As I sit here typing this final blog post, I can’t seem to find the right words to sum up this experience. I could tell you it’s been challenging, rewarding, hot, crazy, unpredictable, frustrating, lonely, humbling—the list goes on and on. However, none of these words seem to do Thailand justice. None of these words can fully describe the feeling you get when you’re laughing with your students over the simplest mistranslation. Or how it feels to get a flat tire when you’re in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but rice fields. Or to be constantly stared at everywhere you go because you’re white. Or having a complete stranger go out of their way to help you, even if they can’t speak a word of English. Basically, what I’m saying is that Thailand can’t be described in one nice, neat little blog post. You have to live it, experience it, struggle through it, laugh at it, and ultimately, appreciate it for everything that it is.
When I was researching teaching abroad in Thailand, all the blogs I read talked about how amazing and life changing this experience was. So after graduating college with no real idea of what to do with my life, I figured why not go to Thailand and have this wonderful, life changing experience. I expected to come here and find that happiness that everyone else found. I expected to come here and instantly fall in love with this country. I expected to come here and change the way I viewed the world. I refused to let go of these expectations because they were what gave me the courage to get on a plane and fly to other side of the world on my own.
Then, in my first placement, I broke. I fell apart and so did all of my expectations. I couldn’t stand constantly being stared at and having no one understand me. Honestly, I hated Thailand and I wanted nothing more than to fly home and curl up on my couch with my dog. I was so mad that I didn’t instantly fall in love with my life here. I couldn’t help but feel like I had been cheated out of what was supposed to be an amazing experience. But I quickly realized that my problem wasn’t Thailand at all. My problem was in my perspective. I wasn’t being cheated out of anything because Thailand didn’t owe me anything. So I stopped comparing my experience to what I thought this experience was supposed to be, I stopped expecting things to fall into my lap, and I stopped throwing lame pity parties. And when I stopped doing all of these things, I found myself finally starting to love Thailand.
I am so thankful that I gave Thailand a second chance, and even more thankful that Thailand gave me a second chance. Looking back on the last 5 months, there are so many things I’m going to miss about this place. I will miss my students constantly making me
laugh. I will miss the no-stress atmosphere. I will miss the banter in the foreign teacher office. I will miss strangers smiling at me wherever I go. I will miss playing pick up. I will miss the somtam and sticky rice. I will miss watching highlights of the Barcelona games with my students. I will miss the monks from the temple across the street always waving to me when I drive by. I will miss my motorbike. I will miss watching the sunset over the lake. I will miss meeting up with my friends in random cities on the weekend. I will miss the craziness and unpredictability of working at Chaiyaphumpaddeechumpon. I could go on for days with the things I will miss. Yes, there were lots of not so great things too—bugs, motorbike mishaps, squat toilets, and terrible wifi to name a few—but there were too many good things happening around me to dwell on the negatives.
When I get home I will have to remember that there are traffic laws and police officers that actually enforce those laws—aka I can’t just drive down the wrong side of the road because it’s more convenient. My body will probably go into shock (a good shock) when I go more than a day without rice. I will be converting dollars to baht and crying at how expensive everything is. I will have to get back into the habit of saying “God bless you” when people sneeze and fall out of the habit of waiing when greeting people. But out of all the things that I will bring home with me, I hope that I also bring home the curiosity, humility, and independence that I have gained here. Most importantly, I hope I bring home the kindness that I have constantly been shown by the Thai people.
So, I want to thank you Thailand. Thank you for not always giving me what I wanted, but instead giving me exactly what I needed. I will miss you! I don’t know where my next adventure will take me, but I’m sure I will see you again 🙂
Oh, the places you’ll g0…