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.
This job has, for one, taught me that I don't want to be a teacher forever. I have gained relentless respect for those who do possess the necessary patience. I am not ready to quit just yet, maybe, because I am not ready to give up Thailand. I am going to pursue another semester, this time teaching primary school in Northeast Thailand (Isaan), where I will not be the only foreign teacher. Teaching English is an easy and enjoyable enough route to being able to do what I really love: living in a foreign culture (specifically, Thailand!).
For my last weekend in Sriracha, two girlfriends from my course finally made it out to see my town before I left. Five months ago, we landed in Thailand around the same time, and they became some of my first and closest friends here in Thailand. During a send-off BBQ put on by my Sriracha friends (with homemade burgers and cocktails...mm Western food!) it dawned on us how special our friendships really are, as they signify the beginning of a major life change for all of us. We came to Thailand as strangers, and connected with one another almost instantaneously. We have been one another's support system as we entered the Thai world on our own; near or far, we will always share this bond.
Our creation, "Trouble in Paradise": gin, muddled fresh basil & pomogranates, club soda & lime
Clearly, food is a focus of my life - homemade burgers in Thailand!
Celebrating my last weekend with my course roommate, Corinne
Shrimp Pad Thai from my favorite lady in Sriracha
Suddenly, I am finding that Sriracha has joined Ithaca, NY in the rankings of places close to my heart. I will miss the opportune position on the sea, the glorious food, bustling city and the fact I can hop on a boat and be on an island in 30 minutes. I will miss the plethora of fresh seafood that I've now grown to like, my pad thai lady, my pork soup man, my favorite do-all-amazing Thai vendor that lights up when I tell him how delicious it was ("alloy mak mak!"), my landlady knowing no English, the songtaew (bus) drivers, and the brilliant night market comprising of hundreds of amazing clothing and food stands. Through my limited Thai and the language of smiles- I have built rapport with the locals. Sriracha has become my home. I am comfortable here. I know I will be back at some point - well, clearly, as I am leaving my suitcase and computer at a friend's for two months. Additionally, I am leaving a wonderful crew of individuals that warmly accepted me into their already established English teacher group, going above and beyond to make sure I was happy.
What lies immediately ahead for me is....well, very, very hot, as we are approaching the hottest time of year in Southeast Asia. The current high temperatures and humidity makes me fear the worst that is yet to come. Sweaty or not, I am so ready for this adventure. I cannot wait to dance at the Full Moon Party with my college friend Joann; to eat the fresh, delicious French-influenced Vietnamese cuisine; for some refreshing solo traveling; for meeting the interesting people that you do on such a trip; to travel with good friends; to try the traditional Dim Sum in Hong Kong; to taste spicy Northern Thai food; to ride an elephant; to take a Thai cooking class; to see beautiful sights of Asia with my own eyes; to participate in the wild celebrations on the streets of Chiang Mai for Songkran (Thai New Year) including a massive water fight; to a fully-packed 10-day parent-daughter bonding trip; and for the experiences, ideas and knowledge that this journey will surely bring me.
Come May, I am Isaan-bound, off to spend the semester in the deeply-cultured depths of Thailand's Northeast. I look forward to a whole series of new experiences to come, hopefully shared with many of my course friends moving to the Isaan area.
Below is my tentative itinerary for anyone interested (definitely might just be my mom) and so that I can keep it straight myself! Many of these dates are flexible, other than the days I am taking flights.
March 2 - Meeting Miss Joann Delanoy in Bangkok
March 3 - Head south to the Islands; Koh Tao and Koh Phangan (Full Moon Party March 8)
March 11-13 -Joann leaves; BKK
March 14 - Fly solo to Hanoi, Vietnam; will meet friends on March 18. We will spend just over 2 weeks traveling north to south Vietnam.
March 30 - Return to BKK
March 31 - Hong Kong for 1 week with Emily; staying at a family friends' empty apartment.
April 7 - Return to BKK
April 8 - Chiang Mai bound; April 13-16 is Songkran (Thai New Year) - a HUGE celebration in Chiang Mai!
April 16- Chiang Rai; staying at Emily's uncle's guesthouse
April 19 - BKK to meet my parents; we will go to Chiang Mai on April 22 and Koh Samet on April 25
April 29 - Parents leave; AYC Seminar for free meals & accommodation on the beach with friends
Beginning/Mid-May - Move north to Isaan!