The Hole

There is a distinctive human-shaped hole in my community, the extended, graceful limbs trailing off into the snaking streets and white-water rapids of traffic that surround Medan. The site serves as a pseudo-shrine to Miss K., the previous ETA who worked at SMA 3 before me, her eager face beaming back at me from the candid portraits that adorn the eggshell walls of my house, her name excitedly popping up when I am introduced at school, “Oh, Miss Laurian…the new Miss K?”, creating a nostalgic twinkle in the eye of students and faculty alike, community members unabashedly flooding me with questions delivered in rapid-fire Bahasa Indonesian when they find that I live in Miss K’s old house, only to be disappointed to find that unlike Miss K., I am not fluent in Bahasa, and can only answer with my caveman-like vocabulary, “Ya, saya tinggal di sini (emphatically gestures to K’s house) *whirlwind of excited, inquisitive Bahasa* Maaf! Saya tidak mengerti. (Sorry. I don’t understand) *Wide-eyed look of apologetic confusion as Bahasa tirade continues*” Miss K has left a hole in the heart of Medan, and I am trying to squeeze into this hole Winnie-the-Pooh style (think myriad jolly fat rolls thwarting my desired entry). This analogy is not to suggest that I’m plump (which would be a rather fair assessment considering how colossal I am compared to Indonesian norms. I’m a good 6 inches taller than most of the women (and men) at my site, and look as inconspicuous as a giraffe seeking cover in a penguin enclosure.) but rather, that I am trying to manipulate and forcibly insert myself into a space where I do not yet fit. I am not fluent in Bahasa Indonesian, I have not yet made the connections that are so warmly reflected in Miss K’s pictures embellishing my walls, and I am about 8 million times more clueless about Indonesian culture and norms than Miss K. I am not Miss K, I am Miss Laurian, but I will adapt, I will learn, I will connect and I will dig my own Laurian shaped hole in the community (complete with awkward over-emphatic gestures).

My first day of hole digging has begun, albeit, with a generic plastic spork rather than a shovel. With a year of teaching under my belt and my experiences from Thailand still warm in my heart, I stepped into the grade 12 classroom confidently, careful to introduce myself at a pace that would be understandable for my students, articulating each syllable and taking deliberate pauses to gauge the understanding of the room, which, despite my molasses speech pattern, still returned blank stares. Opening the floor for questions, I was expecting the traditional, “Where are you from?”, “What is your job?”, or even complete silence, but rather, was met with, “Miss- You stated that you studied Psychology in university. I am very interested in hypnosis. Can you please explain more?” I had just deliberately introduced myself at the pace of an inebriated sea-slug only to be met with questions by a group of students more proficient in English than myself. Our discussions ranged from the practice and use of hypnosis in psychology to the ethics of animal research to the existence of the Illuminati in American government and society. My first day has left me trying to squeeze into the Miss K heart-hole while simultaneously trying to dig myself out of my ‘Thailand experience’ hole. With a new school comes a new way of teaching, of understanding. The lessons that I lead in Thailand will not be appropriate for my advanced learners in Indonesia- there will be no emphasis on phonics and vocabulary, there will (hopefully) be no eye-poking injuries from me trying to teach a student how to write the alphabet, students will be able to construct and write not just individual sentences, but full paragraphs and pages. This year will be a learning experience, both for my students and for myself. We will each continue to dig our own holes, using language to explore cultural and individual identity, unearthing fresh and raw parts of ourselves as we dig further, deeper.

