I’m trying to appreciate each moment for what it has to offer and realize that my time here will eventually come to an end, so I need to bask in the joys this beautiful country has to offer while I can. I’ve been itching to travel more frequently and now that we have settled at school, we are able to take advantage of the weekends and holidays. I have a slew of other countries I want to explore but unfortunately I have not checked any of those off of my list yet. It seems as though I am going to have to hold off on those trips until the semester has come to an end in March…I think that’s when it ends…we can’t know. I wish I could adequately portray the schedule system at this school. It is not my intent for this to come off as criticism but here is an example of how things work: Tuesday morning I was scheduled to have class at 8:20am, I waited in the classroom for 20 minutes (a 50 minute class) and no one ever showed up. Unbeknownst to me, the students were attending a school activity. That’s not uncommon and I’m certainly not complaining. I actually quite enjoy the lax attitude here. I would say one of the only problems with students attending activities versus coming to class (aside from not learning) is that I can potentially go a few weeks without seeing a certain class and when I see them again, they are a little more disorderly. It is as though I need to earn their respect all over again.
Teaching always keeps me on my toes…and I absolutely love it! I don’t say that because that’s what I’m obligated to say due to the fact that I’m blogging about teaching abroad. I say that because it’s how I feel. I love my students. I also love that a laugh is universal. They may not always know what I’m saying and I certainly don’t always know what they are saying, but when we laugh, we make a connection. The other day, I was having my students play a game where I hold up a flashcard with a vocabulary word that we’ve discussed in class; the students were expected to write out a sentence properly to match the vocabulary word to earn a point for their team. They were broken up into 3 teams so there were 3 students up at the board at a time. At the very end of class, I played for the team with the least amount of points. I lost one round and won the second round. All of the students were actively engaged and cheering and laughing loudly. There are times when some classes are better than others and there are times I want to pull my hair out and find one of those canes the Thai teachers have, but overall, this is better than anything I’d be doing back home.
I don’t really relish the notion of publicizing some of my thoughts, but I think it’s good to make this as candid as I can. I’m not one to sugarcoat things or pretend that things are perfect when they aren’t. To preface, I am still undeniably happy and my qualms are probably 100% normal and possibly warranted. 3 months in and I’ve hit a few road blocks. It’s important to understand that prior to teaching abroad I had applied for the Peace Corps. I was looking to do good in the world, make a positive change in myself and feel like I was making a positive impact on others. I’d like to think I’m making a positive impact on my students and that I’m helping them in their path towards success, but some days it’s hard to know if that’s actually the case. I’ve contemplated doing volunteer work but it’s easy to find other things to occupy my times especially since I am constantly busy.
There is barely downtime. For someone who is used to a good amount of downtime AND alone time, I’m often times not in my element. Because I’m so accustomed to being by myself in situations and making my own plans, I know some of my more unpleasant characteristics are surfacing more frequently. I like for things to be done a certain way and for at least a basic plan to be set (in all facets of even relatively simple and mundane things). So, when that’s not the case, I become impatient and irritable. I’m sure this has aggravated the girls (and likely others) on more than one occasion; and one might say this is a perfect opportunity to try and modify those characteristics, but that it’s easier said than done. Ideally I’d like to travel as much as I feasibly can and part of me would like to travel alone. Being alone has its advantages and disadvantages in situations like this, again, I don’t want this to be misconstrued, I love the girls and often times would be lost without them. They have brought an immeasurable amount of joy and happiness and worth into this whole experience, but sometimes I just want to go out and get lost and force myself to find my way back (hypothetically speaking). Throughout my experience here in Thailand so far, I have relied on people to get me to and from locations: which stop to take on the sky train, which van will get me to which island, the destination to tell the taxi driver. More often than not, I have other people delineating these tasks. I remember visiting a boyfriend in New York City about 2 years ago and I opted to take the subway instead of a taxi to get into the city because I appreciated the challenge it presented (and it was substantially cheaper). He gave me directions, I looked up directions online and asked a gentleman I met on the airtran for some directions, but it was up to me to follow them accurately. I carried my oversized suitcase up and down each set up stairs, hopped from the airtran to the subway, from subway to subway and hurried through the massive crowds of pedestrians. When I finally arrived to his apartment, I was immensely proud of myself. It sounds simple but I had virtually done it on my own and it was the first time I had done anything like that. Of course I’ve done bigger things, like move across the world, but at the time, that was an achievement and the feeling was grand. I want more of that. I want that sense of pride and accomplishment, to make plans or break them on my own accord, to not have to worry what someone else wants. I understand what I’m asking for sounds selfish and for those who are doing this alone, I might appear to be an ingrate, but as I’ve stated…I prefer to be candid.
Before moving to Thailand, I toyed around with the idea of staying here for one semester or two. There are so many things I want to do and see in this world and as cliché as it sounds, I feel like my age is going to have some bearing on my path after Thailand as well as the amount of time I stay in Thailand. I have looked into moving to New Zealand and doing menial work there for a few months. I’ve also thought about teaching in Indonesia for a year. I’ve contemplated moving to Bangkok and teaching there or potentially finding another job that can keep me here for another 6 months or so. Greenheart Travel offers so many programs and they don’t make it easy to decide which to choose from because they all have their appeals. I don’t have a lot of time to decide but I will weigh out my options and hopefully figure it out sooner rather than later. As much as I miss America and family and friends, I’m not ready to go back…I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to go back.
