Dana Bruxvoort is currently volunteering in Pattaya, Thailand though Youth With A Mission (YWAM). She is the author of danabrux.com, and is training for the Bangkok Half-Marathon.

Check out RSJ Contributor Dana Bruxvoort’s first installment of the “That Time We…” series.  Dana reflects on the uncomfortable experience of renewing her Thai visa, and how sometimes all we need is a good song and a gorgeous sunrise to refresh our point of view.

I’m writing this while sitting in a van, in transit to the Thai/Cambodian border. The Thai embassy changed their visa requirements right before I left America, so I could only get a 60-day triple entry visa. That means every 2 months I have to take this van ride to a border crossing that looks more sketchy than it looks legitimate, where every time I give my passport to someone I wonder if I’m going to get it back or if maybe it’s going to disappear and another person will show with my identity someday.

Anyways, I’m sitting in this van. And I’m really tired because — like it so often is — my mind was too full of thoughts for sleep to come easily last night. And it’s also hard to fall asleep when 99 percent of the people you know and love in the world are awake and starting their day and you get sucked into what they’re posting on Facebook and Twitter and your favorite blogs. Shut the computer, Dana. Shut it now.

So I didn’t fall asleep until 1 am and I woke up at 5 am so I could sleepily pull on some clothes and stumble out the door and walk through my still-dark neighborhood as the street vendors and motorbike taxi drivers and monks at the temple and roosters in the courtyard murmured their preparations for yet another day. I walked down that still-dark street, annoyed that I had to wake up so early and bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t drink coffee because then I’d need to go to the bathroom and well, that’s not good when you’re going to be in a van all day. So I walked to the end of my street and stood in an uncaffeinated daze on the side of the road while I waited for the van to pick me up.

And let me tell you about vans in Thailand. They don’t have shock absorbers, I swear they don’t. Or maybe the roads are just bumpier. In actuality, it’s probably a slight combination of these two factors that turns any extended period on the road in Thailand into an uncomfortable, bumpy ride. Kind of like a roller coaster, minus the upside down loops. So at this point I’m thinking it’s probably a good thing that I couldn’t bring coffee, because I’d end up spilling it all over the white shirt I pulled on in the dark this morning. Why did I decide to wear white??

Most of the other passengers in the van are sleeping, but I’ve never been able to sleep well in cars, so I’m letting my mind wander and my fingers dance out my somewhat incoherent thoughts on my computer keyboard. And I’m thinking…isn’t life a lot like this van ride? Not just in that cliché way that life can be bumpy and we can get tired (especially when we don’t drink coffee), but because sometimes we’re on these roads in completely unknown territories and we don’t know what any of the road signs say because they’re in a language that we can’t read. And there are arrows pointing in different directions, but for all we know they could be pointing toward nothing or something or Bangkok or the ocean or a million other places. And how much further to the Cambodian border, really?

So we all sit in this van, trusting it to take us where we need to go despite not knowing exactly where we are. And we’re tired and we want to pull the curtains over the window and sleep like the strangers next to us, but the seats are hard and our minds are full of thoughts and the driver is taking the bumps and curves a little too fast to allow for comfortable sleeping, so instead we pull open the curtain and look out the window. And when we look outside we see the golden light of the early morning sun illuminating the tree-covered hills and valleys off in the distance. And at the same moment a good song comes on our iPod and we think, you know what? Everything’s okay.

And we still don’t know exactly where we’re going. And maybe we’re still a little tired and crabby. And maybe the driver is still driving at a speed that makes you somewhat apprehensive about the fact that there are no seatbelts in this van. But it’s going to be okay. Because that golden morning light is beautiful and someday we’ll be in a place where we can read the road signs again and where we’re wide awake and we’re moving at a comfortable speed. And in that place we’ll probably get our passports back and if we’re lucky the immigration officer might even smile at us. But until then, all we can do is listen to another good album and wait for the next border crossing.

Article by Dana Bruxvoort, republished with permission.  If you want to learn more about Dana’s adventures in Pattaya, Thailand, check out her awe-inspiring blog at www.danabrux.com. 

Dana is volunteering through Pattaya Slum Ministries, a branch of the Project LIFE Foundation.