Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why don't you...?

In my time in Bangkok so far, there have been a lot of mishaps. As such, I’ve heard the following questions many times:

Why don’t you move?
Why don’t you change schools?
Is there anything GOOD about Thailand?
Why don’t you go home?

In light of these questions, and having vaguely addressed the fourth question in a nostalgic wishy-washy fashion last week, I thought I would impart some of the reasons for not leaving, moving or otherwise throwing in the towel.

Why don’t you move?
1. My landlady saves my laundry from the rain. Every time.
2. Ming. The alley cat.
3. When I’m running late to school, one of two moto taxi drivers on my soi usually sees me and drives down the soi to get me and take me to work, for 1 USD; and they take me elsewhere in the city without ripping me off.
4. Two massage parlors, and all of the workers in them on my street know me by name; they knew me before I ever walked in the door. One of the owners let me take a three-hour nap in one of her chairs when the monsoon was awful. The other owner wanted to make sure I knew about Buddhism in these troubled times, sadly I don’t read Thai as of yet, he had a book to give me and didn’t in light of the language barrier.
5. The old lady that smiles and waves to me every morning as I walk past.
6. Café corner’s banana ginger smoothie and spaghetti pesto.
7. The characters I meet at Café Corner. Besides the occasional sexpat.
8. Availability of western food in general in my area.
9. The dog lady.
10. Bus route accessibility.
11. Not too far from the khlong boat start, either.
12. I’m perfectly situated between my school and Khao Sarn Rd. Which, while sometimes difficult to deal with, is the go to place for many things.
13. The food variety on/near Khao Sarn Rd.
14. The amazing tailor situated just inside the entrance to the wat at the end of Khao Sarn Rd. Seven articles of clothing altered for 10 USD? Yes. Fix my backpack? Less than 1 USD. Awesome.
15. I have air-conditioning, and a skylight.

Why don’t you change schools?
1. Changing schools in Thailand may be as common and easy as changing your outfit. Back home, it’s not that simple, and jumping around a bunch doesn’t look so good on your resume.
2. Even for other places in Thailand, or other countries in Asia, jumping around doesn’t look so good if you’re aiming higher than a cram school. It’s about perseverance here!
3. According to my colleagues, everywhere else they’ve taught in Thailand has been a worse experience. The chaos, and beginning paperwork trouble is typical of Thai culture.
4. Most of my students are very good at English, which is a rare blessing in Thailand.
5. None of my classes have more than 35 students. Some schools have class sizes between 40 and 60 kids.
6. Once my pay, visa and work permit were finally sorted, the majority of the problem was solved. Switching reopens this Pandora’s box.
7. I got out of teaching computers. Long story, but I was in over my head.
8. I get to lead art club as of this semester.
9. I FINALLY have Thai social health insurance. Also linked to my employment.
10. My school has direct links to my home state.
11. The longer I’m at this school, the better rapport I have with my students and the better I can control each of their classes. And the more of their names I actually learn.
12. I’m no longer the newest teacher.
13. I have received a desk and a teacher’s desktop computer (getting a teacher’s computer is a rarity here indeed).
14. I’m back on the parents’ good side (no more computers), and get along with the head of the PTA.
15. The school secretary and I are tight. We’re gonna take over the world someday. Ok maybe not really. You just wait and see.

Is there anything GOOD about Thailand?
1. Cheap, accessible produce, including amazing fruit, some varieties you can’t get back home. 1 kilo of mangosteens for less than 1 USD? Yes, please.
2. I can afford to get a back massage. Frequently. 200 baht (6.57 USD).
3. I can ride a motorbike to school for 1 USD.
4. Public transportation. I don’t need to own a car; in fact it would be counterproductive.
5. I can have a smart phone AND a pay as you go plan. And switching cell phone carriers is a matter of walking into 7/11 and buying a different SIM card for something like 3 USD.
6. Green tea flavored everything. Though careful, they add milk to a lot of beverages here, you have to ask every time.
7. I can afford to go to the hospital without fretting about co-pays and going bankrupt, even if they double charge me (which they won’t any more, Thai social!).
8. If you know what you need, the pharmacy will sell it to you. Without a prescription. Doctor’s supervision only matters as far as the doctor actually does anything besides scribble out a piece of paper and charge more than the pharmacy for the same drug. I’m not being reckless, just saying.
9. Everyone tells me I’m beautiful. And I ‘look like baby.’ Can’t win them all.
10. 7/11 sells cold beer. And they open it for you. And you can drink while walking down the street.
11. Beverages are still made with real sugar and not the synthetic stuff, besides what is clearly labeled diet.
12. Most people that find out I’m a teacher immediately ratchet their level of respect up 1-5 notches. Sometimes prices are lowered for me with this information.
13. I can ride a boat to the mall for 30 cents US.
14. If I’m craving something from the west, most things I can get, for the right price.
15. Despite my trouble with it, going out to eat is cheaper than cooking, there is a lot of delicious food here, and the longer I’m here the more I figure out which things I can and cannot get away with eating. If we truly became what we eat, some days I would definitely be a bananasteen. That’s banana + mangosteen, if you didn’t catch that.

And perhaps the most important reasons not to leave:
1. I know I’m not done here.
2. I’m finally on the all downhill from here side of culture shock.
3. Now that I’ve got the hang of things, it’s actually time to do some exploring around the rest of the country, and continent! (Class, this is what we call foreshadowing).
4. I feel like I make a difference with (most of) my students, and the moments I see my students shine, in whatever country, are some of the times I am happiest.
5. I’m finally learning more about my DSLR camera, and I’ve got some of the most beautiful sites in the world to capture.
6. I’m finally closing in on getting my artist’s groove back. Almost.
7. I have time to read.
8. I have time to train for a half-marathon. There, I put it out there. Pressure’s on, lazy pants. Ugh. Grad class has been eating into this time…
9. Being this far away, I have no obligation, and really no ability to come running when anyone cries wolf. I only have to look out for myself. Sorry, see this? Yeah that’s the Pacific Ocean. I never really liked swimming that much.
10. Breathing room. I can finally work on healing at my own pace. Some may say I ran away. I say I dove in headfirst. Holding on to the past with both hands and continuing to wait for the other shoe to drop; that would be worrisome.

I’m 25. I’ve got things to do, places to see, and my own shoes to fill. Preferably green or purple shoes, but I’m flexible. Still waiting for my midget dragon sidekick though.

1 comment:

  1. Yum! I am going to make a banana ginger smoothie pronto! Something like banana, grated ginger, greek yogurt, stevia, SoDelicious coconut beverage.

    I hear ya on the cheap produce, although it's probably not quite as cheap as Thai. Today I had fresh guava and dates and figs. 20 limes for a buck? Yes please!