It has been a little over two weeks since I’ve arrived here in Thailand but this country already means so much to me. I have fallen in love with a great group of people, delicious new foods and new places. It is so strange to say I have been here two weeks because I have learned a tremendous amount since stepping off the airplane. Upon arriving, I was nervous and unable to comprehend where the next hour, day, or week would take me. Now, as I sit here writing this I am able to predict those things. I am now able to communicate (somewhat) in a new tongue that once sounded so completely alien to me. I can now point out the direction from my house to school, the market and Bangkok. I now can say and comprehend an introduction of myself in Thai in front of a large group of people. I can do so many things and recognize so many foods and places that it is almost impossible that I’ve been in Thailand for just two weeks. But I have and as hard as it is to pick out what’s worth writing about and what’s not, here are a few moments worth remembering.
Exactly one week and one day upon arriving I was expected to give an introduction of myself fully in Thai to all members of my host Rotary club. With many thanks/kob kun ka’s to my “poo” (dad) for helping prepare it, I was literally practicing this introduction every hour until the night of. I was completely nervous. Any time I envisioned this speech, I saw it going exactly how my Spanish speech a few months prior went…drained from my memory the moment I was handed the microphone. So on this particular night I was very nervous and wishing to be anywhere but at this party before it even started. Upon entering, I was seated at a table full of Rotary members, the director of my new school and my school counselor. Of course, everyone began speaking Thai to me and of course, I had no idea what was going on most of the time. I literally began throwing any Thai I could think of into this conversation so I wasn’t completely hated. I felt completely awful and I felt as though they were all disappointed. Although then, they finally switched to English. They told me I was lovely and my Thai was very good for being in Thailand only a week. FINALLY, I could breath. A great amount of stress was thus drained and I began to actually enjoy myself. Around the dinner table, they all took turns showing and teaching me random things about the food and their culture. It was great, and very typical of a Thai feast- everyone was eating, laughing, and generally having a good time. But in the back of my mind I was still stressing. I knew my speech was coming and I knew it would leave me mind the mount I stepped on the stage. So the time finally came and my host sister and I were escorted on stage. As the microphone was handed to me I knew it was about to go completely awful. So I began and then it happened, I got stuck on the first sentence, on “kob kun” which means thank you. It was such a simple phrase and one of my favorites to use. The words would just not come out. But then, right as my “poo” began to yell it from the side of the
The following day was my first day of school. I came into the director’s office of my new school, Thamuang Ratbumrung, with my “maa” and “poo” around noon on last Wednesday. After causing me a little stress by speaking in only Thai, my new principal switched to English. He told me that his students had been waiting for me and then opened a window that led into the student courtyard. He pulled me beside him and yelled to the closest group of girls to come meet “Mali”. They all seemed genuinely excited which left me a little overwhelmed. After showing me his private bathroom (not weird, just different!), the director yelled back at the same group of girls to show me to the concert. So I was then led in a large auditorium that held close to 2,000 kids sitting on the floor. Apparently, everyone in Thailand wants to be a star and they all think singing and dancing is best thing in the world. “TMR” is a nationally known competition that travels to different schools in Thailand and hosts the students singing and dancing. As it began the director came onto the stage and notified everyone of my arrival. I was then given the opportunity to introduce myself (…yay..). As much as I felt like an idiot, the crowd welcomed me back with smiling faces. The concert lasted for three hours of performing but the winner was eventually was named King (predictable, there was only one guy group and all the girls screamed through most of their performance). And yet! This was still not the end to a much unexpected afternoon. Once over everyone got up to take pictures with the different groups. Somehow, I was pulled into the middle of this and there I was taking pictures with anyone and everyone for about 20 minutes. Finally arriving back in the car of my “maa” and “poo” all I wanted was a nap.
Thailand has been so unforeseen but wonderful to me. It is the beginning of a year that I know will all be over too soon. I’ve experienced some of the best days so far, and some of the worst. Some days I have gotten so frustrated because I can’t speak as fully as I want too. But then a few hours or maybe a day will pass and something will happen that turns everything better. This is usually when I have a little laugh because I remember being told that things would suck sometimes but it goes away and I’m left happier then I was sad/angry. I am very excited to what awaits me next, whatever it is. Every moment is precious this year. Rotary, I cannot thank you enough for what has already been given to me.
November 16, 2011
I’ve been in Thailand for about three months now. How time flies! I’ve have gotten so used to the same smiling faces and what now has become a weekly routine that it seems strange that one day I will not see these faces or have this routine. The month of September began where the end of August ended, school during the week, Bangkok during the weekend. Mondays through Fridays I’d wake up each morning at 6:15 for a shower and breakfast. My host father has an extreme affection for sweets so weekday morning breakfasts consists of a “kanom”(sweet bread) and “gaffe”(coffee). I arrive at school each morning at 730 to meet my friends and wait the national anthem to start. This tells us it’s time to go line up on the field with all the other 2,000 students. The national anthem is played again along with a prayer and a school song. This lasts a half an hour despite Thailand’s blazing sun that never fails to reach 85 degrees. Once released, it’s time for class which isn’t really class in comparison to school in Florida, although I’m not complaining. School is fun and the day always seems to go by fast. At 4 o’clock my dad or mom picks me up and we head to the market to pick up 2nd lunch/1st dinner. By the time I’m home and have eaten, it’s around 5 and I’m off to relax before I head outside to meet whoever is cooking. My day pretty much ends when I have eaten again with my family outside. Although no Thai meal is finished after the food is eaten, half the time is sitting around talking with one another. The exception to this routine is Friday night through Sunday night. Every Friday after dinner, my family loads up the car and heads to Bangkok to spend time with one another and so that my younger host brother and sister can take weekend classes. The weekends consist of sleeping past 7, shopping at one the Bangkok’s many malls, riding the sky train and spending time with my brother and sister.
The month of October was drastically different from September and what is beginning of to be of November. For the entire month of October, Thailand’s children take a break from school. Wooo! For 30 days, I got in the routine of not having a routine. I spent it worthwhile by traveling, cooking, shopping, playing, and of course-sleeping in.
But on a typical day in October I began by NOT waking up at 6 for school, but rather sleeping until eight-thirty or nine. I would then, mosey into the kitchen to find something left on the table for me to eat by my parents that are by that time at work. Usually “Yai Pon” (housekeeper/nanny) would take a break from whatever she was doing and try to communicate with me, we’d end up giggling and then go our different ways. The rest of the morning I would spend practicing Thai/ getting ready for whatever may come up during the day.
Around noon time, I’d go outside to have lunch with my grandparents, cousins, aunts, and the workers of my family. These hours spent outside were probably some of the best of October. After lunch I’d hang around as everyone else does, gathered around the table and talking away. A lot of cooking was done during this time (even though we had just eaten). I now can successfully make “pad kao pao”, “pad thai”, “pak boong”, and “som tom”. Som tom is by far my favorite and is now edible to all ^^. I also spent a lot of time with a worker who is now my closest friend at home, “P Than”. With her, I explored all parts of my backyard that I never knew existed. I spent many days with her and a three year old, picking flowers and riding bikes or watching soccer games between the workers. Late into the day when she’d have to start cooking I’d find myself back inside and showering for the 2nd of 3 I take every day. Afterwards all I typically wanted was quiet time trying to communicate all day in a new language can be very exhausting. Around dinner time, which is 630, I’d find myself back outside with the same group of people, fumbling over words and talking about food (this topic has became my best). This was my October, somewhat slow, but very refreshing and rewarding in its own way.