I’ve returned home before during the course of this insane jaunt around the world, once because I got sick and another time to surprise my family for the holidays. Each return was a shock to the system, both weatherwise, pricewise and peoplewise. But my return this week from Bangkok to attend the 2nd annual Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference (TBEX) has proven much more difficult than my other ‘re-entries’. I think there are several reasons for my current disconnect, each of which contributes to the otherworldly, awkward feeling of being an outsider in a city I used to call home.

Part of it likely stems from my neighbourhood – the Sesame Street Soi where everyone yelled out a greeting as I walked down the street and stopped me to see what I was eating at that moment (I almost never walked around without food – this is Bangkok, after all) and what I planned on eating later that day. In addition, I was subsumed within the tumultuous events in Bangkok these last months, from peaceful protests, to my area being declared a live fire zone, to actual fires raging in parts of Bangkok.

It makes coming back to New York stranger still, since those events occupied a significant amount of brainspace until quite recently, and understandably no one here really wants to hear about them. I also spent a full seven months in Asia this time around; notwithstanding the political roller-coaster, there would still be some amount of reverse culture shock in coming home for the summer.

And against the broad canvas of my general readjustment, I’ve noticed a series of ‘holy crap’ moments, whereby I need to remind myself that life is just not the way it was a few days ago.

5. Where are all the Ladies? My life in Bangkok revolved around a set of talented ladies who made my existence much more enjoyable. I would go to my Coffee Lady in the morning and chat with her about her day, while stopping in to say hello to my Tailor Lady next door. I would eat dinner at Soi 6’s Pumpkin Lady, and lunch at the Som Tam lady just next to the Ratchawithi intersection. I would wave to my Shake Lady when I returned home, stopping at the Fruit Cart Lady for some pineapple as I walked down my street. Where have all the ladies gone? Sadly, life in North America is too fast paced for a different, specific cart to satisfy each need. But I often find myself thinking of these women and their impact on my life in Bangkok; I looked forward to talking with them every day, and miss their radiant smiles.

Me and 'the ladies'

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  • Jodi Ettenberg

    Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…

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