I had to take a second glance to be sure...
As I took my second bite of breakfast a few days back, I noticed that, without a second thought, I had put my spoon in my right hand, fork in my left and was loading up my spoon with my fork as comfortably as I'd pick up a phone call back home. No thought required. No switching implements from hand to hand until I remembered the Thai way. No wishing I could just get some chopsticks and eat like I would back home as any "insert name here" pan-Asian restaurant would have me.
This week was a full one. From language to classroom, culture to health, safety to lesson planning, and beyond. My Thai is coming along. I can write all of the 44 consonants, most of the vowels, decoding the words is getting easier with practice and time. I smile more. Sweat just as much. Overall, I am filled with appreciation at every turn.
Two days ago, my host brought two huge bags full of clothes for me to have that are mainly Thai-style and all appropriate for the classroom. Thais seem to love dressing me up, I inexplicably fit in most of their clothing far too easily considering the difference in build, and everything I put on is exclaimed to be beautiful at first glance by my excited host, aunts, grandfather, etc.
My host's mom was preparing as spicy paste the other day and as I crouched to watch, she spoke through it all very slowly in Thai. She's a shy one, doesn't like to make eye contact much, and I'm not always sure she wants me around, but in that moment, as she crushed the chilies and spoke words I could hardly decipher with the purpose of teaching me her secrets, I was incredibly humbled.
A week of practicum in a Thai classroom is down and I have another to go. This week, my kids (10 year-olds for the most part) learned the kinds of animals that lived on the farm and as pets in the house. We worked on basic English sight words, sang songs, played games, and smiled at each step along the way. My co-teacher worked hard alongside me most days, and is taking the challenge of talking with the native English speaker like a champ. I sometimes forget what courage these people have, inviting us into their classrooms in order to grow as teachers, and see their children access education in such a different way than the traditional Thai teaching style. I see the shifts. I see the willingness to introduce a new game. I am overjoyed that in one short week, so much has come to pass.
Life isn't always easy. There's always a lesson to be learned. A reminder that my foundation is not quite set yet. I feel the cracks of a day that lasted too long. My brain attempts to keep it all in, only to feel as if it might cave in. My legs stop resembling anything human thanks to allergies I never knew I had to bites, creams, ointments, etc. It's in moments like those, I step back. I remember what it took to get me here.
Not only my steps, but the steps of my country. The willingness of Thailand's officials from the very first. The hard work of those who have come before me. The inspiration that my parents gave me to follow my heart. The lessons of great teachers that have entered into and shifted my life. I remember my friends and loved ones, who love me so much they send me messages across the miles. I remind myself that this was a dream that began in 1960 and was reborn in me in 1996. So no matter what the worry, what the stress, what the small bump in the road might bring, I am here for my good. I am here for the good of my fellow volunteers. I am here for the good of my students, co-teachers, and this beautiful country that has welcomed me with open arms.
I suppose life is pretty easy when I remind myself of these things, after all...