I'm walking through morning assembly at school. The students are sitting in long rows looking bored and lazy. One boy, stick thin and all limbs, sits behind his chubby friend. They're maybe 16 years old. In a casual moment, the skinny one slides his hands along the sides of his friend's gut, reaches to grab the biggest part of his belly, and shakes it for all its worth. The thin boy's hands cross around his friend and he leans his head against his back.
I don't know how to describe Thai teenagers. I can only give examples because they are the strangest, cutest people I've ever met. I've never seen people of any age interact the way they do. They love each other so deeply, but its also very casual. My 17 year-old boys are wrestling in the back of my classroom one minute and sitting on each others' laps the next minute. They're so innocent and respectful, lighthearted and sincere. (Ok, it's not all rainbows: They're also the laziest SOB's I know).
But being around them makes me so happy. They ask me how much I weigh, if I had a nose job, why I don't have a boyfriend. They die laughing when I try to speak Thai. They grab my arms when I'm in reaching distance. They want to take a selfie. "Teacher, free time? 5 minutes, ok?"
When I signed up for this job, I thought the job was a way to travel while still working and making money. Now, I think teaching these kids is the best part of the whole adventure. And it's why I've decided to stay more than one semester. I haven't been this happy in a long time, and its because of my job, my coworkers, my school, and my students.
I'm far from being an expert at adulthood, but I think if I've found a job I love that allows me financial security and the proximity to travel in one of the most beautiful places, I should keep it for more than 4 and a half months. I'm finally an ok driver on my motorbike. I'm becoming friends with Thai people, learning to travel solo, and trying to speak a new language.
It's exhausting and emotional. I miss my sisters like crazy, but I have to find what makes me happy on my own. For now at least, I think I've found it 8500 miles away from home in a town called Phetchabun.