My name is Jemimah Sakhounna Dove Chaisuk. I was named after one of Job’s daughters in the Bible. My name has always had a special meaning to me. It’s as if it is not only who I am, but who I want to be. The Bible's translation of my name is pure, warm and beautiful. Even so, while I believe name plays a big role in our lives, my name does not sum up the whole of who I am; there is much more to me than that.
First things first, I hate math with passion. However, I have always loved science. I like learning about minerals and stones, dinosaurs and history, clouds and stars, the way things grow and life of the living things on earth. Learning things about our world fascinate me. During an Earth Science class in high school, this one fact really impacted me, and I often think about it: everyone sees their own personal rainbows.
Rainbows are made of light that reflects from raindrops at different spots in the atmosphere. If you have two people watching one rainbow together, each would see a “different” rainbow because they are standing at different areas from different angles. Therefore, each one sees their own rainbow from their own point-of-view. It occurred to me that this is true in every aspect of life; everyone has their own view of their own life, and everything around them – from the angle they’re standing in to the way there were raised – impacts what they see.
My view has been impacted from being an eldest of nine, living in multiple places, experiencing different cultures – collecting “spots” of life in the atmosphere of the world. It may seem complicated, but it is quite simple, actually. My worldview is this: God is in control of everything. That’s why the word history can be read as His-story. Everything that occurs is according to His plans. Take every day and wrestle with it, and learn from it. It’s sort of like “whatever happens, happens”.
I acquired that lesson through wanting to be a missionary. My mother took it as an advantage; food that wasn’t pleasant (and when I refused to eat it), she averred that missionaries needs to endure anything; just like my grandparents and their grandparents established before them. That reason went with everything as I grow up. When I fell off my first bicycle ride, when I first got in a fist fight with my best friend and ended up dislocating my shoulder, having instant noodles to school for 2 weeks because we ran out of money, sleeping on the floor, etc. I accepted all of those things, some more easily than others, until one day my mom popped a question. “Do you want to go to America?” It took me only a few seconds to squeak out a yes. In my childish, seven year-old mind, I imaged America as the land of candies, chocolates and unicorns. Leaving my brothers and sisters in Thailand with my parents all to myself, sounded like a dream come true.
Unfortunately, things didn't turn out the way I had dreamt. Leaving Thailand to a sunny town in New Mexico was the easy part. Living with a friend of my mother’s for the next ten months without my parents – was not. At that point, I don’t know any English except for the alphabet song. It was hard not knowing the language and being in a new country, especially without my parents. I should have felt alone. Instead, I smiled and never shed tears (except for once when I couldn't eat those scrumptious looking rum-filled chocolate on Thanksgiving).
Having to figure things out on my own have helped me develop the ‘cold climate’ culture of independent; being on time; speaking my mind and fight for what’s right. From a shy girl who hides her face behind her hair, to a teacher’s assistant, I became one of the leaders of my class and helped around school as much as a 1st grader could.
My adventure soon ended and I return to Thailand. As hard as leaving was, coming back was just as difficult. I remember not knowing how to say “dad” in Thai. I couldn't eat spicy food. I was bullied by the kids in the neighborhood for speaking English, and most of all, I had forgotten what life was before I went to America. It was like relearning a language and a new culture all over again. My teachers reeducate me of the things I have forgotten such as respecting elders in a traditional greeting, bending my back when passing someone who is sitting, stepping quietly down the stairs, and eat more slowly. Even today, I still feel like an outsider; not being fully “American” yet not being fully Thai either.
‘Sabai sabai’ which means being comfortable and carefree is what I would call my culture. ‘Hot climate’ culture valued taking time to enjoy things. Sure, I like to take my time in eating food, doing my makeup, walking slowly, being late sometimes and being indirect once in a while. Even though I’m part of the “hot” climate culture, I also think it’s important to be on time, keep your promises, and yes means yes and no means no.
I was just finally getting back into my Thai culture and feeling comfortable again, when I was offered a chance to return to America. At the age of 15, I traveled back overseas and received yet another culture shock. When I returned America for High School, it was different than what I remembered. A whole new world is what I would put it. Life in Thailand and life in America is as opposite as salt and pepper. I lived with Jen, who was the kindergarten teacher at my high school, and her husband, Josh. They took me into their house and welcome me as part of their family. Not knowing that those kind gestures would start the effect of my outlook on life, family, marriage, dreams, and above all, a hope that I am valued.
Coming from a non-touchy and less connecting culture, it came as a surprise to me that when they asked me what my highs and lows of the day were. They asked what I liked to do; encourage me to play soccer, sat there in the audience while I was dressed as Glinda the Good Witch in a school play, we decorated the Christmas tree together, visit grannies and grandpas during the weekends (they were also nice to me and I love that they cook good food, oh how I miss them so) and just talk things out when we have problems. I knew that my parents loved me, but they hardly participated as much as Jen and Josh did. I felt blessed. I felt like I could do anything because they believe in me. Jen is the model of whom I want to grow up to be, and her relationship with her husband is what I hope to see one day when I am married.
Another thing that altered my life is accepting Christ as my Savior. When I learn that what He did on the cross was for my sins, I repented and laid down my life into His hands. Through the Bible, He has taught me what a good life should look like and how to become not just a good person but becoming more like Him. During the time His time on earth, he never sin once. People loved him, and hated him, yet He still remained good, kind, humble and was an example of what humans should be. Through Him, I have learned that there can never be anyone as perfect as Him. I have learned to serve instead of having someone serve me. Appreciating the little things and see the beauty in the things often ignored. To be confident in what I can do, and who I can be. I learned to set my own goals, stick to it and set my own path in life, not letting people let me down. I realized that I am a dreamer but I am also realistic.
Life is like a breath of air. One minute you’ll be breathing and the next, you could be collapsed on the floor panting your last. I learned the reality and the importance of life after a tragedy. I took my 7 years old sister, Dinah, for a ride around town one evening, my hat fell off. Being lazy, I demanded her to pick it up for me in the middle of the road. The street was empty, but as I saw her bending down to pick up the fallen hat, it was as if someone slowed down the time. She was standing there and the next think I knew, a motorcycle I couldn’t see crashed right into her causing her to fly through the air and hit the side pole with a sickening sound. I stood there like an idiot with shaky hands and short gasp of air that doesn't seem to be filling my lungs. I was in shock. Dropping my motorcycle, I came to my senses and ran toward my little sister. Every step toward her was like my feet were made out of concrete. Blood was dripping down my sister’s face, forever soaking her blue top, and in her clutched hand was my hat. “God, please don’t let my sister die. Please. Please. Please.” is all I could utter as I looked at her with tears in my eyes. That moment, I think of life, death, my parent’s face when they saw their youngest daughter dripping in blood – it blurred into one thing. I was pleading to God not to take away my sister.
A miracle happened. My sister blinked. I couldn't fit the happiness I felt in that moment into one paper, but I felt relieved, joyful and guilty. I spend the next few days apologizing and hugging my sister, who had a minor head injury and a few cuts on her body. Beside the fact that my parents were angry at me for quiet sometimes, it was okay because she lived. I will never forget that day because I learned the important of the things in ‘everyday’ life that could affect us differently if we were to lose them.
I discovered that life is a struggle of wants and needs. It’s a jumble of happiness mixed in with tears. There is always good and bad. Even in people. No “good” person is wholly good, and no bad person is all bad. Somewhere, everyone has both. No one is perfect and life isn't fair. But you know what? At lease we’re still alive to embrace life.