Friday, November 1, 2013

Sabai Sabai: It will all be fine...

Despite my general enjoyment of writing, the daunting task of writing this next blog post has had my stomach in knots for over a week. I began writing the night before my departure into the unknown, but with last minute packing and an early wake up, the blog describing the last two weeks in Bangkok did not happen. On Wednesday morning at 4:15am (Tuesday 5pm  EST) I departed my beloved Krit Thai Mansion in Bangkok for the airport with the two other Chiang Mai Fulbrighters.

Bangkok, though not my favorite city, will definitely be missed in these few weeks of adjustment to my new home at Sansai Wittayakom School. The past two weeks included meeting my host teachers at a dinner, a dance performance with elaborate, sparkling costumes and hard to follow stories, massages, a brief Shabbos dinner at the Chabad in Bangkok (yes, there are Orthodox Israeli Jews in Bangkok...I guess I missed Brandeis) a week of practice teaching with 'volunteer' students, and lots of Western food to fill our bellies in preparation for the unknown access in Chiang Mai (I will sometimes refer to this as CM). Now I am in Sansai, slowly acclimating to my new surroundings and home for the next eleven months. 

Trekking into the Unknown
Just a few days ago I was sitting in my hiso (high society) hotel room with AC and hot water. In preparation for the unknown lands of Sansai. I tried to remind myself: be patient, be adaptable, keep smiling - I told myself I would be fine and could handle anything. PTip, the executive director of Fulbright Thailand had told us to accept that with our expectations we should expect to be disappointed. Bangkok did not bombard me with too much culture shock, in fact it did not feel so different to other cities I've inhabited. I was surrounded by 19 other Americans, speaking my language and understanding my cultural references. Now...for something entirely different...

Arrival to Sansai Wittayakom School
Sansai Wittayakom lies on a busy road. My little two-story white house is in the back next to the rice paddy fields. Which apparently I am helping harvest when the time comes. School grounds are fairly large for a high school, but smaller than my university. Not the dirt roads I imagined in my mind, but busy streets that terrify me when crossing. Despite busy roads, there is not a great deal of shops or food around. Though a 25-30 minute walk gets to me to a populated area with open-air food places, street vendors and various shops. Yet, on Thursdays there is a sprawling market place across the road from my home/the school, laden with dozens of delicious looking treats and other slightly less appetizing items that I'm sure I will be talked into testing at some point. I've already been forced to eat fish stomach and congealed pig's blood. I suppose I'm not the intrepid adventurer I thought I was for these foods had me desperately wishing for Annie's Mac N' Cheese.

Kru Toi, my host teacher and Kru Dang, the head of the foreign language department, and truly a second host teacher, picked me up from the airport. P'Noi, a Fulbright staff, came with me the first day and took me around to different shops to get the various things I needed for my house. Though the entry was overwhelming, I'm excited to be here, excited to explore and am slowly acclimating to life in the province (or highway school near a small town?).

Thai Kindness
Already I've been given several free meals, been invited to dinners at teachers homes (and attended one already), been to an English competition at another school, and been checked in on constantly. My host teacher(s) are kind, wonderful women and treat me as their daughter - helping me with every question, qualm and issue to the best of their ability.

Lizards, Flying Ants and Construction
Stepping into my new home on Wednesday I was greeted by several men inside my home as nails hammered and drills drilled. It was not quite the peaceful entry I had hoped for, but I supposed better that they were still renovating the house than giving up on screen doors and such. The house has four rooms - two downstairs & two upstairs. One room upstairs is empty except for a dresser and my room has a twin bed, two desks, a dresser and a mirror table. It is the largest room I have ever lived in and the largest living space I have ever lived in - alone or with 7 other people.

At night, lizards roam my ceiling and keep me company in the eerie quiet with the songs of bugs outside my window wanting to join the lizard party on my ceiling. Small bugs flood to my fluorescent light & small flying ants and beetles share my bed with me, as well as making their way onto my arms and legs, and even in my hair. Some may say, how are you living there? Well, sabai sabai - just go with it, as they say here in Thailand. This is an adventure. Though hard the first day, I am getting used to my amenities (or lack there of). My blue fan sits close to my face and the cold water showers wake me up! Put a smile on - and fake it 'til you make it.

Oh Thailand
There may be language barriers, I may be overwhelmed and my house may not be the house I imagined. But at the end of the day, I have 17 hours of teaching a week, lesson plans to write, free online courses to take, places around the country to explore, friends near and far, in Thailand and abroad, growing and learning to do, a new language to learn and a smile on my face - life is wonderful and I am excited to take each day one day at a time - facing new challenges each day.

Maybe I will even like sleeping with ants by the end of the year. Who knows. Anything could happen. :)
More on teaching Thai students next time.

Sabai Sabai - just go with it, it's fine. :)


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