Blog Post #3
In the past month at my new home in Ban Fon, I have noticed how easy it can be to point out differences. The way people communicate, ways to show respect, family structures, teaching styles, the list could go on. While I have loved observing how the culture here in Thailand differs my own, I have found it much more comforting to focus on all the ways I feel at home. After all, Ban Fon is my home for now. So here is a list of all the things that make me feel warm and help me forget that I’m an outsider for a brief moment.
- My incredibly kind neighbors bring me dinner, breakfast, and all kinds of khanoms (snacks). I’m typically greeted with “gin khao ru yang? (have you eaten yet?) which is a nice gesture to know that people are taking care of me. In the middle of writing this, the grandmother knocked on my door to come eat snacks with me. We sat on my couch and ate fruits, mostly in silence and some broken Thai, but connecting through food.
- My neighbors have an 11- month- old baby who is always eager to play and laugh. Every day, the grandmother brings him to my house to play for a while while we sing to him as he explores my house. The grandmother doesn’t speak English, and one day she surprised me by greeting me with “Hello!” She pushes me to speak Thai and is so patient when I inevitably mess up.
- The stock clerk at my local bodega says “Okay, see you!” every time I leave which is always a nice surprise to hear someone speak to me in English.
- There is a noodle shop down the street where I eat most of my meals because the owner can make vegetarian food. Every day, other diners ask why I’m eating pad see ew again, and he laughs and tells them im vegetarian. Every time I eat, he expectantly looks at me until I say “arroy maak maak!” He also always makes sure the spice is just the right amount (I usually lie and tell him I like the spice).
- My friend Surat picks me up from school a few times per week to cook me dinner as we practice English. She always feeds me fruit and then a feast of the best food I’ve had so far in Thailand. Surat and her husband treat me like a daughter and make me feel so welcomed in the community.
- My host teachers have a rotating schedule of who eats lunch with me each day. Spending so much time on my own teaching can be exhausting and its so nice to have a conversation with somebody during the day.
- P’Pisan is my friend who owns the local ceramic and arts center. He often invites me to come to make ceramics and learn painting skills from him. This week, I went to a workshop for local art teachers, and they all embraced me into their group. I sat there, unable to understand any of the directions, but still had fun creating something and feeling like I belonged.
- Thailand has the world’s cutest coffee shops and there are several in Ban Fon that I frequently escape to. The Pinterest-perfect aesthetic feels familiar and I like to sit by the Wang river to read or journal. Some of the owners now know my usual order, as I’m probably the only one who orders things unsweetened.
- The way my sweet students greet me every morning, or whenever they see me walking around school. “Teacher Amanda, Teacher Amanda!” is usually followed by screams of “Hello!” and blank stares when I try to initiate a conversation. My students are so eager to talk to me and have really been the highlight of my time in Ban Fon so far.
- 10. My teachers made bets on how fat I’ll get this year. This will be directly caused by all the khanoms I am given on a daily basis. I’ve really leaned into snack culture and am enjoying all the new foods being thrown my way. Theres only one teacher who bet that I’ll lose weight this year, so I’ll keep you posted on who wins next September.
As a farang (non-Asian foriegner) in a small town in Thailand, I stick out very easily. Unable to understand conversations around me, the stares I get biking around town, and the lack of fluent communications with anybody remind me every day that I am an outsider in this world. Its easy to feel overwhelmed and lost, but I have tried to keep in perspective all of the ways that I feel like I belong here. While I’m clearly different, there are so many people who are helping me to feel like a true part of this community and ensure that I am well taken care of. The relationships I am building are making this experience far better than I could have imagined. My favorite Jack Johnson lyric states “Home is wherever we are if there’s love here too”. While the displays of love are different here, I certainly feel at home.