Even though I currently live in a Thai city with about 100,000 residents (give or take 50,000) sometimes it feels like a real small town. It feels kind of like a town I lived in a few years ago called State Center, Iowa with 2,000 folks. Yes, it was 2,000 folks that knew all of your comings and goings, all your movements, and (almost) all of your business. You know, kind of like being in high school all over again. I think sometimes the folks in town just turned off their TV and looked out the front window for entertainment. (A song called ‘Harper Valley PTA’ comes to mind….)
Well, over the last few months, I’ve learned that even if a city has 100,000 people, it still can be like living in a small town. I’m not saying this is a bad thing; it’s just something that I’ve become aware of and always remember. Especially since I am an English teacher at a local school in this city.
I may have mentioned in an earlier blog that my school has about 2,400 students. (That’s more students than the population of State Center, Iowa!!) And, since I am a foreigner (aka: Falang or Farang) here, I sort of stick out in a crowd. I know many of the students’ faces and names and they certainly know me. It’s not that I’m special, it’s just that I’m not Thai – so I sort of look like a single sunflower growing in a field of rice. So, obviously, my movements here at school are noticed by everyone – and, many of my movements outside of school are noticed too!
This can be challenging sometimes. I was trying to set up a Treasure Hunt learning game here on campus the other day and every place I went to hide a clue or question was noticed by students. So, when it comes time for them to participate in the treasure hunt, they already know many of the places to go for the next clue. (Kind of defeats the purpose of the game.)
It has also come to my attention that I’m noticed outside of school too. Sometimes I know when this happens because I’ll see a group of students at the mall on Saturday or at Tesco on Sunday and we’ll have a chat and ask each other where are you going(?) and where have you been(?). But, there are other times when I have no idea that I’ve been noticed by some students (or their parents) until after the fact! This can be slightly alarming – it gives you the feeling of being spied on, although I’m sure it was just a coincidental sighting on their part. I usually become aware that I was spotted somewhere by someone when a student asks me why I was at such and such a place the other day….
So, how did they know I was there? I didn’t see them. They must have seen me. Hmmmmm. Sometimes a student will ask why I purchased a certain item the other day…. How do they know this?? I didn’t see them! Are there cameras mounted in the ceiling and I’m just daft enough not to notice them?
It’s not like I have secrets to keep. It’s not that I’m purchasing items that I shouldn’t. It’s just the fact that someone is seeing and noticing and asking about it that hits home with me. I guess I’ve learned that as a teacher you are watched or known or looked up to both inside and outside of school. Teachers are respected in Thailand and since that is the case, I’ve learned that my behavior inside and outside of school should be respectable – and that, is a good thing.
Here are some more “You Know You’re a Thailander When This Happens” moments:
*You know you are a Thailander when you DON’T want a tan and you buy lotion that will actually make your skin whiter!
*You know you are a Thailander when it is perfectly acceptable to wear pink. It’s OK for both men and women to wear pink!
*You know you are a Thailander when you sit down for a very good Thai meal and you just inherently know that some of the ingredients used to make the dish spicy and tasty are NOT to be eaten.
*You know you are a Thailander when you see an adult and four school students all balanced on one motor scooter as they head down the street to school and you think nothing of it.
*You know you are a Thailander when you realize that hot water is a luxury and not a given.