For those of you that do not know, I have signed myself up to live and teach English in the beautiful country of Thailand for the next six months of my life.
With my recent move, a lot of people have been asking me: “How’s Thailand?!”
The simple and honest answer? The struggle is real.
For a while now, I have been debating how to sincerely answer this question and encompass my first month in Thailand into one blog post. This has taken me forever to write because there is no way to describe to you all of the tears shed, laughs had, people met, and memories made in just one post. However, I have tried my best and have decided to present my time here through some very valuable lessons learned.
Culture shock is a real thing
When I moved to Thailand, I learned the true meaning of “culture-shock”. I am not exactly sure what I was expecting when I moved to a developing third-world country, but all I can say is I was not prepared for it. Before I moved here, the past two years of my life involved being sheltered in my fantasy-world European bubble.
My European-bubble was immediately burst once I set foot on Thai soil.
Thailand reminds me of one giant movie-set in the way that it almost doesn’t seem real. There is a different kind of life that fills the streets, and it is hard to explain the vibe. The country as a whole has a very unique mix of beauty and grunge, and I would not call the cities pretty, but raw.
I am not going to get too deep into the culture because I want to dedicate a blog post to this in the future. So until then, I will spare you the details of the various types of pig snouts for sale that I see on a day-to-day basis. I can assure you though, that I am lucky to learn from this culture and that Thai people really do live up to their “Land of Smiles” motto.
Anticipate that everything will not go as planned
In Thailand I’ve found that it’s better to expect and accept that everything will go wrong. A good example of this would be that I was originally told I was going to be placed in Bangkok, teaching high school, and that there would be plenty of westerners in our area.
I quickly learned that I am in the boonies (Minburi district), I am teaching mostly elementary school students (8-11), and there are only 2 other westerners with me. At first the two other girls and I highly debated packing our bags, but the unexpected is slowly turning into a positive. My area is super cute, it’s a cheap taxi ride into Bangkok, and my school is great. Minus one tiny little problem…
Children are both adorable and spawns of satan all over the world
…Thai kids are nuts. I teach 3rd through 11th grade (8-17 year olds), so I have every range of child imaginable. Some angels, most devils. Never in a million years did I expect to miss my students from Spain this much.
Thai students are super shy, so the only time they are quiet is when they are scared to death to answer a question. But once the attention is turned away from them they are running to every corner of the room, jumping up and down or throwing rulers at each other. So, this has developed into a mini day-by-day battle. Some battles victorious, others disastrous. At least they’re cute.
Laughter is the best medicine…
I have probably laughed more my past month in Thailand than the past year of my life. Since so many things are out of our control, I’ve found its better to have a good sense of humor and roll with it.
Some of my personal favorite moments:
- Having to lead a song in front of 500 students and their parents
- Being told we were going to have to wear hairnets as a part of our school uniform
- Calling on students by their self-decided nicknames. My personal favorites being “Piggy”, “Pooh”, “Billgates” and “Kittiporn”
- “Teachaaa! How old are you? Are you 50? Where are your kids?”
- One of my fifth graders running up to me and hugging me, “Teachaaa! You so beautiful…but you fat!”
…but it’s okay to cry
Every time I move abroad, there is at least one period of time where I seriously ponder why I decided to move half way across the globe, thousands of miles away from the comforts of home.
When you move halfway across the globe, your senses will become heightened and you will be forced to deal with thousands of stress factors that you never imagined would show up to the forefront of your mind.
With this, random things will trigger you to cry. Like really random.
One time I was on the treadmill at my gym in Spain, and a movie was on that was set in Chicago (where I’m from). One of the scenes in the movie showed the Chicago skyline, and I started bawling mid-jog. I laugh about it now, but when you’re abroad and so far from home, everything about home is fantasized and you appreciate where you come from so much more.
I am still waiting for my annual break-down (don’t even get me started on missing the Cubs win the World Series or the recent presidential election…), but there’s nothing ever wrong with crying it out.
Everyone has a story
On the second day of our TESOL course, our instructor turned on his PowerPoint and went to the first slide. I read the slide, and all it said was, “Why are you here?”
I was a bit confused, but then he began to tell us his life story and how he ended up in Thailand. He encouraged us to share our stories, and allotted the next hour and a half for us to do so.
As he told us this, my heart was beating out of my chest. I’ve met a lot of people on my time abroad, and I have asked this question a lot. Asking is one thing, but being asked and expected to answer to a room full of people is a lot different.
As I sat in my seat breaking out into a cold sweat, one by one these “strangers” started sharing their stories. That hour and a half was filled with laughs, tears, and serious moments of reflection. That hour and a half slowly turned 30 strangers into 30 friends. I told mine, and my lingering cold-sweat turned into a massive moment of relief. That hour and a half was one of my favorite and most humbling moments in my time abroad.
I am exactly where I am meant to be
I won’t lie and say that my time here has been magical. It has been difficult, and the hardest transition I’ve ever had into a new place. Negatives have outweighed positives and moments of frustration have overshadowed moments of bliss.
Even though this month and a half has been tough, it has been a massive blessing. It has been a month and a half of incredible personal growth, and many lessons learned.
With this, my negatives are turning into positives. This country and its people are beautiful, I have made friends that I know will be my friends for a very long time, and I am getting to do the best job in the world while being completely immersed in a culture that I never in a million years thought I would have lived in. I am confident in knowing that I am exactly where I am meant to be.
SO, wish me luck my friends! It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey already, and I can’t wait to see what the next four months has in store.
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