Monday, February 2, 2009

Teacher Trip

Last week I joined all the teachers from the high school we teach at for a tour around parts of Thailand. It was such a fun trip, they rented a 2 floored tour bus and we went to places I had never been to before. Very few of them spoke English, so I definitely had to rely on the little Thai I know. But whenever I would say something in Thai they would all get so excited, it definitely gave me courage to try. :-) It was a good challenge to be on my own and have to communicate- not being able to rely on Phil and Pook. The Thai people are just so great. Never have I felt such love and care from strangers before. They just couldn't have been nicer. Someone always treated me to lunch or snacks or anything. If I was in line to buy something, they would run up and buy it for me. They are just super super sweet.

One day of the trip I was sick and they all came together to help me and take care of me. I had the worst stomach ache and only wanted to eat some crackers. So they searched through the bus if anyone had anything like that. Then brought me a bag of what they found and I thought they had found some Ritz crackers but there was frosting in the middle- the thought of sugar/sweet made me cringe. So with the little Thai I know I said I didn't want them because of the middle, so one of the men starts to open them and scrape off all the cream and hands it to me. It was the funniest thing. They would all take turns refreshing the rag on my head with water, since I had a fever. Luckily by the next morning I was much better.

I haven't taken so many pictures before in my life! Everyone wanted me to be in their photo, so I was being called left and right to run into photos... my cheeks were so sore! Very little of the trip was translated for me, the two English teachers were on the trip but still hardly told me anything. This gave me such a greater appreciation for all the translating Pook has done for me over the years. I never knew what was going on or what the next stop was-- just going with the flow.

Thais love to do karaoke and the second floor of the bus was perfectly set up for this. I don't know how people can sing so much. Whenever we were driving, they were singing. Needless to say I soon made my way to the first floor and made my home there. One of the teachers brought her little niece, who is 9. On the first day she just stared at me and poked me and would grab my hand and hold it. I don't think she had much close up interactions with foreigners before! She soon became my little buddy who took care of me, guided me everywhere, and taught me lots of Thai by the end. :-)

We first drove up to the North (15 hours) and observed another high school up there. The students at that school were so excited to see me and everyone tried to practice their English with me and lead me around to all their classrooms. Then we stayed up in the mountains. On our way back to Nakhon Si Thammarat we toured different museums, aquariums, old houses that the King and Queen used to live in, stop at many markets for shopping, and took a couple boat ride tours.

It's so interesting being in situations where you don't know anything that is being said. You spend a lot of time in your head, talking to yourself basically. Whenever someone would speak to me, it was so nice to understand and be able to respond. The other aspect is you know people are talking about you, because you hear your name all the time, but you have no idea what they are saying or even the context. It's pretty bizarre.

But by the end of the trip, I felt really close to everyone and the first night home I felt a little homesick for everyone. There is a lot of closeness with Thais. When we stopped to stay the night somewhere, Thais just sleep in big rooms with a bunch of mats lining the wall- so everyone sleeps together in a row. The bathroom/shower may be outside in a little bamboo hut or it may actually be connected. The sleeping arrangements the first night were a little hard to get accustomed to, but the end it was fine. As Americans we're so used to our space and privacy. Everyone gets up super earlier too. At about 4:30am people started rising and taking showers, it was near impossible to continue sleeping... the benefit- I got so see many beautiful sunrises! :-)

We teach at the high school every Tuesday so I am excited to go and see all the teachers again. As it turns out a few of them actually live in our neighborhood and one happens to be this older couple that I really came to love- so I'm real excited I can walk over and seen them whenever. I'm so glad I decided to go on the trip, they told me only a few hours before they were leaving- so it was very short notice. It's nice to be spontaneous though, it's good to challenge the mind and soul to be uncomfortable and in challenging situations.

I know my posts are quite sporadic and as a result quite long, so good job if you've made it this far! Here's some pictures from the trip:

At the school up North
With some of the teachers
For some reason no one was ready for the photo :-)
The two English teachers and I
They wanted to braid my hair like the famous Thai Soap Opera star
On a river tour outside of Bangkok
The ladies with the big sunglasses! They wanted to buy mine off of me! :-)
We drove these around and toured old houses the King and Queen used to live in
on a boat tour around a dam

Very fun and exciting
Giant Buddha
At the Space and Technology museum
At a market on the Burma (Myanmar) border

1 comment:

Mo said...

That looks like such a fun trip!! The picture of you and all the Thai people in front of the bus cracks me up. I'm really glad you got to do that.