A very long first week indeed
When does one week end and the next begin? According to the calendar I grew up with, the week ends on Saturday and the next begins on Sunday. In other places, the new week starts on Monday. But even though Monday will inevitably begin a new week, I still don’t feel like I’ve passed the first week mark yet. Why? Because for a new week to begin you need one or two days of weekend in between the first week and the next week. But this Sunday morning I woke up like every other morning and went off to school just like I did Saturday morning and every morning before. So even though the week may be over, my first week certainly hasn’t ended yet. On the other hand, this week doesn’t really felt like it counts. I taught many classes, but the students aren’t really in learning mode yet. Things are pretty hectic and disjointed at school because the school is taking part in a country-wide competition. To be completely honest, I’m not exactly sure how the competition works. What I do know is I am now spending my weekend at the school helping to prepare. So this whole past week was just preparations for the competition, which will be judged on Monday. This means some of my classes didn’t show up at all as they were working on something else. Other classes I would have 9 or 10 kids out of 40 show up. So that’s where I am right now. I’m just surviving this 12-day week and trying to get myself organized. Amidst the chaos and last minute surprises (I found out I needed to go to school on the weekend on Friday) I just wanted to take a minutes to share some thoughts and feelings from this first week.
1. My drive to work is amazing
Last Friday I successfully procured a motorcycle – or motorcyyy if you’re Thai – and let me tell you driving around on that thing was the first time I was happy in the tiny village of Khlong Khlung. Then there is my drive to work. It starts off on a main road before I turn right onto the road to the bridge. I go on the bridge over the river and stop at 7-11 for breakfast. I should take a moment to clarify that in front of 7-11 are usually 3-5 street vendors where I can try something new and different each morning. Then I turn off the main road to go through the farms. Right now, many of the farms are simply large plots of shallow water which reflects the soft morning light and clear skies to perfection. In the morning, the air is cool and dry and it’s almost chilly as it hits my body. Almost. Back before school started I would often drive on the long empty roads for no reason at all. I would go slowly and absorb the perfect images and serenity since I had nothing else to do. My morning drive, although it only lasts 15 minutes or so, is the perfect start to the day.
2. The little thing help a lot
I’ll be honest, this first week has been tough. I’m still getting used to being the only native English speaker in a 50 mile radius. I’m still getting used to Thailand’s humidity and eating out every single night. But it’s the little victories that make it easier to keep going and growing. It’s finally finding a place to do laundry or finding a new place to eat. But sometimes it’s the silly little things like when I’m driving through town and one of my students waves and says “Hello Teachaaaa”. The other morning, it was the kittens. My apartment complex is home to a mother and her 4 or 5 newborn kittens. I can hold them in the palm of my hand. It might not be much, but every time I see them I can’t help but to break into a wide, genuine smile. And when things are tough it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.
3. My students are very talented
They may not be the most eager students in English class. Most of them will be playing on their phones or chatting during my class. But outside of class I get to see what these kids are passionate about and really gifted at. This past week there was a Chinese festival in the evenings and my students did various performances there. The first night, one group performed a dance with a giant dragon on the other side of the river. They set of fireworks and created a wonderful spectacle. At the same festival I got to see my students create music in a small ensemble and sing and dance. Back in school the students are creating all manner of crafts to decorate for the upcoming competition. Many of them have an artistic gift that I truly envy. One group of students created a model of some of the tourist attractions in the province we live in and others created paper lanterns or flowers out of napkins. Even simply drawing a figure in class the gift some of these students have is apparent.
4. Eating out by yourself is different then eating at the same place with a Thai person.
So last night I went to a place around the corner that probably has the only English menu in town. It’s a steakhouse – ironically, I’m a vegetarian – and it’s a little fancier and pricier than many of the places here. When I went last night some teachers from my office were already there and invited me to join them. They had already ordered and as the food arrived I was confused. As it turns out, aside from the poorly translated menu there is an entirely different menu in Thai, which has completely different items. I got to try a spicy vegetable mix (too spicy for me might I add) and a deep-fried vegetable that could have been kale or morning glory. It was a very pleasant and enlightening dinner with good company.
5. My war with the bugs is at stale-mate
If you missed the thrilling introductory tale of the war on bugs then you should read it. Just to give an update, things are better now. The bugs still come at nighttime. When I come back to my apartment after dark they are all waiting expectantly at the front doorway. I quickly remind them who lives here with my trusty bug spray and that usually does it for the night. Although every morning there are somehow dead bugs across my floor I don’t really mind anymore…as long as they’re dead. As for the back porch I’ve just been avoiding that area.