You like to travel? You like kids? You want to earn money working 15 hours a week? Teach English in Asia!
Sounds perfect, right? Way too good to be true? Who doesn’t want to hang out with a bunch of adorable kindergarteners all day, travel until you’re exhausted, carry a big backpack full of everything you own and spend .40 on the most amazing meal ever?
This is what you hear before you embark on a huge trip half-way around the world. Your friend’s mother knows a guy that will tell you amazing stories about eating scorpions, trekking up mountains, and getting daily hugs from smiling children as they yell teach-aaa! Most of this is true and obtainable, but there are always a few things they forget to mention.
The days that don’t end, the sun never ceasing to pound down on your already dehydrated body, the days that you don’t speak one full sentence of English and the kids stare at you blankly (or worse) ignore you completely. They don’t tell you that teaching English to 38 fifteen year-olds is intimidating and hard. But as my five months of teaching is dwindling down, I’m finding that the coolness factor (the fact that I am in Thailand. I’m in Thailand!) teaching English outweighs those days of difficulty.
I’ve had my ups and downs my entire life. Changing location, exchanging pine trees for palm trees, changing mountains for Buddhist ruins. But it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t know what or where my life is headed. Having made the decision to travel across the world to try my hand at something I don’t know how to do, I realize the exploration and adventure trumps all the scary life questions.
It is hard. I anticipated this being hard. I was prepared to be under-prepared and even that didn’t prepare me to be smacked in the face with humidity, humiliation, and long hard days of lesson planning. You just don’t show up. I am nowhere near being the best teacher. But I’m learning.
I’m here. I’m in Thailand. I am in the land of smiles, beaches, mountains, and misbehaving kids, corrupt school systems, difficult bus terminals and instant (blegh) coffee. I’m here doing my best. With so much time spent in my English-speaking head, I remind myself that yes, I’m here to teach, but I am also here to learn. I left normal to get uncomfortable, to get know myself. So much inner dialogue can cause one to over-think, over-process, and in the end we are forced learn. A lot.
Have I doubted my decision? Some days, yes. Do I regret coming? No. How could I regret coming to a country where the phrase Mai pen rai is the most repeated sentence? It’s all good, no worries, it’s okay. Mai pen rai.
I am making the most, being present, and experiencing this experience to the fullest. How can I not when I have hundreds of kids yelling, “Teach-aaa good morning!” at me everyday? They smile so hard that their cheeks turn red with excitement, their arms wrap around me and they look up, toothless and happy to see me. How could you not smile back, laugh, and continue on. One day at a time, just like anything, anywhere.
Sloan has moved just about every 4 years of her life since the age of 8 when her family moved to Australia. So, it was a bit inevitable that she would be a high school exchange student in Chile. She went far away from her parents for college, starting in NY and eventually finishing with a B.A. in Communications from Michigan at Grand Valley State University. She then began an on-the-road job on the east coast and eventually quit to drive across the country and live and work in Oregon. Currently, she is in Thailand teaching English, training for a 50K trail running race, and losing the never ending battle against the biting ants in her apartment! Read more about her adventures at The Sole Search