Sunday, February 13, 2011

Taxi Thai

So, remember that time when I was frustrated, and I blogged about all of that? Well, tonight was one of the opposite times. I had to get some groceries, so I hailed a taxi and told him to go to Paradise Park (the mall that has a really nice Villa Market grocery store with all kinds of American food - wooohooo!)

Well, the taxi driver either didn't know where Paradise Park is or didn't understand my American accent. Either way, I had to try to direct him with the little Thai I have learned. A conversation ensued, and I was so proud that I spoke all in Thai (well, with some awkward pauses). Below is a translated transcript of our conversation.

Keep in mind that it might sound like both of us are idiots. This is for two reasons:
1. My Thai is so elementary that I'm sure I sound like a complete imbecile.
2. He had to dumb down his Thai so much that it sounds like he is speaking to a 1st grader.

Our conversation:

Me: Paradise Park? near Seacon, on Srinakarin.

Him: ok ok. Bad traffic over there.

Me: only a little.

Him: You speak Thai?

Me: a little (same words as last question - giggle)

Him: Where are you from?

Me: I am from America - Chicago.

Him: Oh, Chicago! Al Capone - bang bang bang (Yeah, that was in English.)

Me: Yes, Chicago. (Oh man, this guy is crazy.) The center of America.

Him: Are you going to eat food?

Me: Yes.

Him: There is Thai food and 'farang' (white people) food there.

Me: Yes, but farang food is expensive.

Him: You like Thai food?

Me: Yes, pad see ew, ba mee moo deng, som tam

Him: Som tam! Spicy food!

Me: I like spicy food - but only a little.

Him: I like som tam from Isan.

Me: Are you from Isan?

Him: Yes. Are you meeting your boyfriend for food?

Me: (giggle giggle) No, but I'm meeting two friends.

(Side Note: I was not meeting two friends I was going by myself. I lied for two reasons: 1) I was really excited that I knew the classifier for people and wanted to use a number. 2) I didn't want to appear like a loser with no friends.)

Awkward silence.......

He turns on an English radio station. I make a comment about it being in English and thank him.

Awkward silence.......

We arrive at our destination! I think he tells me to have a good night or something of the sort, but I can't understand. :)

This conversation is not a big deal in and of itself. But at the same time, it is for me. It's the first time I've attempted a full-on Thai conversation without friends in the car to help me remember vocab. Usually taxi rides are complete and utter silence after I tell them where I want to go.

As I get more comfortable with the language, I find myself getting more comfortable with the people and the culture. Communication really is key to any relationship, and I'm currently in a relationship with Thailand! I have to get to know it, and without being able to communicate with its people, I get frustrated and confused.

So, tonight I was excited, thrilled even, to have a conversation with a middle-aged Thai man who associated my hometown with a gangster. :) Love it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sometimes I Blog....

Sometimes I wish I could run on the street without soi dogs around.

Sometimes I wish I could explore a (good) art museum all day and start a conversation with a random person there.

Sometimes I wish I could hang out with friends during a football game, not over Skype, and that they could laugh at me when I scream at the TV because they know that I don't actually really care.

Sometimes I wish I could scream at the Thai guy who stops in the middle of the street to stare at me. "Have you never seen a white girl before? Seriously!"

Sometimes I wish I had a buddy to go to concerts with who shares some of my musical interests, or at least has heard of them.

Sometimes I wish I could get earthworms for a lab from a local bait shop, not from some random woman who only speaks Thai, and who can't tell me how to get them from her.

Sometimes I wish I could meet a guy here who is interested in me, not in a Triple-T* girl.

Sometimes I wish I could spend time with those people who have known me forever and understand my quirks, idiosyncrasies, fears and failures.

Sometimes I wish I could hug my sister when I hear she's had a rough day of complications with her cancer treatments.

Sometimes I feel bad that I think all of these things, because

A lot of times I love living here.

But tonight is not one of those times. **

*Teeny Tiny Thai (Yep, I said it.)
**Sometimes I think about promising to blog more, but I know it will never happen. See line 8. :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All the Single Ladies......

“Just wait. The moment you least expect it, when you finally accept your singleness and are content, that’s when God will bring that special person into your life.”

Okay, so I’m going to force myself to be content. I’ll try really really hard, and like a magic potion he will appear.

I wish.

I’ve always hated that mentality. It’s usually stated by middle aged married women who have the best of intentions and only want you to be happy, but I believe there are a few flaws in their logic:

1) It puts all the control and/or blame on us. We are the ones who are not being content enough if we haven’t found a mate yet, and we can do something to make God work faster. Legalistic Christianity at its core.

2) God doesn’t work on our timetables. Not because he wants us to suffer in solitude for years and years, but because if He has it in His plan for us to marry, it will happen at just the right time for His plan, not ours.

As I wasn’t was listening to the sermon this morning at church, I was thinking about this very issue. I found myself drawn to the book of Ruth, and a few things struck me:
  • Ruth had an unshakable commitment to doing what was right. Her goal was not to get a man after her husband died, but to honor God by caring for Naomi.
  • God blessed Ruth with Boaz, not because He just wanted Ruth and Boaz to be happy, but because He had a greater plan - continuing the line of David and eventually Jesus. It was not about them, it was about Him.

So how do I stop thinking about myself and my wants, and start thinking about what God can do with my life? How do I rest in the truth that if God has someone out there with whom I can partner to do His work, He will work it out?

Isn’t there a magic potion for this?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


So, God's amazing.

1) I was a little down today because of a class that I haven't really connected with and isn't responsive in class at all, and therefore is doing pretty poorly overall. And if you know me, you know that I can be very hard on myself, always trying to figure out what I've done wrong or if I'm a horrible teacher.....

But as my last class of the day is leaving, two girls stick around to talk. They keep asking about dissections (typical for 6th grade), and I tell them about our fish dissection coming up and how I'm hoping to do another dissection at some point this year. As they're leaving, one girl says to me, "You know, I used to think science was boring, but now I think it's really cool!"


Then, as I'm picking up and getting my stuff together to grade and prep after school, another student comes in. Now, you should know that my running joke whenever I refrain from giving homework is that "I accept flowers, chocolates, and notes about how awesome I am."

This little girl hands me a bag of chocolate cookies, and says, "You said you accept chocolates..."

I respond, "You know I was kidding, right?"

"Yeah, I know."


2) I went for a jog tonight to clear my head and began to think about home, and fall, and all the seasons of life I'm missing. I again began to feel an ache in my heart.

Then I simply saw a yellow/orange frog hop away from my approaching step, and I remembered how awesome this place is and what an adventure I'm having here.


God has this funny way of showing us in our own special way that we are in the place He has for us. I doubt that a rogue amphibian would mean so much to any other person, but God knew what I needed in that moment, and He supplied it.

Now to grade these papers I've been avoiding......

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Walk On

I absolutely love it here.

Call it a honeymoon period, call it whatever you will, I love it. I can see that this is where God has called me - where I will learn, grow, and serve for the foreseeable future.

Things I love about Thailand/my life here:

1. ICS

The school is such a wonderful place with wonderful people. Like any organization, it is imperfect - but I feel supported despite my own imperfections here. It feels so much like a community, and people are always around to help. In my first week, I sent an email to the high school chemistry teacher to see if he had food coloring, expecting and 'yes' or 'no' email in return. Instead, he personally brought it over by the end of the day. I have at least one person each day pop their head in my door and ask how I'm doing. And they really want to know!

I am teaching two courses: 6th grade science and 7th grade science. Although it is difficult to figure out where to get materials for labs and activities (fresh flowers took me a couple hours one night), I love focusing on two classes. I feel like I have the time and freedom to become a great teacher here, not just an 'I'll do what I can' teacher. And 70 minute blocks are wonderful things for science!

2. New Friends

There were 11 new teachers this year, and all but one are female. All but two are single. So get a big group of young, single, fabulous ladies together, and what do you have? Fun. :) We have been able to connect with some of the other single teachers as well, and they are awesome. We spent a long four-day weekend at an island called Koh Samet, hanging out on the beach, getting fake tattoos and toe infections. (Ok, that last one was just me. Lesson learned: pedicures on the beach are not a good idea.) We went out dancing last weekend and are headed to a salsa club tonight. Love it. I do miss my guy friends though. I miss watching baseball, eating pizza, and zoning out during much-too-intense sports conversation. ;) I'm still waiting to find a group of guys who wouldn't mind a female tag-along.