Gravity

Dust-tinged trains of compact houses echoing shades of mustard, cream, and umber drip into the ground, each concrete flake and missing brick contributing to the collective sea of debris that fills the streets. The inhabitants themselves appear to seep into the earth, their aged, leathered bodies consistently found in a secure squatting position, as if gravity were a sui generis affliction exclusive to the community. Seemingly unaffected by the substantial force of gravity that so greatly burdens the local elders, stampedes of children follow us through the narrow alleys on rusted pastel tricycles, their whispering, lambent curiosity at us bules matching our own patent curiosity with their daily life and culture. In the two weeks that I have lived in Indonesia, this is where I have felt the most at home, in a dust-bubble of an Jarkatan alleyway, surrounded not by the waterfalls of ivory comfort that are the Trans Hotel bathrobes, or by the cloudy comforters that made me question daily if I was sleeping on an actual bed, or rather, a pile of large pillows carefully stuffed with mini-marshmallows, but in the simplicity of a rubbish-laden, gravity-afflicted passage, enveloped by the glow of inquisitiveness and of genuine interest. It is in these glimmers of opaline smiles, these uninhibited, gleeful cries of “My name is _______!”, and these sailing tides of laughter that erupt when I practice my stumbling Bahasa Indonesian that I have found my home. I am in Indonesia, and I am at home.

The Philistine

Rotund displays of secure flowers sprout from their gilded nests as twinkling allotrope dragons circle above, suspended from towering, lavish ceilings. Below the palatial, dragon-adorned domes, my travel-weary self, disheveled and wielding the offensive odor that accompanies a roughly 40 hour journey, grapples to make her way to her hotel room, perplexed not because of the language barrier, exhaust, or other complications that arise from fresh arrival to a foreign land, but because she is simply too philistine to understand how to use the elevator in a swanky hotel. Circumnavigating the globe? Check. Fancy elevator? Uncheck.

 

The prevalent ineptitudes such as my elevator excursion (which, after pushing every single button was resolved by a simple swipe of my hotel key card) serve as a reminder of the alien nature of my surroundings, where even the security/comfort of a hotel designed for foreigners leaves me baffled. I am a new face in a foreign land. I am surrounded by a persistent barrage of novelty combined with the welcoming tone of familiarity- Routine brays of traffic horns now erupt with a fresh tune; all too familiar calls of ‘falang (foreigner)’ are now replaced with the dewy calls of ‘bule’; the discernible leather fumes of grilled meats emanate from exotic sources; motorcycles and angkots careen around me as I navigate my way through a new people, a new language, a new culture, and a new home.

 

My first week in Indonesia has been spent in the comfort of a Western bubble, where each member of my (amazing!) cohort brings his or her own sliver of home, combining our stories and memories to create a pseudo-America in the heart of our lavish hotel. In many ways, we have not yet left America. We remain surrounded by predominately white faces, we are addressed in English, we remain impervious to the people and the customs that envelop us. We are caught in the middle of a culture, one foot placed solidly in America, and one foot placed hesitantly in Indonesia. As we depart for our school sites and disassemble our communal slices of America, we will gradually grow to stand firmly in Indonesia, fully embracing the diversity and the customs of the country we will soon call home.

Kazoos and Candy

With less than a week until my departure to Indonesia I have embarked upon the odious task of packing the next 9+ months of my life away into a generic, travel weary, navy blue suitcase, with albeit, not so generic contents. Any airport security agent who has the misfortune of exploring the questionable contents of my bag will probably end up pondering if there is a recently discovered market for patriotic circus clowns in Indonesia, because the contents of my suitcase average out to be roughly 40% incentives for my students to participate (think vibrant kazoos, glistening U.S. candies, and of course, the currency of the South-east Asian school system- stickers. Pages and pages of stickers, because, let’s face it, more often than not, bribes with stickers are necessary to ensure my success/popularity as a teacher), 35% gifts for my fellow teachers and staff members (red, white, and blue star spangled pencils, pins, and flags adorn the linings of my suitcase), and lastly, the final 25% of my suitcase is devoted to my personal collection of clothing, which, when compared to the size of a typical Indonesian female’s wardrobe, closely resembles circus-clown-esque attire anyway. It is with a sense of energy and anticipation that I pack up my suitcase of kazoos and candy and excitedly commence with my journey to Indonesia. Selamat tinggal,  Amerika; selamat datang, Indonesia. Goodbye, America; welcome, Indonesia.

