Archive | July, 2013

Tizzle’s Teachings in Thailand!!

10 Jul

[This post is sponsored by K.O. and his creative contribution to the title and a new nickname for me!]

I’ve been in Thailand for 2 months and it’s been a very interesting time so far. I decided to do a post on the TOP TEN things I’ve seen and/or experienced and the lessons I derived from them.

1) Communication is more than the words we speak.

me like

I speak very little Thai (Nid Noi) and a large percentage of the country speaks little, if any, English. Yet, we communicate reasonably well. I may not always know the words they are speaking, but most times I understand what they are trying to say. Be it through gestures, sounds or visual cues we have this connection that transpires beyond English/Thai words and even speaking. Communication is about understanding which happens at a subconscious level, appreciating differences and finding similarities in the ability to relate. As a result, I am able to eat, drink, socialise and get around.

Love of food is a great way of bonding.

Love of food is a great way of bonding.

2) Negative words should be like foreign words; you hear them but just don’t understand.

When I first moved to my rural community, I was one of a few foreigners the locals had come across so every day people would stop and stare with faces of confusion, point and laugh. I knew they were talking about me, I just didn’t know what they were saying. ‘Maybe they’re talking about my darkened skin, or my big forehead. Maybe they think I look funny. Maybe they think I’m fat.’ I could speculate forever about what they were saying but I’d never know for sure whether it was positive or negative. I was clueless and would just carry on walking, smiling and waving. It got me thinking about this attitude towards negativity. If we choose to be positive and see the good in everything, rather than get upset and sensitive when people (especially complete strangers) say unpleasant things about us, it should be like foreign words that we don’t understand. We just smile and keep it moving.

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3) “Mai Pen Rai”…

…is a popular saying in Thailand. It means “don’t worry/never mind”. Thailand has that Bob Marley, ‘Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be all right’ vibe. Thai people (mostly) are so chilled; they walk too slow, and smile too much. They are always late, but it doesn’t seem to bother others. They make plans and don’t show. Or they make plans 10 minutes before it commences and everyone just mechanically adapts and it all somehow falls into place. Now this is alien to me coming from a place that moves so fast and being a control-freak, I’m used to knowing things in advance, having everything flow in a particular order and when it doesn’t I panic. Yet, I’m learning to just slow down. When in Thailand, do as the Thai’s do! I’m learning to be patient, because even when I am on time, I find myself having to wait around. Don’t worry about the things that are beyond your control. More likely than not, it will work itself out.

mai

4) Faithful and Reliable friends are a rare treasure.

I have a friend called Si at school who was ‘assigned’ to me as she speaks good English. Through her I’m learning the true meaning of a friend. She brings me lunch every morning even though she gets to work at 7am and I stroll in sometime around 8. Sometimes we go out to eat and she always wants to pay even though I get paid twice as much as her and she knows my salary. She says because I’m in her country she is honoured to take care of me. She remembers the food I like so brings it to school or orders it next time we go out to eat. She sends me texts often to see how I’m doing. Sometimes she comes by unexpectedly and keeps me company. The first few weeks when I was unsettled, I would talk to her about it and she would start crying. I’d ask ‘Si why you crying?’ And she would respond, ‘Cus you no happy, I just want you be happy. And when you no happy, I sad.’ *Awwww*. She picks me up, and takes me where I need to go in the neighbourhood and if I’m travelling out of town, she writes directions in Thai and helps plan the journey. She does so much for me and I’m always trying to help her wherever I can, even against her resisting. She is a blessing and I’m so grateful for her presence in my life. She’s there when it’s inconvenient for her; always going out of her way for me. She truly is amazing [No HOMO, LOL] and I want to be as good of a friend as she is. When I think of everything she does, people take this kind of service for granted. It is sometimes responded to with selfishness and sadness. How can does one build friendships like this back home without it feeling like being on a one-way street?

"To have friends, one must be friendly."

Si “To have friends, one must be friendly.”

5) Simple people are the nicest people.

Thai’s generally are simple people. They work hard and are content with what they have. Speaking to my students, most of them aspire to be fruit sellers like their parents or just get a basic job to help at home. No one looks down on particular jobs as inferior or irrelevant. Some don’t even want to get married, and move away because they feel they have a duty to take care of their parents, grandparents and siblings for the rest of their lives. They find enjoyment in the most basic things. They are very resourceful and receive warmly whatever is given to them. It’s so surprising and inspiring at the same time how they get by with what I would consider little and then still open their hearts and give. I keep it simple with my appearance. Some of the clothes I wear in Thailand I wouldn’t have dared wear in London. The teachers at my school are always like ‘Tora, you so beautiful.’ And I look at my house on the prairie dress or Amish skirt and think, you can’t be serious. But they are because they are very simple people. I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin and if I wear it, it’s good enough! I’m re-learning beautiful is subjective and CONFIDENCE is sexy!

I'm bringing sexy back! Yessir!

I’m bringing sexy back! Yessir!

6) The best things in life are cheap!! (Or was it FREE?) (:

The standard of living in Thailand is much lower than the UK. Things are cheaper though the average salaries pay less. Rent, utilities bills, and travel are just some of the inexpensive necessities I pay in Thailand. Can you believe my water bill for the month is 80 baht, that’s under £2 and I have at least 2 showers a day. I travel to Bangkok, a few cities over; a 1.5 hour journey costs me 130 baht. For that price, I don’t even think you can get to the other side of London underground. You work longer hours, just so you can have more, but ending up experiencing less. The benefits of a lower standard of living means my salary and time is distributed more desirably; less money on bills/utilities/expenses and more for social activities, MUCH more travelling, more money to give and I still have plenty to put in the bank. LIKE A BOSS!! LOL!! It also made me think about VALUE; if you’re not happy that you’re getting less for what you put in, take your money, love, time and invest in places where you can get a better return! You can get better value elsewhere.

Only cost me equivalent of £40! And it's the top of the range, BRAND NEW!

Only cost me equivalent of £40! And it’s the top of the range, BRAND NEW!

7) You CAN, if you TRY!

Thai children are taught to OBEY elders. I’ve seen this prominently in my classroom. For example, I have these flashcards with computer-printed images I put on the board with their words, then tell the students to copy the pictures. When I look at their books, I can’t make out some of the pictures but I recognise the words. Then I notice some of the pictures on the flashcards are pretty detailed, yet I didn’t hear a single student say “Ms Tora, I can’t draw.” They all willingly did as they were expected irrespective of their ability to draw. And I thought, WOW! They know whether they can or can’t, yet they DO. And I was encouraged, because naturally we know our strengths and weaknesses and when someone asks us to do something that falls in our weakness column, before we even attempt it we conclude, ‘oh I CAN’T do that, or I DON’T do that’, limiting ourselves. We can do a lot more than we realise, though it may not be perfect or of a high standard the first time, we should always JUST TRY! Take on things you’ve never done before.

8) Fame is OVER-RATED!!!

The first few weeks, I loved the attention. Everyone wanted to look, greet, take pictures with me, touch my hair, and rub my dark, ‘beautiful’ skin. You’d think after two months, the novelty would have worn off. But no, I still get stopped in the streets everywhere. People coming up to me, showing off the little English they know, shaking my hand and if I shake one hand, I have to shake the 30 something hands that follow (I need to invest in some hand-sanitizer). Even my students in class, are slyly taking pictures of me, thinking I can’t see their camera phone under their books. I have little privacy and alone time outside my house. Now I understand why celebrities wear sunglasses! Haaa.

9) Learn to adapt.

I’ve noticed that with Thai people, you rarely get what you ask for. If you ask a question, the answer is somewhat inadequate and irrelevant as they are very indirect. They respond just to please you, even if it means giving you the wrong information. E.g. “Does this bus go to London?” (as if) “Yes, yes, go London.” “Here? Are you sure?” “Yes, 10 minutes, bus come.” And 1 hour later a bus comes and takes you to the shopping mall in the next town about 40 KM away!! If you go to a shop and ask for something, chances are it’s not it. Even if you describe it down to a T, they’ll just look at you strangely and then bring you something not even close. So I leave room for flexibility and try something new, because being adamant of receiving my request, will only leave me frustrated and disappointed.

10) Uniqueness STANDS out!

Every week I teach 672 students and I remember only about 30 of my kids’ names. In a culture where uniformity is prevalent, what is it about these 30 that caught my attention? One of them boldly introduced himself to me when we first met and MADE sure I remembered his name. He’s very feminine and has a DIVA persona. Another I remember because of her hair. In Thailand, the primary school girls usually have their hair cut ear level or a little below as long hair is for women. But this girl didn’t have a bob, her hair was low cut; I thought she was a boy. It’s so different from the rest, and so BOLD! Then there are the ‘smart kids’ who answer all my questions, when everyone else shies away from speaking out. Their intelligence and understanding of English definitely set them apart and intrigues me. Then there are the ones with names like BigBoss, Dream, Ink and Jenny which aren’t traditional Thai names. There is such strength in being different so use it to your advantage. Appreciate what makes you unique!

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I have found calmness in the midst of craziness.

Ms Tola xx