The longer I stay…

…the more I learn not only about Thais but also about myself. You learn to let go of preconceived notions and to open yourself up to different possibilities.

One of the things that I did not fully understand and that disgusted me was seeing Thai women with foreign men. I thought they were just gold digging opportunists but I was ignorant and if this was only a holiday I would have left Thailand none the wiser. Here’s the deal Thai boy meets Thai girl at varsity, they fall in love and plan to spend the rest of their lives together. After varsity Thai boy no longer wants his Thai girl because she is now considered too old so he trades her in for a younger model. It then becomes difficult for Thai girl to find someone new especially if she has a darker skin colour. The only other choice she now has is to date and marry a foreign man. The added benefit of this is that she has more say about their daily lives as opposed to marrying a Thai man she has much less of a say when it comes to important decisions. Obviously I’m not saying this would be the case for every young Thai couple as that would be generalising as well but the fact remains it is a reality for so many Thai women.

The other thing that I have learnt and this time about myself is that I always seek out the familiar when I am in a foreign place. Familiar things have a soothing and comforting effect on me. I am no stranger to change but that does not always mean I am comfortable with it. Which is why a calm overcame me when I saw my first glimpse of the ocean on my way to Phuket. Having lived in Cape Town and near the coast my entire life I need to know that the ocean is always close by. I feel claustrophobic when I am inland. I also breath a sigh of relief when I see a restaurant or food street vendor that has the Arabic halal sign so I no I don’t need to worry about the food I am eating. In Phuket I saw an abundance of these as well as more Muslim men and women with scarves. Everytime I see one of these cloaked woman I feel that I am not alone or the only Muslim here. A mosque sighting gladdens my heart which is weird because I don’t often go to mosque but I like just knowing it is there.

I’m sure by now most people know that Thailand is the land of smiles but not everyone smiles. The people are are very honest and kind though. When I told Ying the Thai lady at one of my fave restaurants in Phuket that I got ripped off by a taxi driver she apologized on behalf of the scamster. Then there is Mr. Nong who makes an amazing cup of earl grey tea who thanked me for volunteering at Thai schools. I also love how you are able to forget things like sunglasses at a restaurant or coffee shop and a week later you can go back and have it returned to you by the owner. I’m not saying be reckless or careless but the paranoia that is instilled in most South Africans is not needed here.

Let the learning always continue….


School is in session

I’m currently staying in a place called Phanom which is an hour away from Surat Thani and 2 hours away from Phuket. There is not much to do here though, it is just one long main road in what seems like the middle of nowhere. I am surrounded by mountain and jungle but at least the mornings are cool and there is always a breeze. The people are so kind and helpful and go out of their way to make sure I am comfortable. I live in a little bungalow not far from the school where I teach and the lady who owns the bunglalows makes the meanest omelette and tuna salad. The only thing that I wish this little place had was public transport. There are no tuk-tuks or song-taews and not even a place to rent a scooter or car which means my movements are pretty limited.

So I started this week and was extremely apprehensive. I mean me, teaching high school kids. What is the world coming to? Thai kids are naughty, friendly and very respectful of teachers. They will wai and lower/make themselves smaller when they walk past a teacher. I was shocked though at the level of English but I suppose living in a more rural and not touristy area the need for speaking English is not as great. I am enjoying it more than I thought I would even though at the end of the school day I am exhausted. I get to school at 7.30 and wait for the school assembly and everyone has to stand up when they sing the national anthem whilst raising the flag. I currently only have 2 classes a day which leaves me with plenty of time to prepare lessons. I’m done at about 15.30 and school finishes at 16.00 with another assembly. I am also nowrunning the English club with a small group of students who want to improve their conversational skills.

Here are some pictures of my students. I asked some of them what they wanted to be when they grow up. The one boy told me he is going to be a woman when he grows up. The acceptance and tolerance of such statements is astounding.

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