Well, here I go! My adventure has begun. So far, I have spent two full days here in southern Thailand. It’s crazy to think that a week ago, I was watching my siblings buy their textbooks and attend their first couple days of classes while I was at home watching How I Met Your Mother. And now, I’m sitting in a small house nestled in the heart of a jungle, surrounded by people who stare at my blazing red hair and laugh at my mispronunciations of Burmese words. My, how the times have changed.
I can still say wholeheartedly that I do not for a moment regret taking a gap year between high school and college. I cannot imagine for a second that I could be sitting in a classroom right now, eager to go back to my dorm and study for the next 2309402394 hours (well, maybe not eager…but you get my point). Instead, I decided to take the “easy” way out, as some would say when I chose to take a gap year. Let me be quite clear right now in saying this: a gap year is not the easy way out by any means. If I am being honest, it is actually a lot harder (but way more exciting) than simply going straight to college. Hopefully this blog will prove my point.
One of the best things about traveling is the people you meet. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. I guess I kind of stood out on my flight from LA to Seoul, South Korea. I was (legitimately) the only white person on my flight. I am embarrassed to admit this, but yes, I did look like such a hipster walking onto the plane. I had my hair in a messy braid, my hipster glasses on, and I had a ukulele strapped to my back. Hipster much? Possibly. Anyway, luckily I sat next to a friendly couple on the 12 hour flight and we spoke for the majority of the time. It turns out that they were also flying to Phuket. So when we landed in Seoul, I was able to run through the airport with my new plane buddies to board our next plane, which was being held just for us. 30 minutes in the Seoul airport is not enough time to get to another flight. That’s all I’m saying.
I finally made it to Phuket at 10:30pm, but I only left the airport at around 12am or so. Gotta love going through customs. Also, they lost my luggage, so I was stuck with my ukulele and and suitcase full of English textbooks. It’s been 2 days and I still don’t have my luggage yet. Fingers crossed that it comes….soon!
The roads here are crazy. Stereotypical Thailand is true: everyone rides a scooter. It’s pretty awesome. I rode in one a couple times already, but I can’t imagine driving one every day. The scooters whip around each other and I’m pretty sure that people don’t exactly know which side of the road to drive on…it’s actually really funny.
One thing that I noticed while being here is that everyone takes care of me, especially those who provide food for me or see me eating something “dangerously” spicy. Anything I try to put in my mouth, someone will stop me and say, “Too spicy for you” or “You foreigner. Too spicy.” Part of me wants to say, “Thanks for saving my taste buds before I made a huge mistake!” and part of me wants to say, “Oh yeah? Watch me eat it all!” I have kind of experimented with both reactions…let’s just say that after 8 months here, I hope I won’t be as much of a white girl as I am right now. I’m working on tolerating spicy food…slowly but surely.
The area in which I live is quite beautiful. It’s a little rural in the tropical jungle area. There is a small road that has about 7 houses on each side, which is basically the whole neighborhood. The community is very strong here. One of the women in our neighborhood won a fake lottery yesterday (she did win money though, so it’s not that fake. She won about $10,000), so this morning, we all went to her house for a celebration breakfast. I am trying to work on my Burmese and Thai. Burmese seems to be more of a necessary language to learn as I live among Burmese migrants. Burmese is a pretty difficult language to learn. It’s a tonal language, like Thai and Chinese, therefore giving me more chances to mess up and say something completely different to what I intended. I guess I know how to make these people laugh. All I have to do is try to say “thank you” in Burmese. I’m probably saying something completely stupid because I mess up on the tonal shifts. #whitegirlproblems right?
Anyway, I start teaching my classes tomorrow. I am teaching Grades 6-8 and they also want me to be the official music and art teacher. Not sure about the whole art teacher thing…I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life, so that should be very interesting. More posts to follow on that. The school is a great community with about 300 children, from K-8th grade. The students are very excited to have an English teacher. I was introduced to the 8th grade class and when they saw me, they smiled and waved. Then the teacher who was with me told them that I was not a volunteer and was in fact a teacher and they immediately stood up, bowed, and yelled, “Good morning, teacher!”
Let’s hope that my first day of classes goes alright! I will be eating lunch at the school with the other teachers, but once again, they tell me, “the food will be too spicy for you.” My white skin seems to impede on my ability to eat proper Burmese and Thai food. Here’s to being a foreigner with delicate taste buds!