The Nuts and Bolts
While I’ve got some travelogue stuff simmering on the back burner, I’m about to move on to the next portion of my trip. A summary and status report seemed in order.
Sunrise in Sam Roi Yot
After arriving in Bangkok a little over five weeks ago, I milled about the city for a week getting acclimated and doing touristy things. A significant Wat tour, a visit to the Jim Thompson House, figuring out how to order street food and, the highlight, the Sririaj Medical Museum. Oddly enough this least-touristy stop was where I got pick-pocketed. I was less disappointed to lose the $70 than I was to lose my money clip. Jerks.
My first venture outside of Bangkok was to Chiang Mai, a trip so enjoyable I extended it past the initially-scheduled seven day duration. I met some Portuguese friends on the train, stayed at two lovely guesthouses, attended both home and away matches of Chiang Mai FC, played some pickup ultimate and took a couple day trips on scooter. I met the ringleader of the Chiang Mai punk scene and found a ska/reggae bar. Good on ya, Thailand. The most fun, however, was definitely the three day jungle trek I took. Never sweated so much in my life, but I’m happy to report that the guide returned with all twelve attendees he left with.
In retrospect, I would’ve stayed in Chiang Mai a few extra days. It felt big enough, but slow enough; the size and speed combo that the Twin Cities have taught me to love.
The rest of my time in Thailand thus far has been based in Bangkok with weekend trips to Sam Roi Yot and Kanchanaburi and a day trip to Ayuttahaya. The first was with Dave and Amy to a lovely little resort town about an hour south of Thai-favorite Hua Hin. We did caves, wetlands, beach-walking and beer-drinking. Nice little weekend.
Kanchanaburi was a solo trip to the Bridge Over the River Kwae area for some historical tourism and waterfall hiking. I hit up a local football match, too, and braved out the mid-game thunder storm. The Thai skies are nothing short of gorgeous.
And Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand, was Wat, after Wat, after Wat. They never get boring.
That brings us to this week, where I find myself facing the end of what’s essentially been a vacation. Flying to Phuket in 3 days. To start a new job. Doing something I’ve never done before. In a country where I don’t speak the language (slowly improving on that). To children whose families were killed in the 2004 tsunami.
Naturally, I’m super excited to do work that so directly helps people who could use some extra help. In my interview with a school associate (an alumni from the Bangkok International School that supports the school I’ll be at) she told me the most important thing is to spend time with the students and give them someone who cares. I can do that, no problem. But teaching English to 800+ kids of varying age and skill-levels (my ostensible charge, along with two other English teachers) feels like quite the mountain to climb from three days out.
Luckily, I’ve become a strong advocate of Ira Glass’s advice to beginners of anything: you have to suck at something before you’re good at it. That’s paraphrased.
So after my scheduled five week break from responsibility, it’s time to meet a new challenge where other people are counting on me. While it may fill me with anxiety, it’s anxiety bred from the desire to fulfill responsibility that I plan on turning into 10 months of trying to make 800 kids’ lives a little bit better.
The weather’s hot, the food is great. I miss you, but life is good.
(Huh, editing. Wish I would’ve thought of that in college.)