Introduction to Thailand aka What’s Going On?

Introduction to Thailand aka What’s Going On?

Hello All!

I meant to begin this long before I left for Thailand, but things were slightly busy, you know, with the holidays and my impending move across the world.  However, I’ve had several people ask for recordings of this strange adventure, so here we go.

I have now been in Thailand for exactly 2 weeks.  And I still feel like the emoji with the wide eyes, red cheeks, and terrified expression.  More often than not during the day, I catch myself looking around thinking “Where the hell am I?  What’s going on?”

First things first, let’s get something out of the way.  I was incredibly naive in coming here, and had such an idealistic image in my head of what things would be like.  I thought that I’d be teaching young Thai kids, probably kindergarten age.  They’d be the sweetest and most well behaved kids I’ve ever met, excited to learn English, and after school each day I’d head off to the beach with a giant coconut alcoholic beverage in my hand, with all of my new best friends.  Update: That is not happening.  That is not my life here.

Let me back up to my first week.  Landing in Bangkok was a jolt into reality.  After 30 something hours of travel, becoming incredibly ill on my first 15 hour flight, sleeping maybe 4 hours in 2 days, and then landing in a country where suddenly I couldn’t read any of the signs, understand what anyone was saying, identify smells, see familiar shops/brands/landmarks etc., snapped me into a feeling of “wait….actually, nevermind.  I think I want to go home.”  I barely remember my day in Bangkok.  It seems like it happened months ago.  The jet lag was awful, the culture shock was scary, and I was overcome with anxiety about what I had just signed up for.  However, I survived Bangkok (even though there were some tears at the rooftop pool.Who cries at a rooftop pool?!).  Bangkok all happened very quickly and we left early the next morning for our orientation week in Hua Hin.

Hua Hin:  The culture shock was (still is) bad and I felt very unsure of my surroundings and everything that was happening.  We went to class every day in the XploreAsia office, that became a cozy little home for our group of about 23.  I lived in a place called Soi 39, with some of the best girls I’ve ever met.  Most days were filled with class, culture and language lessons.  NYE was amazing and we had a huge party on the beach, lit lanterns to send up into the sky, and all wrote our fears about this experience down on wood sticks and burned them in a fire.  It was at that moment that I started to feel some peace.  And then due to 3 Mai Thais and a tequila shot, the feeling of peace, turned into a feeling of an immediate urge to start doing hair flips in the middle of a dance circle.  Thank goodness for hilarious friends that also do weird dance moves, and for late class start times on New Years Day.  We continued the week with Muay Thai fight lessons, temple visits, pineapple farms, elephant cuddles, fish pedicures, night markets, our traditional morning breakfast shop, and my personal favorite, late night dinners and talks on the porch with the Soi 39 girls. Going into Hua Hin I was scared, sad, unsure, doubtful, curious, excited, and scared some more.  Unfortunately, I feel like that hindered my ability to enjoy every moment and soak it all in.  Now I look back on Hua Hin with such nostalgia. I miss my friends there, Soi 39, the XploreAsia office that felt so safe, Chub Cheeva (a restaurant we visited daily), the beach, the Christmas lights strung up on the main street, the mall…I miss everything about that place.  The night I left was probably the scariest night of my life.

**If anyone is wondering what it means to have a VIP ticket on an overnight bus in Thailand…it means a comfy seat, Thai television, and also being woken up in the middle of the night, forced off the bus (keep in mind the language barrier, so I had no idea why I was being forced off the bus, I just knew a Thai lady was yelling at me to get off), being taken into a large concrete room with strange food on the tables and being forced to eat.  I didn’t want to eat.  I didn’t want to eat at all.  I didn’t want to get off the bus and not understand what was going on.  I didn’t want to be forced to eat strange foods that clearly had been sitting out for hours.  Lesson #1 in Thailand….you will have to do a LOT of things you DON’T want to do.  And you have to roll with it.  Because, what is the other option?  As I’ve said to many of you…my mantra continues to be “I came here for an adventure.”

Thung Song: I am now living in my placement town, Thung Song.  Pronounced Toong Song (I’ve already gotten so many Thong Song jokes…super mature.)  The town is small.  30,000 to be exact.  The town is also very spread out, which means that this week I will have to get a motorbike to get around.  This isn’t something that I wanted to do, but I hope that I will quickly get used to it.  There are about 20 other foreigners living here, which is nice.  Most of them are South African, a couple Americans, and a few Europeans.  It’s nice to have a community built in here, but that doesn’t take away much of the culture shock.  This is definitely not a tourist town.  As a new foreigner here, the Thai’s just stop and stare when I walk by.  School is MUCH different than I thought it would be.  I have close to 1,000 students.  18 classes of around 50 students each, that I see once a week.  Breaking News: Teenagers are teenagers no matter where you are in the world.  I asked each of my classes last week to write down an introduction of themselves for me, including their name, nickname, favorite sport, age, favorite activity, etc.  One student wrote a favorite activity that was so vulgar I cannot publish it on a public forum.  In America I’d send that kid to the principal’s office.  In Thailand…what do you do?? You stare.  Jaw on the floor. A nervous/shocked laugh might escape.  And just keep saying, No! No! No!  At least that’s what I did anyway.  He eventually white-ed it out and wrote “My favorite activity is to play on Facebook.”  I dismissed the class pretty quickly after that.  Sometimes I think back to my image of all the sweet Thai kindergarteners falling in love with me and being excited to come to school and learn English, and then I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The crying is slowly turning into laughter though.  I don’t know how it’s only been 2 weeks in this country.  It seems like months have gone by.  So I try to take a deep breath every day and remind myself that I wanted the challenge, I wanted the adventure, and this experience is changing me for the better.  I already know that I am stronger than I was 3 weeks ago.

I will leave you with this parting word.  Yesterday, I found myself sitting on my bed eating a bag of Hot Chili Squid flavored Lay’s potato chips.  I started to think back on my life and question all of the decisions I’ve made that led me to that moment.  And then I woke up this morning and immediately started craving the Squid chips.  I don’t know what my life is anymore. #rollingwithit

Thank you all so much for the encouragement and prayers!! I will continue to keep you informed of this crazy ride called Thailand.  Sending my love from across many many time zones and oceans.

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