Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I'm not much for drawing, so when I'm really bored and meant to be doing something else, I write things down. To-do lists, my name 25 times in different handwriting, places I've been, places I want to go, books I am reading. The other day my students were working on an assignment in class, and wrote down every place I've ever lived. Good lord.
1. San Antonio, Texas: I've never lived here, but you have to be allowed to count the place where you were born.
2. Altus, Oklahoma: 1988-89
3. Spangdahlem, Germany: 1989-1992
4. Bowie, Maryland: 1992-93
5. Newport News, Virginia: 1993-96
6. Dayton, Ohio: 1996-98
7. Keflavik, Iceland: 1998-2000
8. Las Vegas, Nevada: 2000-03
9. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: 2003-06
10. Charleston, South Carolina: 2006-08, 2009-10
11. Nottingham, England: 2008
12. Tübingen, Germany: 2009
13. Broomall, Pennsylvania: 2010-11
14. Quito, Ecuador: (yes, I count it) 2011
15. Sadao, Songkhla, Thailand: 2011-2012
Pretty impressive for just 23 years, no?
Something I'm rapidly realizing about adulthood is that it leaves a person downright exhausted at the end of the day. My situation may be a little out of the ordinary - I suppose most people at least have a language in common with most of the people they encounter during the day - but I think that even without the language barrier, I would be too tired to do much else than watch some shows, make dinner, and call it an early night.
As I was never a big partier, I'm not too worried about missing out on clubs, bars, and drunken exploits. I'm sure a number of those remain in my future, but it's ok that they're not in my present. What is particularly distressing for me (besides the fact that I have to get out of bed every morning) is the fact that, these days, I'm really too tired to do much thinking. That may sound ridiculous, and it probably is, but whether it's the language, the often mind-numbing monotony of a full-time job, or just the heat, I feel like my brain just clunks along, churning out only the most necessary of thoughts. Sometimes I don't even get those. I still plan on going into academia, so we'll see how this pans out.
I'm being a little over-dramatic - I still manage to teach about 300 kids a new language without speaking theirs, I can get around a foreign country with relative ease (and again, without speaking the language), and I haven't gotten bitten by a cobra yet. I worry, though, that I've lost the ability to really take in everything that's going on in my life, as well as the ability to appreciate all that is good about it. I'm too tired to look about the window and see what's really there - mountains, trees, an incredible mist that is a constant reminder of how much moisture is in the air, even on the dry days. It's other-worldly, a view unlike anything I've ever had before, but I can't quite take it in. It's like a dream. Everything is slightly foggy, a little bit unsettling, and easily forgotten. Because I am exhausted.
I used to read Shakespeare, watch foreign films, take long walks just to look and think and imagine. I would create things. I could spend hours talking about something I'd read or seen or thought. A breeze, the smell of rain, those evening hours when you can actually see beams of sunlight - all of these would send me off someplace else for a moment, and when I was there, it was as though I could really see everything. I could step outside of life and take in the substance of it all. I'm trying to get there again.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
I've been trying to do some meaningful reading while I've been home sick, and the following two blog posts really speak to my current experience in ways that surprised me.
I've been working on a couple posts of my own, so you should see those soon. Maybe even later today.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I take full responsibility for most of the things that happen in my life. I chose to move to Thailand, for example. And yet, what lies in store for me just two days hence is in no way my fault. I blame Bess.
It started with a conversation I have no memory of and probably didn't understand. Now, somehow, I am committed to being dressed in traditional Thai garb, made up to the nines, and paraded - and I mean that literally - around town on a float in an important festival of some kind. Trust me, I am not responsible for this.
But lucky for you, there will be photos.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Moving is hard, and moving to another country is almost as hard as it gets. I've always know this - my first overseas move was 22 years ago, after all - and yet somehow it's always a shock when I arrive in a new place. Now when that place is the middle of nowhere in southern Thailand, "shock" doesn't even begin to cover what I am going through. I'm not going to pick up and leave, but that doesn't mean I don't want to. What's funny is that I absolutely expected this, but there is of course a difference between knowing and experiencing.
So what am I experiencing?
It's hot, first of all. It's not so bad when there's a breeze or a storm, but in a stuffy classroom with no air conditioning, it's almost unbearable. Since it's winter here now, it will only get hotter. Come April I plan to be naked on the tile floor of my bedroom with the ac on full blast, and woe betide anyone who disturbs me.
