Frustratingly Beautiful

Frustratingly Beautiful

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Thailand for a little over 3 months already. Some days, it feels like I just got here, and that there’s still so much to see and do still.  And other days, I feel as though I’ve been here for eons, and it’s time to go back to the normalcy of home.  The later feeling is usually after working with Thai kindergarteners for 9 hours and playing charades with my co-teacher.  Reinforced by the perpetual feeling that I’m always being silently judged at work.  And walking the twenty minutes home past tepid sewage and having sweat drip from places you didn’t know you could sweat.  Things like that get to you.

You might have noticed, I don’t really blog about my time teaching.  That is mostly because I feel like some days are rewarding, and other days, I want to leave school and never come back.  I think I have had a different experience teaching than most other English teachers in Thailand.  There are high expectations for me at my school and the program is a lot more intense than basic “conversational English” teaching.

This frustration is also mixed with the fact that all of the foreign Anuban (Kindergarten) teachers are Filipino (except me and a girl from Africa) and are basically treated like workhorses and underpaid.  They rarely complain because this “is the better option” than working in their country, however, the Thai school system seems to take advantage of it.  It’s pretty disgusting, if you ask me.  Some of the stories I hear about how the Filipinos who have been at the school a long time are treated are horrible.  They work 12 hour days and are paid like 10,000 baht less than someone like me, who has never taught a day in her life.  It’s hard to relate with my non-Western coworkers because teaching in Thailand is their life.  Many have been here for years and have started families.  It’s not some adventure.  It’s a better option for them, and many are glad to be making $600-$700/mo (if that!).

The teacher in my position before me was Filipino, so I was initially expected to work like her.  And I don’t.  I can’t.  I’d be spending my entire time here working 12 hour days and miserable.  But you come to a moral dilemma when you see them staying until 5 pm or 6 pm and you leave at 4:30 pm because, well, that’s what your contract says.  It’s challenging.

So, I’m going to blog more about teaching after I finish with the teaching experience in March.  I want to look at it as an overall experience and not “my day sucked because of (insert sucky event here)” or “today the kids did (insert activity here) and I am happy”.  For now, I’ll say I actually enjoy the teaching aspect.  I am thrilled when the students learn or want to practice their English with me.  I do not like the program I’m in or the unrealistic expectations of the parents and the school.  I keep trying to tell myself this is an adventure.  This isn’t a career-move or a permanent venture.  I just need to ride this wave and accept that I’m going to be judged because a) I still don’t really know how to teach and b) I still don’t really know what’s going on at school about 70% of the time and c) I don’t work as hard as the Thai teachers or the Filipinos.

And with that said, everything here is eye-opening…mind-opening. It’s fascinating, and sad, and frustrating, and beautiful.  Frustratingly beautiful.  I like the sound of that.  Most people will not experience the things I have been fortunate enough to bear witness to.  When people say, “I want to be a world traveler like you!”, I have to roll my eyes because I’m not really a traveler right now.  I am actually living part of my twenties in Thailand.  There’s a huge different between, “I went to Ko Phi Phi for a two week holiday” and “I worked 50 hour weeks in a Thai kindergarten for 5 months, had a lease on an apartment, met expats who have been here for years, made friends with the neighborhood fruit vendor, had my heart broken by the soi animals, etc.”  I’m not on holiday here!  And that distinction is important; one will leave you with a very skewed impression of a “place” and the other will leave you with a million impressions of a “place” that all conflict and are impossible to make complete sense of.

Being abroad changes a person.  I believe it has changed me for the better.  People ask me to explain how my time here (thus far) has changed me, and I can’t put it all into words.  Maybe I can explain with a story, or an incident that occurred during my time here.  Or even simple daily occurrences.  But I can’t sum up life-changing experiences in one sentence or paragraph.  I just have to say, I see things differently now.  I’ve opened up my heart and mind to a foreign land, and well, my heart and mind are forever changed…and are still changing.

Anyways, this was more of a rant post, mostly for my own enjoyment, but to also get out some of the “real” feelings I’ve had here and to tell you why there haven’t been any posts on teaching.  My time here really has been amazing and I am so incredibly grateful for every moment; sometimes, not in the moment, but when I look back on it, you know, I’m grateful for it :)

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