Writings from Thailand
Blog post from November, 2011:
I arrived in Thailand last August knowing maybe five Thai words. My first incident of being totally confused was when I was still on the plane that took me from Japan to Bangkok. I remember hearing the stewardess speak completely in Thai explaining that we would be landing soon. I turned to my row partner (who would be living in Bangkok for her exchange) and said: “That’s what we are supposed to go learn…starting in one hour.” We laughed, but, really we knew that our lives were about to get confusing. Once I had collected my baggage and had met my family, we began the six-hour drive north to my new hometown. For the whole six hours, there was an endless loop of Thai pop music playing. It was like a version of Justin Bieber, but worse. I couldn’t understand any of the lyrics and everyone sounded screechy; it was just strange. I had entered a whole new world.
When I look back now on my first three months living in Thailand, I feel like I was underwater, constantly trying to swim to the surface for a breath of air, to be able to communicate with the people in my life. Every time I would open my mouth to say something, I metaphorically breathed in water instead of air. Communicating was hard. During my first three months at school, I was definitely in the drowning stage. I couldn’t understand much, and when people spoke to me I would just smile because I really didn’t understand their words. My first day of school one girl asked me where I came from. I responded by saying: 17. My age. Everyone laughed their heads off and I had no clue what they were saying about me. All I knew was I had given the wrong answer to her question. So, every day for the first month, I would carry around a small notebook and write down words all day long.
I have now been here for a little longer than three months and boy have I learned a lot of Thai. I now feel like I’m swimming upwards instead of that feeling of drowning in this foreign, absolutely confusing language. In the past week, I have attended three Rotary meetings (my host dad is President of my club and is making his rounds to other clubs in our area). At each meeting, I’ve been asked to speak for a few minutes about where I come from, where I go to school, which subjects I study. And, I can do it; I can speak some Thai. At the meetings, everyone is very impressed with my Thai and my progress. It’s so nice to hear natives tell me that I have great pronunciation because it makes me want to keep on pushing to learn more and to fully comprehend the language. I’ve just got to keep on swimming, swimming, swimming.