In 10 months she learned how to hail a songtaew, dress conservatively, use a fork (Thai sty) and presto, this farang English teacher is Thai ...
Stories From The East: I Think I’m Turning Thai
August 11, 2012 by A. Staff at Leave a Comment
by Andrea Eisinberg
Did you ever have a dream of traveling the world and working, living and learning a foreign culture? Andrea Eisinberg has been living that dream for the last 10 months, teaching English in Thailand. Here’s how the world looks to her 14 timezones away from home. Her story:
After almost a year of living in Thailand, it was recently brought to my attention that I may be turning Thai.
It was an unbearably humid 100 degree Sunday afternoon in Northeast Thailand. I was standing outside to catch Songtaew to the grocery store where I could steal an hour of air-con.
I was wearing long jeans and a conservative polyester shirt – an outfit I’d once deemed unfit for such brutal heat. With no nearby awning for shade, I pulled out my umbrella for momentary relief of the beating sun. The pink songtaew approached and I waved it down using the Thai hand motion that meant “come here” – a downward palm facing hand formation that closely resembles what Americans might assume to mean “go away.”
There are 15 people already crammed into the back of the re-purposed pickup truck. A gentleman offers me his seat and joins the other men who hang off of the back in a manner that once made me sure they’d fall off and die. Nestled in between an elderly woman carrying a basket of raw meat and a mother whose curious baby tugs on my bag, I remember what friends’ from back home told me during my last Skype session: “You are so Thai.”
I took a sip from my water bottle through a straw and glance around at the dark Laotion-toned locals, expecting to meet many curious glazes as per usual songtaew ride, given the close proximity allows prime farang-staring time.
To my surprise, there were no wandering eyes on this day.
Perhaps, after 10 months here, I am finally…blending in?
Once upon a time, I would have never left the house in such weather wearing anything but a tank top and shorts or a dress. But I’ve learned that Thai people dress very conservatively, coupled with the fact they’ll do anything to avoid a tan. You won’t see exposed shoulders or thighs in Thailand, in fact, they even opt for full body suits while swimming. I search their foreheads for any signs of perspiration that might indicate discomfort from their attire (nope!–I swear they don’t sweat).
As a farang in a non-tourist region of Thailand, I stand out enough as it is. In a culture where blatant staring is not rude, I’ve become accustomed to drawn-out looks.
I am almost guaranteed to run into students when I leave the house, and as a teacher, there is also a standard of respectability to maintain. Despite the killer heat, I dress as modestly as I can bear.
The Thai hand gesture meaning “come here” has become first nature; my farang friends and I even find ourselves using it with one another.
Gulping open-mouthed out of a water bottle suddenly seems impolite. You’re always offered a straw when you buy drinks, and it would be rude not to accept it.
Umbrellas are a standard accessory for Thais. If it’s not raining, than the sun shining, and heaven forbid some natural Vitamin D were to counteract all the money spent on whitening lotions. Although I still prefer my skin tanned despite my white skin being a hot commodity here, an umbrella does take the edge off the heat.
After being corrected early on by a Thai teacher who was appalled that I didn’t know how to eat properly, it now feels awkward putting a fork directly in my mouth. It’s all about the spoon here and the fork is just the accomplice. And forget about the knife – surely my cutting skills have atrophied during my time in Thailand.
It has become an instinct to greet people with a wai. Sometimes I find myself (embarrassingly) starting to wai the other foreign teachers.
I never enter a home with shoes on. I can’t stand beer without ice. When dishes arrive one by one, we don’t wait for each other to begin eating. I refer to anyone older than me by adding a ‘P-’ before their name out of respect. I function on Thai time – perpetually ten minutes late. I instinctively stand and freeze when the King’s song plays in public spaces.
I may be a minority here, but this is still my home — for now. And no one wants to feel out of place in their own home.
Looking around that songtaew on that Sunday afternoon, I almost felt a sense of accomplishment.
Maybe, just maybe, I look like I belong here.
Stories From The East: I Think I’m Turning Thai
Yellow journalism from upstate, probably via Journatic. These editors really have no idea how outsourcing for content is making them look like idiots.
Wow, a whole 10 months. Just silly; she knows nothing and has no clue.
Frederick Douglass: Find out just what any people will quietly submit to
and you have found out the exact measure of injustice
and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these
will continue till they are resisted with either
words or blows, or with both.
“Don’t believe them, don’t fear them, don’t ask
anything of them.”
fuckin white people eh.
I dunno while it is rather cringeworthy, don't forget her experience has been quite different to yours. She seems to have come to an isolated part of the country, by herself, at a rather impressionable age (@22). I could see myself writing something not that dissimilar back when I was an exchange student at 18.
Papa was a rodeo - Mama was a rock'n'roll band
I could play guitar and rope a steer before I learned to stand
she's an idiot. 'nuff said
I found her writing to be better than that Schwab idiot's hilarious rants. She writes straightforward, without an agenda and, rather more importantly, honestly. I would probably have been writing that kind of stuff as a 22 year old. I like it.
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I got to, "when i skyped my friends said I was so Thai!"
This is my problem with it. How do friends in America have any right or idea to say with is and isn't Thai.
What are they measuring her Thainess with. Surely she should be the one making the claims after spending time here, or Thai friends. Not her friend who've probably not been here before. They could be saying something like, "You'd never do that in America, That's just not American."
Those that want to read whatever they can want all freedoms, but have to understand they can have freedom, but it must be within the law.
^ I'd agree with that. The skype bit hit me in the same way.
Yes, she's very young; and her "experience" is a cliche'.
What a load of cliched rubbish
When I was in America a guy told me to 'have a nice day' but I didn't, so I sued him
What is this strange urge we Ajarners have to cut to ribbons every other farang's written observations?
Apart from a few proofreading glitches it was an honest 'postcard to the friends back home' style piece.
Not much wrong with it that a few more bargirls wouldn't fix.
There are few problems in life that cannot be solved with toast.
One of them, however, is opening a can of corned beef with that stupid key. This cannot easily be done at the best of times, and toast is of surprisingly little use in resolving the issue.