New Year’s Resolutions… right!
Happy New Year, folks. 2018 (2561 here in Thailand) is a “decisive year”, or so a good friend of mine keeps telling me. Like a lot of people, 2017 was a very hard, dramatic, complicated year with a lot of massive changes. For me, most of those changes were positive ones, for the rest of the world not so much…*COUGH* **TRUMP** COUGH* …
ANYWAY! 2018 is here. I didn’t make a new year’s resolution list, because I sort of made one when I was preparing to come to Thailand. It was a very typical list. It had the usual “do more yoga and exercise,” “read such and such books,” “meditate and connect more with GOD and myself,” etc., etc. Well, if you must know, I kind of threw away that list. YES, I DID. I expect most Americans reading this will be freaking out or judging me. We like our lists and our plans, having a north or something to work towards. Not only does it help us be better, but it helps us become better human beings, or so we’ve been taught. Don’t get me wrong, there is value to having positive goals and things to work on for a better life. But a list is a list, and somehow we become obsessed with making that list happen and forget the real reason why we even make those kinds of lists in the first place. Let me clarify a little more:
Something happened to me on New Year’s. I had an amazing time, took a little break from the humble life of SIMPLICITY in the garden community here in Thailand. I didn’t have much money to travel and the original plans I had to spend New Year’s at a silent retreat in Chiang Mai fell through because the place was fully booked. Since I plan to do that retreat at some point during my volunteer year, I decided to book a hotel in Nong Khai town—only a 30-minute bike ride from the Good Shepherd project—and spend my break like a local. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard that most everything in Thailand is cheap, but let me tell you: IT’S MAD CHEAP. The whole week in a really nice hotel with air conditioning, wifi, breakfast and all, right next to the main market, was like $80 bucks! I KNOW! I ate at random places, visited a few bars here and there, and did my favorite thing of all time: I ORDERED PIZZA TO MY ROOM AND WATCHED ENGLISH MOVIES! Funny how such small pleasantries fill our souls, eh?!
But I also got to see the reality of the Thai people in this area in a way I hadn’t been able to see it in the project I volunteer in. Walking down any street, people saw me as a FARAN (foreigner) that, like most of the foreigners in this area, was there for only one thing: Thai girls.
I come from a country where prostitution is right in your face. According to studies conducted by International Justice Mission (IJM), the Dominican Republic is a “hotspot” destination and source for prostitution and human trafficking. Dominican girls are known in Europe for just that. And living in DR, you pretty much get used to seeing ladies in the life hitting the streets and next to tourists at the beach… but what I saw here was indescribable. Every coffee shop, every bar—even restaurants—has STAFF working as prostitutes to lure foreigners in AS PART OF WHAT THE LOCALITY HAS TO OFFER. The women sit next to you and try to touch you, and you have to be very clear in letting them know you are not interested. And even so they stick around just in case. I was curious enough to (very discretely and after I earned their trust) ask how much would it be to take one of the girls out and you know what the cost was? $10 dollars! 10 miserable dollars. 350 Bahts to be exact. And 100 bahts to stay in the facility! And mind you, this happens not only in this area, but around the country. I have heard that in places like Bangkok and Phuket, it is even worse.
I worked with nonprofits in the US that fought against human trafficking and domestic violence, but seeing this part of that horrible world stirred my guts. It puts my resolution list a little into perspective, doesn’t it?
Now, what to do? What can you do when a whole country, as a culture, (and excuse my French) seems to sell its people? What can you do when having someone’s body for only $10 dollars is not only acceptable, but expected? What can you do with a President that seems determined to doom us all into the abyss of hell?
You do what you can. It sounds like a cheesy and very dismissive response, but it is true. I got to really think about that, which kind of brings me back to my first topic. My new year’s resolution—and maybe my life’s resolution—is: DO WHAT I CAN. Feel free to expand on that phrase. You can say “do the BEST you can” or “Do it as if it was being done to God” or whatever. But DO. Whether it’s small, or completely drastic, do what you can. Maybe it’s paying those $10 dollars so the girl can take a night off. Maybe it’s going back to the GSV community and working in the project that has nothing to do with human trafficking, but is helping so many other people. Maybe it’s giving 1 hour of your time to a charity. Maybe it’s giving words of encouragement to anyone that passes you by. Or free hugs. Maybe it’s deciding to fund a kid through the Sponsorship program the Good Shepherd Sisters have here in NongKhai to prevent that child from becoming one of those staff girls in a bar.
Whatever it is you can do, just do it. It’s hard to find hope nowadays, especially seeing the atrocities happening in the world and right before our eyes, but by reaching inside of us, where GOD (universe, Buddha, life, your better self, whatchamacallit) resides, and deciding to share a little bit of that light, your DO WHAT YOU CAN will go a long way. If you’re lucky you will see how miraculously, just like a little butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil makes the weather change in LA, your little help or change of attitude can transform someone’s life.
I still have my list of books to read and I still have my work and project goals for this year. I still want to be in better shape, and I’m taking steps each day to be a better Josh, but these goals are no longer a list, they are incorporated into my daily life as I DO. Some days are easier than others, some days I might not do yoga, or help change the world. But some days I do, and those days fill me up in such a way that it makes life a little better… and that’s what resolutions are for, no? I mean, I’ve never heard of someone making a resolution list to make their life worse, but who am I to say!
Thanks for reading a little piece of my mind, from all the way on the other side of the world.
Written by, Josh Guerrero Thailand Community '17-'18
PS. You can read and see more of Josh's adventures and service in Nong Khai by following along at his personal blog!