I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days.
Processing everything that has happened in the last two weeks.
Trying to understand everything that has happened from the good, the not so good (and yes, there has been some of that), and the just plain stressful (and perhaps there has been a bit too much of that).
I’ve been thinking a lot, as I do…and I’ve come to this perhaps profound(?) realization:
I am not in Thailand.
Okay, yes, physically, if you pin point my location on a map, I am currently located in Northern Thailand in the city of Chiang Mai. Currently, you will find me writing up this blog post at the most Western ass coffee shop possibly in the whole city, if not the whole province (it’s almost obnoxiously cutesy and hipster, grossly overpriced, an expats haven…and man does it feel like home).
So, yes, I am in Thailand.
But you know, just because you are physically somewhere doesn’t mean a whole lot. I think presence is just as much a mentality as a location.
— — — —
These last two weeks, I’ve been in this perfect little bubble. I’ve spent all my time with Westerners–Americans, Canadians, Brits–all these amazing people who I’m getting to know in my TESOL course.
I will undoubtedly be friends with some of these people for life.
I’ve been learning how to become a teacher and that’s marvelous. Interacting with the Thai children at the school we’ve been taking our course at has been an out of this world experience. It leaves me thirsting for more and it has made me realize how right this decision to move here was.
We’ve had our fair share of Thai cultural experiences both inside and outside the classroom. The first week, we took part in a kick ass Muoy Thai class–also known as Thai Martial Arts, or the most intensively awesome workout of my short twenty-two years. We got to try our hand at traditional Thai painting and we’ve exposed ourselves to a whole ton of unbelievably yummy Thai food.
Yes, we are experiencing Thai culture–but it has been in this very controlled, safe setting–among friends–with the knowledge that we can go home at night and speak English with each other, make Western references in full confidence that everyone will understand.
I’m physically living and breathing in Thailand right now. But I am not embracing Thailand at all. Not in the least bit.
Outside of school, my communications with Thai people have been limited, to say that least. My Thai is horrible at best and having all my English speaking friends around me is not giving me any incentive to get better at it.
Of course I know that, in a matter of weeks, I’ll be off at my placement–very possibly as the only Westerner in my town. I know that I’ll need to pick up at least very basic Thai to support myself once there. And even though, realistically, that is only two weeks away, it feels so far off at this point.
We will start getting our placements this week. As in, people will at least have a general idea of where they’re going after our course is finished starting today.
That’s incredibly exciting. But also incredibly scary.
Right now we all have each other.
We will still have each other when we’re off at our placements, of course. Social media makes that so easy, keeping in touch with people who are far away. But it will be different. It will be an adjustment. And it will be scary.
Because I’m realizing something now:
Since moving to Thailand, I’ve been wading on the edges of this country and this culture. And it’s been wonderful. These days here in Chiang Mai with my TESOL group have truly been some of the best days of my life so far. I’m only twenty-two and I have so much life to live. But up till now, in many ways it really hasn’t gotten much better than these last two weeks.
Accepting my placement and moving by myself to a town I’ve probably never heard of in this vast and beautiful country that I now call home, though–now that’s jumping off the deep end.
This month in Chiang Mai is certainly preparing me for the teaching aspect of that jump. I love teaching. I can’t wait to get to my school and get to know my students.
But I wonder–with all the time I’m spending with my Western friends writing blog posts in Western-style coffee shops–how much is this month actually preparing me for totally and completely immersing myself in Thailand? For not just a full physical immersion, but a full mental immersion.
I want to be fully in Thailand.
That’s why I came here.
But getting to that point is going to take a lot of guts….
…getting to that point is going to be fucking terrifying.