sound different from previous years, essentially, this social event is for the people to hang around in Victoria Park for a picnic as one community once a year.