It’s so loud. So loud. So. LOUD. It’s SO LOUD that I can’t hear myself think. I can’t hear myself yell over the sound of laughter, crying, the ceiling fans blowing. The bell rings and I stop. I breathe in, I can’t talk over the bell—they don’t understand what I’m saying anyway, I breathe. 5 minutes left. I breathe.
The school I teach at in Thailand is an outdoor, open hall school. Each classroom has two doors (so twice the noise entering) and equipped with multiple fans to blow hot air, adolescent B.O and my small American English speaking voice around and out the open windows. It’s loud. My voice is quiet in the classroom but loud in my head. It’s loud going over lesson plans (or lack there of,) loud going over weekend plans, evening plans, training plans, self-reflections, and plans for self improvement. Loud and unable to shut-the-hell-up. Loud in my head and loud in my classroom.
This past weekend I left. I got on a bus and rode all the way up to Chaing Mai. The entire bus ride I relished in the quiet (how is it that Thai kids are so noisy, but the adults are so quiet?) I left my sunglasses on and starred out the window at the approaching mountains. I was readying my lungs for some thin air and clear skies.
Saturday morning my new friend, Andrew, and I were in the mountains. It was quiet. It was so so quiet. My brain was working hard—but not hard at getting the kids to listen and learn, it was working hard at maneuvering a mountain bike over sticks, rocks and vertical terrain. My brain had finally shut up and all it was doing was getting me over the next switchback safely.
“I rented these pads, I’m sure ass hell going to use them!”
Thailand Flag at the top of the mountain
Coffee 30/baht (about a dollar)
Here in Thailand to greet someone you wai. Much like the cheek kisses received in South American countries you wai when you greet and when you depart. A wai is a bow or a prayer like motion to show respect and say Hello!
However, it is also a sign of value, a sign of admiration and it’s just what you do. There are three levels: high wai, middle wai, and low wai.
The High wai is reserved for those in the highest standing: a Monk, the King (or an image of the King,) and a Buddha symbol. The hands are placed in a prayer at the forehead and you bow down with a smile.
The Middle wai is for those in a higher standing than yourself: for elders, for educators, for your boss, your mother and the police officer that you may be paying off to not giving you a ticket. The hands are placed in a prayer at the nose level and again, you bow with a smile. Always a smile.
The Low wai is for those in a lower or equal standing: your peers, coworkers, friends and children younger than you. The hands should be placed at the chin and you bow with a smile!
Thai wai: everyone’s doin’ it!
One common thread throughout this country is the amount of smiling the people do. Thailand is literally called The Land Of Smiles—Thai people not only smile when they’re happy but, they smile when they’re nervous, confused or curious. I’ve found myself catching onto this ritual. The language barrier is so great that when I have no idea what someone is saying I just have to put on a big goofy grin and try to remain calm with the fact that I have no clue what is happening around me. I repeat the phrase that is so common here Mai pen rai. Translating to never mind! don’t worry! it’s okay! It is more than just a phrase, it’s a way of life in the Thai culture.
School starts tomorrow and I’m teaching Kindergarten, 4th-6th and 9th-11th grades. I’m terrified. I’m sterrified.
…Mai pen rai.
After a rocky start of missing my flight (I won’t go into details for another few years…) I finally made it to Thailand. That’s right, I’m in Thailand, I have been for almost a week. I’m going to fast forward through all the orientation boringness and talk about the moment I put my running shoes on this afternoon.
–Side note: I have been surrounded by 90 other Farangs (Thai word for foreigner,) doing touristy stuff, learning how to speak a little bit of Thai, learning how to teach English too, I have finally landed myself in Kamphaeng Phet where I will be living and teaching for the next 6 months. Being on a summer-camp-like schedule left little time for exercise and too much time for eating.—
After hours of unpacking today I decided to do a bit of laundry and took that opportunity to do my foolproof maneuver to force myself to go for a run; I put on my running clothes while I still had a few more chores to get done. If I take the clothes off without running I have certainly failed, and I don’t like to fail. An hour later I was lacing up my brand new shoes and it was GLORIOUS.
Not only was this a first run in over 7 days, but it was my first run in THAILAND. I could go on and tell you about the ancient Buddhist ruins I wove my way around, I could tell you about all the Thai cyclists I saw and how jealous I was of one guy’s celest colored Bianchi, I could tell you about all the stray dogs along the path or the Thai kids that were chasing them…but really—what I mostly remember is how hot, sticky and humid it was. I mean, 5:30pm should not be that hot. I should not still be dehydrated from it—but when in Thailand, sweat like the Thais. Maybe I’ll get used to it, or maybe I’ll just be drinking a lot more water and learn to ration out my hydration electrolytes!
Oh yeah—I also rode an elephant the other day. Siiiiiick!