 

 

Back

A Trail of Goodbyes

My soul thirsts for adventure, the low, electric hum of snaking curiosity, the naked sense of wonder  and guileless, unrestrained awe as I explore a novel, stretching terrain, a virgin culture, a fresh home. I have grown to realize over these hazy, white-curtained summer days that this very quality, this consumption with exploration, this attraction to the novel, is a patinated silver reflection of my own transient nature. I unabashedly devour the fresh, absorbing and introjecting every fiber of caliber, only to softly detach and flutter my way to the next prospect when I have depleted my current prey. In a less poetic tone, life stops being new and I leave, searching for novelty and the enamor of existence that accompanies it. And while this characteristic has (and continues to) lead to many opportunities and journeys, it has also had the misfortune of leaving a perpetual trail of anonymous goodbyes in its wake. My life is that of a drifter, settling in just long enough to form significant relationships, and then swiftly disengaging and replacing the vacant, rusted keyholes of my heart with a new threshold, a fresh cohort, a reconceived version of myself, and yet, the same craving for curiosity and marvel. However, life without roots wound steadily into the reliable flesh of earth is not necessarily the anxiety-provoking quarry of emptiness that I assumed it would be. Rather, it has allowed me to welcome and appreciate the ephemeral beauty, rather than the temporal duration, of relationships. A friendship is not calculated simply by the arbitrary years or months of the coupling in question, but rather, is measured by intensity and intimacy of the collective conversations, by the authentic, unrestrained flow of words between two minds, by the simultaneous reflection and development of the self through the course of the amity. If anything, the brief, fleeting quality of my friendships has made them all the more authentic- the knowledge of limited time splintering the vaults of mind and heart, allowing me to share my honest, unguarded self in the knowingly restricted time that we share.  The conspicuous knowledge of defined time eliminates the slow, asymptotic development of a friendship, and rather, leads to a brilliant auroral flash of a connection, an accelerated, and yet substantial, growth of two selves together, the air pregnant with self-discovery and reflection, and anticipation of the revelations to come. To all of those who have been (and will be) a recipient of my ever-swelling list of goodbyes, thank you. Thank you for sharing your souls, your thoughts, and your selves with me. The intensity of our friendship, even if short lived, will never be forgotten. Each of you has filled the ever-morphing keyhole in my soul, unlocking my heart and my thoughts, molding my malleable copper mind into a more understanding, loving, and authentic version of myself. I may forever leave a trail of goodbyes in my wake, but I know of few other spoken words so sincerely reflective of the shared journeys that sprout among us and which root themselves in the entirety of our being, or of the individual journeys that will grow to define us.

 

Confessions of a Teacher

While a majority of the experiences in my classroom were positive both for myself and my students, there were a few moments that left me questioning my proficiency as a teacher (and pondering if there should perhaps be malpractice insurance issued for the teaching profession).  I have included a list of my greatest “Oh, crap” moments, with an implied apology to any students who may have been the recipient of my well-intentioned but unwisely-executed behavior.

Confession 1: I hit a male student in the crotch with a seesaw. Hard. My enthusiastic, impish, puppy-dogs of students wanted to see if I could lift one of them up on the seesaw using only my arm strength. Never one to turn down a challenge, I quickly pressed down on my end of the seesaw only to realize that the student was not yet fully seated and that I had just driven the lime-green teeter-totter full force into his crotch, only to be met with a disgruntled cry of “Unghhh, teacher” and an echo of embarrassed giggles from the surrounding students who remained free from the grasps of my unintentional assault.

Confession 2: I don’t know your name. I have spent 6 months teaching the same group of 180 students and can remember, at best, only a dozen of their names. Don’t get me wrong, I know each and every one of them, just not their names. I can remember their grade level, their average class performance, their ability to communicate in English, their sticker preference (Looney Tunes or jungle animals), their sugary-sweet best friends, their most despised enemies (at least their enemy for that given week, or day, as in some cases), the flavor of ice cream that they consume after lunch, the sports that they play, and the cartoon characters that they like to draw (Mickey Mouse is widely regarded as the most popular among the girls and the boys alike), but ask me to state their names and I will return to you the same obtuse, empty-eyed (and brained) look each and every time. I’m a bit concerned that my students will think that the appropriate response to “What is my name?” is an open-mouthed, blank-faced, “Uhhhhhh…..”

