This is it, the last day of school. I asked the kids if they knew that song, “School’s Out For Summer…” they didn’t.
I cannot believe it’s over. Between the kids taking Thai finals all week, it being the middle of March, and that it is always 90 degrees here, it doesn’t feel like the end of a school year. Also, the kids don’t seem to be going bonkers like they do in America in June. Mostly because from what I hear they all go to summer schools and study all summer anyway. Craziness. When I asked one girl in my homeroom class what she was going to do this summer she told me she was working at a coffee shop her father’s friend owned. I asked her what she was going to be doing in a coffee shop being that she is only 10 years old. She said she didn’t know, make coffee? I think its just something her parents told her she could do to feel grown up.
Being that I am only here one semester not only is it the end of the year for me but a farewell to the kids as well. So my Thai teacher and homeroom class decided to throw me a surprise end of year party. It was absolutely adorable. On the second to last day of class I knew something was up. The other classes were having parties and I hadn’t heard one being discussed in our room. I was really busy getting together my gradebooks and compiling these ridiculous character forms the office had us do so I didn’t think much of it.
By the afternoon, I saw food piling up outside our room which confused me. I was sitting in the back of class while the kids took a Thai final and asked one of the girls I tutor, Pimmy, (who’s the same girl who will be “working” at the coffee shop) if we were having a party for the end of the year. Pimmy, is a hoot. She sits in the back next to my desk and we frequently chat and I always ask her whats going on since I never have any idea. When I asked her, she replied “Teacha Monta say I cannot say”. Since I don’t understand the answers the kids give me 9 out of 10 times I asked her what she meant. “Teacha Monta say I cannot tell Teacha Alicia”. That’s when the cat was out of the bag. Poor honest Pimmy blew it. I vacated the premises immediately to finish my gradebooks and prevent another student from telling me what was to come.
A period later Bai Mai, the smartest, sweetest girl in the class comes into the computer lab where I am printing and stapling away. “Teacha Alicia, you come to class please?” I was with two other foreign teachers who joked with her “What about us? Just Teacher Alicia?”. Poor girl looked mortified. I told her I would be there in a minute.
When I got to class the room was set up in two long tables, one for boys, one for girls with a ridiculous spread of food considering we had just eaten lunch. When I walked in Teacher Monta gave the cue and in unison all of my little nuggets said “TEACHA ALICIA WE HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU!” “Yes?” I said laughing. “TEACHA ALICIA WE LOVE YOU!”. That’s when I almost lost it. It was the cutest, sweetest thing ever.
But it didn’t stop there.
Teacher Monta had had each student cut out a paper pink heart and write something about me. Then they each individually brought it up to me and read it aloud and gave it to me as some song from Glee serenaded us in the background. My heart literally melted. And burst. At the same time. It melted as their sweet little faces came up to me, smiling, excited to read what they wrote. Their short, sweet, broken English messages melted my heart. Then hearing them all reading without hesitation, what they wrote in English, about me and class, with pride, pronouncing everything well and albeit some of it was grammatically incorrect, most of it was outstanding. My heart burst with pride at what they were capable of and it made me realize they may have actually been listening these past 4 months.
From there we feasted and took tons of pictures (my Thai teacher lovesss taking pictures) and listened to music. And ate. And ate. Teacher Monta even had one of the students make a dish I had really liked during our Christmas party because she remembered I liked it. I was literally being killed with kindness. My Thai teacher is an amazing lady who always tries and look out for me. Her class is so well behaved and she is so respected by the students, faculty and parents. She is quiet the lady and it is amazing how someone I can barely communicate with has become someone who really inspired me to be as good a teacher as she is and become a role model.
Overall, these past four months haven’t been an easy ride by any means. The lack of direction from supervisors, last minute changes all the time, the difference in education system and my lack of teaching experience all contributed to making this job one of the hardest, most frustrating experiences of my life. But the work was also so rewarding. A kid having a break through, doing well on a test, asking me a question or using a big vocabulary word in passing. Those were wins. It was the highest of highs and some pretty low lows. In the beginning I thought I would sink, not swim. I kept telling myself I would just try and get by, this wasn’t my career, and just to get through the weeks and lessons. But you adapt, and build relationships with the kids and the teachers. And it becomes easier. Enjoyable even :). And then there’s moments like yesterday, having all the kids be so excited to surprise me and read what they wrote reminded me why I decided to do this experience and what makes the profession so worth while: the kids. The politics of the school, the paperwork, the headaches, its really all to help make sure these little guys can someday travel to an English speaking country and hold their own. Or meet an American at a bar later in life and tell them they know all the words to “Fifty Nifty United States”. Whichever comes first. And the fact that they can now tell me something “makes sense” when they had no idea what that meant when I showed up. Or that they can now say they have a new friend in America because of the pen pal program.
All in all, that made it worth it.
Next week I will still be in Chonburi attending meetings, teaching Thai teachers how to teach English (God help me) and packing up my things. Now that I am done teaching I have the opportunity to see a bit more of the country and southeast Asia and have a few more visitors along the way before returning state side. The next month and a half will be crazy but I am excited for it. The agenda is as follows:
March 17-28: My college roommates will visit and we will go to Chiang Mai and then down south to Phuket and Koh Phi Phi.
March 28-30: Return to Chonburi to finishing moving out of my apartment and do some laundry.
March 31: Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia to meet up with my former boss and his wife and see the infamous Angkor Wat. Photobomb all of their family photos.
April 2: Continue on to Phnom Penh, Cambodia on my own to visit the Killing Fields. Maybe by the time I get there I will know how to spell it without googling.
April 4: Fly back to BKK to meet my parents. The Buksar’s take Bangkok!
April 4-13: Travel to Ayutthya and then south to Krabi to escape the heat.
April 13: Drop my mom off at the airport to return to America.
April 14: Fly to Saigon with my dad and do Ho Chi Minh City/Mekong Delta for a few days
April 18: Dad goes back to America (fingers crossed)
April 18-23: I fly north to Hanoi, Vietnam to meet up with friends and visit Haylong Bay.
April 23: Fly back to Bangkok because Delta told me it would be $3000 (basically all the money I’ve made while here) to change my city of departure.
April 24: Fly out of BKK
April 25: Back in the good ole US of A.
This will be the first time since high school, probably, where I haven’t had some sort of job. Since starting college I was always working somehow either lifeguarding, babysitting, camp counseling, internships, work study, etc. Then less than a month after graduation I was working full-time right up until I left to come here. So it will be interesting to not have any work related responsibility to worry about. Just how I am getting from Point A to Point B (which is a job in and of itself here).
Time for the next chapter.