So, I’m here! (I know, two weeks later…) A 3am (NZ) start after a 12:30am goodnight (I know, I know, and I have no legitimate excuse) and 12 hours of flight time later I was in Bangkok, Thailand. The journey was long. Very long. :) I did get an idea of Bangkok driving around, but since most of that was craning our heads trying to figure out where on earth we’d gone wrong to get to the bus stop (we got given wrong directions, and if you turn off the wrong way in Bangkok, it’s not easy to get back on track!!) I have almost no photos of that fascinating city!
An impression from the journey to Korat – it’s a slightly helpless feeling to be on a bus where announcements are all in a different language, where when you answer your phone and start talking in English you get startled looks, and when you do pull up at what looks like it might be what was described to you, listening for the Thai words which are the name of the place (they were never said), no one can tell you if it is the right place or not. But I figured it out, found Jeh Sie, and am now happily at their house in Korat. Only two days of travelling on the whole, but it was a relief to get here finally! Kevin and Jeh Sie Chan have been really lovely and welcoming, and 3-year-old Kaitlyn is incredibly cute.
After thinking a bit on what my objectives are for being here, I’ve picked three words that can describe what those are: see, help, and learn. So if you only want to know about my Thailand experience, just read the first section – if you only want to know about the teaching, read the second, and if you want something a bit deeper, read the last! ;)
So now, thinking of some cultural things that already just seem normal: Thailand is hot!! About 33 degrees most days, and since it’s rainy season it’s very humid, and rains most evenings (sometimes in the daytime too). Clouds in the sky often mean it’s going to rain (as opposed to NZ clouds, which mean “I might rain. Or I might be gone in the next two minutes. Or both). Definitely an adjustment, but a nice change to always feeling cold. :)
Some things it’s not uncommon to see every day: three people squished onto a motorbike, peddlars coming around selling their wares, keen to haggle a price with you, or people walking down the middle of the street between cars at traffic lights, looking like they’re ringing bells; what they’re really doing is waving their street food for you to buy while you wait.
Some things a bit less common, but not strange to see: more than three people squished on a motorbike, Buddhist monks making their rounds to ask for donations, or a six-year-old shopkeeper running her stall by herself at the night market.
The reason I came here was to help Kevin & Jeh Sie Chan, who are from my church in NZ, with some English teaching cover while one of their other staff has a baby. I met said teacher, Tom, on my first day in Korat. The plan was for me to shadow him in the classroom for a bit to see how things are done before teaching. But as some of you may have seen on Facebook, that night (day 1) Kevin got off the phone, sat down to dinner, and was like: “so Tom’s baby is being delivered tomorrow.” I was like: “…ok,” trying to guage whether this was another Kevin joke (of which there are many). It wasn’t. So I got the deep end that Saturday; first teaching class on my own, on my third day!
I’m grateful that I’m used to pretty changing environments – we really never know what the next week will look like. From next week I’ll be teaching preschoolers at a Korean pastor-friend’s kindy (desperate, as most schools are these days, for a native English speaker!) and tomorrow I’m covering a TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) class, a qualification for people to be able to work in English-speaking countries. So the range is wide, and the schedule ever-fluid.
I’m also thankful for the multicultural upbringing NZ’s given me – I’m used to trying to decipher accents, and when a Thai’s English can make “pineapple” sound like “Thai airport”, that’s definitely a plus! The three Thai staff at the Centre here all speak a little English, but since I speak next to no Thai, conversation is incredibly limited. With one of them in particular, a girl my age, we attempt a sort of language swap and are gradually building a friendship.
One of the major things I’ve noticed is just how constant God is. The climate, the culture, the expectations, what I do with my day have all been turned on their head, but God is the same, and He’s still God here in Thailand. Being away from home – away from people I’m used to walking with; away from people I’m used to looking out for – it’s just me & God with these things, and I’m knowing Him better for it.
On the whole, there’s been a lot of watching, listening and asking questions, and the doing is small things, deep-ended as they sometimes are. :) Which is fine!
I find (predictably) that I’m appreciating my rich array of friends a LOT – including ones who are also away from NZ – familiar faces are rare, very rare here! So I would absolutely love to hear from you also.
[For those of you who got this emailed, many many apologies for the font – it was really late by the time I sent it and it was the first one I clicked on after pasting.]