What you seek is seeking you (and I'm seeking papaya)
I have good news about moving to Thailand, and I have bad news about moving to Thailand.
I’ll give you the bad news first.
The bad news is that germs are real. Can confirm: Germs. Are. Real.
I say this with certainty because I have been here for three weeks (…already? How did that happen?) and I have already been on antibiotics and sent home from work for having a cold and a fever. True story.
My first lesson: do not scratch bug bites. They will, in fact, get infected, swell up to give you a legitimate cankle, and you will then daydream about what life will be like after losing your leg to a bug bite.
Now, the irony of this is that I did not get the bite in Thailand, I got the bite in Arizona before I left. So I was not worried about malaria or Japanese Encephalitis or all of those other scary-horror-story-bug-bite diseases. I was mainly concerned about losing my leg because my mind likes to resort to the worst possible scenario at all times. I will spare you from the photos of this bite, but to provide you with some kind of explanation/visual, I would describe it as what I think Jabba the Hutt’s ankles might look like: red, purple, concerning. When I went to the pharmacy the poor pharmacist let out a loud gasp and asked how I was walking (I don’t know). Thus, I took a week of strong antibiotics and wore a really cool purple ankle wrap. I am now happy to report I will be keeping my leg and my ankle is back to normal proportions.
My friend at home replied that “taking antibiotics immediately after moving to a foreign country is definitely ‘laminating your adult card.’” So, I’m happy to say that this is what adulthood is. Let me know when you join.
My second lesson is that kids are in fact, germy. You should wash your hands a lot and invest in hand sanitizer and those miracle vitamin shots they sell at 7/11 (which I should mention are on every corner in Bangkok). I do currently have a pretty mean cold, but I have a theory that the children did not give me this cold, but that I caught this on my flight over to Thailand. I sat next to a jittery guy with a runny nose—who also managed to spill a glass of water on my lap and a bowl of ice cream while I was sleeping (in hindsight, this is hilarious. But during a fifteen hour flight, I was not so amused). Thus, I’ll blame him for this. Or, maybe I’ll just blame flying in general because it is a fact that any airplane is just a cesspool of germs. Planes are essentially just giant metal germ tubes soaring through the sky.
And that is the bad news.
The good news is this:
Literally everything else in Bangkok and Thailand is good news (except maybe the humidity, but it’s not really bad news either). The people are incredibly kind and welcoming, the food is delicious, my students are hilarious, I have met some of the best friends I have ever had, and I am happy — happier than I have been in a very long time.
My move started with CIEE’s orientation and it was a great way to prepare for teaching as well as meet people and explore some of Bangkok. I moved into my apartment in Chatuchak a few days later (at first into a room with no air conditioning, and I quickly learned how much I appreciate AC. But, they happened to move me into an air conditioned room a few days later). My living arrangements have all the necessities… bed, closet, bathroom, desk, a balcony… no hot water and no elevator, but I get a great workout up to the fifth floor everyday and I never have to do the stairclimber at the gym. The people in my building are so kind and helpful — when I was first doing my laundry, I simply walked downstairs and the older woman who owns my building rushed over and threw my laundry and the soap into the machine and she pushed all of the buttons for me with the biggest smile on her face. I tried to say she didn’t have to, but she insisted (my theory is because I was limping from my T-rex leg bite), so she and her cute little dog who wears minnie mouse sweater-vests and I tried to communicate over laundry and speaking Thai. (Sidenote: my Thai is absolutely horrific.)
I began teaching last week, and I am teaching grades 7-12 (Matteums 2, 3, 5 and 6) and it is a definite adjustment to the school system in the U.S. I consider myself lucky because most of my students are very motivated to learn English since I am teaching in a program designed for students who excel at English. I know many other teachers who are teaching students who speak no English at all (I salute you and am happy to get a drink with you any time). One of the biggest adjustments is that it is very normal for students to be talking all the time; it is never completely quiet. But, my students are hilarious and kind and they laugh at me when I pronounce their names (did I mention how bad I am at the tones of the Thai language?) and I laugh at them when they pronounce my name. When I first arrived, all of my classes immediately asked where I was from and how old I was and if I had a boyfriend. So in return, I ask them to teach me a Thai word or phrase everyday, such as “papaya” since I eat it every morning (because why wouldn’t you?). Or I asked one student how to say “I like spicy food,” in which he told me to say “I am a fat old man,” in Thai, and he immediately became my favorite student because that is hilarious. I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but I don’t care, I’m breaking the rules.
The teachers I work with are great, and I’m happy to say that my two best friends here also teach at my school. We do our lesson plans and plan weekend getaways and daydream of moving to Bali while eating somtom and pineapple slices.
So, in summary, this is the very condensed version of my last three weeks. It has been very busy and wildly entertaining, but also incredibly fun and overwhelmingly humbling. To get real sappy on you, I have never believed more than now that “What you seek is seeking you.” I think it is absolutely true that you attract and seek people who are seeking exactly what you are. It is so comforting to meet people with similar goals, or a similar drive to travel or help others or have fun or teach or be completely immersed in a new environment. It is comforting to know I have found that in only three weeks.
It is now my professional opinion that living abroad is the best thing anyone can ever do. Seeing how other people live and work and laugh and learn and love and pray and party is the best thing you can do for yourself. Gaining a larger perspective on the problems in the world make my problems seem like nothing. I have never been more grateful for the life I live, and the people in my life. And more so, I have never been more motivated and inspired.
So, that’s the good news— that Thailand has changed my life in only three weeks. Cheers!