Observations from a TCK

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Every time someone asks me “Where are you from?” I develop quite a bit of anxiety. Most people have a one word response such as “Los Angeles”, or “Berlin”, or “Tokyo”. Simple question…should have a simple answer, right? Wrong.

I never want want to delve into my life story when I first meet someone so a lot of times I’ll just tell them where I live at the moment. And actually, my story isn’t that complicated.

I was born in Chicago, moved to Paris, France when I was 6, and grew up there until high school. In France I was always associated as being “the American girl,” but when I would visit the states I would always be known as “the French girl.” So what was I?? My passport is American, but to this day I am still left in the dust when my peers discuss American TV shows, games, and other things that they grew up with. I grew up reading Tom-Tom et Nana but also Calvin and Hobbes. The developmental years are crucial to every person and their personality. There is a certain part of the United States that I can’t quite identify with because I never learned much about it. I was taught countless times about the French Revolution, but never about any American history (until I took US History in the 11th grade). In elementary school I would get so frustrated with people telling me “oooooooo you’re so cute! say something in french!!!” My dad and I would joke how I could turn to them and list off profanities and they would just eat it up. Fortunately I was better mannered than that and mostly answered with “Qu’est-ce que vous voulez que je vous dise?” (translation: “What would you like me to say?”) At that point they were so excited that I said more than “Bonjour! Baguette! Croissant!” (like they expected) that I was let off the hook and able to go about with whatever I was previously doing. Some fun times that have happened with my best friend Catherine are when we are chit-chatting on the Métro, the bus, or other public places in Paris. Sometimes we speak to each other in just French or just English, but mostly a mix of both. We can both vividly remember times when we have heard French girls talk about us because they think we are tourists; then we switch to French and seeing their faces is pretty priceless, and always entertaining. In our defense they shouldn’t have been so judgmental since most of the time we are both decked out in full black outfits like the true Parisians that we are!

My family moved back to Chicago in 2004 (while still keeping a pied-à-terre in the 6th arrondissement of Paris) so that I could start high school in America. I went to a small private school that was just a 4 minute walk, about 2 iPod songs, away from my house. I only knew what American schools were like based off of TV shows and movies, and the thing that I was most excited for was…lockers. The simplest thing, yet it seemed so fun to me: I could decorate it, hang out near it…so American!

After high school I decided to go to one of the two West coast universities that I applied to (the rest were on the East coast or Wisconsin): Santa Clara University. Also known to many people as a the school that Steve Nash attended, the school in the movie “Bend it like Beckham”, or a country club because it doesn’t look like a real college campus. Once that happened, my parents decided to split their time between Chicago and Paris. I also studied abroad through Semester at Sea since my wanderlust is so great (see below). Why not explore as many countries as I can! I can’t even begin to tell you how many times my parents heard “Well she’s never going to come back you know?” when they told people in Chicago that I was going to school in California. But little did they know I would end up going even further…

So after all that I am now living in Thailand. I don’t even think my parents were surprised when I told them I wanted to move here. But lucky them…they get to visit me here!

Here are some observations that I have made from the 3 cultures (French, American, and Thai):

-How to eat food:

  • France: people cut with their right hand, hold the fork with their left, and do not switch hands. I grew up learning like this so I eat most of my food with my left hand (but my right hand is my dominant hand).
  • America: same deal with the cutting but people switch hands. Too much work if you ask me! I grew up watching my mom eat this way.
  • Thailand: people use a spoon and fork for all meals. Knives are rare. The spoon is the main piece of silverware in this dance and it goes in the right hand. The fork is used to assemble the food onto the spoon to then stuff our faces with delicious Thai food.

-Greetings:

  • France: people greet each other with “la bise” for most situations. It is a kiss on each cheek but mainly air kisses occur.
  • America: ahh this country has yet to figure out a proper greeting. Do we shake hands? Do we hug? Do we do an awkward wave? What if we’ve met a few times already but we aren’t good friends? It’s always an ordeal, and I am not a fan. Maybe someone needs to come up with a cool handshake for all Americans to learn and use…
  • Thailand: A “wai” is the common daily greeting. There are different levels which you can read about here. The basic rule is that you “wai” a person upon seeing them every day, so I “wai” many teachers in the mornings at school. This can be quite a difficult task if you are holding things in your arms but people understand.

