I call this normal: My life in Thabo, Nong Khai
I normally get my breakfast from the 7-11 (I’ve never been in love with a convenience store before, but there’s a first for everything I guess), a steamed pork bun and a Thai iced tea. Sometimes I’m still so bleary eyed with sleep that I forget I am in Thailand, but luckily there are reminders everywhere that I am far, far from home. It might me a group of monks dressed in their saffron robes waiting in line in front of me, strawberry “Big Gulps” in their hands ready for purchase, or an elephant that strides along beside me accompanying me on my walk home. My only complaint about the 7-11 is that they don’t have a place to sit and eat. So I opt instead to chow down on my way to school, sitting next to the head of the English department as he translates the Thai news.
Teaching is exhausting work, especially when your class is filled with forty chatty Thai students who don’t really understand half of the things you say. Luckily, in Thailand anything goes, and taking a break in the middle of class to dance gangnam style with your students is allowed. Teaching here is a constant balance between teaching English and making your students laugh. Laughter goes a long way in Thailand and instead of being distracting it actually keeps the students focused. A Thai school is filled with the sounds of uninhibited laughter pouring out of the classrooms and into the hallways. In fact, Thai students are so quick to crack up at my jokes that I am worried about what will happen when I go home and am hit with the honest truth that I actually don’t have a future as a stand up comedian. The best part of my job though is getting the chance to integrate into a real Thai community. I love having the opportunity to connect with people from another country on a peer level for the first time and not merely as a traveler.
After school I tutor two boys and then head home. My biggest fear when I found out that I was moving to Thabo was that I would be bored. Anybody who has known me for more than a week knows that I don’t sit still, downtime just isn’t something that I think I will ever learn to like (which could explain all the illnesses I’ve had since getting here but that’s a different story). Luckily, downtime is not something that I have to worry about. Every day there are dance aerobic classes for free in the center of my town, think Zumba on steroids. I have never seen fifty year olds shake it like these Thai women can, I can only hope that by the end of this I will be able to move my hips as well as them! Sometimes when we’re not feeling up for the challenge me and Melanie will hop on our bikes and explore the area around where we live. Peddling past rice paddies, wats nestled amongst the palm trees, and venders peddling their carts of fruit to a new part of town is about as quintessential Southeast Asia as you can get. One of my other favorite post teaching treats is getting a one hour massage for less than five dollars, honestly this alone might be the reason that I never leave Thailand! I get the massage at the Tesco-Lotus which is like Thailand’s version of Wal-Mart and sometimes afterwards I like to just sit in the food court and pretend that I am actually at Wal-Mart. It’s a great cure for any nagging feelings of homesickness, because normally after just five minutes of normalcy I am left craving the disorder and heat that lies on the other side of the automatic doors.
Eating dinner is a treat every night! The food here is amazing. Pad Thai, Vietnamese spring rolls, green curry, sometimes French fries (only because I need my ketchup fix like a fish needs water), tom yum goong soup, cashew chicken, massaman curry, khao pad gai, and countless more that I can only order by pointing. I love sitting down with Melanie and finally getting the chance to jabber away in English. It is such a welcome change of pace to get the chance to relax and not worry at all about communication being a barrier for an hour of our days.
The night time is simple. I eat a snack from the 7-11 on my balcony and am normally treated to various fireworks shows happening around town and over the Mekong, check out Facebook and chat with all the people that I wish were sharing this adventure with me, and then climb into my comfy king sized bed and go to sleep.