So I have been at my permanent site now for over a month! The often confusing moments pass very slow as I try to decipher what people are talking about or what the heck is going on so I am shocked with how fast this month went.
I have spent a lot of the first month figuring out my way around, going to various meetings to introduce who I am and why I’m here in Thai, and getting to know my family and community better.
I have taken part in the community sports day which was a lot of fun. I played in the petanque (pronounced like pay-tong, and a lot like bocce ball) tournament. Some poor local villager got partnered with the farang (foreigner), but we managed to get second place even though all of our communication was acted out lol. So I think in the end he wasn’t totally disappointed to be paired with me. In fact he even told me he will be my partner next year!
I have also been helping out with a youth camp that they have been doing here the last four weekends, which translated is called “Teen to be good” which always makes me laugh. I do a little bit of English teaching at the camp and a whole lot of hanging out with the kids. And for some weird reason I also end up doing the chicken dance like four times a day at this camp too…I don’t know. Anyway my favorite part is just being with the kids. They LOVE to laugh as I attempt to speak Thai and then laugh even harder when I tell them to speak slowly…they are awesome! They teach me a lot and help me laugh at myself. I have taught them a lot of games I used to play at recess and we just enjoy each other’s company. They are getting more comfortable with me I think and I will admit that it is awesome when I’m biking around the village and will hear one of them yell “hello Meghan!”.
The SAO (mayor’s office) and local school here want me to start a conversational English club so I’m hoping that I can convince some of these same kids to attend. There is a big push for kids to learn English here because the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) economic community goes into effect in 2015 and English is the working language among the ASEAN communities. This means that English is seen as a necessity to securing good jobs in the future. Thailand ranks near the bottom of the ASEAN countries in English proficiency so again there is more than a gentle nudge for me to turn everyone into fluent English speakers stat! I have already explained to them that I’m not a teacher, but I think most people here are convinced that a native English speaker is the answer to all their problems regardless of my actual teaching ability. I told them I would teach English as long as I could teach some life skills as well. So they changed what they wanted me to do from “teach English” to “teach conversational English”, I appreciate the attempt to compromise :). I figured though my job here is to help kids and if teaching English is what helps me have time with them then that is what I’ll do, and I’ll just sneak in the life skills! Anyway we are hoping to start this “conversational English club” in the beginning of June. Which is good because it gives me a month to figure out how to sneak in life skills activities and oh yeah figure out how the hell to teach conversational English! I’m excited and terrified…I’m excitified :).
I also experienced my first Songkron here in Thailand, which is the Thai New Year, and is ridiculously fun! Thailand celebrates this holiday from April 13th-15th, although the festivities actually started on the 9th here and went until the 16th. Some of the time was spent at the wats taking part in a ceremony called rot naam, this translates to water car, so I’m not positive that is what it is actually called even though I asked numerous times. ANYWAY this is an awesome ceremony where the older people sit in a circle and the younger people go around and pour water on their hands as they wish you good things for the coming new year. Anyone who knows me knows I have a huge soft spot for elderly people so this ceremony was amazing!. I knelt down in front of each person and looked into their eyes as I poured the water. I didn’t always understand what they were saying, but many of them would take the water and pour it back on my head, or touch my face, or just hold my hand for a little while, and I knew what they meant. Honestly I got a little choked up during the ceremony. I told my Meh after that I really liked the ceremony so she took me to two more :).
In contrast the rest of my Songkran was spent in a huge water fight! For the three days of Songkran the entire country is engaged in a huge soaking wet party. Everywhere you go people are dancing in the street, standing on the side of the roads with water guns, hoses and buckets and riding around in the back of trucks armed with trash cans full of water. Everyone is fair game and everyone is soaked! In addition to the water, people also come up and put streaks of colored baby powder on your face. It is really something you have to see for yourself, and it would be awesome to have pictures to help give you an idea of the enormity of this water fight and party, but you would have to be crazy to risk having any electronics with you for those three days. You will just have to google it. It was a ton of fun, and I can’t wait for next year!
Other than that I have also found time to go swimming in the ocean and visit some waterfalls. Next week I have some training in the province of Krabi and I’m really excited to see some of my friends! Life is good. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is real life, it feels so weird sometimes. Sometimes good weird, sometimes bad weird, always a little weird lol!
I am starting to master things here that at one point seemed so hard like the bucket bath and squat pot, but I miss home everyday too, mostly the people but also cheese…I really miss cheese! I hope everything in the USA is good and everyone had a good Easter. I attempted to explain Easter to my family here, which mostly just resulted in having eggs for dinner lol, close enough!