Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rivendell to Mordor

Every year my friends and I here get the wonderful chance to visit and be refreshed by the kingdom of Thailand for about a month. Our Chinese friends at school all go home for Spring Festival and Chinese New Year which lasts from mid January through to the beginning of March usually. Every year we love the break from Chinese winter into the eternal summer of Thailand.

Really, the only appropriate metaphor for Thailand is the Elven city of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings. Most of us come there, limping in from the last semester, missing our families in America, ready to do anything except what we've been doing continuously for the last month of December, having lots of Christmas parties, studying for exams, etc. We find western food, are given lots of encouragement, people remind us how great the vision we have here is and we see a new culture. A new culture that we see as liberating and free.

Instead of having to bust your way through a busy restaurant to order, mercilessly cutting some and boxing out other patrons, they have lines that are commonly accepted and used. Instead of cafeteria noodles, we're eating the likes of pad thai, Mexican food, and Krispy Kreme (though I only had 2 KK donuts, the fact its there is comforting enough). No longer do we have to ride battery powered scooters, but we rent motorbikes with real gas engines and real power for really cheap. Everyone understands a good amount of English there too so we don't have to rack our brains every time we need to ask for daily necessities or buy food.

So of course, it's hard going from this culture we only see good things in, back to wintry China. Why would we want to carry the ring to Mordor, to certain doom, to trials when we've grown accustomed to living with the immortal elves, recovering from injuries, and eating their magical elf donuts?? It's a tough thing remembering the 85 degree weather every day when its cold and rainy and your hot water heater still hasnt arrived yet. It's tougher still when you have less time to read, fewer friends to talk with, less time for the timeless tales passed down from generation to generation here in our Chinese ex-pat sub-culture.

Nevermind all the annoyances of Thailand. The constant nagging of massage parlors and ladyboy prostitutes. The living out of a suitcase for a month. The countless scarrings from European vacationers wearing speedos too tight or, even worse, speedos too loose. These things seem minor to us while we're there because it's nice to idealize a place as perfect for a while.

But God didn't give us Thailand so he could bring Heaven on earth and have everyone move there. Just like Rivendell wasn't created solely as an end in itself. They are what they are. Just an oasis of refreshment so that we can remember and refocus on what we're doing here in the distance between the Shire and our destiny. To remind us that God is good to those who love him and are called according to his purposes and that he blesses men abundantly. And to remind us that brokenness and unbelief are a temporary thing in this world that is passing away. Soon, in the coming age, we will have all the Krispy Kreme we can handle.


  1. Continuing the analogy, I have decided that Ryan is an Ent... or a cave troll...

    And I think all of your posts and letter updates should relate everything in LOTR terms.

  2. i second the vote for LOTR references, and the disdain for solar-powered Chinese water heaters

  3. this was my favorite post so far... although I don't get the LOTR references! One day I'm going to stay awake for one of those movies...