In a month I will pass the one year mark of coming to Thailand. This time last year I was finishing the last bits that needed doing at my job, frantically trying to make sure that I met up with people one last time to say goodbye and planning far too many leaving parties.
Now we find ourselves preparing to say goodbye once again, but this time to the fellow teachers who will be moving on (some returning home, most starting a new leg on their travels and adventures). It is great that we have made Western friends in this country but the transient nature of the relationships that are formed means that those friendships will never seem concrete. It doesn’t mean that some of those people are any less of a friend – in fact some of the people that we have met so far are firmly set within friendships that will hopefully continue across the globe. Others we will befriend, but always knowing that a few months down the line they will be hopping off to make more temporary friendships, always thinking of the next place they will move to, and the next, and the next.
I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that. In the world of TEFL teaching we have the ability to move to many places around the world to do the same job. And that is the beauty of the job but also its hidden beast. Some people constantly move from city to city, country to country, and while I am all for exploring the world and gaining new experiences, I think that sometimes you need to give yourself some time to get the feel for a place before you can truly experience it (and before you can bitch about it – but that’s another blog post!).
Take myself for an example. I left the UK unsure if I would be here for one or two terms. After a few months of teaching I decided one term would be enough. I wasn’t unhappy, I was loving the job, but there were doubts niggling in my head. Am I throwing away my degree? Have I just cut my career in the UK short? Why am I taking such a wage cut when I still have debts to pay off? But I think that these doubts were only part of my settling in. Once Tom was out here and we got ourselves our house in the village and started to explore more of the local area, I realised that I did want to stay.
Once I decided that I would be staying longer it was like a switch flipped in my head when it came to my teaching. Suddenly I was able to plan longer term work that had more of an over arching learning aim rather than thinking in little 2 month stretches of time. Now the time I was using planning and teaching was being invested in something that I would be able to follow through and see the results for myself.
Last weekend I was speaking to a fellow TEFLer who will soon be leaving Thailand on the next leg of her epic adventure (from teacher to tree surgeon in NZ!) and we both agreed that it takes time to start to truly get something out of living somewhere. It almost takes a whole school term to start to find your feet and feel like you are a real teacher and not an imposter. To start to forge meaningful relationships with the students which transforms the learning experience into something with real purpose and longevity and breaks the mis-trust that students feel towards foreign teachers, seeing them come and go term to term.
And so as we make our way towards the end of the semester, talk of travels, moving on or moving home are in the air. No sooner will we have waved them goodbye than we will be welcoming the next load of fresh new teachers. Some of them will stay, some of them will go. I will go eventually. Most of us are only here on a temporary basis, what is important is to make the most of the time you have while you are here before you find yourself at home in the rain, scraping for pennies and thinking of the way things used to be.
And here is one thing that I truly appreciate living in Thailand – just check out the crazy shades of amaze that the sun threw out as she was setting yesterday – B E A UTIFUL.