Category Archives: education

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My feet are torn apart from standing up all day in shoes that were supposed to be comfortable, I can feel a tinge of hoarseness in my throat from talking too much and too loudly, my dress pants are still half a size too tight, I didn’t use the bathroom for six hours straight on Wednesday, and my happiest moment this week was when I climbed into bed at 9:30pm to give myself just over eight hours of sleep.

Now that I’m finally living it again, I’m less sure than ever that this is what I was to do with my life.

My weakness is in momentary regrets, as I question myself before allowing the proper distance from these events.

I tell myself that I will keep teaching. That I will let me job consume my life again and allow myself to believe that it will get better. Quitting is not a consideration. It is only—not even—one year.

But if this were a relationship, I’d end it immediately—like I did with the English boy two weeks ago when things got tough yet again—and as I still find myself aching for him, I wonder if my strategy is all wrong.

Is working at an imperfect job for a year just as silly as staying in an imperfect relationship for the same amount of time?

———-

With very little agenda beside escaping loneliness, I coerce the English boy into talking to me today and then regret it as my heart wrenches in my chest for the rest of the day. He is happy in the simplicity of singledom as I feel my resolve continue to weaken. There is so much of us that I don’t want back, but right now, all I want is that uncertainty back. Because at least then, there was hope.

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everybody jump, jump, jump

I think I might have food poisoning, which has definitely killed the charm of the squat toilet and diminished my patience for the scampering little feet and the beckoning loud shrieks.

It has also made me long for home, the way being sick always has. I remember being sick at university once and whining to my mom on the phone, only to learn that when my older brother felt the same a few weeks earlier, she was able to drive to his school and do all his laundry.

I have always lived too far away.

So I’m thinking that maybe I would like to settle down closer than a 26-hour drive from my family. It’d be nice to actually celebrate birthdays with cake, to catch up without worrying about having a good signal, to be able to go home on a whim.

———-

Here’s the thing about a job like this, which I know all too well: it consumes you.

Especially here, there are no sick days, no playing hooky, no vacations. And there is no showing weakness—you learn to never be tired, or bored, or scared because you’re expected to be the rock through all of it.

And really, in a job like this, you want to. Even on the days when you feel the worst, you know how much worse it is when you’re not there. I have gone to work with a cold, with allergies, with a hangover, with a broken car window, without a voice, without a plan, without enough sleep.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to go back to that life. The early mornings and constant anxiety, putting my work ahead of everything else in my life.

But then I find myself here:

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…and I never want to leave.

modern love

The closest WiFi hotspot is a ten minute bike ride away from the orphanage, which isn’t actually that far when your days are so free. But still, I decide to mostly take a hiatus from my messenger and I find that actually, the less I talk to people, the less I miss them.

I suppose this is what happened with my friends in Houston, a defense mechanism against loneliness that I worry is slowly draining me of my (over)emotional tendencies.

But it also allows me to focus more on the present, and I am grateful for the freedom to share my love with the people who currently surround me without feeling tied to the past or a potential future.

And so I hold sticky fingers and play silly games and let kids and cats and puppies all nuzzle into me. And I give rides and tickle bellies and sit in the dirt and answer every question.

I’m not sure how I feel about going back to formal teaching—though with a potential job offer for August on the table, I should probably figure it out soon—but I do know that I need something where I can be around this every day.

———-

A boy shares a piece of his journal with me, and it is so perfect that I remember why I miss some people after all.
(excerpted without his permission, whoops)

If there is an initial Theme for 2014, amidst all the transitions that are bound to occur, I think it should be to Love Passionately. I want to infuse my daily actions with love.

what do you want?

‘I want everything,’ she replied with a faint, wry smile. ‘You know, I said that once, to a friend of mine, and he told me that the real trick in life is to want nothing, and to succeed in getting it.’

It is shockingly comforting to lie beneath a mosquito net, almost as if I am finally living out my childhood dream of owning a canopy bed.