-Time:

  • France: 24 hour time. 9h15 is 9am, 14h00 is 2pm, 22h30 is 1030 pm. You get the idea. Also known as “military time” to Americans. This is how all of my digital devices are set. It makes more sense in my mind and is how i learned. I have been asked many times what is wrong with my iPhone’s clock…
  • America: morning, noon, and night. Just kidding. AM and PM being used for before noon and afternoon with a 12 hour clock. I know many people who have missed morning classes and meetings due to setting their alarms to PM and not AM. Never has this once happened to me.
  • Thailand: there is a very intricate system that I don’t even know how to use yet. What I do know is that Thai people are always late. No matter what. Jessie and I were told we were going to be picked up at 930 am for a Sunday teaching job….we got picked up at 1030 am. Oh well, no worries, hakuna matata, or as they say “mai pen rai.”

-Dogs:

  • France: treated better than the children. Allowed everywhere. They run the country.
  • America: a man’s best friend. Rules and exceptions apply of course. Some say dressing up a dog as a pumpkin or a fairy on Halloween is torture, while others deem it to be alright. You can be the judge.
  • Thailand: dogs are everywhere but they ARE NOT pets. I cannot stress this enough. Just looking at most of them you will understand. They roam into the middle of the road with no common sense that they will get hit by a car. They have fleas. They are not “fixed.” There are some that are (sort of) pets. Some of the teachers own dogs. One of the dogs lives outside my house. We have named this pup “Baan-baan” and she protects the turf. Only downfall is that she sometimes barks at all hours of the night, especially to communicate to the pack of canines across the soccer/football field (and no, not American football).

I am sure I will come across many more but these are the main ones I’ve noticed right off the bat. Also, if you were wondering this whole time what a TCK is, then check this out for an explanation better than my own. I am a TCK, along with many of my friends. Here is an article that my dad wrote about it.

And here is how I keep track of some of the f*$&ing time zones…thank you Apple.

The Holidaze: Christmas and New Years

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It’s been a while since I last posted…my apologies!

As many of my close friends and family know I am all about Christmas. I find Thanksgiving to be a silly holiday that I never really celebrated (life as a kid abroad am I right?) but Christmas has always been close to my heart. This year was my first time not being in freezing cold Chicago. The past few years I would bitch and bitch and bitch about Chicago’s weather (thank you California), and now I wish I could have done that. I love being in Thailand but everyone knows that the holidays are about being with loved ones. I had to work Christmas day since this country is Buddhist, but we (finally) got to move out of the hotel and into our new homes that day! Thankfully I got to Skype with the Beaulieu side of my family when they were all assembled at my uncle’s house. Pictured (left to right) are my grandmother, my mom, my aunt holding her grandson, and my dad. This is just a handful of the family members I got to talk to, and I am so very thankful for that.

So many generations

So many generations

The weekend before Christmas a few of us tried to get more into the Christmas spirit since I can easily say we were all wishing we were at home. We went to see The Nutcracker ballet in Bangkok. It wasn’t the most beautiful or most elaborate but it brought back great memories of performing in this ballet every year when I was younger.

The Nutcracker...Thai style!

The Nutcracker…Thai style!

That night my friend Katie and I decided to check out a skybar in Bangkok. If any of you have seen The Hangover 2 then you know what I’m talking about. The views were great but it was hard to capture pictures since we went on a Saturday night and it was VERY crowded….but we tried our best.

Skybar

Skybar

Me and Katie at the top!
Me and Katie at the top!

