My fellow WorldTeach friend/travel companion Matt and I landed in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. The next few days that followed consisted of roaming the very walkable streets and gazing up in admiration at the Petronas Towers, which seemed to be casting shadows on us everywhere we went. There were some delicious Indian, Chinese and Malay meals with pulled tea (an awesome pouring technique that seems rather dangerous to replicate at home) tossed into the mix, but I spent most of my time in KL in a post-rural Thailand daze. The air-con in restaurants made my food cold (eating indoors, what?). The pollution sent my allergies into a rage (traffic jams?). And I couldn’t for the life of me find fresh fruit (where are all the fruit carts?). Somewhere between leaving Nakhon Phanom on an overnight bus to Bangkok and flying down to KL, I also misplaced something. Bulky clothes? Toiletries? Souvenirs? I wish.
What I lost is much more valuable and difficult to replace than anything filling my overstuffed bags. For the past year teaching has been my life and now that I am completely removed from the environment I grew to love, I feel a loss of purpose and an emptiness where my students once were. Don’t read into this sentiment too much, though, because in many ways I was ready to go. The goodbyes had to come sooner or later. I am also very happy right now as I travel the beautiful country of Malaysia and am excited about returning home to my loved ones in a few short weeks.
We’re now in Melaka, a port city with Dutch, Portugese and English influences, in addition to the country-wide Malay, Indian and Chinese trio. The architecture is beautiful and the food is delicious. I’m really enjoying the chicken rice curry and pineapple tarts, as well as the Malaysian coffees and teas. Though my thoughts often drift to the students and teachers in Pla Pak, I am beginning to replace my nostalgic cap for a traveler’s hat, falling more into a comfortable backpacker routine by the day.
Tomorrow we depart for Penang, an island off the Western coast of the peninsula, about seven hours north of Melaka. Here is where we’ll spend the remainder of our time in Malaysia, before flying back to Bangkok and then to the States. I think it’s about time to check my laundry and assess my packing situation, as I have purchased a few more last-minute items that will prove to be a challenge fitting in my already over-stuffed backpack!
Last night together in Nakhon Phanom
Dear fabulous friends,
We met for the first time last October at LAX, but by the time we landed in Taipei to catch our connecting flight to Bangkok, we had already bonded in a way that only people moving abroad together for a year do. We were each others main source of support throughout much of orientation and by the time we began teaching in November it was impossible to imagine a Thailand without our group of ten plus field director.
We’ve been with each other through all the joys and triumphs that come with living abroad, as well as the heartaches, the uncertainties and the frustrations. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve danced, and we’ve traveled; there is no memory I am taking with me that doesn’t include at least one of you.
I am anticipating that our lives will continue to cross more frequently than we think, if not because of our gravitation towards international work and education, then because of our ardent love for travel, adventure, and the unknown. Thank you so much for all you have given me this past year and I cannot wait to see where our next chapters take us.
Much love and chok dee,
Living in Thailand, it’s often easier to post about the traditional ceremonies I take part in or interesting places I visit than it is to reflect on why I moved to Southeast Asia in the first place. Today I thought it would be good to share some of the daily experiences with my students, especially since the time in which I have to do so is quickly winding down. It is hard to believe that ten months ago today I began my journey, parting ways with my parents at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee to meet who I now refer to as my WorldTeach family in Los Angeles for our departure flight. With only a handful of weeks left to teach I am becoming increasingly aware of what little time I have to spend with the students I have grown to adore.
It is impossible to pinpoint one specific aspect of my day that keeps me looking forward to the next. It’s really a combination of all the little things: the daily bouquets of flowers presented to me, freshly picked from trees lining the school grounds. The way my students hide behind my desk as I’m walking into my classroom and shout “Surprise!” (one of the vocabulary words from our emotions unit) to startle me. How my students exclaim “Bingo!” now when they are finished with their work (the game was apparently a big hit). And how I catch them practicing the pencil-bending trick at their desks when they should be paying attention to the lesson at hand. Each day brings a new twist and I never know what I am going to expect.
Today was a great example of this. One of my favorite first graders recently discovered that he could close his mouth and suck in his nostrils, a trick he felt the need to show me several times throughout the day. My third graders were appalled to see pictures of a snowman, which was a part of our weather unit activity in class, and were also really interested to know whether or not they could eat the snow. I said yes, but I probably should have mentioned to stay away from anything yellow. And I was surprised to get my first encore after class from a second grader, who requested The Hokey Pokey as a closing song to our alphabet lesson.
There never seems to be a dull moment at my schools, which makes for exciting (and often comical) days. I’m hoping to soak up as much as I can during the following weeks as well as fit in a few more magic tricks and songs to leave for them after I return to the States.