A Thank You Note

A Thank You Note

It happens at least once a month. After being over-adventurous at the local market, I regretfully end up spending a few lethargic days battling the stomach flu. Today was one of those days.

After a few weeks of little inspiration to write, these past few days have tested my strength as I conquered a month that has brought me mental and physical challenges beyond what I am used to. On one side of the endless battle between me and myself, I am the audacious, down-for-anything type that will always say, “Yes” to experiencing local food and culture, even though it may pose risks to my health. On the other side, I am overly cautious and mindful. Finding this balance is one of the hardest things to do when you are in an unfamiliar yet fascinating place (especially if you’re as adventurous as I am).

Life doesn’t stop for anyone to make proper decisions all the time – it keeps on going. Life doesn’t always pause for contemplations, like when I’m staring at the roti cart in envy as I wait in line and suddenly it’s my turn to order artery-clogging fried sugar dough. I think to myself – “Dammit, I didn’t really want to buy it, but I already have my 15 Baht ready to pay, so why not…” Life also doesn’t stop for small crises, like when I am preparing for a class in five minutes and am about to burst from both ends.

At 9:30am, my joyful and bustling first graders ran into my room like a herd of buffalo, chasing and toppling over one another to claim their favorite desks. A majority runs into me first, with arms spread wider than they are tall, embracing me with the largest and longest of hugs. Little Kam Kam (but actually the biggest girl in the class) greets me in tears, as she is sweet but overly sensitive. I don’t know what happened because she explained it all in Thai, but in times like these language doesn’t matter. I play the Mom role and wipe her tears away, embracing her as she cries on my shirt. I ask the shortest and tallest students to stand in the front of the room in preparation for a lesson on the basic words of length. The tiniest student in the class shouts, “I AM TALL!” I laugh because he’s clearly not – only the size of a bedside table, if that – but he’s got the tallest, or largest, personality of them all. I wanted to shout to him, “Yes, lil nugget, you are SO SO tall! Believe in yourself!” but my Thai co-teacher would think I was insane. By the end of class I was no longer focused on my stomach spasms, but on the students’ eager, partially-toothed smiles that could brighten even the gloomiest of days. The students exited with the same loud ruckus, in the same buffalo-herd-like manner in which they had entered, not one leaving the room without an embrace from Teacher Tori.

Thank you, sweet seven year olds, for showing me continuous love when I need it most.

At 10:35am (always late), my sixth graders waltzed in. Quite behind in the curriculum, I quickly got to work explaining the ins and outs of decimals. When I finally gave them some additional work to do on their own, which seemed to be quite easy on their smarty-pants brains, I had a moment to breathe. I had been feverish, sweating like a pig even with the air conditioning on. One of my students could see that I had been staring into space – that often happens when I’m thinking – and I happened to be staring near his gaze. The class was silently working and I had just taken a swig of water when he let out a loud “RAAAAAAIIIIIYYYYRRRR!” like a scared cat, putting his hands at his mouth like paws. My water didn’t make it down my throat. The whole class erupted in laughter, as did I.

Thank you, pretentious twelve year olds, for making math a little less boring.

Fast-forward to 2:30pm, and it was time for English Speaking Club. My ladyboy student Edward wanted to try on my shoes, so I let him prance around in them for a while. Even for an eleven-year-old boy, being a homosexual in Thailand is nothing to be ashamed about. Last week I had decided to teach the students about communicating with foreigners, because tourism is always pretty hot in Thailand. Blackberry Kim and Katy Perry (yes, those are their names) immediately got to work practicing the dialogues I had assigned. As all five students continued to recite their lines, I instantly became aware of how much they must have practiced in just a few short days. Each week they show up with an enthusiasm beyond anything I’ve ever seen. They ask questions, they repeat pronunciation until they get it right, they want my approval, they want to know more about everything, and I am happy to be their resource.

My blog posts have been primarily concerned with the way this experience in Thailand has been changing me, but the direct affect of my time at this school expands way beyond myself. For many Thai students, learning English is key to a better life, as it allows them the opportunity to seek occupations beyond general reach. With an education in English, students may pursue a degree abroad or work in any industry that communicates in the most commonly spoken language of the world, such as hospitality or medicine.

Blackberry lives in a small fisherman’s village, and her father is a fisherman. She is the happiest girl I’ve met in Thailand, and she will also be the one I look back on in ten years and see her life most changed.

Suddenly, my lack of inspiration to write, my stomach flu, and my negative attitude became the least of my concerns.

I looked at my five English stars in Speaking Club, realized how bright they shine, and noticed how much potential they have to be anyone they want to be.

Thank you, my dear students, for giving me a purpose worth working for.

My Stars

My Stars


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