Points worth mentioning:
It was actually cold the other morning which is a baffling thought. These are the winter months and I was told to expect cooler weather but I didn’t expect it to be this cool…jacket worthy weather. My bathroom is practically outside so showering in the morning and attempting to shave your legs is not the most enjoyable task. It made me realize that I don’t miss cold weather at all!
The girls and I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Koh Samed. I prefer that island over Koh Chang which is convenient for us because Koh Samed it closer proximity wise. We took a 250 BHT, 3 hour van ride to the ferry, a 50 BHT, 30 minute ferry to the island and a 300 BHT, 10 minute taxi ride to our hotel. Prices get exponentially more expensive on the islands. Prior to our taxi ride to the hotel, we stopped at a café that was serving American cuisine, indulged in some fabulous food (that may or may not have been the cause of my Thai tummy that hit me about 16 hours later) and met some people from other countries that were staying in the hostel right next to the café. We got to the hotel, relaxed for a bit, I attended a fire show on the beach and then we started getting ready for the night. We met up with some people but branched off shortly after to attend a Reggae bar where we listened to a Thai man sing various Bob Marley songs…which he did quite well. We danced, we sang and we watched an overly intoxicated girl get up and dance with some of the dancers on stage. Some of our friends from the TESOL course met up with us where we ventured off to the next bar…Naga Bar. They busted out the party paint and of course we indulged. The paint comes off your skin easily but not your clothes. I ruined my skirt and shirt and designated those as the clothes I wear for the paint parties we attend in the future. We washed off some of the paint by taking a late-night swim in the ocean. The water is perfect all the time…not too warm and not too cold! We staggered back to our hotel around4am (ask most of my friends back home and they’ll tell you I never stay up that late). We woke up the next morning and that’s when my Thai Tummy hit me. I spent majority of the day in bed and stayed in for the night.
As much fun as we have had, this is where my self-reflection rears its ugly head. I don’t want every weekend to be about partying and playing. This is something that is in my control so we were more low-key this weekend. We watched a movie, shopped some in Bangkok and were productive with schoolwork and cleaning. I’m likely going to sign up for some tutoring throughout the week which will occupy my time in a more suitable manner.
I mentioned a repugnant smell in one of my previous posts. I never figured out the origin of that smell was but I believe it was the cause of persistent headaches so I have been moved to another room. It is still located close to the girls’ rooms so I am very happy.
Sara’s birthday was yesterday so Sara, Carter, Lauren and I celebrated by going out to eat at one of the restaurants down the street from us. We picked this place specifically because we thought we might have the opportunity to participate in some karaoke. As soon as we arrived, we asked if we would be able to sing…we were immediately shot down. A band was set to play so we wouldn’t be able to steal the mic for a song. We sat down, ordered our beer tower, som tum, 4 cashew nut chicken entrees and waited for our food to arrive. Shortly into our dinner, the band started to sing “Happy Birthday” to Sara, apparently they had gotten wind of our interest to sing so they asked us if we wanted to come give it a go. The girls and I rushed on stage, leaving Carter behind to capture our lovely (or terrible) voices on film. After the first song, I’m surprised they let us stick around for a second one. We honestly kinda sucked, but we had a good time and they were so kind to let us play around for a little while. Sometimes I crave to live in Bangkok. I’ve always yearned for the “Big City” life and I believe living there would fulfil that dream, but it’s things like: waiters and waitresses giving Sara a Doraemon (the popular cartoon here in Thailand) stuffed animal, letting us come on stage and sing a few songs, taking an endless amount of pictures for us and smiling the whole time they do it, that make me appreciate what we have by being some of the only foreigners in this city. The attitude in Bangkok is a little harsher at times and the kindness and generosity is not as prevalent. That isn’t to say there aren’t kind Thais in Bangkok though. Thais in our city don’t have to constantly deal with a plethora of pesky foreigners, so I understand why the ones in Bangkok have a little bit more of a bite to them. I assume that’s at least partially how it goes for most big cities.
I think I have a slight idea of what it feels like to be famous…a D-list celebrity, but definitely a celebrity. Today we had another school activity so Carter and Sara dressed up in traditional Thai wear and Lauren and I hung back in our regular clothes…we were like the back-up dancers, if you will. There were booths set up all over the school for the students to attend. We had to sign cards (it felt like signing autographs) for students to indicate that they had made it to our booth. Towards the end of the day, we walked to most of the surrounding booths and took a copious amount of pictures with the students and teachers. By time we were finished, my cheeks were sore and new wrinkles were forming from smiling so much. 3 months in, it still catches me off guard when people want to take pictures with us, but we have fun!
It doesn’t feel like Christmas at all! It’s currently 82 degrees here while it is 43 degrees back home. My siblings will be home for Christmas so I’m sad that I’ll miss them but a Skyping session is a must! With a 13 hour time difference and the fact that I will be working on Christmas day, finding the time to complete this task will be quite the accomplishment. We leave for Koh Phi Phi on Friday where we will spend a few days before we make it over to Phuket for New Years. Some of the other people from the TESOL course will be there as well so it will be another reunion of sorts! I’m definitely looking forward to the break!