Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Other Side of Life

Up to this point our blog has been focused primarily on highlighting the activities, sights, and experiences we have had thus far in our travels. Joe and I decided to depart from this style for an installment focused on our, uh-oh, here comes the F word...Feelings. In writing numerous emails to friends and family as well as keeping a journal it turns out we are feeling many emotions on any given day and maybe some of the more inquisitive, soap opera type readers, might want in on our ego, id and the other guy...

We seem to encounter the same 3 emotions in a given day, so taking a page from SportsCenter, here are our top 3...

Confusion-For Joe this has always been a daily part of life (lefty loosey, righty tighty, etc). But its been intensified for the both of us considering the language barrier that exists here. We have a few, very basic Thai phrases in our pocket. Unfortunately, Thai is a tonal language (see previous posts for full-on description) and even when we think we know what we are saying it comes across to our Thai compatriots as complete gibberish. So we revert to Thai-glish, you know, speaking slowly and raising our voice in hopes this will allow them to comprehend. It does not. We frequently are given the following answer to inquiries of any nature, “no, yes, okay” they speak slowly and get louder as they go thru the 3 English words they know. The Thai language does not use the Roman alphabet, this makes it impossible to even try and figure out where you are, bathrooms are especially hard as they have not made the great leap to using figures of men and women yet outside the toilets.

Chaos-There is a common phrase used here, Thai Time, basically it means it will happen when it happens. No worries mate, hakuna matada, chill out, etc...For two pretty organized individuals who like to have a little idea of what is coming around the corner this has been a hard concept to subscribe to. Example, we have been at the school for a week now and have no formal teaching schedule, nor any idea of what classes or grades we will be teaching. Also, the structure of the day is like that of a 3 ring circus, children run wildly around the buildings at all times, even after the wind chime sounds for the beginning of another class period. We watch the same 4 boys play-fight for 45 minutes in the morning and then they come back for round two in the afternoon, all of this occurs 3 feet from a classroom door. We are going to video tape it and sell it on pay-per-view as a Friday Night Fight.

Minimalism-Getting philosophic now, right? We are loving and disliking this emotion. Dislikes include the minimal choice of food we have to eat at our cabin's mess hall. The cooks are not easy to communicate with (see feeling 1) and over the weekend we had 3 meals to select from for 3 days. No heels or hair straightener for Deb have been a source of some grumbling, but Joe is a whiner of epic proportions when college football highlights fail to download from the web. We love the minimal material possessions we have. Having no TV or internet at the campground has been great for us. Lots of Cribbage, laughs, reflection time and naps are had. Spontaneous dance parties are becoming more and more common as the shuffle feature on iTunes finds awesome hits like Whoop There It Is and anything Jefferson Starship gets Joe out on floor.

Of course our days are filled with many small wonders, having hundreds of little people run up to you each morning and say “hello teacher” makes a person feel pretty good. The reality is this is beyond a travel adventure, its a job, a opportunity to enrich the lives of young people and to enrich our own lives. Experiencing a completely different culture than the one we lived in for 28 years on a daily basis reminds us of the great opportunity we have been given. Spending this time with each other, knowing that one day when our hair is silver or not there at all, we will have memories of confusion, chaos and minimalism to make us smile...


  1. Great post Deb. Please write more often about "feelings". It's hard to imagine, for us back home, how you guys must be emotionally doing on a day to day basis. You'll get used to all of it though, and maybe life will be much simpler when you return.

  2. Emersion in a totally different culture is life-changing. You'll never be *just tourists* again anywhere. You'll certainly be able to take just about everything in stride.