The next day the two of us decided we wanted to check out some real Thai culture. From our hostel we took the BTS to a boat that went down the river, walked through a market, and then BOOM…there was Wat Pho. My favorite part was (of course) the Reclining Buddha. My least favorite part was when Katie and I thought our shoes had been stolen. Like all temples (and also many common places) in Thailand, shoes are to be taken off. We didn’t realize we had to place them in bags before entering so we just put them off to the side. We came back from admiring the Buddha….and our shoes were gone! There was a moment of panic as we thought we would have to make our trip home barefoot (or in heels…) until we realized that someone had so nicely put our shoes in bags and placed them with the hundreds of other pairs. We probably should have known that we would come out of the temple to an act of kindness and not theft…silly farangs!

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

Standard tourist picture

Standard tourist picture

We had a Christmas assembly at school on the 24th. That week we taught the performing kids how to sing (and dance to) Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. A few girls sang an acapella/acoustic version of Winter Wonderland. They all did a great job.

Foreign languages department and some students after the assembly

Foreign languages department and some students after the assembly

I cannot remember the exact date but some time during all the Decemeber madness our school was graced with the wonderful presence of some monks! There was (another) special assembly and then a parade of sorts where we gave them an assortment of things: rice, coins, juice, noodles, etc.

On December 27th, our school had a special dinner party for the teachers and donors before we all parted ways for the long weekend (for New Years). The 3 American teachers practiced basically just the day before and learned a traditional Thai dance. There is a video out there somewhere but I have yet to find it. We danced in the beginning of the evening, and then the rest of the night was full of delicious Thai food and whiskey, karaoke, a raffle, musical chairs, and of course…Gangnam style.

We all took advantage of the 4 day weekend and had much needed vacations! Jessie and I made our way to another island (Koh Samet) and met up with a bunch of other friends. A lot of what we did involved food, drinks, and the beach. A lot of what we did is also not appropriate for this blog. I posted pictures to Facebook for those of you that use it. We ended up meeting many other people on the island of all different ages and nationalities: we were welcomed into the Koh Samet family. I could have stayed there forever. For New Year’s Eve, the big group of us all dressed up. Jessie and I decided to be Calvin and Hobbes because the comic is a personal favorite for both of us. Here we are with our friend Kevin. The 3 of us were pretty inseparable that whole weekend…

The best trio to ever grace the island

The best trio to ever grace the island

Of course I can’t stay away from the cutest kids in this country, so I spent a lot of my night with a sassy 7 year old named Mika. She is the daughter of a British woman and a Thai man, and also part of the Koh Samet family. I wish I could’ve brought her home with me but that probably would have caused some problems…

Me and Mika

Me and Mika

I will be reuniting with many friends from Koh Samet next weekend where we will be attending “Together (Music) Festival.” It is predicted to be a fantastic time and I will let you all know the outcome.

Finally the end of the longest post ever! I guess this is what happens when I forget about this thing. Hope you all had as wonderful of holidays as I did!

Much love to all.

A love story…

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No…this love story is sadly not about me.

The other day I was talking to my coordinator about who knows what. We always talk to her about the most random stuff because she is the most adorable human being ever. Her husband also works at our school and she mentioned how they met here.  She never elaborated on this, and since I’m a sucker for love stories (who isn’t!) I asked her what the background was. Here is what she said (some paraphrasing):

“We met 22 years ago when we were both starting to work here. I was actually applying to leave to go back to my hometown of Chiang Mai. He had just been accepted to work at the school from Chiang Mai….Oh at first I did not like him! He was very handsome but he was such a flirt! He wrote me little notes every day….every day! Little small notes! He gave them to the students who brought them to me. I did not answer them though! Some of them said ‘Have you had breakfast already?,’ ‘You look beautiful today’ or things like that. Finally I started answering them and realized he was very nice, and not just handsome. And now we are married!”

Clearly sending small love notes is the old school version (pun intended) of text messages. I would much rather receive the former.

