Five weeks didn’t seem that long when I bid adieu to my pals and parental unit for what would be forty days a few thousand miles across the globe. While at college, I’m generally not very good at keeping touch with people (sorry! It’s not intentional), so I didn’t think much of going away again.
Fast-forward through a 16 hour international flight – welcome to Bangkok. Where the people drive on the left side of the road, where you must be mindful about the amount of TP you use, and where the cost of living is ridiculously low (compared to the US or UK, that is).
For those who haven’t been following me or accidentally clicked on this link, here’s a quick debrief of what I’ve been up to:
Basically…I’m in the lovely country of Thailand teaching two classes of Level 1 English for four hours a day, four days a week for a grand total of four weeks to students who (at the moment) speak very little English. I’ll explain what my last week spent here will consist of later.
After just one teacher training day, equipped with some curriculum and a half-used high school notebook under my arm, I was given my own classroom, lesson plans, the title of “teacher,” and one morning and one night class where 90% of my students are older than me.
I initially thought that the fact that most of my students were working, middle-aged adults could make teaching at the very least, awkward. But age quite literally seems to be but a number, outweighed by the students’ motivation to learn the language. They wai to me (bow heads with clasped hands), listen with interest (or at least pretend to) to every boring, minute detail of my American life that I share, and want to go on excursions around the city with me, long after class has been dismissed. Already I have been regularly invited to lunch by my students, as well as the floating market. Wut…
If I have learned anything within the last eight days, it is that this is a culture of respect – age is irrelevant in my case. I guess this is one of the perks that comes with being a foreign English teacher who teaches for free! But I’m not sure if that minor detail really has much to do with the overwhelming kindness I’ve received.
I think most of us are accustomed to a very give-and-take society, where the mindset often follows along the lines of “What’s in it for me?” rather than a “What can I do for you (regardless if I get anything in return)?”one.
My students (and even those who are students in other classes) have really made an effort with me outside of class with no intention of buttering me up for a “pass” grade. It’s astounding. Because in our society, who does that?
The other day, one of my team leaders brought the above to my attention on a more personal level.
“It’s about time,” she said. I suppose in her eyes, she saw me as the one to usually give my best without expecting or getting much in return. Not trying to play the victim here, just telling it like it was said.
Because if I’m to be blunt, [most of] the Thai I’ve met seem to like me – for me. Even if I wasn’t providing a service, I have a strong feeling that I wouldn’t be treated too much differently than I am now.
But why can’t it always be like that? Not just for me, but for everyone. I don’t think we Americans are conditioned to thrive in this mindset, in fact it seems quite the opposite. Obviously no one can be nice 100% of the time, but the pure-intentioned mentality in which one expects nothing in return for a good deed – I am curious as to when that ever went out of style. Or if it ever did, and we’re all dressed out of season.
And that simple statement, “It’s about time” hit me hard. So hard that I seem to have fallen down this rabbit hole that I’m in no hurry to crawl out from.