Saturday, May 26, 2012

Be present

This blog entry does not come from a place of epiphanies or revelations or any type of clarity. This blog entry comes from a place of questions, curiosity, and (fear of) the unknown.

The reality has hit me that I am four months away from completing my year as a Fulbright ETA grantee. On Friday, I emailed my successor in response to questions she had about my teaching position at Ban Phai Pittayakom School. I enthusiastically answered all her questions and directed her to this blog (and reflection tool).

In the next four months there is so much that I want to accomplish. Here is a snapshot of my goals for the incoming months:

    1. Establish an impressive English Language Club. The following are things that I envision for the English Language Club to be:
  • A space where students can practice their English speaking skills.
  • A space where students can prepare for English competition in November. Last November, our students did poorly. I know that their performance was greatly impacted by that fact that they did not begin practicing spelling (for the spelling bee) and speeches (for storytelling) until a month before the competition.
  • An activity that is a good use of everyone’s time. (All students in my school are required to be a part of an club activity on Thursdays during the last period of the day. There were many times,last semester, when I  saw students hanging around campus without nothing to do.)
    2. Conquer the GREs.
    3. Work on a research project that I can successfully publish.
    4. Be proud of my performance as a teacher.
    5. Continue enjoying the friendships I have developed in Thailand.
    6. Take care of myself (spiritually and physically)
    7. Remain optimistic about the future.
    8. Look towards the future (even if I am not sure what is in-stored) without missing out on the present.

First Days of Teaching (First Semester of the year/Second semester as a Fulbright ETA)
The following are a couple of obstacles and highlights that I noted down on my first days back in school

  • Two days before school starts I did not have a class schedule or classroom.
  • Sabai sabai attitude--
  •  After questioning my host teacher about my schedule, she responds, “Sabai, Sabai. This is Thailand.”
  • Materials used to teach English are in Thai. Update: I have slowly been receiving the English books for each grade level. 
  • Teacher drama. I was caught in the middle of teacher drama/bureaucracy. In the beginning of     the year, there were multiple teachers volunteering to drive me to and from school. Mid-point in the semester there was a communication breakdown and people could not decide who would pick me up--at one point there were two teachers outside my room ready to take me to school. This semester is the polar opposite no one wanted to drive. Finally, the school administration     decided to hire the AMAZING cleaning lady to drive me in the mornings and  afternoons.
  • My enthusiasm to be back in the classroom. 
  • I know teachers names. 
  • Students are adorable! 
  • My nerves. This is a highlight because of the following comment made by Andrea Gibson,     “I heard once that the degree to which you are nervous for an event is the degree to which you respect it.”
I hope everyone is remembering (or making it a goal) to be present in the now.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Guess who’s back?!

Almost two weeks ago, I arrived in Thailand from vacationing in the states. Upon exiting the airplane, I began to feel more homesick than I had been before I left Thailand in April. I began to question, “who is this Glenda?” I’ve never been prone to homesickness (ok, maybe Sophomore year of college), and now I cannot shake it off.

My April vacation in the US of A was MAGICAL! Photograph was taken in SF courtesy of Rene Cruz.

I spent my first days back in Thailand at a Fulbright ETA mid-year grant meeting. It was wonderful spending time with fellow teachers and friends, but I could not get my head out of vacation mode. During the first day of meeting,  I remember passing a note to Gracie that read “When are you going to the beach?” Luckily, she responded, “This weekend!” Two other girls jumped into Gracie’s and I’s beach adventure. Everything was planned last minute (hey, we are in Thailand). KEY PHRASES TO LIVE BY: SABAI SABAI (loosely translates to go with the flow, relaxed, stress free) and JAI YEN YEN (literally translates to cool heart which means to be cool/relaxed about everything).

Side note: These phrases hold such positive meanings  (Buddhist roots), but I am irked when someone tells me “sabai sabai” or “jai yen yen” when it is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. For instance, I was getting our huge suitcases out of a mini-bus and I was trying to hurry when the driver (who had been rude, impatient, and the complete opposite of jai yen yen) comments “jai yen yen” and all I wanted to do at that point was SCREAM BACK: “YOU JAI YEN YEN”...But I kept my composure and walked to the Mo Chit Bus Station.

Three Fulbright women and I spent five days in Koh Chang. We spent those five days eating delicious (Mexican) food, laying out in the sun, and sitting around a beautiful bungalow in Lonely Beach. For me, this beach vacation was the perfect time to reflect and wrap my head around the fact that:

  1. I live in Thailand
  2. I am privileged
  3. I am a woman
  4. I make my dreams come true
Lonely Beach in Koh Chang, Thailand. ("Koh" means island in Thai)

Gracie Raver (AKA the birthday girl) holding the menu to Barrio Bonito Mexican Restaurant.

By day three at the beach, I was beginning to feel guilty of my lifestyle. Why am I privileged enough to have these experiences? What part of my upbringing and or background makes it so guilt overpowers every inch of me?

Side note: As I write this, I realize that my mind, spirit, and heart are not the only ones re-readjusting to Thai living my stomach is also finding its way back. Side side note: while being back at Ban Phai Pittayakom School, I have been told I look slender (or thinner) and I respond with a laugh and say “mai chai” (not correct). I laugh for two reasons:

  1. Comments about my weight take me back to last semester. Last semester, I would fight back (sometimes unsuccessfully) the tears from people commenting on my weight. My first month here, one of the female teachers made the following comment, “You are very pretty, but you would be beautiful if you lost 10 kilos.” At the  good-bye party of a fellow English teacher, a faculty member said to me, “that shirt makes you look fatter.”
  2. I have no other way to express my discomfort with discussing my weight.

This past Friday (May 11th), I arrived in Ban Phai, Khon Kaen. I was so relieved to be back in my home away from home. I was also relieved that I no longer had to drag around my 50 pound suitcase and backpack around Thailand. When I opened my room at the Highway Hotel, I could smell the dust and see the dead bugs and geckos collecting throughout my room. I began to realize that dust had not only accumulated in my room, but dust had also piled up on my blog, GRE books, and routine/life in Thailand.

I am happy to report that my room is now clean and I will begin to shake off the dust in other areas of my life. Luckily, I have a very loving host family and friends...and the teachers in my school will continue to challenge my comfort and self-esteem.

Lots of love from Thailand,

Dada (my Thai nickname)

Side note: Everyone in Thailand refers to one another by their nicknames. My nickname was given to me by the Life Skills Teacher (aka the woman that supervises my wardrobe and calls me out when my skirts are too short--really they are short in Thai Teacher standards, but not for Thai culture).