The first few weeks at site were a bit tough: being the only American in a community, meeting completely new people, and getting used to the Thai heat, all while missing everyone back home. But the last couple of weeks have been really great. This could be because I went to the beach 3 times, or because I realized I can learn to appreciate the heat if I do yoga and just sweat it out (its just like doing hot yoga in the States, and makes me feel better about dripping in sweat..), or because I got to eat some fa-rang (anything non-Asian) food.
My first trip to the beach was with one of the teachers from my school and her family. One thing to know if you ever go to a beach in Thailand is that you will stick out if you where a bathing suit! You can expect to see Thai's wearing a t-shirt, pants, probably a long sleeve shirt in their hand, a hat, and quite possibly a face mask, sitting in the shade because they are afraid of getting tan. Luckily this trip we went snorkeling so I was not the only one swimming in the water!
Right now the school is on their summer break. This last week was Songkran, the Thai new year, which is one of the biggest holidays in Thailand. I am now in year 2557! All over Thailand it is traditional to have water fights with huge parades and spectacles for the three days of Songkran. My community is quite small and not very much happened. I did see kids camped out on the side of the road armed with squirt guns and baby powder ready to get the motorcyclists as they drove by though! I avoided riding my bike for those three days….
One of those days we ventured out to the provincial city, about an hour away, to to buy spaghetti, cheese, and tomato paste so I could make some fa-rang food. We had spaghetti with homemade pasta sauce and chicken parmesan.
You have no idea how exciting this was for me.. For once I was making food that my family had never had. I wasn't the one asking “Ni arrai ka?” (What is this?) This was the first time some of them had ever had pasta with tomato sauce or olive oil. It was also the first time I made pasta sauce on a one burner stove, in a kitchen without a sink, and then ate it with a soup spoon- but it turned out delicious!
As you can imagine, a lot of daily life here revolves around food- Thai food is too delicious for it not to! I have learned to make a number of dishes so far, my favorite being Som-Tam (a papaya salad with tomato, shrimp, peanuts, lime, and of course, hot peppers.) A Thai dish wouldn't be Thai without hot peppers! I love the spiciness of Thai food, which always surprises Thais. You would be amazed how many people frantically try to stop me as I'm reaching a spoon of food to my mouth because its “Pet! Pet!” (very hot!) Afterwards they seem shocked and talk about me.. in front of me.. thinking I don't understand, saying “She eats Thai food!?”
In another 3 weeks the school will be starting up again. I'm trying to spend this time getting to know my community, learning about the culture, and studying the language more. I'm really enjoying it, but do miss and think about everyone back home a lot. Everyday I feel like I'm becoming part of this wonderful community more and more though.