On Monday, I’ll have been in Thailand for three weeks. There is such a broad range of emotions that go along with that, it’s hard to know where to start. For one, really, it’s only been three weeks??? It feels like I’ve been here for months with all the things that I’ve learned and experienced. Every day feels like a week here for all the different emotions and things we have going on. It’s on my bike rides through rice fields and I look around me that it hits me over and over again that, oh yeah, I’m in Thailand. Hm, life is pretty awesome right now. Taking out the illness factor that is still plaguing me in the form of my asthma and the jam-packed PST schedule, I’m serenely happy here in Thailand. The weird thing is, I can remember with perfect clarity being in Philadelphia. How nervous I was to meet all of my fellow Peace Corps trainees and how I wondered how in the world I would remember all (or at least most) of their names and stories. Somehow, I just do though. Kind of like how I’m actually progressing in my Thai language skills.
I love learning Thai. Outside of the ridiculousness that goes on with my host family every evening, it’s what I look forward to everyday. Well, that usually helps contribute to the hilarity, mostly because they’re laughing at my attempts at Thai and I thoroughly enjoy supplying them with material. I love picking up words in sentences and the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Peace Corps language training relies on coming up with the meaning of the sentence rather than translating it into English. While this can be thoroughly annoying in class when we’re not allowed to speak English at all (but we cheat wonderfully with some Thai-lish) because we have to guess a lot, I can say, with all honesty, that I’m not really translating in my head. I have more of a problem just slowing down the speech that I’m hearing before getting the meaning, but then responding in Thai. While nowhere near bilingual, I’m really surprised with my brain’s ability to do this. Then again, my brain often surprises me, which is a bit weird since it is my brain after all. Getting back on the Thai track though. Coming home from a long day at rong-rian (it’s really training, but in reality it’s school, there’s no other word for it really), the fun really begins, which brings me to my next topic.
I love my host family. I really, really do. My meh and I are like BFFs. There is a ridiculous amount of miscommunication, but she cracks me up. I think the feeling is mutual. We usually work on my homework together before/after dinner. One such lesson included time. To demonstrate nighttime, meh says to me ‘ohhhh doctor Dracula’ and proceeded to hiss at me with fangs that came out of her cheeks……. My life is ridiculous. I reciprocated the hilarity with this gem. On Wednesday, we had the extended family over to celebrate my sister’s 23rd birthday. When prompted to imitate the ‘meh monster’ for the rest of the family, for the fangs, I put my chopsticks in my mouth and pretended to be a walrus. Yes, I have that kind of humor. And we all giggled uncontrollably. Something tells me my corny wit is going to go over really well here. Once again, thank you Peace Corps trainers for making such an excellent match.
She genuinely worries about my health as much as my own mother. Always makes sure I’ve taken my medicine, that I have my inhaler, wears my mask when biking, and hardly lets me leave the house without a sweater even though it’s usually a perfect 70ish degrees in the morning (hooray ‘cool’ season). I think it’s so funny that she always makes some kind of move that she thinks will make me understand the rapid Thai coming out of her mouth. For example, she’ll ask me a question while we’re eating dinner (food, the subject that I know the most about), like something about school, and it’ll completely throw me, so I just stare blankly. She’ll usually repeat it, but then raise her eyebrows somewhat suggestively a few times. Yes meh, the meaning of the Thai words are going to magically going to pop into my head while you wiggle and waggle your eyebrows at me. I usually laugh at her at this point and I like to think that she understands how ridiculous of a notion it is, but realize this is likely going to be one of those things lost in translation. This happens a lot when I think I’m explaining something clearly to my sisters about where I’m going or what’s going on with school. It helps keep things less awkward because they can speak semi-decent English, but I worry maybe I’m not immersing myself enough. For that, I turn to Thai television.
Let’s clear something up. I do not understand 99% of what is going on in these shows. The words are even less clear than in real life. Does that stop me from watching them with my sisters? Hell. No. For some reason, I find it even more entertaining than American TV. There are a ton of soap operas that seem to be the main format of shows here. My absolute favorite is a real doozy of what I thought was a vampire-based theme, but I just found out it’s about not being human. Well apparently you can be a human, ghost, or something in-between. I think? The most entertaining part is the special effects circa 1990s Power Rangers. I’m not joking. I wish they had a clip on youtube so that I could post the awesomeness that is a fight scene on this show. Tonight on the show, a man dressed as a Las Vegas style show girl (that would be major riap wrong friends) saved this other girl that everyone seems to be after. I’m not really sure why everyone is after her, but the main vampire-ghost man is the strong villain. The vampire hero however plays the saxophone very emo-esque, because, you know, life is tough as a Thai ghost person. If it were in English, I wouldn’t bother. The not having any idea of the dialogue, fantastic (cally awful) acting, and special effects just make this a no brainer for me. Plus, I get time in with the host family while I query them about what is going on, added bonus. This is my free time in Thailand.
This week, I start my practicum teaching. I’m really happy that the school is only about 200 meters from my house. Life’s little circumstances worked out to being that my co-teacher is actually my meh’s younger brother, who lives just down the driveway at our grandparents’ house. He’s at our house all the time and acted as a more complex/grownup translator for my family. It helped me feel more comfortable with the idea that I’m in charge of a group of children’s education (14 to be exact, for 9 whole days). This week in taco tech focused on writing lesson plans and objectives after visiting with our counterparts and observing a classroom. I’m not very sure of the lesson plan we wrote because I don’t know how entertaining it will be for a bunch of 12 and 13 year olds to learn how to formally and informally introduce themselves to each other. Adjaan made me feel better by saying that most important part is that they hear what it’s like when native speakers talk to each other. Somehow I don’t think that will be quite enough for Khun Chadchaya as we had to turn in our lesson plans for review on Friday. We each have a PC trainee partner in addition to our Thai counterpart. It’s nice that we have someone else there with us to help teach, but difficult in getting everyone together. The original nine days is cut short with my class because they’re going on a boy scout/girl scout camping trip for three days and don’t have school. Yes, they wear their uniforms to school all the time. They look like 1950s Annie Oakleyesque types about to head out on the frontier when in reality, they camp out in the schoolyard. Like any good baseball team, the coaches aka teachers wear the uniform too. It’s awesome. I think my entire week was made when we walked in to meet the paw-ah (principal) and he had a camping hat reminiscent of what Smokey the bear rocks out. Life in Thailand, mai been rai.


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