In one month’s time in Thailand I have become 10 shades darker. This is the most noticeable difference about me, externally at least. I do like this new tan me because most of the time I am “whiter than a toilet” and look sickly. Now, I look like someone who drinks kombucha and does yoga at the beach but really I’ve just been eating street food during the middle of the day under the scorching sun. I also want to add that tropical strength DEET is a great substitute for tanning oil, for those of you that tan. That was a nice surprise. I think the tan is what makes my skin and lung burning Daily-DEET-Regimen (DDR) seem worthwhile. That and not getting malaria or dengue fever.
Internally, however, I feel like I’ve been put through the wringer. I am physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I currently teach English at a vocational high school in Bangkok and it certainly is no picnic. The lack of morale is pervasive in both staff and students. It seems like no one wants to be there. I want to cry a lot of the time.
“Just who the hell do you think you are?” I want to yell at a boy who talks on his phone during class every day. He has four lonely hairs on his chin. “You can’t even grow a beard!” But I have to remain professional and he wouldn’t know what I’m saying anyway. I am aware that I can take his phone away. But he is taller than me and he smokes cigarettes so what am I going to do? I don’t want him to give me a swirlie after school.
On the flipside, the support from my Thai co-workers has been invaluable. They reassure me that I’m doing fine. “Don’t worry, they actually don’t care about any of their classes. It’s not you.” Oh, um, okay. One of my co-workers, Por, reminds me a lot of my dad. I imagine they could be friends. Maybe they were friends in another life. He has a quiet intelligence about him and is incredibly perceptive. I like to ask him questions because he always has answers. It’s only been a few weeks and he’s already taught me about why there are caged birds at temples, the mystical belief in Kuman Thong and necromancing, and the gentrification that is occurring in some of Thailand’s rapidly urbanizing areas. He is wise like an owl with a graduation cap.
I suppose I haven’t found my footing at this new job. I enjoyed working with elementary school students in Santa Cruz. That came quickly and naturally because I know the crap out of six-year-olds. We like to color and talk about cartoons and make believe. Vocational school teenagers in Thailand. Even a Thai Mr. Feeny wouldn’t have been able to prepare me for them. I don’t understand their color contacts and K-pop obsession. Why do they go to the bathroom and never come back? What are they saying behind my back? I don’t know. Maybe it will get better in a few weeks. But for now I’m just gonna talk to some street food about my feelings until everything is okay and then roll myself to bed.