The roadways are blanketed in a chic coat of chrome cement or asphalt as black as night. The polychromatic signage forms an eclectic gallery along each avenue. And amongst all the radiating bulbs and the mod-podge of reverberations, your journey through the city almost always comes to an abrupt halt. A halt at a red light.
Throughout history, the colour red has carried multiple meanings. Red was noted as the hue of extremes. In fact, our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the colour of fire and blood - anger, fear and danger. As the centuries have past, as a species we have evolved from living in caves to driving automobiles and red became recognized as the international colour for stop.
A stop. By definition, a stand still; a termination; a hindrance; a roadblock. A pain-staking colour that signals us to come to a standstill. And though we like to see ourselves as "upgraded models" in comparison to our Neolithic predecessors, our interpretations of red, in this sense, is remarkably similar. For these modern red lights bound within their metallic casings catalyze feelings of frustration and rage within each of us.
However, we don't just encounter these negative red lights on the physical roadway. Instead, as a wise woman once pointed out in the backseat of a truck, we encounter these unexpected stoppages in our personal lives as well. In fact, being immersed in a foster-care facility in Chiang Mai for children with disabilities has illustrated that exact fact to me each day, for the past 87 days.
Like a pedagogic documentary projecting onto a screen in front of me, my eyes have bore witness and my ears have absorbed through narration each child's different and unique red lights. Each of them has experienced the life roadblock of their disability. The roadblock of all the developmental delays. The roadblock of the health related ailments. The roadblock of the cloud of stigma that surrounds their everyday life in their native land.
Nonetheless, I have not just witnessed these life roadblocks through living beings under the age of ten. Alternatively, two exceptional women have also allowed me to take a peak into their metaphorical closets and absorb their skeletons of roadblocks faced. One has had to experience: the roadblock of moving long-term to a foreign country ripe after academia, and the roadblock of volunteering in a misunderstood field.
The other has had to experience: the roadblock of garnering and juggling funds to help an under serviced sector, and the roadblock of making decisions invariably linked with the life of vulnerable children.
While cumulatively, both women have grappled with the ever-growing roadblock of holding onto themselves in an environment where it is so easy to lose oneself completely.
In the end, each and every one of us will face red lights; interruptions in our journey forward. But what all of these individuals' life hindrances has shown me is that it is not always about moving forward. Sometimes that extra time spent stopped is a gift - a treasure. Sometimes in that time, you will battle through treacherous rain and hail and your inner strength will grow. Sometimes in that time, you may find an unanticipated route that will change your perspective completely. Or sometimes in that time, you may just have an extra moment to stop, take a breath, and realize all the miles that you've put behind you and all the growth that has already occurred.
Overall - thank you Chiang Mai and Hope Home for all that you have entailed. Thank you, for my trip - my unexpected life stoppage, my red light - has taught me so much.