I came to Thailand to teach all on my own. I’d heard of people doing this sort of thing with their best friends or significant other (or even their entire family), but I decided to go by my lonesome. Why? Because I am a strong, self-sufficient woman who don’t need nobody! Nuh-uh! ~sass~
Of course, I was wrong. Thailand is hard. Solo-Thailand is even harder, especially if you’re in it for a whole year. The words are hard to say, the streets are hard to navigate, and the street food is hard to distinguish. Is it fish? Is it chicken? Oh, it’s chicken colon? And worms, too? Wonderful.
Somehow these moments seem less brutal when someone's there to suffer with you.
Thankfully, even though I went into this without knowing what the heck I was getting into, I am doing this through a pretty great program. CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) has partnered up with Thailand’s OEG (Overseas Ed Group), and both organizations have graciously guided each participating teacher through the hectic process.
Those in charge of CIEE and OEG are doing a wonderful job making us feel welcome and have helped the initial transitory period much easier. They organized short rounds of teacher training, little excursions to the Grand Palace and Kanchanaburi, and taught us that 555 is the lol equivalent in Thai.
What they did best though, was place me with three of the most wonderful farangs America has to offer. I am biased. But I do not care.
I’m in Chanthaburi with three other ladies from all over the states. Samantha’s from New Orleans and shuffles her tarot deck around in the mornings. Sarah’s from Raleigh/NYC and bursts into celebratory pirouettes around town. Connaught’s from Boston and does a mean impression of our super-animated boss. Seriously. We've told her to stop doing it because we’re scared the sounds will creep into our dreams.
We live together in a giant house with a washing machine and rats having conversations in our walls. We don’t have a kitchen but we do have a fridge and Sam’s hammock and a lady who wakes us up in the mornings with her 3-hour sweeping sessions. I timed her. The leaves are still curiously there at all times.
Together we've gotten kidnapped by our Thai coordinators and been force-fed some of the most delicious foods we otherwise would've had no clue existed. Together we've met the mayor of our town, and together we tried to get our passport photos taken but ended up with this masterpiece instead:
The four of us explore our temporary home, climbing up nearby waterfalls and pretending that swimming with fish doesn't weird us out one bit. We discover hot spots in our neighborhood, even if it means accidentally sitting through a Battle of the Bands metal show or getting so ridiculously lost we start bickering. We travel with each other around the country, figuring out how to get from point A to point B without losing our way or getting overcharged.
Yeah, I could've done all that by myself, but I am so happy I didn’t have to.
Because it’s so good to have partners in crime when you’re in a country this foreign. So good to have someone to talk to at the end of the day, to bitch about that boy who won’t stop cutting his toenails with scissors or to rave about how one of your classes finally (finally!) went well. Small victories can turn into the grandest ones when you live with those in the same boat as you are.
Telling your stories to friends and family back home won’t ever fully capture the weight of how those moments actually played out. They’ll never really get the shock that came with opening the door to your dingy hostel bungalow and discovering a fresh litter of kittens tucked under your mattress. Or the humor of your coordinator constantly popping up with presents for you at-the-ready. You’ll get the gist out there, sure. But, like much of life, the intimacies of teaching abroad are made up of those “you had to be there” moments. And my roommates are there. They get it.
Coming home to a house full of life has been a highlight of my worst days and has humbled my experience just a bit more. I am so grateful to have these three in this chapter of my life. I might have come here on my own, but I know for certain these ladies and I are in this together.