For the past year, nearly each weekday at 11:30 I’ve walked across the soccer field to the school cafeteria under a canopy of circling dragonflies. I eat a nice lunch with my colleagues as they chatter in Thai and make my way back to my classroom through lines of children brushing their teeth and powdering their faces. School is over and I’m prepared for my upcoming transition to the capital of Cambodia. It’s dynamic mix of emotions: sadness, relief, anticipation, wistfulness, glee over superior project management skills and a renewed belief in both timelessness and change.
|Aon greeted me with a barreling exuberance|
and a grand slam hug
to the hips on most mornings.
|My co-teacher Koy and I demonstrate|
big and small during the school's
field trip to the Forest Temple Across the Street.
|Pinky and Jam were two of my students|
that arrived to the school courtyard
holding hands every morning;
the boys photobombed.
My students have grown; their gap-toothed smiles changed as the permanent teeth emerged over this last semester. Most of them can read some English, others can answer questions that are not scripted and a couple are starting to combine their new English words with Thai in wacky and highly amusing new sentences. They failed their English mid-term because I focused on speaking and listening but they use Rock, Paper Scissor to make decisions, know the meaning of burb and fart, and recognize Grover.
|Saipan was my best student.|
A keen intellect that was woefully
underchallenged in the rural Thai classroom.
|Meen was one of my students|
from last semester. She often came by the
classroom looking for an English worksheet.
|These are the spirit houses for the school.|
These are common throughout Thailand as a way to
honor the spirits of the earth upon which the buildings rest.
The orchid blossoms and marigold garlands
are refreshed a couple of times a week.
Thailand and her children taught me invaluable lessons. Escort insects and amphibians out of the house. Little geckos poop a lot. Slow down, smile often, exercise, enjoy just a little dessert, and create meaning in this one life. It’s okay to wear your pajamas on a motorbike late at night and early in the morning once and a while. Be kind, pee carefully when there's a squatter and always check your closed toe shoes before you put your foot in. Steward your immune system. Being clueless and releasing control is not such a bad thing.
Always take a little extra time to be presentable, relish the shade and words are a lot more fun when you sing them.
|Ubon on the karaoke vocals while JeJee and I dance away|
during my going away dinner party on the
shores of the Ping River. All the teachers came. It was a blast.
A few weeks ago I was writing at my table on a Saturday evening, watching the papaya tree and the bamboo swaying in the evening breeze, when the front yard suddenly lit up in a glowing pink. I checked it out and roused my housemate from her bedroom to watch. In the sky, a single cloud amidst many was glowing alpenglow in the setting sun. Juxtaposed across the middle of this special cloud was a rainbow. I hesitated for a minute thinking about racing for my camera. Then I realized that this moment was so fleeting, so ephemeral and so timeless in its beauty, that it was paramount to summon my full being to bear witness. Gawk at natural beauty, create human kindness, be still in your heart. This year, a singular experience in my life, will never repeat. I am sad to see it fade, but have a hopeful anticipation for this next step.