Boys are loud. I woke up this morning to singing and yelling outside my window. Occasionally I would hear a voice call out at my window, “Teacher?” like they wanted to make sure I was still here.
They had pushed off my arrival date because they wanted to send off the last team on Wednesday and also make sure my room was ready. So my actual arrival date was Thursday afternoon. I was shown around the campus again and introduced to the children during evening devotions. So many shy smiles.
I ate my first meal and then was sent to rest up for my first day of teaching. Kathy took me back to my room, which is right next to the boys dormitory. It was dusk and I could see a man giving a young boy a hair cut.
“That is Sun, Pastor Pratuan’s son.” Kathy informed me.
They all rushed to the edge of their patio and started rough-housing immediately. One boy stepped out from the dorm in his trousers. When he saw us he instantly started flexing.
“Good afternoon.” He said, flexing all the while. I couldn’t stop laughing. He followed me to my porch and then scampered off into the night, leaving me and Kathy. She must be used to it, I still am not.
We said goodnight and she left me in my room. It is a rather nice room, with tiled floors, a small bathroom and a refrigerator. More than I expected. There is no hot water, but there is no air conditioning either, so I am grateful for the chilly water after the hot days. I also find that the room stays cool, sheltered by trees, so I cannot complain.
I sat on the edge of my bed and realized that this is ‘before.’ Before my first night sleeping in this bed, before my first day of teaching, and before I start this change. I knew the moment I saw all of those children, the moment those boys rushed to show off, the moment the little girls reached for my hand as I passed by them, I knew what people meant when they said I would be different when I came back. I will be.
I was afraid suddenly. I missed my family and my friends. I was happy where I was. I had been content. But God wanted this for me. Its not perfect, I don’t completely understand it, but this is His task for me. I can do nothing but obey. So I slept.
The next morning I was awoken at 5:30 by clamor. The boys were awake. They are my new alarm clock. It is a good way to wake up. Hearing them sing and argue in their native tongue. Just being boys.
I typed out a Facebook status in excitement and started making myself some breakfast and tea. I dressed and took my fare out to the table on my porch. As I sat and looked over the buildings and trees to the mountains, a feeling seized me.
What am I doing here?? What was I thinking?? I don’t understand a word of this language but I’m going to teach these kids mine? So many kids!
I felt like Maria in the Sound of Music.
What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It could be so exciting, to be out in the world, to be free,
My heart should be wildly rejoicing.
Oh, what’s the matter with me?
I’ve always longed for adventure, to do the things, I’ve never dared.
Now here I am facing adventure, yet why am I so scared?
She sang that and every time I listened to it I’ve thought, Are you kidding me? Its going to be wonderful! Leave that dark, old Abbey and dance into that other life. Own it already, Maria!
But no, its scary. Get back in that Abbey, Maria.
I sat there nearly petrified at the thought of getting up and teaching all of those kids. Kathy would be with me, yes, but how would this all play out? My imagination started creating all of these scenarios where I would stammer around, staring into the blank faces of a bunch of kids, frustration mounting, seeing the confusion in their eyes. I started scrambling for my courage but then glanced down to the edge of my porch.
My porch steps down onto a tiled pathway/patio area that leads around the front of the boys dorm. I had left my shoes in the mud with all of the other shoes, like I was supposed to. But this morning, one of those boys had carefully taken my dirty flip-flops, rinsed them, and lined them perfectly on my step so that I could slip into them this morning.
I stared at them. Something bloomed in my chest. Love. Perfect love casts out fear. God knew I would be afraid in this land, with no one that understands my language, looking back at my family across the ocean and wishing they could be with me to help me be brave. So God led a little boy to do a little thing. And in that instant, I stiffened my upper lip and stopped my imaginations.
That boy, whoever he is, needs someone. These children need someone. God made that someone me. So I can either think my thoughts of fear and longing for the safety of my culture, or I can be strong and of a good courage, for the LORD my God is with me, whithersoever I go.
I wrote in my journal that afternoon. I had just helped Kathy in the first class and I couldn’t keep the thankfulness inside me. It was beautiful. God was with me, I knew it. Those kids are sweet and willing. I must be nothing less. Teaching was so rewarding. So intuitive. They fight to be noticed and I try to notice them all. Every time I walk into a classroom, they shout, “Good Morning, Teacher!” and then, “How are you?” to which I must respond and ask them the same. The answers to that are always jumbled and less confident.
I was given a desk in my classroom, which will be 6th grade, and it is right by the open windows, looking out over the rubber trees. The first time I walked into that classroom, they gestured to the board and said, “Teach! Teach!” I could not help but laugh.
The Thai teacher I will be working with speaks some English and is extremely friendly. I will enjoy getting to know him. I cannot pronounce his name, so that is the first thing I shall try to know.
The only thing I cannot be happy about is the way I must write English. Block letters, no cursive, and straight lines, no wave or bend. It is so ugly compared to their beautiful Thai letters. I wouldn’t want to learn it.
After school it is my new task to guide the Kindergarteners in picking up trash around the school. It is only the most fun I have ever had. One boy in particular made it his business to take care of me. I obviously, as the American Teacher, could not possibly know how to take care of myself. It was lovely. Whenever I would walk somewhere a bit more treacherous, he would take my elbow and guide me. Whenever I would reach for a piece of trash, he would do it for me. When my bucket was full, he would take it and empty it for me. He knew some English and would interpret what the other children were saying. When we found the poisonous snake, he yelled it in English and prevented me from going any further to see it.
He is my guardian now. I could not ask for better. When I told Kathy this she seemed incredulous.
“You have his heart. You must already have his heart.” She said.
Well, he has mine. It’s only fair.
That evening, after dinner, I sat next to the office, for the wifi. A little boy, Ganoi, came and sat beside me. Earlier, I had seen him crying and had gone to see if I could help. Apparently, he only needed a hug, something I gladly gave. Now he sat with me and we killed mosquitos with our hands. We watched the other kids play and he reached for my arm, just to hold. Another girl came up and sat with me as well. She could not tell me her name. But we three just sat and smiled at each other.
All day long children would come and grab my hand or throw themselves into my arms for a hug. Boys are a bit more cool about it. They just gently punch my arm and smile. This was only the first day! I cannot imagine what a month is going to do, let alone ten.
As I sat on my porch with my breakfast this morning, the boys sang and cleaned all around. My shoes were once again rinsed and placed on my steps and the smell of detergent filled the air as they washed their laundry by hand. My guardian saw me with my Bible and notebook and he got his school books out as well, sitting at my step and busily writing away.
When I was done, I went inside my room. I heard a knock. My guardian was at the door. He had two candies in his hand. He gave them to me. I think I cannot leave him here. He must come with me when I return to America.
This is a Saturday morning, so the children are more relaxed. They do not have school and so they busy themselves with chores or playing. A kind person brought fruit and sticky rice for the children today. That was an event. It is almost lunch now, my guardian just brought my shoes to the steps and he is waiting outside the office door for me. I must go!
Thank you for visiting, and to all of my supporters, thank you for your support!!! I could not be doing this if it weren’t for you.