I have only been in Thailand for six weeks now, so I am sure that this list will evolve and definitely grow, but off the top of my head here are 10 reasons why Thailand is the perfect place for me right now.
1. Thai Time – Here, for the most part, schedules and appointments are more like general guidelines. It can be frustrating when your boss tells you “meeting this afternoon at 2pm” and the meeting is actually at 3, or the next day, or forget it, everyone forgot that they wanted to meet at all. But mostly, its keeps things interesting. And Thai time really works for a person like me. My classes generally 10-20 minutes late, and I’m okay with that. And I have a very generous window for when I actually have to be at school in the morning. If you know me, you know that I am often running late, and I like to sleep in. Life in Thailand is perfect for that. Sometimes you get caught up and you’re late and I get that. Here, people get me for that too and it’s no stress and no worries.
2. Cucumbers – Cucumbers are my favorite. And here, I have them all the time – for free! They are served with so many dishes, it is always a pleasant treat. And they come on sandwiches and hamburgers (the burger in particular that I referring to was actually pretty gross, but the cucumbers, mmmmm). I don’t know how I hadn’t thought of putting cucumbers on burgers before, but now I always will – so refreshing!
3. Holidays and School Activities – I have had maybe two full, 5 day weeks of work since I’ve been here. People in Thailand love to celebrate! One day there was Sports Day (think field day x100), so no classes. For two days instead of teaching my normal classes I did an English Camp with the kindergartners full of fun, English activities. I had two days off because of the Asian Beach Games 2014, which were hosted in Phuket. One day I had a field trip to an amazing beach resort and had a wonderful time while hotel staff did my job for the day. I had a three day weekend for the King’s Birthday, also Father’s Day in Thailand. And I also have Wednesday off for Constitution Day! And don’t forget about the Loy Krathong festival from last month as well. Plus, I already booked my New Year’s trip! I can’t even believe it sometimes!
4. Land of Smiles – Here everybody is always happy to offer a smile. Thai people are so friendly, helpful and polite. Nobody is moving too fast, is too stressed or just too wrapped up in their own life. Thai people are like little kids sometimes and they love to laugh at everything. They are always being silly and cracking silly jokes, all work-day long. Keeps things light and I love it. Just walking down the streets too, everybody smiles and offers a nod and it’s really nice. I love for a brief second sharing a moment of complete contentedness and joy with someone else. This is just perfect for me, because I just don’t usually get into bad moods and I just love when everyone around me is also happy-go-lucky.
5. Perks of Being a “Regular” – Now I only have two restaurants where I think they consider me a regular, so I’m not sure if this is a premature mention, but we’ll see. One place is Markinny Mate’s which is owned by the most adorable couple ever. The husband trained in Australia to be a chef so his food is a combination of Thai and/or Aussie-style. Anyways, we go there a lot, because the food is awesome and still similar to Thai food prices, plus it’s Sharon’s go-to always when we can’t decide where to go, because their burgers are just that good. Once we’d been there enough times that they really knew us, and had determined that we were not travelers they started giving us free water when we ate – SCORE. You have to pay for water at almost every other restaurant so this is a nice perk for us, and we feel like they have welcomed us as family. And today one of my favorite little places where they have just started to get to know me better gave me free pineapple with my meal just because I mentioned last time I was there that I love pineapple! Sweet! I’m hoping this trend continues, because it’s a really great feeling.
6. Acceptance – Everyone knows that I have many gay friends, and sometimes it really bums me out how they are treated in our own country. In Thailand, I have only seen ladyboys (very effeminate gay men or most trans* boys appearing as ladies), toms (lesbian girls who dress as boys) and gay/lesbian couples, treated with respect and love. One of the other teachers I know told me how at her high school the lady boys are loved and hugged (they are a very touchy culture) often by the other boy students, which is what I love to hear. Especially contrasted with the bullying of gay students all around Texas especially, that many of my friends endured I love to see that here, everyone is a person who deserves respect. Currently though, same sex marriage still is not legal in Thailand. I read that there was a bill in front of Parliment earlier this year with strong bi-partisan support, but with the political turmoil coming to a head earlier this year, this issue has been currently set on the back-burner.
7. Barefoot Workday – In Thailand people take of their shoes to go inside places (from what I’ve heard it is because of the Buddhist culture though as I write this I want to find out more about the “why”),. This includes many shops, restaurants and luckily for me classrooms and offices at my school. I never wear my shoes at school. I walk to school with shoes on and am barefoot and free all day until I put them on to go have lunch, and again when I leave for the day. It’s pretty great. It makes the classroom feel really casual and relaxed and I just personally love being barefoot.
8. The ADORABLE Kids – I mean kids anywhere are cute. But these little Thai babies are exceptionally precious. You know how sometimes you see a baby and you’re like, eh… I’m sure (/I hope) they’ll grow into their looks? Well, I haven’t once thought that here, and all of the babies, toddlers, and little kids I have come across are just so dang cute! And of course since I’m teaching Kindergarten here, that is a definite plus!
9. The Obvious Natural Beauty – I have not seen nearly as much of this beautiful country as I plan to see, but of course I love the fact that I am in constant awe of how picturesque the landscapes here are. The beaches have been amazing, the mountains, the jungles, the sunrises and sunsets – it really makes me stop, be present and just think “holy crap, I’m really here.” It’s awesome.
10. The Imperfections – Thailand is not actually perfect, and I like that. I can see that life here is not all white sandy beaches and ornate Buddhist temples. It is still a developing country and you can see this daily, even in Phuket Town where I live (this statement is not implying that developed countries are anywhere near perfect, but simply to state that I can see the struggle for people here more obviously). But I’m not perfect, and life is boring when it’s perfect so I’m embracing the challenges and trying to understand the country for what it is beyond the surface from a tourists perspective the best I can.