Hello! First, I should apologize. It's been far too long since my first and only post. These past three weeks have been filled with stress and relief, loneliness and social stimulation, and stomach calms and stomach not-so-calms, just to name a few of the things Thailand has thrown my way thus far.
I will dive into all of that in my next post. Now that I've got my feet on solid ground, I'm hoping these posts will be coming much more frequently. Before that, though, I would like to share with you something I've started to think about over the course of the last three weeks... Trust and truthfulness. Mind you, these are not concepts for which beginning to learn is easy, nor are they easily mastered. And honestly, I'm not sure if true mastery is even in the cards in this case. Just bear with me while I pretend to know what I'm talking about.
Now let me explain. Coming to Thailand, I knew I would be alone. Yes, I met a fantastic group of seventy-two people at orientation, and yes, there are other Westerners and fluent English speakers at my school. But when you break it down to the most basic level, I am on my own.
Being alone is not a bad thing. In the mere four weeks I have been in Thailand, I have learned so much about myself, especially in regards to my threshold for loneliness and my ability to deal with failure.
Let's start with failure... Before coming to Thailand, I was terrified of the mere thought of failing. I thought that if I failed at anything while abroad, it would be the start of a spiraling whirlpool not even the Black Pearl could escape. Boy was I wrong. I fail at various things almost on a daily basis. Sometimes lesson plans are incomplete, or a class that I had planned takes a turn for the worse. When I travel, I regularly get on the wrong bus, songthaew, or river boat and even more regularly get off at the wrong stop or pier. This is especially true with the Saen Saeb river boats (below). They stop at each pier for no more than fifteen to twenty seconds, so the pressure to know where you are going is immense, sometimes to the point of getting off at the wrong pier.
But when things are going awry, whether only slightly or rather magnificently, it is important that I keep my wits about me. I tell myself the truth. "Ian, you really botched this one." And then I move on. If I'm in class and nothing is going as planned, I just ride out the storm. There are always blue skies ahead. Just revamp the lesson and try again next time. Trust that you know what you're doing, and tell yourself that you can and will get through it one way or another.
Next, I want to quickly touch on loneliness. This is not something I am often open about, but I promised to blog the good, the bad and the evil in regards to the teach in Thailand program, and this is a topic in which I am sure I am not alone.... The first few weeks were okay. It was almost as if I was in vacation mode. Maybe vacation isn't the right word. Let's go with "It still hasn't hit me that I'm going to be here for almost a whole year" mode. Nevertheless, the lonesomes, as I like to call them, had not had quite enough time to fully settle in. The lonesomes did kick in at the end of week two, and the timing could not have been worse. On the weekend of May 20th, after our first week of teaching, myself and around twenty other OEG participants took a trip to the island of Koh Samed.
The first night we arrived, it was only myself and two other people. We arrived pretty late at night, maybe 12:30am, but we decided to spend some time on the beach before heading to bed. As I sat the under the stars, the near full moon glistening on the first ocean I had seen in almost two years, I thought, "Wow. This is my life now." At first, it was an amazing moment. It finally hit me that I was in Thailand, and this life of teaching during the week and traveling on the weekend would be the norm for the next ten months. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that despite all the traveling, I wouldn't be traveling home. The United States was not, nor will it be, on my list of places to visit during my time abroad.
Loneliness has been the hardest thing for me to handle thus far. It's not an everyday thing, thank God. But by no means is it a rare occurrence. This brings me back to the point of this post... Trust and truthfulness. When I get lonely, when I start to feel those lonesomes coming on, I tell myself that it is only a temporary emotional state. But I also tell myself that, while temporary, it will come back soon enough. And then I have to trust that I am telling myself the truth. Because I would only be doing myself an injustice by lying to myself. I also take solace knowing that, with practice, I will eventually become better at dealing with what plagues me.
If you've gotten this far in this post, I thank you. I don't like to talk about things like loneliness, but sometimes it has to be done. But just for good measure, and to keep you content until next time, here's a pretty flower for your troubles, courtesy of Naga Bungalows on Koh Samed: