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FAQ's Round III
What is one thing you really wish you had packed and didn't?
There is not much in Thailand that you can't buy if you leave at home. I do wish I brought more comfortable work clothes, I barely packed anything and wound up buying a lot of my clothes at the mall because what I actually did bring was so friggin hot or not "polite" enough for work. If you can find button up linen shirts I definitely recommend those for the hotter months. I know it cools off significantly for October - January so it's not as bad.
I also wish I brought a smaller backpack, I have a large purse I use at school and a traveling backpack for long trips, but nothing in between. And you can buy backpacks here, but the quality is just a tad less than a nice North Face back pack or Jansport from the states. Just me thinking out loud.
What did you bring that has turned out to be totally useless?
My hair appliances and too much makeup. I used to spend a good 30 minutes on my hair every day back in America before I left the house, either straightening it, curling it or this and that. I have maybe done my hair once in Thailand, and within minutes sweated it out. It's so humid and you sweat so much it really doesn't matter, and vanity isn't the same thing in this culture as it is in America. That might me just me though, but this place can really help you become very low-matienence. I also would recommend packing small amounts of toiletries to get you through the first weeks, because they have giant shopping malls that have everything you will need.
|Whatever your hair looks like in 5000% humidity, just work it.|
|I actually printed all million pages and brought them to Thailand, yea don't do that.|
How difficult is it, really, to learn and use Thai?
Thai is confusing, but not impossible. You will learn that tones are very important, so you can say the same word in different ways and it will change the meaning. So "maa" said with no real change in pitch means "come here." But "maa" said with a rising tone, kind of like how we would read maa? means "dog". It's things like that that get challenging because our language changes tone to imply meaning and change sentence tone…sooooo that's fun to work on with your students. I've learned the basics fairly quickly because you kind of have to to get around the market and use public transportation. CIEE does a great intro to Thai lesson that helped me immensely.
Get your maa's straight.
Where have you traveled that I absolutely should visit?
I am up in Chiang Rai (one of the northern most cities), so most of my travels have been up north. I love Pai (i've been there twice), it's like a westerners paradise in the hills of Thailand, all very hippie and artsy. Chiang Mai is great too, a lot more relaxed but still super busy (though nothing like Bangkok). There is pretty much everything in Chiang Mai, shopping, temples, zoos, museums, hill tribes, food, etc. The beaches are calling my name and I will be headed down south in October. But Chiang Rai as a city is awesome too, we have the amazing White Temple which is definitely worth a visit.
Any advice you wish someone had given you when you first arrived?
That the few first weeks are going to be hard. Homesickness and anxiety are real when you make a huge change like this. Just knowing my drastic emotions at the beginning of this experience were not unwarranted made me feel better. It's a hard transition for some. I would have liked to know that culture shock and all that is very real but is totally manageable with the right resources (like a hospital visit and some medicine for me).
What are the best and worst dishes you have eaten?
Ooooh Kao Soy, it is my favorite dish I've had in Thailand for sure. It's only up north because it's a traditional Burmese dish. It's a sort of sweet and savory coconut curry with noodles, chicken, onions, lime, and crispy fried noodles. Seriously the most incredible dish ever. Also Pat Thai, som tom (papaya salad), sticky rice with anything, pad see ew, pad pack boong (Stir friend morning glory), and mango sticky rice are all delicious plates. As for fruit, mangosteens are amazing. I've never had anything like them, and have a hard time comparing them to anything back home.
I haven't had too many awful plates, but I did try sheep's brain the other day and wasn't really into that. It was very creamy… And durian fruit isn't my favorite. It's a SUPER stinky and pungent fruit that smells like gas, but tastes somehow different. Another creamy consistency that I didn't enjoy much.
|Kao Soy, the most glorious of all the foods|
The main thing I've learned on this experience is that you will be thrown a lot of curve balls, and you take them all as they come. It will be nothing totally out of your ability, but it will challenge you and you roll with it. I wanted to know about absolutely everything before I left, but it's so hard to get all the answers you want because every school, every city, every experience is so drastically different. The great thing about Thailand though is they are very good about "saving face" and not shaming each other or embarrassing each other, so even if shit goes south, it's okay. The Thais just laugh it off. This can be very frustrating, but sometimes just what you need when you have a total shit show of a class, or day, it's all good.