Confession 3: I cannot teach children how to write the alphabet. Not safely, that is. While bending over students and gently guiding their tense, pencil-gripping hands to form the scrawls that will become the letters of the English alphabet, I have not so delicately jabbed some of them in the eye with their own pencils, elbowed them in the head, and tripped and fallen over students who have lined up behind me for assistance. If it is later discovered that any of my students have acquired significant brain damage, it is most likely due to my repeated accidental blows to their developing skulls.

Confession 4: I have made a student cry. And not just a single masculine tear drop gently sliding down the rugged cheek cry, but a full on Kim Kardashian ugly sob. After a pressured week of students noisily darting in and out of my classroom and disrupting my teaching sessions simply to test my now dwindling patience, I was finally cracking down and kicking out anyone who was not in my designated class. I explained to one particular student that he could not join my Grade 4 English class because he had to join the rest of his Grade 5 class in Science, and firmly asked him to leave the room. The only problem? He actually was in Grade 4 and was so upset by my asking him to leave that he ran away sobbing and refused to come back to the classroom for the rest of the day (despite promises of myriad stickers).

Confession 5: I threw a full glass of water onto one of my students. This specific “Uh-oh” moment had more to do with unfortunate timing than ill-intent on my part, but faultless or not, my student still ended up drenched. As I sat down to lunch, my tray full of aromatic, fiery vegetables and meats, I noticed a single red ant drowning in my glass of water. Not wanting the crimson character to die (well, actually, I just didn’t want to forget about him and drink a glass full of ants. Or since he was singular, a glass full of ant) I stepped to the window and tossed my glass of water outside, only to have a rushed student, late for lunch, run right into my ant-infested water stream. Oops.

 

While I may not be a perfect English teacher, I am most assuredly a memorable one. The days of “Teacher Laurian” are long gone, now replaced with, “Teacher Laurian, the crazy, seesaw-crotch, water-throwing, eye-poking English teacher”.

 

Harry the Dirty Dog

The sentiment and nostalgia begin to set in as I approach the finale of my journey through Thailand. With less than two weeks left of my teaching adventure the once rampant flutters of joy have morphed into sorrowful wings of strangled tears and obstructed goodbyes. As I sat in my room trying to distract myself from my impending departure and its associated sorrow (mostly through watching Disney movies, because I adamantly believe that if Mulan can’t cheer you up, life is hopeless- I’ll make a man out of you), I heard a soft knock on my door, followed by a bashful, “Hello…..? Teacher Laurian? Hellllllllooooooooooo???” My mind performed a tally of the possible scenarios that could lead to such an interruption of my sob-filled Disney movie marathon. It was too early for lunch, for once I hadn’t forgotten any supplies in my classroom (about three times a week a child has to run behind me with handfuls of the paper, notebooks, pens, and pencils that I have carelessly forgotten, with calls of “Teacher Laurian, stop please!”), I wasn’t late for class, I didn’t have a scheduled meeting. I opened the door, curious to see what my thundering beehive of a mind had neglected yet again, and was greeted with the satisfied face of one of my students, Tah, as he outstretched his budding arms and handed me a  plush, tea-colored stuffed dog. “For you”, he proclaimed, his voice a mix of pride and somberness, “to think of me when you hug”.

As I squeezed both Tah and the stuffed dog (which I have decided to name Harry, after numerous training sessions practicing the story “Harry the Dirty Dog” with Tah) in a suffocating embrace, the awkwardness began to set in- I didn’t have anything to give him in return except for a picture of Ironman that I had drawn for him. I walked over to my bed to unearth the image from the depths of my sketchbook, feeling embarrassed over my flimsy paper offering when I had received such a sincere and meaningful present, when my hand stopped, hovering over my own weathered, 14-year-old, stuffed chocolate dog, limp from persistent squishing. This ragged dog, my constant companion throughout my childhood, youth, and now adult years, a Christmas present from my parents when I was 7 or 8, joined me on my adventure through Thailand to serve as a reminder of the warmth and comfort associated with my family, a gateway to my shimmering turquoise and soft buttercup memories of childhood. My traveling token of home, security, and comfort, and yet, as I grasped the vivid Iron Man caricature in my hand, I made a move to pick up my lumpy chocolate lab, as well, for in front of me was a child just as desperate for those dreams of the comforts of home, of the security of the soul that only loved-ones can bring, for that over-squished, gravity-weary, limp body of a toy to hug. I do not need a toy, or any physical object, to remind me of the security that I feel with my family, for they reside in my heart, my mind, and my spirit. Their support and guidance show through my every action and it is their faith, encouragement, and comfort that have allowed me to stand where I am today, in front of this child, holding out this tattered, memory-repleted dog, so that my student can now share this piece of my life and my family with me. As I hug my newly acquired Harry the Dirty Dog to my chest, it is my only hope that this student may feel even a fraction of the love, unconditional support, and security that years of dream-ridden embraces have fused into his freshly obtained treasure.

 

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Lost in Translation

As much as I take pride in the vast amount of the English language that my students have been able to accumulate over my past months with them, there have been a few vocabulary terms that seem to get a bit scrambled in translation and/or pronunciation.

  1. Toes = foot fingers
  2. Seal = water cat ( I suppose that this one makes intuitive sense if you think about the term ‘sea lion’)
  3. Flashlight = sun stick
  4. Sea horse = water horse  (As ‘sea horse’ in Thai translates to ‘ma nam’, ‘ma’ meaning horse and ‘nam’ meaning water (literally, ‘water horse’), I can see why this term would bring some difficulty)
  5. Spiderman= Spitman (I can only imaging the costume design for this superhero)
  6. Gloves = Hand socks (I suppose this follows the ‘foot fingers’ sort of logic)
  7. Beauty = booty (While ū and oo may be similar in sound, they are vastly different in meaning. I had to return to the ū and oo lesson after receiving numerous compliments on my booty, rather than my beauty.  “Teacher, you have much booty” isn’t exactly the sincere accolade it was meant to be)
  8.  Why= Wai (The English word  ‘Why?’ sounds identical to the Thai word ‘Wai’, which is a formal bow used for greetings. When asking a student why he didn’t bring his notebook to class, “Where is your notebook? Why didn’t you bring it to class? Why? Do you understand? Cow Jai Mai? Why?” I was met with a response of “Oh, I understand. Three wais?” and a series of three formal bows in front of the class. I had to giggle a little bit when I realized what was happening)

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Bird-Brain Birthday Bash

I awoke with a case of ‘bird-brain’. No, I am note referring to my squirrel-like attention span or my too-often ditzy moments (which due to the language barrier, thankfully go unnoticed quite often), but to an actual case of the densest bird alive. This feathered fiend has been flying into my window every single morning for the past four months, a heavy thump indicating his first full-bodied attempt, followed by a series of sharp, hollow clacks, his efforts to peck his way through the glass into my humble abode. Thump, clack-clack-clack. I groggily adjusted my sleep-laden hair as nature’s dimmest alarm clock persisted outside, delivering his scheduled series of blows to my window.

March 5th- today was my birthday. I began the celebration by brushing the teeth of my now 22-year old body, settled into a state of comfortable routine rather than excitement with the day ahead. 22 is one of those ages that’s really not too stirring in terms of birthdays. The exhilaration of legally consuming alcohol has now worn off, you’re old enough that society expects you to support yourself, but you still possess your youthful naivety and cluelessness about the world. Your personal motto: Maybe I’ll have things figured out by [insert next year’s age].  The only bragging right that any 22 year old can boast is the ability to accurately follow Taylor Swift’s musing of “I don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ 22”, which, given my current state, should truly be changed to, “I don’t know about you, but I am 22 with the boundless energy of a 4 year old, the facial appearance of a 16 year old, and the mental anxiety of a 47 year old in the thralls of his midlife crises”, but the tune to that probably wouldn’t carry as nicely. I suppose if you average all of those numbers together they come out to approximate 22, so maybe Taylor Swift was right after all.

Anyway, my 22 year old feet dragged my 22 year old body to my bird-brain infested room, where my 22 year old fingers and 22 year old hands accessed my email account, phase 2 of my morning routine, as my 22 year old eyes were greeted with the first email of my birthday, my Fulbright ETA Application Status. My 22 year old heart pounded its heavy footfalls into my sternum, accompanied by the steady clacking of the bird-brain outside as I opened the email, prepared to have either the best or the worst birthday of my life.  My freshly brushed 22 year old teeth, clamped down in anxiety, let a small squeal escape as I read over the first line, “Congratulations!”. I had been selected as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Indonesia [be on alert for a There and Back Part 2]. Suddenly, 22 wasn’t looking so dull after all. After jumping up and down and girlishly squealing more than I care to admit, I called my sister and parents to share the exciting news (and so that they could simultaneously lavish me with birthday wishes, as well).  Indonesia…..Indonesia….Indonesia, the words gleefully pranced from the vault of my heart, their rainbow, ribboned streaks hungrily exploding in my mind, their aftershock escaping from the giant smile formed on my face as I finished up my breakfast and headed to the morning assembly.

I floated across the field, making my way to the flag pole as I was amassed by a joyful mob of sugar-frenzied kindergartners, delivering me my morning hug. A dozen wiggling hugs, a few lessons, and one cowboy walk later (I hosted a Wild West lesson in kindergarten, and my cowboy walk happened to be the highlight of the day, with a bouncing room of 5 year olds cowboy walking like they had just pooed their pants) I was back to the flag pole, soccer ball in hand. I was immediately greeted by my sweating unit of 5th through 8th grade boys, the generous hosts of my soccer session. After a quick three minute trial during which I had accidentally kicked two students, tripped a third, and kicked a ball into a fourth boys face, I was politely placed in the goalie net (“Teacher, come!” *points to net*), where I could inflict the minimal amount of damage possible. Prancing around in the net (not because I was extremely engaged in the game, but simply because it was barefoot soccer and the concrete field was HOT), observing the intricate, quickly-timed passes of the ball, the deliberate, calculated dance of the students as they sped down the field, I was finally greeted with the chance to earn my spot on the team as the black and white globe whizzed its way towards me, meeting resistance as I blocked it (rather painfully) with my chest. Met with a simultaneous call of “Sorry, teacher!” and a few impressed stares from my teammates, I returned with a small crab-like victory dance, the wide, impressed eyes quickly disappearing. A calculated jump. A solid thump as the ball passes to another member. A swift, considered glance as a student carefully aims his shot at the net. A hollow SMACK as I block the ball again. Three hours later, reddened from the steady collisions with the soccer ball (embarrassed by the occasional misses), it was determined that I actually wasn’t a terrible goalie. During my time in the net I hadn’t injured any students (or myself) and I had been moderately successful at blocking the ball (this may have more to do with my size than my skill level. Our soccer nets are both student sized and Asian-sized, meaning that I could essentially curl up and fall asleep in the net and still possess a body-mass size sufficient enough to block about 65% of the shots). The summer sun finally growing unbearable underneath our feet, we decided to wrap up for the day (I was invited to the subsequent days soccer sessions, as well) and after downing about 2 dozen glasses of water, I hit the showers, prepared my lessons for the next day, did a little happy dance as I thought of Indonesia, and got ready to go out to dinner with the teachers.

As a birthday surprise, all of the teachers at my school took me out for Korean barbeque in the city. The sizzling grills, the heavy smell of charcoal and grilled meats, the sharp bite of red chili sauce, and of course, creamy vanilla and tart lime ice-cream (ฉันรักไอติม – ‘I love ice cream’) to top it all off. Stomach happily filled with grilled meats and ice cream, surrounded by my Thai family, dreaming of Indonesia, the teachers only added to my already-perfect birthday by presenting me with a birthday card. Carefully planned English characters, waxy crayon hearts, and images of birthday cakes adorn the entire facade of the mint green card, but what is most beautiful is the significance of the words themselves. “May this birthday be the beginning of the best years of your life”. Who says 22 has to be drab? I refuse to let a Taylor Swift song be the highlight of my palindromic age. I am living the unplanned life- I have failed at 99.8% of the actions that I intended to do post-university, but that implosion of my life’s plan (and the subsequent mental breakdowns that have followed) has opened the door to a world of adventure. I have lived, I have tried, I have struggled, I have failed, and I have soared.

