6 things I learned from my time in Thailand
Although Thailand turned out not to be the country for me (read more here) I am still grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about myself that this experience provided. I really loved a lot of what Thailand had to offer, and I have every intention of returning one day. Here are some brief thoughts about what I gained from the experience.
Teaching really is awesome
I had a lot more trouble adjusting to small town Thailand than I anticipated. There were many times where I was lonely and wondered what I was doing. But even at the toughest times, the students really kept me going. I wanted to be at my best for them everyday and that made me put in the effort I needed. The small victories in the classroom made everything worth it. I learned that teaching is definitely something I want to pursue at another time and place in my life.
I can now eat some spicy food
Before I lived in Thailand, I avoided spicy food like the plague. I had never found even a slightly spicy dish that I could handle. When I got to Thailand and ordered my first Pad Thai off the street, I told the cook to put a little spice knowing I would have to build up a bit of a tolerance. It was, predictably, too much for me. When I got to my placement, it was sink or swim. Now, finally, after 4 months of adding progressively more spice to my meals, I can now eat, and even enjoy, some spicy dishes.
I learned the appeal of motorcycles
Full disclosure, the “motorcycle” I was riding in Thailand would be described as a “scooter” in the United States, but I’d like think I got the general idea. Before Thailand I was of the school of thought that motorcycles were unnecessarily dangerous and a person would be foolish to ride one. But having felt the cool wind on face, and indeed almost getting killed a few times, I have much more appreciation for the concept. I’m not about to go buy a Harley when I get back to the states, but I will definitely miss the freedom and ease of having my trusty scooter available.
Communication takes time
When I first arrived at my school in Thailand, I was greeted with the blankest of stares every time I addressed one of my classes. Only in the last few weeks have I recalled these first classes and realized how different things are now. I can now give a real semblance of instructions to my class. Enough students can understand me to translate for the rest of the class usually. And it’s happened both ways. At first, I struggled to comprehend the mispronounced thoughts of my students as much as they struggled to understand me. Now, after almost 5 months, I can have a basic form of conversation with some of the students. This was an intriguing realization and will help me to be a more patient communicator in my future endeavors.
I learned more about my passions
If you’re not sure if you’re passionate about something, try going without it for 6 months. And that is how I arrived at the conclusion that somethings I formerly thought of as only interests may very well deserve the word passion. I am, of course, talking about beer and cheese. In most of Thailand, there are only 4 beers readily available and (spoiler alert) they all taste exactly the same. Also, Thai people apparently don’t want to taste their beer because they almost always mix it with ice. Cheese, unless you’re in a city, is harder to find than a public trashcan (people who’ve been to Thailand will understand the joke here). So while I didn’t think too much about cheese and beer (and other things too, see below) before Thailand, I will appreciate them much more when I leave this country.
I learned more about what I need to be happy
I currently have no plans to “settle down” somewhere. I’m happiest when I’m moving around. But Thailand revealed to me the kinds of things I need to be happy if the day comes that I do want to stay in one place. This lesson was learned both through the absence of certain things in my hometown and the experiences I had when I traveled. One of the biggest revelations was how much diversity contributes to my daily life. I am happiest when there are a wealth of different people with different ideas in one place. Without diversity, I find it more difficult to learn and grow as a person. Also eating the same food every day has been slowly killing me.