This week's tablehopper: sawatdee-kaaaaaaaaa!

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Megawatt smiles and cuteness during a Pencils for Kids visit to the Praratchadamri Church Project in Chiang Rai. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hiiiiii! I’m back from the land of smiles, and I really do feel like I have been living in a happy bubble of kindness, grace, and warmth the past three weeks. The Thai people charmed the hell out of me—there’s a lot to be said for pausing with each person you meet, looking at each other for a moment, sharing a “wai” (your hands clasped 🙏🏽 with a slight bow) and a sawatdeekaaaaaaa (for the ladies). It creates an instant connection, and often a shared smile, although maybe theirs was because of my flushed cheeks and sweaty brow (#whiteladyinthetropics).

It was a remarkable trip, from a full-on week eating my way through the sweaty chaos of Bangkok, followed by a week in the villages of Chiang Rai for the ninth Pencils for Kids backpack delivery mission in Thailand (the whole point of my trip!). Each day was incredibly moving—the children at these schools and orphanages melted my heart. So many sweet smiles and happy faces and I loved all the “thank-yous” in English, awwwww! We delivered 900 backpacks stuffed with school supplies and school uniforms to seven locations in three days! An incredible amount of coordinating goes into these missions—just imagine getting uniform measurements for that many children ahead of time.

Kudos to the PFK team on its 10th year and all its supporters and sponsors, including Cathay Pacific, who flies the backpacks to Thailand, Bali, and Myanmar each year (and generously flew yours truly as well). I know many of you saw my pics while I was away—expect to hear more soon, especially about an upcoming PFK fundraiser on November 16th in SF I’m going to be helping with! And wait until you see these pictures. I’m feeling so much gratitude for my education, it really has made all the difference in my life, and it felt so great to help support education for others dealing with challenging life circumstances. I know you’d like to do the same!

I spent my last week in Southern Thailand, island hopping to Koh Samui and then Koh Tao, where I completed my PADI open water dive certification! I had no idea I was going to love scuba diving so much—fish TV is amazing, especially 18 meters (59 feet) underwater! I haven’t had a personal challenge like this for some time, dealing with water fears (especially in some somewhat turbulent conditions on our first day), figuring out the gear, and managing an impatient and misogynistic instructor I called the English bulldog—fortunately there was the babetastic Greek instructor who was assisting to distract me from throttling the bulldog. (Thanks, Goddess!) And now I am starting to plot where I want to dive next!

I have been thinking how Thailand really forces you to do a lot of risk assessment, daily, and as a friend said, is out to hurt you. You have to do things like decide if you really should get on the back of that motorbike taxi without a helmet to zip through the busy streets of Bangkok to get home (no, but yes), how much spicy can you really handle (keep at it), is that street food a good call or no, are you drinking enough water (dear god, the sweat). And then there are all the things that happen on the islands, from all the random cuts and bites to not burning your leg on jenky scooter tail pipes (or crashing, don’t do that) to not getting stung by jellyfish or sea urchins or brushing up against some coral on a night swim (I did that, and ow). And seriously, where are the life jackets on these ferryboats? I just kept saying, “THANKS UNIVERSE!” and would chomp on another Thai green chile. The sun even came out on my last day for the most gorgeous beach day with my friend. I’m home safe, with my mosquito bites finally healing up, the river of sweat has stopped, and am feeling really really lucky, because I definitely pushed my luck in some areas. Per usual.

I want to do some extra big thank-yous to everyone who sent me tips (you rock!), made introductions, took me around, hosted me, joined me, put sunblock on me, and helped make this trip one of my very favorites. I made some incredible connections and am coming home with such a full and happy heart. I also lost two pounds, so there’s that. I will say it’s really hard to be back at my desk after running around every day, I am getting some major cabin fever. But at least there is rosé in my fridge, and bubbles, of course—I missed those! (Next time, I am packing two bottles. Note to self!) And yes, there will definitely be a next time: Thailand, you’re such a special place. I’m so crushing on you. (And your khanom krok.)

And now, it’s time to put down the mango sticky rice and get back to the grind. Today’s issue is a recap of news that has happened the past three weeks, so let’s roll the tape! And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a mountain of email to scale and traverse. And still a little unpacking to do too.

See you on the town!
Marcia Gagliardi

View tablehopper Newsletter from Tuesday, Jun 13 2017