Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America, With Love From Thailand

Today, I spent Independence Day driving to and fro the nearest border crossing in Chong Mek to exit and re-enter Thailand for my visa.

During the 6 hours of travel, I found myself fondly recalling my favorite 4th of July memories and missing all things American - especially barbecues and American craft beer (which puts our iced Thai beer to shame), but mostly my friends and family.

If it wasn't obvious from the tone of my posts as of late, I am having a harder time getting on this semester. Perhaps this came with the change of scenery, the growing distance I feel from people on the other side of the world and my increased familiarity with cultural differences that makes everything slightly less exciting than it was last term. What's that, a family of six on one motorbike? An afternoon snack of ant eggs? Complete strangers asking me intimate questions? Standard.

I've been feeling in tune with monsoon season here in Thailand: when it rains, it pours. It's never just one mishap, but always seems to be a series of events piled on top of one another. With the beating rain literally and metaphysically, sometimes I forget to look at the glass half full instead of picking out the negatives.

Thus, in my heated rant about government schools, I failed to mention all of the positive aspects of teaching in Thailand. Even on the worst of days, some child or another manages to bring a smile to my face without even knowing it. Overall, Thai children are extremely respectful, always "wai"-ing (prayer like bow) myself and other teachers. I don't recall my grade school days as being fun, but the relaxed atmosphere of Thai schools allow students to have a very enjoyable childhood. As a foreign teacher without a curriculum, I have the ability to be-friend my students through laughter, the awkward language barrier, casual banter and their amusement at my horrible Thai pronunciation. And, despite the many unmotivated students who know they have to pass anyway, a huge amount of students put forth all of their effort. I can't say I would do the same if I knew I'd pass either way. Getting to know so many delightful students, I've come to realize children really are the best people on this earth. 
People don't often consider the downfalls of moving abroad. Yes, life in Thailand is pretty sweet, but, it is still life, and is not immune to the hardships that come along with that. A wise, well-traveled friend gave me this honest piece of advice before I left:

"In terms of advice, I will tell you the not so glamorous truth, which is that there are lots of hard times. I regularly find myself thinking, what the hell am I doing? Why on earth did I CHOOSE to completely uproot myself and move away from ALL of the people that I love into the entirely unfamiliar environment?? With that said, I DO continue to do it because along with all of the hard stuff it is SO SO inexplicably incredible and wonderful and exciting. I have decided that the pairs are comfort and monotony vs. discomfort and adventure. I have teetered back and forth but REALLY, it is no contest in the end....for all of the stress of traveling from place to place, wondering what your friends at home are doing, having terrible diarrhea and awkward language barriers -- it is so worth the adventure and experience. And somehow, in hindsight, I only remember the amazing stuff and all of the not so lovely times fade away."

If you've followed along on my adventures via this blog, you might have noticed my occasional struggle with being American. As time passes on in rural Thailand, my mom will be happy to know, that I find myself identifying more and more with my country. Nine months into my life in Asia, I'm having a completely different, and sometimes difficult, experience than I was six months ago, but everyday is just as valuable in providing me with new insight, even if it's just about myself.  Home is home is home is home, and that will never change no matter where I am in the world. Happy 4th!


Lani Cox said...

Hiya! I found you on TEFL Bloggers and I just wanted to say I enjoyed this piece. I miss real beer too.

My friend had recently come back from the States and we were hanging out after a theatre performance. (Very rare for Chiang Mai) And she's like, "What you do miss?" I said, "Beer."

And she's like, "What kind of beer?" And I'm like, "Dark beer. I miss dark beer. Like a brown ale or stout."

Then she pulls out of her pocket a Fat Tire ale. And out of her purse a nice stout too. I laughed so hard. She hid them her in suitcase!

Here's to happy surprises!

AZE said...

Thanks Lani! You're a lucky gal with a generous friend. I especially miss my favorite small town brewery (Ithaca Beer Company). At least you can satisfy some of your Western cravings in Chiang Mai, it's a bit more of a challenge in Isaan. :)