Woohoo! I have officially been in Thailand for 120 days. During those 120 days, I have:
-Started my career as a Burmese beauty pageant competitor (I’m still warming up to the painted eyebrow thing…but I’m sure I will eventually grow accustomed to it).
-Become the star football player on the women’s team (not sure how that works since I can barely kick a ball…I scored the winning goals for 2 of the games and was voted Best Player of the tournament. Who am I and what did I do with Sophie?).
-Become a Myanmar celebrity/internet sensation (108,000 views on my Myanmar song video on Facebook. I have had many requests to create more videos, so stay tuned…I’ll have more songs coming soon. Gotta keep my fans happy!).
-Officially gained the status of a local (everyone at the market recognizes me as the white girl who lives with the Burmese. Therefore, I get special prices on stuff, especially when I buy food from the Burmese and Thai boys. The perks of having white skin and red hair!).
-Met more people during my 4 months here than I have my entire 4 years of high school. That’s just one of the many benefits of traveling. You meet so many amazing people from all over the world (it’s basically the best form of speed dating if you’re single).
-Ridden on a motorbike while holding a large fan, two buckets, a backpack, and two grocery bags. Am I Burmese yet?
-Learned a traditional Burmese dance from my students (of course, the dance wouldn’t be complete without my traditional Burmese longi…that’s the skirt that always seems to fall down when I wear it. Yeah, try dancing in a skirt like that. That’s just asking for trouble).
-Unknowingly hit on a Burmese boy at a restaurant (instead of saying that my mango smoothie was sweet, I accidentally told the waiter that he is very good-looking. I was confused as to why he started to giggle, run away and whisper something to his friends, come back and tell me that I’m very cute and then ask me if I have a boyfriend. Now every time I go to that restaurant, he simply stares and smiles at me…I told the story to my students and they found it quite amusing. In all of our practice sentences, they always write about “Teacher Sophie and her lover, the Burmese Man.” I made the mistake of teaching them the word, “crush.” Almost every day, I hear, “Teacher Sophie has a crush on Burmese Man! She thinks he is very good-looking!” I’m glad my students are so supportive in my attempts to learn Burmese).
-Become the new Health teacher at school (I made the mistake of telling a teacher that I had to take Health class in high school 4 times because my credits never transferred when I moved schools…a couple days later, I looked at our revised school schedule and whattya know? I’m the new Health teacher. Try teaching sex ed in another language…that’s fun).
-Changed my students’ lives by introducing the one and only Frozen movie to them. We choreographed and performed “Let It Go” at a celebration, where my students forced me to participate in the dance…they gave me yet another “beautiful” outfit to wear for the dance…which basically looked like a very see-though nightgown (maybe it was lingerie??). My new nickname is now Wendy (from Peter Pan).
-Awarded myself the “Most Awesome Teacher” title after I taught my students, “Be a Man” from Mulan. It is quite possibly the greatest thing hearing Burmese kids run around the school, singing, “Let’s get down to business. To defeat….the HUNS!” Ah, I’ve never been prouder!
-Almost died from happiness when one of my students picked up Anne of Green Gables and told me that he wanted to read it. He is most definitely a kindred spirit 🙂
-Eaten boiled chicken blood. And pig brain. And chicken feet. Yeah, get on my level.
-Eaten 7 super spicy chilies and a ton of fish paste in one sitting. Even the Burmese are impressed with me. Again, get on my level.
-Visited some of the most beautiful islands in the world. I cannot believe that I am living in such a gorgeous country.
-Traveled to the illustrious city of Bangkok, experienced the rainy jungles of Khao Sok, and sat on the very same beaches that were destroyed by the 2004 tsunami
-Finally found the World’s Ugliest Dog (I currently have no photos of it…I have an epic video that I will post. Your life will never be the same after you’ve seen this dog. Seriously.)
-Celebrated my first tropical island Christmas!
-Been given the nickname, “Mr. Bean” by the Burmese boys…apparently my face is the same as his…hm…not sure how they see that resemblance, but that’s my new name now.
-Become a total hippie. The messy hair, the long skirts, playing the ukulele on the beach, the chillaxing on tropical islands, everything. I am perfectly happy with that.
-Had the worst and most embarrassing blonde moments…we don’t have to go into detail…let’s just leave it at that.
-Fallen in love with the Burmese community. The people, the culture, (some of) the food, the music, the language, everything.
-Had the happiest, craziest, and most spontaneous 4 months of my life.
So much has happened in these 120 days. I have just barely scratched the surface. It’s funny how several months ago, I was choosing the road to college, thinking that I would be the perfect, scholarly student who studies for four years, graduates, and starts a career. I guess you could say that my perspective has definitely changed. Instead, I am riding motorbikes while holding giant fans and buckets instead of sitting in a library with my Statistics textbook for hours and hours.
This gap year has definitely been refreshing, opening my eyes to a whole new world (I just had to reference Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” since I’m teaching that song to my students as well).
Whenever someone goes overseas, my dad (that’s right, Dad. I’m quoting you in my blog. You could be famous from this, so appreciate it) will always say, “Whatever you expect when you go overseas, expect differently. Nothing will ever go the way you plan.”
I definitely did not anticipate any of these crazy experiences (especially the Burmese celebrity one!), let alone even expect moving to Thailand. I’m so glad that I took my father’s advice and decided to go with the flow. My constant state of confusion continues every day. That’s just something that will never change when living with the Burmese. I never know what’s going on! Somehow, I’m perfectly fine with that. Whatever I expect, I will expect differently; it’ll never go the way I plan.
It has been good to look back and reflect upon these past 120 days. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking a gap year. Everyone needs to do it. Seriously. Just do it.
I’m definitely not ready to go home as of now. So much has happened here and so much will continue to happen. My adventures in Thailand have only just begun!