Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Farewell, Sriracha; Until Next Time...

As much as I may have complained about being the only foreign teacher at Surasakwittayakom School - at least in my head, as I had no one to complain to - finishing teaching here still feels bittersweet, with with an emphasis on the sweet.

Being the only foreign teacher at a Thai high school has been nothing short of an endurance test. I was constantly ill-informed about crucial announcements, and forced to navigate the politics of the Thai school system on my own. Luckily, I befriended a few co-workers whom, despite their broken English and nearly double age difference, became my informants and friends. Still, not having communication with English speakers at work occasionally felt lonely. On the worst of days, the un-airconditioned classrooms combined with the absurdly humid climate mirrored being trapped alone in a sauna. Responsible for teaching the entire school, the majority of poorly-behaved classes and my unclear duties at times seemed a pointless effort. That being said, the motivated, kind students provided me with just enough inspiration to keep going. Reflecting upon it all, my life here in Thailand has been shaped by this unique experience. Because of it, I have become a better teacher - certainly more flexible, understanding and with the ability to think on my feet, having not been given a curriculum  or any resources. Given the environment, I was forced to learn world's more of the Thai language and culture. Although I leave behind many remarkable students and co-workers, I am eerily excited to have accomplished what I hope to be the more challenging of my jobs in Thailand.
           "Academic Day" at school
                Students selling Thai spicy sausages                                              

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pineapple Shmineapple

Pinapple: that acidic, luscious fruit that in its perfect form is the ultimate blend of sweet and sour. That fruit near and dear to my heart that has always been a pineapple - I can no longer fully accept to be a pineapple. Now that my mind has been opened to the fascinating realm of language – I have learned to accept that all names are arbitrary, and a pineapple is just as equally a ‘suparod,' or hundreds of other names that exist for it.

After years of studying multiple languages by the book in the classroom, I was convinced my brain was just not wired to grasp more than one language. With enough effort and within the right environment, I have found that I am capable of stepping outside of my comfort zone and speaking a foreign language. After living in Thailand for over 4 months in a town where most do not speak English, I have learned enough Thai to get by comfortably. Although I may butcher the tonal aspect despite my best efforts, this is the most of a language that I have ever known or used. I have found my success to be a combination of environment, conscious effort, and most importantly: vulnerability. It is all about putting oneself out there for better or for worse. As my vocabulary knowledge slowly expanded, the intimidation of actually speaking with natives didn’t disappear until I forced myself to repeatedly make a fool of myself.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Moosewood Restaurant does Thailand

The past two weekends I have spent adventuring with two of my former co-workers from Moosewood Restaurant, Barry and Justin.

The first weekend, we headed to Kanchanaburi for a very Ithaca-esque weekend: temple cave dwelling, long sunset walks, visiting the famous "Death Railway" and "Bridge Over River Kwai," hiking and swimming in the Erawin National Park (a beautiful 7-tiered waterfall & national park). The highlight was definitely a 12k kayak down the River Kwai - which we approached as more of a lazy river, taking our sweet time. After a perfect river stroll with a few laughable incidents (Barry tipping over and Justin briefly losing his kayak under a 'floating restaurant'), we indulged in a massive amount of proper Thai food on a river restaurant. It was one of those many Thailand weekends that I couldn't stop smiling about for days.
Barry & Justin in Wat Khao Pun (Cave Temples)