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Thailand, Teaching, Traveling, and other T words.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in Thailand, it is this very important lesson:

Never under-appreciate hot water and breakfast foods.

It is a fact that one’s quality of life is directly related to breakfast. I miss breakfast so much that I often find myself day dreaming about french pressed coffee and oatmeal and eggs with avocado and french toast.

Also, cold showers are truly a test of one’s endurance. Fortunately, living on the fifth floor with no elevator helps me to improvise: I run up the stairs as fast as I can to warm up my body and then I jump in the shower like I’m doing the polar plunge. As a result, both my endurance and cold tolerance have improved dramatically, so that’s neat.

So, these are my minor complaints for Thailand. Everything else is pretty great as usual, and I imagine when I return to the US I will eat nothing but breakfast foods (can I request my airport pickup be armed with banana-blueberry-pancakes, please?) and take hot showers for a few days… maybe at the same time… now we’re talking.

On another note, the last month has been a busy one filled with a lot of traveling—Koh Tao, Koh Nang Yuan, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani, Chiang Rai, Laos—all unique and fun and beautiful. My traveling takes place on weekends while I’m not teaching and it’s incredibly easy and cheap (flights are usually about 60 dollars round trip, and hotels range from anywhere to $5-$20 a night. So, it’s silly not to travel everywhere and anywhere). It usually consists of trying to check things off my Must-See-In-Thailand bucket list such as hiking to the top of Koh Nang Yuan, seeing Wat Plai Laem in Koh Samui, seeing the White Temple in Chiang Rai, watching the sunrise in Laos, sending off lanterns on the beach, and eating a lot of coconut ice cream (often times while simultaneously getting a massage with a bottle of wine nearby)… all good things.

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And, as crazy as it seems, I only have three weeks left of teaching. This is difficult for me to comprehend because it has gone so incredibly fast. I am of course looking forward to my adventures after Thailand, but I am truly saddened to leave these kiddos. They are so sweet and funny and it’s going to be very difficult to return back to the US and not have people tell me I’m beautiful everyday and ask me why I’m so tall or why I have so many freckles or say random funny phrases to me that they have heard on TV or in movies.

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I think this is one of my overall favorite things about the Thai culture— their humor. They have a wonderful sense of humor that still manages to translate even if there is a language barrier. I regularly find myself crying with laughter at the things my students say and do. Whether it’s them trying to pronounce my last name (it somehow usually turns into Ah-mee Mess-in-ger…) or them coming up with hilarious answers for Scattergories such as “Rings of the Lord” for Books, or “The French Language” as Something that Scares You. (Side note: teachers, if you need a game, I have found that this one works for every level and it’s my favorite.) For one of my classes, we had the letter J for one of the boards, and the answer “John Cena” worked for each topic: Superhero, Boy’s Name, Something Scary, A Kind of Entertainment, Something Tall, Animal, and A Famous Person. As you can imagine, they loved this and we were laughing hysterically.

Or, another day, I wore my hair down and one of the boys in the back raised his hand in the middle of class and shouted: “Teachaaa! Your hair is beeeeeeautiful today!” So I told him he got 100 extra points out of 30, and they all began to give me compliments.

Or, this conversation happens regularly:
    Me: “[Student’s name], do you have your homework?
    Student: *smiles blankly at me*
    Me: “I am grading you on this assignment.”
    Student: “But teacha, I love you!”
    Me: “I love you too… please bring it tomorrow.”
And it’s an endless cycle of me constantly telling them to turn it in the next day because I’m weak.

I think it’s safe to say teaching has changed me in many ways: I am much more patient and empathetic, and I have never felt taller. It is so fun and rewarding. In fact, I think this is one of the only jobs I’ve had where I don’t wake up thinking “I don’t want to go to work today.” I wake up and I look forward to going to work (despite the absence of breakfast). If I were to give advice to anyone considering teaching in Thailand, I say that you should do it. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like it so you go back home… easy as that. But, I rarely find anyone who doesn’t like it here.

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That’s not to say there aren’t challenges, or homesickness or culture shock—there is all of the above. I get truly homesick when I miss my nephews’ birthday parties, or not being able to hug my best friend of 22 years after she got engaged, or missing holidays with my family. I feel culture shock when I try to give directions and the taxi driver cannot understand anything I am saying, or when there is still a fish head attached to my dinner. But, I find the best way to overcome this is to just laugh.

The positive side of being homesick or feeling culture shock is that you realize what is truly important to you (such as breakfast and hot water and family). The downside of homesickness is that you miss where you are right now. So my advice for this (even though you didn’t ask for it), is to make a life where you are, with who you are right now. Because at some point, you’ll likely be homesick for where you are right now. I know in a few months I am going to miss this desk, and my students, and the lady I buy fruit from, and being able to fly across the country for 30 dollars, and the coconut ice cream on every corner, and the people I have met here, and my tiny apartment, and maybe even the cold showers.

So, in summary, my advice is to always do something and go somewhere you can be homesick for someday. And, eat as much breakfast as you can.

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