3. Thai Culture

Coming here, I expected to be more annoyed by cultural differences than I am. Rather, I find myself more annoyed with my own American culture than Thai culture. I think I might have been misplaced for the first 25 years of my life. :) I am a conflict avoider, I smile to get out of awkward/unpleasant situations, and I procrastinate like it's my job. I am Thai. Except...I'm not. I'm a (naturally) blonde-haired, blue-eyed Dutch American. I will forever be 'farang,' or foreigner, here.

I will never fully understand the intricacies of the Thai culture and belief systems - a fact that is both overwhelming and challenging. I think being an expat in this culture might be sort of like a marriage. I am living with Thailand living in Thailand. Just like a husband will never fully know his wife and vice versa, I will never really know this culture. But just like (hopefully) a husband enjoys learning new things about his wife, I look forward to discovering new things about the Thai way of life each day. First step: learning the language. Here goes....

The Other Side of the 10-Baht Coin:

Having said all of that, I wish I could be two places at once. I miss my friends. I miss my family. People I love are struggling with tough situations, and I want to be there to support them. It's hard to be there for people when you can't be there. I was really struggling with this when I went to a praise and worship night at the local YWAM headquarters. Even though all the songs were in Thai, there were English translations on the screen, and I really felt the call to prayer and to lay my burdens at God's feet.

There was one song in particular that said "He desires that you walk see the destiny He has for you. We don't have to be afraid....He is with us." It was an amazing reminder that I have been called to this place. God is not only walking beside me, He's preparing the way ahead of me. As much as I want to be home to help those I care for, God has other plans for me. And God can care for them, with or without me. He will put people in their paths that can help them, support them, and love them.

I rest in that truth. So I walk on.

Monday, July 26, 2010

First Week Reflections

So I've already been in Thailand over a week. It's crazy how much time has passed and how much I've learned and experienced already. It's a good thing my BFF (Lauren Anders) bought me a journal to write down some thoughts, and then I can transfer some of those here.

Kendra was able to come with me for a few days, and the time spent with her was awesome. I felt bad because much of the time she was here was spent going to stores and setting up my apartment and life here. She also missed her flight home, so that was extremely nerve-racking. Eventually, she was able to get home, but had to fly with a different airline and pay for a new ticket. I'm just glad she was able to get home safely. Thank goodness for Mutarica, the HR person at ICS. She went to the airport with us and helped us work through all the details and stress.

I am starting to build a life here. I've found some "western" comforts: a lot of American food places in the mall, an IKEA-like home furnishings store, a quiet cafe to grade papers, etc. But I've also enjoyed a lot of very Thai things. So far the food is absolutely great - I might gain a bit of weight here but it will be worth it. :)

New teacher orientation began today, and I really enjoyed it. We discussed culture shock - also called "cultural transition." It was really great to know that EVERYONE struggles through this, and ICS provides all the support I might need. It was interesting to me how they said that the first part of cultural transition (after the honeymoon phase) is loss. It's a grieving process. You are losing connections to your own culture, to some people from home, and to the comforts of home.

I think the most difficult thing for me is learning to immerse myself in the culture, not become an American living in Thailand. It is much too easy to still eat American food, still go to American movies, and never really learn the language or practices here. One practical tip they gave was to refrain from checking your email and Facebook in the morning before school. This will be difficult for me because I am so addicted to both of these things, but I think it is wise, especially for me. I've found that I can be the most emotionally vulnerable early in the morning, and if I am at all homesick, checking Facebook and realizing that I might have missed out on something at home or wasn't able to talk to someone would be tough.

I was also able to work in my classroom again today. Kendra worked with me a bit last week, and she saw me freak out when I saw all the stuff I had to go through and figure out, but I'm feeling much better now. The room is decorated, now I just have to think about the logistics of where to put things and the procedures that go along with that. For me, it is absolutely crazy to just be starting on my classroom now with school starting in 10 days. (Yeah....10 days.....) But, I know it will come together. Only two preps will limit my work load, and three years of experience REALLY helps.

Overall, I'm having a really good time here so far. The other new teachers are great, and we seem to have a sort of "we're in this together" attitude, which is really nice. I can't wait for school to start!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I was going to post an update on my sister's condition, but I thought it might be easier to send you to her blog: Please continue to pray for her and the family.