Sadao, the town where I now live, is just about as small as I've ever seen. That's not to say there aren't loads of people, but beyond a few restaurants and roadside stands, there's nothing for any of them to do. Bess and I are the only ones who walk anywhere, so I presume they just go elsewhere for their entertainment, but we've been confined to our air conditioned bedrooms staring at our computer screens and eating copious amounts of chocolate. Other than the two of us and another teacher at school, there are no other Westerners, which isn't awful, but it does mean that there is only one person we can actually talk to.
Work is frankly awful. The school is ridiculously unorganized; Bess and I didn't even know what we were teaching until the first day of school. I have just shy of 300 students total, so most of my classes have between 40 and 50 kids, mostly eighth-graders. I have a couple of great classes, but mostly the kids don't listen, talk over me, and are generally extremely rude. They speak about ten words of English between them, and I can't even imagine where to begin teaching them because, again, they don't listen to a word I say. I have no book and am trying to design a whole curriculum for two different grades. Oh, and by the way, I have never taught before.
I do think it will get better. Even if I never fall in love with the place, the shock is already wearing off and we are getting into a routine. We'll go away on the weekends when we can, we managed to get a week off for Christmas, and we are now only staying for a semester. When that's done, we're off on a crazy backpacking adventure through Asia, then we'll head to Australia to work for the summer. So if it has to be a little shitty up front, I guess that's okay.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
It began benignly enough. Three young women who just wanted to see a little of the Ecuadorian countryside, sample some ceviche, maybe dance with a Latino or two en la playa. What happened next would haunt them forever.
(Before you panic, let me preface by saying that everyone in this story is totally fine. At least physically.)
They left on a Friday for a leisurely bus ride through the jungle with the promise of drinks and camaraderie. With blind enthusiasm, they bought three tickets to a fabled town called Atacames. Eight dollars to the beach, what could be better? They waited eagerly at the bus station, and when the driver called for them to board, they were first in line, armed with a bottle of water, three apples, and a magazine between them. This was the first mistake. The bus left at noon, and the women were hardly out of Quito when it dawned on them that they had not eaten lunch.
"It'll be fine," said Sarah. "Surely we'll have to stop for gas along the way. We'll get something then."
It should be said that none of the three was accustomed to going hungry, but excited as they were, they were willing to wait for a few hours. They chatted amiably about former travels and the upcoming film they were all waiting to see, and passed the time in the enjoyable novelty of a new country. They admired the mountainous scenery and the quaint architecture. All in all, it was lovely. By the time they were outside of Quito proper, however, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. Sylvester Stallone joined the party, shouting through the bus in poorly dubbed Spanish, firing machine guns and other ballistics at will for no discernible reason. He continued to do this for seven hours, thanks to the bus driver's apparent addiction to his films. The girls were stunned. They had no idea Stallone had been so prolific, and now there was no way out. Two Rambo's in, they still had not stopped for lunch, and things were becoming alarming. The jungle was beautiful, but the tour bus hurtling around hairpin mountain curves was not, nor was the half hour detour onto a dirt "road" through a tiny village after the real road had been closed off by the police. The trip that was supposed to take five or six hours now stretched into the night, and Bess secretly feared she might never get off the bus. Rocky came on, and all three girls fantasized about cheese steaks in an attempt to sate their ever-growing hunger. This did not work, and they turned their thoughts to the night's accommodation, of which there was none. What had earlier seemed fun and three-sheets-to-the-wind now seemed a poor decision.
To be continued...
Thursday, July 7, 2011
After a very lengthy hiatus, I'm back on the blogosphere, this time reporting from Quito, Ecuador. I've only been here about 8 hours and as I spent 6 of them sleeping, I don't have much by way of commentary yet. But here are a few fun facts about Ecuador:
- Ecuador is in South America. Don't worry, I didn't know that either until I signed up for the class that took me here.
- Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was the first city to gain World Heritage Site status back in 1978.
- Despite the name and its location right on top of the equator, Ecuador, or at least Quito, is quite cool. Right now it's 57 degrees F, so I'm actually slightly chilly.
- The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador!
I'll definitely be reporting more as I learn more, so stay tuned!