Friday, November 1, 2013

New Home & November starts

Halloween passed me by and I didn't even notice. It scampered away on its spooky little feet and before I knew it, I found myself in November. A new month and a new home, this time a few miles north and a crook east of the last one. This one, a bit more permanent than the last, as I am finally in my village in the Kalasin Province of Isaan. For those who haven't yet seen (or maybe just forgot), here is a visual aid for those wondering where in the sticky-rice-buddah-heaven my one-year-home Kalasin is located...

I arrived in Khon Kaen (a major city of our region) Wednesday on an early flight from Bangkok with the three other ETAs working in the area. Upon arrival, we were all quickly whisked away to our villages where we were stuffed with Isaan delicacies such as som tum and sticky rice and spicy p'laa (grilled fish). Every time I took a bite I was greeted with hearty applause from my teachers who thought me something pretty special for being able to eat so much food, especially considering its spiciness. Conversation was minimal given my lack of Thai and their lack of English, but I managed to pepper the silence with what little Thai I know (the color yellow, numbers 1-20, what is this?), which kept things moving at a crawling pace.

I can already tell that much of life here will be this crawling. Crawling to better understand this place and its people with its language and geography and culture that is so vastly different from all that I've experienced and thought I had learned in Bangkok. Like the regions of the United States, the provinces of Thailand are wildly different in regards to customs, beliefs and even dialects, which has made this first week a topsy-turvy one in which I find myself searching for any sense of balance. 

But already I see this process beginning in small moments: dinner at a roadside open-air restaurant where I ate grilled pork over hot coals with my neighbors late into the night, visiting my host teacher's home where I tried on traditional Isaan silk shirts and even met the women who made them. Life in Kalasin is so green, with leaves thick and wilting over the small winding highway that snakes its way past colorful kite stalls and men selling sweet potatoes from stands made of straw. There is music everywhere and chatter and roaring engines and the small song of geckos through bedroom walls--even if the noise would be considered mute next to that of Bangkok's, it is no doubt utterly symphonic. 

Tomorrow, I take my first adventure in Isaan, that of trying to navigate my way from my village (Yangtalat District) into the big city of Khon Kaen to reunite with the other ETAs here. It's only been a few days but it feels like forever since I've seen those falang ragamuffins and it will do this salty heart some good to speak some slangy English and maybe even eat a bagel or two. Then Sunday with lesson planning, Monday with an abbreviated campus orientation and then Tuesday, my first day of teaching secondary school in Thailand. 

If it sounds scary, that's probably because it is. 


Until next time,


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