Beyond its breezy screen I have very little protection and the effects of living with more children and dogs and cats and ducks and chickens than I can count waft over the open concrete walls of my small room.

I am at a makeshift orphanage in a tiny village within walking distance of the Burmese border, and when I climbed off of the motorcycle taxi yesterday morning at 6AM with directions to just walk blindly to the ramshackle house in the middle of a field, I wasn’t sure how I would adjust to this lifestyle.

Let’s be honest: before this trip I wasn’t exactly a nature and animals girl, and yet somehow I’ve quickly become immune to the flies and surprisingly fond of the flea-ridden dogs and cats. I’m no longer bothered by the prospect of a cold shower through a hose, I’m getting better with a squat toilet, and chasing the ducks and puppies out of the kitchen has become routine. When we found out that ants got into this morning’s bread, I ate it anyway along with everyone else—it couldn’t have be much different than the fried crickets and scorpions that people pay a premium for on the streets of Bangkok.

And the children—about a dozen Burmese orphans under the age of 12—are extraordinary. They are incredibly self-sufficient and strong but also trusting and friendly. Within a few hours they were crawling all over me, but even the youngest knows better than to ask you to find his socks or put her to bed. They play for hours outside, without shoes or electronics or complaints. Their laughter and singing is loud and pure, but so is their crying, which—keeping in line with Burmese culture—is almost never addressed by an adult. Most have a disability of some kind, but they speak English, Thai, AND Burmese and are extremely quick to pick up the rules of new games. And they are kind, sharing with one another and with me, even when they have so little.

I want to raise my future children to be like them, but I wonder if it’s even possible in a more western society. Maybe we traded this type of natural curiosity and learning for rules and safety. Maybe I won’t want my children to feel so comfortable around dirt and garbage, to have calloused feet and open cuts, to tear their clothes and solve their arguments with fists and shouts. And I’m not sure if I’d be strong enough to watch my children sob without immediately scooping them up to be comforted.

But it’s definitely given me a new perspective on the consequences of privilege and the real definition of necessity… and I’ve got time to figure the rest of it out.

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Reflection: Back to school

I spend a week at the school, which isn’t nearly enough time, but the kids have winter break (and we can only sing Jingle Bells so many times).

Despite my systemic criticisms, I find myself quickly becoming attached to individual students, and I have no trouble transitioning back into the role of teacher.

This is a bit scary, because I think it would be much easier if I had instead come to the realization that I now hate teaching… instead, I’m left back at the same crossroads that I found myself at in the spring.

Back to school

This week I taught my Thai students the word wish. I think. (You try explaining the meaning of wish in the most basic English possible.)

We sang our wishes for you to have a Merry Christmas (in a mostly Buddhist country), and wrote our wishes for the upcoming New Year (the year 2557) in the form of resolutions.

Then I taught feel, and I realized that perhaps, left to my own devices, my teaching just becomes a projection of my overemotional and overambitious brain.

As a whole, the Thai school system seems to run on wasted time and constant disruption, with little supplies and even less discipline.

Talking with another teacher, it seems like a lot of it was adapted from America: all students must pass a country-wide standardized test (though the vast majority at this rural school don’t), and still no failing child actually gets left back. There’s an excessive amount of paperwork for teachers, and arbitrary celebrations and assemblies take precedence over classroom learning.

But Thai schools also come with a whole other mess of cultural contradictions: students respectfully bow greetings to every teacher, but chat freely during class. The bell rings several times every day, but this doesn’t actually mark the beginning or ending of any class. And at all times during the school day, there are dozens of mismatch-uniformed children just hanging out in the school courtyard (and teachers hanging out in the workroom).

It’s bizarre and frustrating and almost cringeworthy; it makes me feel the need to immediately go back to my placement school in Houston, but it equally makes me want to swear never to step foot in another classroom.

What maybe my students can say—but definitely not comprehend—after being taught by me for a week: I feel sad and confused and tired and angry. I wish for a solution. I wish for change.

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