Said, woman, take it slow
It’ll work itself out fine
All we need is just a little patience
Said, sugar, make it slow
And we come together fine
All we need is just a little patience
— “Patience” Guns N’ Roses
As I am settling into my new home for the next two years, I can’t help but be thankful for and long for what I miss from pre-service training. Since it is currently “summer break” for Thai students, I get to spend a lot of time sitting at my desk of my Tessaban (local government agency for my community) studying Thai and getting lost in thought. I find myself looking back at primary highlights of training, which occurred at my practicum school and with my host family.
I remember my first days of practicum managing roughly 30 rowdy students with my fellow co-facilitator. Some days it felt like we were sitting in a WWE RAW match and doing our best with limited language to manage the classroom. Other days were so calm and collected that it was a struggle to get the attention of the students. However, even during the hard moments, working with the kids at Wat Sing school fueled my soul and filled my heart.
Our last activity with these youth was a volunteer project. The school helped decide what they wanted/needed and my co-facilitator and I were able to plug in other activities to talk about our primary theme throughout our class and camp: teamwork. To summarize, we had our 30 10-12 year old get on their bicycles and pick up trash down the river. I’m not over exaggerating when I say that it was one of the most organized clean up efforts I have seen. I am impressed and very proud of these kids. Before and after the cleanup we worked on an art project for each classroom–a “tree” created by “leaves” made out of their hands. At the end we asked the students to think about why we asked them to do these activities and how it related to prior activities. For the first time since working with them, three students volunteered to stand up and share their responses.
By the end of that last day, I had to spend a lot of my energy trying not to cry. In such a short period of time, I felt as though I connected deeply with 30 young individuals. We could sing and dance, learn, and complete tasks together. (I even had a special handshake or high five with each one.) I am sure I learned more about myself during those practicum days than the students learned from me, and although I miss them terribly, I know it is just the beginning.
Another tough goodbye was my host family. It was their first time taking an American stranger into their home. I don’t have the vocabulary to ask, but I’m sure they had their own reservations and anxieties over it. I mean, what if I would have been terrible to live with? Or I smelled really bad? Throughout our time together we navigated through limited verbal communication, but we soon found an ability to communicate nonverbally. And as I learned more Thai, I was able to come home each day and talk about new things which enhanced their excitement and instruction that came back to encourage me to learn more.
From day one at that house in Singburi, I felt like I was part of the family. As I got to know them more and they got to know me, I felt more like myself–not because I could feel the same as before with my family from the States, but because I discovered more about myself. From their concerns about me eating enough, biking too fast, and even being sick to the laughs we shared over mistakes I made or the weird differences we had, I felt like I was home. I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better to learn how to integrate here in Thailand.
So here I am, at site (it’s been a week now!) and still healing the fresh wounds of loss. And even though I know I can see these individuals again, the loss of the home I made has had me longing to find my bearings and make connections here as soon as possible. However, as I sit and reflect I remember that connections take time. I need to be patient with myself and just continue to be myself.
Already, I haven’t given enough credit to my current host family. They woke up to my scream for help in the middle of the night due to a spider in my mosquito net. Yes, a spider….One that I know is not dangerous, but still scared me almost into tears. My host parents systematically helped me go through my entire room to make sure that it was no longer in my bed nor somewhere I might accidentally stumble on it. And even though this is just one small example, every time I see them I feel warm and happy to be part of their lives.
At work, I have several individuals who want me to feel welcomed and involved. I have my counterpart who brings me along to meetings where I can understand maybe 1% of what was said. I have my other coworkers who bring me to lunch and take me out on other errands with them. Everyone has already helped me learn more about the community and the language. I know I have only hit the very tip of the iceberg of what this community will mean to me in my life. And I know I will continue to actively participate in the adventures each new day brings. So far, I have stumbled my way into a volleyball game (seriously, I am terrible at volleyball), and I have said hello (and when the last time I ate was) to everyone I met.
As I start my second week here, I plan to continue to use patience as my primary goal. Especially patience for myself. I know that this comes from wanting to succeed and do my best, but I also know that it is okay (maybe even more important?) to sit back and observe.