I taught school in Thailand for six months in 2005. It was a teacher exchange program through AFS, with which I was familiar before this opportunity arose. The students had all taken English lessons since kindergarten but their spoken English was atrocious. I had an after school guitar club however that was quite rewarding. There were no other Americans in the school of 6,000 students.
I lived by myself above a travel agency and was pretty much alone the whole time I was there. I didn’t have a car so I spent a lot of time on buses traveling to different archaeological and historical sites.
Buddhism was omnipresent and very intriguing for me. It seems to permeate the daily lives of the Thai people way more than Christianity does in America.
The famous Thai beaches were incredibly beautiful, but I was there right after the tsunami. The Thai people were afraid to go near the water so I had them to myself most of the time. It was very strange. I felt like I was in a dream most of the time. That feeling was compounded by the fact that I understood practically nothing of what was said to me, even though I did take Thai lessons. The purpose of my trip was to aid in Thailand’s recovery from the tsunami. In that effort, I taught school, attended some rural schools, plastered new cement-block houses, took care of newly-orphaned children, and offered public English classes. The devastation caused by the tsunami was unbelievable. The country still hasn’t recovered.
I returned to Thailand about 10 years later with three friends. This time we did the tourist thing.