Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hello, my name is Grenda...I mean Glenda ;)

It has been one week since I moved to Ban Phai, Khon Kaen, Thailand. I will be living here for the next 11 months (I might spend March elsewhere to complete an internship in a farming community--more to come on this at a later time). The people of Khon Kaen have shown me great hospitality, kindness, and warmth.

I arrived on Monday, October 31st at around 10am. I was greeted by my host teachers P’Nok and P’Pro in the Khon Kaen City (KKC) airport. As soon as I sat down in the backseat of the car, I fell asleep. SIDE NOTE: 18 out of the 20 Fulbrighters spent the night at the BKK airport in fear that the flood would block the roads to the airport. I didn’t sleep at all!

I woke up to P’Nok and P’Pro notifying me that we had arrived at the school. I (deliriously) followed them into a conference room where I met the director and other administrators of Ban Phai Pittayakom School (MY SCHOOL!!!!). I introduced myself to the group of teachers and administrators and they all agreed that I have a very lovely and bright smile. SIDE NOTE: From that day on, I always hear that I am beautiful or soo-ay. Careful with the intonation of this word...you might be calling somebody unlucky.

The administrators went on to guess my ethnicity (they all knew I’m American, but they wanted to guess what else I could be) I heard I might be Southern Thai or Malaysian. As soon as the meeting was over, my host teacher held me by the hand and said “ok we are off to the hotel”...and I thought, “Oh yeah, the coordinators of Fulbright said that I was going to look at places to live thus the school must have set up temporary accommodations." I was surprised when I met the owner of the hotel and he said “Welcome to my family!!” Needless to say, I LOVE MY HOST family! I get the nice feeling of having an extra set of people to care about my whereabouts and well-being. SIDE NOTE: From the get-go, the coordinators of the Fulbright program said to expect the unexpected and take the “Mai pen rai” approach and I have and let me tell you it makes life a lot more enjoyable and less frustrating. I spent the day getting to know the family and going to the biggest mall of Isaan--Central Plaza Mall. SIDE NOTE: Isaan is the name of the northeast region of Thailand--the region where I will be living for the next year.

Tuesday rolled around. I arrived to school at around 7:45am and gave a speech at 8:00am to the entire school introducing myself in English and my broken (disastrous) Thai. The Fulbrighters had been told that we would have our first week in our provinces to settle in and lesson plan. I was surprised to arrive to Ban Phai Pittayakom and be handed a schedule letting me know that my first class was at 8:40. Luckily, I carry a couple of lessons already planned in my back pocket!!

On Wednesday, I had one of those "A-HA!!! Moments!" I was standing in front of my Matthayom (high school) class going over introductions and I was captivated by the scenery from my third floor window. For an instant, I was hypnoticized by the majestic rice fields and the sky's beautiful shade of blue. I thought, "Wow. I am here in this moment." I think it's finally hit me that I am in Thailand!! Took me awhile! :) Also, on Wednesday, my host teacher and the English department found out my love for exercising! They promised to connect me with another teacher who also loves to work out...I thought ohhh maybe someday I will be joining the ladies gathering together to JAZZERCISE!

Thursday sneaked up on me and I was reminded that I had agreed to take a weekend trip to Ubon Ratchathani. SIDE NOTE: I love that I get included into other teacher's planned. They have been spectacular at not allowing me to feel homesick! I learned that students are frightened that I will walk to them and start talking to them in English (outside of the classroom), so I have made it my hobby to go up to students and just talk! It's HILARIOUS! All of my students are cooperative (some more than others) in the classroom, but outside it's a whole other story. I continued my introductory lesson and then came home (to the hotel) at 4:30pm. At 5:30pm, I heard a knock of my door and a voice saying "Grenda, Grenda, Grenda!!"

I have to run to school now...will continue later!!

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