Koh Chang

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Sunset captured on my iPhone

Sunset captured on my iPhone

Last weekend we had a three day weekend. This has been the first since I have arrived. 3 other girls and I decided to go to Koh Chang, which is an island near the Cambodian border. “Koh” means “island” and “Chang” means “elephant”….so island of elephants. Side note: there are no native elephants on the island; it is called that due to its shape, which supposedly resembles the massive mammal. We met up with some fellow teachers who work at another school, and it ended up being a great, and relaxing, weekend.

Delicious coconut water

Delicious coconut water

The beach where we were staying faced the greatest sunsets. My friend Kevin and I got massages on the beach one evening and as we were leaving we noticed the sun was just setting. Naturally it was a great photo-op. (Photo credit goes to him)

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high fiving to a great weekend

high fiving to a great weekend

It was also possible to look up into the sky at night and see the constellations perfectly. I haven’t been able to do this since being here due to the pollution in the towns and cities. The moon also perfectly resembled the Cheshire cat’s smile.

We had heard rumors of a good Mexican restaurant near us so we decided to check it out. Turns out its owned by a husband and wife who are French and Mexican respectively. Talk about a whole mix of cultures blending together. We ended up eating dinner there 2 nights in a row because of the food, but also because of the good atmosphere. If anyone ever ventures to Koh Chang I highly recommend eating there (Barrio Bonito).

After returning from Koh Chang I realized how much trust we put into the Thai people to get us there and back. To get there we took a van then a song taew, a ferry, and then another song taew. All of us barely speak any Thai which means a lot gets lost in translation. Somehow we managed to get there and back without any problems: such as getting lost…or kidnapped (don’t worry Mom and Dad!) Thinking about this made me realize just how helpful and caring Thai people are. I would definitely not rely on anyone in the States to help us out like they did for this trip. What makes me smile more is that this is normal here: unwarranted help happens every day.

Working for the weekend? Yes and no.

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After almost 2 months as a teacher, I now know that they are not, in fact, strange beings with no social lives outside of school. They do not live in closets and hibernate during non-school hours. We have lives. And in Thailand, its a great life. The phrase “working for the weekend” does not necessarily apply in these circumstances. Yes we work so we can take advantage of what Thailand has to offer, but the week days do not feel like work. The kids are great, the teachers are great. Basically it doesn’t feel like work.

Some of my M6 kids

Some of my M6 kids

Last weekend I decided to meet up with some friends in Bangkok again, but just a few of us girls, to relax and have a good social time. We did some shopping, walked around, and enjoyed the city. Saturday night Katie (a fellow teacher who works near Suphanburi) and I bought “Wolfpack” bracelets for the four of us girls. Indeed it was a wolfpack weekend. As much of a cliché as it sounds like, I even heard “One Night in Bangkok” playing from hookah bar/café.

Wolfpack bracelets

Wolfpack bracelets

This past Wednesday was Loi Krathong, the festival of lights. It is an annual celebration on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar (this year, November 28th) that takes place all over Thailand. Loi means “to float” and krathong is the name for the offerings that are made. The krathongs are usually hand made from banana leaves and can become quite fancy. Mine was fairly simple:

My krathong

My krathong

The tradition is to send them off in the river as an offering to the river spirits and to the Goddess of Water (Phra Mae Khongkha).

Some krathongs loi-ing down the river

Some krathongs loi-ing down the river

During the release of your krathong, you are getting rid of the negativity from the past year.

Letting my worries float away

Letting my worries float away

In the same idea, lanterns are also released into the air. You make also make a wish for the upcoming year.

Lantern about to set sail

Lantern about to set sail

We have been told that if couples go to this festival together then they will break up that upcoming year, but if someone is single and asks a love interest as a date to Loi Krathong then they will end up together.

Loi Krathong love is in the air!

Loi Krathong love is in the air!

Today I finally tried the well known Thai food of mango and sticky rice. I was not let down at all. It is one of the best deserts that I have ever tasted. For some reason I had no idea that there was a cart right near where we are (temporarily) living! This is going to be dangerous.

Deliciousness being prepared

Deliciousness being prepared

nom nom nom

nom nom nom