By Kaytia King
Reflections on living and teaching in Bangkok
When I had the time to truly reflect on my experience teaching in Thailand, I felt, above all things, confused. Yes, I was a teacher, but the fact is, we are all students. Always. We never stop learning and Thailand never stopped teaching me; even when I asked really dumb questions. It comes down to this. Bangkok is the most beautiful and serene, yet calamitous place I have ever known. There will never be anything quite like it. People ask me all the time what was it like living in Thailand. First, I tell them of the variety Thailand offers and how different the North and the South are from one another. Then instead of giving them a list of adjectives that can never tackle the enormity of the question, I describe to them a scene I witnessed that in my mind is truly Bangkok.
I was in the last stretch of my commute home one day, riding side saddle on the back of a motorcycle when I looked to the passing motorcycle on my left. The man driving on the motorcycle next to us was wearing one of those baby carriers on his chest. Inside the carrier was a dog. A golden Pomeranian with hair blown out like a lion’s mane, dressed in a faux Burberry suite. When I saw this, I did what I learned to do best in Thailand. I threw my head back and laughed. Of course, I was confused on many levels, but it didn’t matter, because in my mind there was no logical reason for what had just taken place.
Working in Thailand and living independently taught me more marketable skills than I could have ever imagined. International work experience is priceless and has helped me in each job I’ve had since then. The ability to navigate a country, a culture, and a language worlds different from my own is a skill that merits admiration and respect from those who’ve done it and from those who haven’t. It also gave me the confidence to take on tasks and positions I would have been hesitant to try prior to working abroad.
Being in education particularly, opened my eyes to flaws in the systemic structures of my home country and my host country alike. It also clarified what I felt I was missing in my own education and motivated me to investigate ways to fill those gaps. Teaching English to adults allowed me to know such a variety of students, while identifying their individual needs and how to address them. Overall, working, living, and teaching in Thailand made me a totally different person than I was when I first went into Cambodia for my TEFL certification with LanguageCorps.
I came out a better person, a stronger educator, and a student of the world.