We’ve made it back from our week-long vacation of beaches and Bangkok. It was lots of fun but I am not about to recall the trip because I’d rather share what it’s been like to return to Pla Pak and my schools. Besides, pictures are worth…well, a lot of words, so check out my Flickr account to the right if you are curious.
I returned to a lot of students eager to hear what I’ve been up to the past week. One of my co-teachers told me that the students kept asking about me while I was gone. When I arrived at Pla Pak Noi yesterday there was a group of about 15 students crowded around the car when I climbed out to greet me good morning. I told them I missed them very much and they were just beaming (though I’m not sure if they really understood what I said…). In each of my six classes I pantomimed actions such as swimming, eating, boating, shopping, and dancing to explain to them what I did on my trip. It was fun to see the delight on their faces, especially as I mimed the 10 hour bus-ride home. As I closed the performance I exclaimed that the trip was sanook mak (lots of fun) but wan nee mee kwaam suk (today I am happy). And to be honest, it is wonderful to be back.
The past few days outside of the classroom have been just as gratifying. Yesterday I met a new social studies teacher at Pla Pak Noi and I found myself in the odd position of welcoming the newcomer to the school, even though I am the foreigner and he the native! At lunch today I surprised myself by responding to a conversation that was completely in Thai. This afternoon I was offered to learn how to knit by one of my 6th graders; before I knew it I was surrounded by about 20 students and they shouted commands to me, as if their eagerness alone would move the needles to the correct loops. It didn’t help that their directions were all in Thai, of course, but by the fifth or sixth try I had the hang of it and my “teachers” were ecstatic. After school I attended aerobics dance class. It’s made up of a group of 8-12 middle-aged Thai women and I now call myself a regular. When I miss class I hear about it the next day from my two favorite co-teachers from Pla Pak Noi! We jam out to Thai techno and pop for about an hour in the district office parking lot down the street from my house-it’s quite comical, actually but I love it.
I guess what I can conclude from these experiences is that I am finally feeling integrated with parts of the Pla Pak community, and dare I say, with Thai culture. If you would have asked me a month ago how things were, I would have commented on my frustration with a lack of schedules and “inefficiencies” at my schools. I would have compared the management practices and processes of the school administrations with those I’ve known in the U.S. I would have stated that the Thais I work with “just don’t get it.” Hmmm. Although I still have months of adjustment ahead of me, I think it’s only fair to say that perhaps the person who didn’t (and at times still doesn’t) “get it” in these moments is…me. Me? What a concept. Could I be…learning? Growing? Well let’s be honest-this is the kind of stuff I live for. I just hope I remember these learning points the next time I hit another wall.
Well I am excited to announce that Alyssa, my graduate school roomie, has landed safely in Bangkok and will make her way up to me by Saturday! That said, entries may be a bit spotty for the next week or so but I will do my best to keep up. Happy new year!