I hope everyone is falling into the holiday spirit and their school or work schedules are winding down. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or any other Holidays, I hope you all are taking time to rest and enjoy time with family. To my family, I love and miss you all. Hope you guys have a great time in Cleveland, I will be thinking of y’all here.
We have been celebrating for the past month here in Thailand. The first week we arrived in Maetha was Thanksgiving. We all cooked our favorite meals from home and then had a huge dinner with our Thai families. On December 5th, we celebrated a Dutch holiday. We had to put our shoes out at night and the next morning St. Nick had visited us and left treats in our shoes with a playful rhyme specific to each person. Yesterday we celebrated my friend Julia’s birthday. A few of us woke up and ate breakfast as the sun rose over the mountains, and then the whole group cooked and ate dinner together last night. For Christmas next week, we have a secret Santa and a surprise for the day of. I was also asked to organize something for Hanukkah!!! Everyone has been asking me the story of Hanukkah and it’s felt amazing seeing people be interested.
I realized I forgot to mention in the last email that we were given new host families here in Thailand. My roommate Julia and I are staying with a single Thai lady. She has been super sweet to us, buying us the snacks she sees us eating in the store next to us and always trying to make sure we are happy. Our room, however, is kind of the size of a show box. We have an inch thick mattress on the ground which we share and takes up almost the whole room. I have a 1 foot by 4 foot area next to me where all my belongings stay (all my clothes, bags, hair products, etc.). I’ve gotten used to it but I feel super prepared for any college dorm room by now. I have zero personal space or alone time but I’ve still felt so balanced my whole time here.
Teaching in the schools has been such an amazing experience. I’m starting to really bond with the kids and feeling like I am helping, even if it’s just with a friendship. I also love seeing the different set up the school has compared to the American school system. Like the special uniforms each day per week, and how they all get their haircut at school, and that all the teachers kind of float around to each room so the schedule is really relaxed. Also a huge difference from American schools is that all the kids have fake guns that they shoot in class and the teachers don’t care. I was horrified when I first saw this then one of the kids on my program, Rohan (was born in America but raised in India) explained that in other countries it’s normal for kids to have fake guns because they have no threat that an actual shooting could happen. That kind of set the reality for me for what America is like.
Last week was our 3 month anniversary for starting the program. That means I’ve been outside of America for 3 months, 3 months without my phone, 3 months since seeing my parents, 3 months since I’ve been able to throw toilet paper into the toilet rather than a nearby trash can. It was crazy to realize I’m halfway done with my abroad adventure. It has felt so fast yet being in Cary seems like forever ago. Not knowing the people on my program seems like forever ago. And yet, we have 3 months more to go. We, the people on the program, keep talking about how much we will grow on this program and change. Yet, I feel like the exact same person. My parents were telling me the other day about what some family members and their friends were saying about me in the way they’ve seen me grow just through my emails. However, I don’t feel like I have. I do feel more comfortable with myself and happy to have other people share my interest so I don’t have to cover up in social settings like I did at home. But because I’ve always felt these things and had these thoughts it doesn’t feel like I’ve changed. However, maybe that’s change itself, not feeling like I have to change into whatever social setting I’m in and put on a persona that helped me succeed in Cary and at Green Hope. I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I wasn’t always true to myself at home because in order to “fit in” in Cary, I couldn’t hold the same values or want to have discussions about the things that interested me. I hope when I get home I don’t go back to that and stay true to myself. I guess this is me asking all of you to hold me to that in a way.
We only have 2 more weeks in Thailand so I’m trying to appreciate every moment. Please do the same over your Holiday break!
Love and miss you all. Please eat some latkes for me.