115 days ago I was stepping onto my first airplane alone…traveling to the other side of the world with no friends or family and no idea what to expect. Today I sit at my desk in Thailand, with only 43 days until I return back to America. I am so glad that I took this leap of faith and followed through with coming to Thailand, even though it seemed crazy and scary in the beginning. I have never done much traveling and have never been this far away from home for this long. This experience has been both challenging and rewarding in many ways.
The first day of teaching, I stood in front of 38 shy, innocent students who had no idea what I was saying and I had no idea what I was supposed to do or how to teach them. I insisted that there was no idea I would learn all of their Thai names and be able to tell them apart with their matching uniforms and haircuts- never gonna happen. As the weeks passed, they turned into these adorable little monsters full of life and individual personalities. My ability to tell them apart and memorize each of their crazy names somehow turned into an easy task. The lack of a common language never actually kept me from communicating with them. It’s amazing how that works. I know each of their personalities, their instincts, their attitudes, without ever really having a conversation with any of them. I learned how to communicate in so many ways other than just speaking, and I have learned to read children’s needs without their words. What an incredible gift to take home with me. This will make me so much more aware and observant of the kids I come home and teach in America. In our education classes, they always told us to “listen to the child”..”hear the child”..but as teachers, you shouldn’t always have to ask or wait for a child to tell you what they need. If you open up your eyes and become aware and observant to the kids, you can see what they want and need without them telling you. When language is taken out of the equation, you have to get creative and use your other senses to evaluate situations. My confidence in my teaching ability has grown tremendously since coming to Thailand. Yes, I graduated with a teaching degree in the states, but teaching here is pretty different than my student teaching experience where all of the students could actually understand me. If I can teach 300 first graders who know hardly any English, and they actually learn something from me, I’m pretty sure I can teach anyone! 🙂
Another beautiful thing about Thai people is their kindness to strangers. I live in the middle of a Thai neighborhood and feel quite at home. Neighbors will often see me walking to or from school in the heat and stop where they are going to pick me up and give me a ride on their motor bike. They don’t ask any questions or expect anything in return, it’s really not even an option lol when someone stops to offer you a ride..you get on the bike. People sit outside all the time and everyone you pass greets you with a smile and “sawatdee kha” (hello!). They are always willing to help when I screw up the washing machine or need help carrying something. Even though I have never met any of them, they all show the true meaning of being a neighbor. They might not know God or the Bible, but they sure do understand how to “love your neighbor as yourself.” 🙂 So when I come back from Thailand, there’s a good chance I’ll start saying hi to lots of random strangers as I pass them lol, I mean who doesn’t like a smile and friendly hello?!
Thailand is also a place of simplicity. It is more of a slow-paced, no worries lifestyle. In America everyone is always racing around to do a million things in a day, sometimes hardly taking the time to just enjoy life. We stick to a schedule and check off the things on our list to make it to the end of our day where we record 8 different shows every night so we can fast forward through the commercials and cram even more shows into a shorter time. Living in Thailand has been so nice and calming. At night I go outside and walk down the street to the market where tons of people and families spend hours sitting together and talking. I walk back and see kids riding bikes and playing badminton without a net. They have so little and yet are so happy. It’s quite a refreshing thing to see. People just sit. They have no worries and nowhere to be. They just sit around and enjoy each other and enjoy life. It’s beautiful. Not that life in America can’t be calm and that we don’t enjoy time together..but the simplicity of Thailand is definitely a nice change for a while.
Ok so now for some more humorous triumphs for me in Thailand. I have always been a little OCD and a clean freak with germs and washing my hands (thanks daddy), but I have now been broken of that (more-so forced lol). There have been cockroaches and geckos living in my house..as well as other bugs in my room. And I am ok with that. Thailand is also not known for its cleanliness..soap is a rare find in bathrooms..as are paper towels..and toilet paper..And I have survived. No, my feet have not actually been to my standard of clean for months, but I’ve accepted it. I have also always wanted to know if leg hair eventually stopped growing if you didn’t shave. Answer: yes, it does. (Hey just trying to fit in with the locals! ;))
I am overall very satisfied with my time here in Thailand and now that it’s nearing the end, I’m getting a bit sad. There will definitely be some tears when I have to say goodbye to my students, knowing that I will never see any of them again or see how well they can speak English in the next several years. They are truly the ones who have made Thailand worth it. Yes, the islands and weekend travels have been great, but these kids absolutely have a piece of my heart that will forever stay here. Even when I wake up dreading going to school, or am really sick and drag myself to class, my kids are always there to give me hugs and smiles and heart shaped vitamin C. They are amazing. In the short months I have been here, I have created some amazing bonds with these little humans. I hope and pray that they will have healthy and successful lives. Only 43 more days and I’m going to cherish every last one of them. ❤ See ya soon America!