I refuse to let failure and rejection dampen my energy and my passion. I am 22 years old and I plan to fail, a lot. Through failure I have learned that I am not alone, that I have a support system all around the world who will serve as my shoulder to cry on, who will finish that pint of Ben and Jerry’s with me. Through failure I have learned to accept the absurdities and seeming unfairness of life and to accept myself. Life is chaotic. I am flawed. But I plan to use every ounce of stubbornness and energy that I have to better myself and the world around me. Through failure, I have learned that there is no such thing as dreams, for my dreams are now my reality. If you had told me one year ago that I would be living in Thailand and moving to Indonesia, I would have taken you to a nearby hospital and patiently checked you into their monochromatic sea-foam green mental ward, because according to my plan, I was going to graduate school. Through failure I have accomplished the greatest adventures of my life. I have ridden elephants and fed wild monkeys, I have played cowboys and astronauts with kindergartners whose only known English sentences are ‘I am happ-EEEEEEEYYYYYY’ and ‘How are you?’, I have given robes to a Buddhist monk, I have explored a volcano and the rainforests of Thailand, I have helped to harvest guava, I have discussed which superhero sidekick I would be with one of my Grade 5 English learners (He is Batman, I am Mystique from X-men. He wanted me to be “Egghead” at first, but I made him pick a real character), I have seen student’s faces light up when they are able to read an entire sentence on their own. I am 22, and I plan to make this Taylor-Swift song of an age the best year of my life. Bring on the adventure!

Birthday card

What have I been teaching you, exactly?

While my last post focused on some of the bizarre/crazy things that I have said to the children at my school, there have been an equally alarming amount of quirky statements made by the students themselves. Most concerning is the fact that all of these sentences were delivered in English- what exactly are they picking up from my lectures?

  1.  Do you like Leo (Thai beer) or Full moon (Thai wine cooler)? These are 3rd grade students. How do they even know what alcohol is, let alone inquiring as to my favorite brand…?I most assuredly did not lead an English lesson on the mechanisms of asking one’s favorite alcoholic beverages, but kudos to them for getting the vocabulary and sentence structure correct.
  2. You smell nice (stated whilst hugging me and placing her head on my butt, inhaling deeply). I’m fairly certain that my butt is the least nice smelling part of my body, but thanks anyway. 
  3. Don’t stick your tongue out or teacher Jason will hit you. Having known teacher Jason for 6 months, I am fairly certain that he would not smack with a ruler for sticking my tongue out, but I appreciate this student’s sincerity and concern.
  4. Student: You’re my girlfriend. Me: I thought teacher Penny was your girlfriend. Student: She is. I have two girlfriends now. *Proud smile*
  5. (Said by the student from above) I just got a real girlfriend, so you can’t be my girlfriend anymore, but you can be my mom.
  6. (To a fellow student, referring to me) Don’t touch her! *Whispers* You’ll make her skin black. I don’t think my students know how the concept of skin pigmentation words. Luckily they have gotten over their fear of turning me black (or of me turning them white) and now deliver daily hugs and high-fives.
  7. (Upon seeing my shoulders when I was biking in my exercise clothes (tank top and basketball shorts)) *Gasps* Oh, teacher! *Touches shoulders with a look of shock* Yes, even though I am a teacher, I do, in fact, have shoulders.
  8. You have a nice body. Uhmmm, thanks?
  9. (Said to a fellow student) Haha! You’re going to marry a white-guy! Apparently this is one of the biggest insults you can deliver to a fellow friend. Yes, I’m serious. My students will insult each other with the prospects of future betrothal to a Caucasian male. Dark-skinned women (seen in Thai society as not beautiful- Light skin is highly valued in Thailand) have a lower chance of marrying a Thai man due to their (perceived?) appearance, and thus, many end up marrying ‘falangs’ (foreigners of European descent). Essentially, the taunts of “You’re going to marry a white guy” are equitable with “You’re ugly”. On a more positive note, the students always find it hilarious when I tell them that I probably WILL marry a white guy.
  10. (After delivering the ‘mom-glare’ to one of my students who would not stop talking). Ooof, teacher- not beautiful. *Alarmed/disgusted face*

 

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