I’m a day late on the week’s video again. This is why.
I’m not sure how this came about, but somewhere along the way, students of mine got the idea to start showing up at my house. After school, on the weekends, and most recently in the morning when the first round of academic competitions was held at the school right in front of my house. For a significant portion of my time in Thailand, I held that my house/room was a strict American zone with minimal Thai spoken and no pressure to hold up cultural norms that drive me crazy. Now, I have a visitor almost every day for the past two weeks.
There are positives and negatives to the recent addition to my previous wolf pack of one. My PCV other half, Jeff, thinks I’m completely crazy for letting them pass the threshold. Most of the time, I think I am too. I go from going about my business, aka doing anything that is not usually done by most Thai people in the village (reading, writing, using the internet, savoring being alone), to entertaining a group of 10-year-old and under kids, ranging at any time from one to twenty people at once. Usually there are requests to use my computer/internet to set up facebook. Or a rousing game of uno is started up if I’ve managed to get the deck home without requests to borrow it. But mostly, there’s a lot of staring and curiosity about what I do outside of school. Kind of like watching a dog walk on its hind legs. And it’s a caucasian one too.
It makes me happy that my students feel comfortable enough with me that they don’t feel too afraid about coming to my house. (Totally serious. Some of the younger siblings of students are too terrified to cross the threshold until their second or third visit.) It means we’ve developed enough of a personal relationship that they just can’t leave me alone. Worrying about what and how often you eat, that you spend too much time alone, and suffocating you with affection is a Thai person’s way of saying, hey, you’re in my club, for.life. They like me, they really like me.
This has done wonders for my productivity as you can imagine. Entertaining and answering questions for sometimes eight hours of my Sunday leaves me wondering where my weekend went. Especially when kids start showing up around 8:30 and the last shift doesn’t leave until six when it’s starting to get dark. So videos don’t get made. Emails don’t get answered. Laundry buckets don’t get filled. Books are continue gathering their weekday dust. Online games don’t get conquered.
Sometimes I worry that this exacerbates the fact that in their mind, I’m this weird non-Teacher entity that exists only to entertain them. I happen to be the female Robbin Williams’ character ‘Jack,’ complete with hairy arms (compared to them), that looks old (and white in my case) like just another kid, in Thailand. Then when we’re in school and the classroom, they expect me to be just like them or act like another one of their friends would. There is an utter lack of respect for my things because they don’t see it as a teacher’s belongings, but another friend’s things, there for the messing with. My bike gears have been twisted silly on many an occasion with bike lights blinking for hours at a time. Would they go up to other teachers’ cars or motorcycles and do the same? Would they take candy from another teacher who bought it to give to students that score 100% on a spelling test? Would they walk up to another teacher’s house and try to open a locked door without announcing their presence? Never.
I’m not really sure why I keep opening my door in my pajamas, glasses, and mentally completely unprepared for Thailand to invade my house. No lessons of great accomplishment are ever attempted, much less achieved. One thing I realized though after I had a twenty girl escort walking back to my house after the competition the other day, with them around, it feels more like home. Sitting in circles chatting in the local dialect, slipping on a wet piece of tile, showing me their hula hooping hidden talents, sitting at my table as I eat dinner and tasting a bit of it, these are the moments that make up a life to be remembered. I feel like I have my own little family. They may not understand what I’m saying most of the time and they drive me crazy the other part of it, but they, for the most part, accept me as one of them.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, it’s not quite accomplishing the goals set out for my program. As a person, I think it’s pretty extraordinary.
Did you catch that Mean Girls reference? Skip to 1:43