To Nine Months!

WorldTeach Thailand volunteer Haley Boone writes about 9 of her favorite things in Thailand upon having spent 9 months in country... but first, a video of her students doing the Waka Waka!

It’s pretty hard to believe that nine months ago I landed in Bangkok and started my life here in Thailand. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? I am still loving my life here in Nakhon Phanom and enjoying every day that I get to spend with my Thai family and friends. When I was traveling, I was sitting on the beach one day and thinking about how lucky I am to have had these amazing opportunities… from spending my summers in Yellowstone National Park to my post college months on the streets of Kolkata and of course, most recently, living life in a country where my vacations are spent island hopping in the south… sometimes I feel like it’s all just too much. This same day, I wrote in my journal, “How can my heart be so full? And for so much of my life? I feel as though I've cheated somehow, taken more than my share of happiness.” I don’t know how it’s happened… but if the past few years are any indication of the future, I can honestly say that I am completely in love with life.

In honor of my nine month Thailand anniversary, here are nine things that I love about this place!

1. Greetings
You would think that after teaching at one school for so long, your face would become really familiar to the students and they would no longer be all that excited to see you each day. Well, here you would be wrong. Every day I am greeted at school as though I’m the visiting celebrity that day…. “TEACHER BAIBUA!” The really cute waves and giggles and hugs that follow are my motivation to come to school each day. The younger students greet me with so much enthusiasm it often sounds as though they’ve just seen Santa Claus walking across campus. I’m still waiting for this effect to wear off… and secretly hoping that it never does.

2. Home Sweet Home
I have a house here in Thailand… a really nice house. I have my own room, a bathroom with hot water, a kitchen, and all of the other many things that belong in most houses. And on top of all of that, I have a family. My family here creates such a warm home environment for me… something that is irreplaceable and has been so important to me in my time here. I love that I have a place to go where I am waited for… a place to go where I am loved. From my crazy dog, Kai Dtun, to my adorable Thai grandmother… there is nothing that can replace the feeling of having a place where you feel like you belong.

3. The Mekong
Nakhon Phanom is situated right on the banks of the Mekong River, and I just think it’s beautiful. I love the aerobics classes that are held each night all along the river, and I also love that if you spend enough time there you will see the many break dancers of Nakhon Phanom in action. I also love my nightly runs along the river and passing the old women who clap for me as I run past them. It’s said that those who swim in the Mekong will always come back to Nakhon Phanom… something I’ve done already but plan on doing at least once more just to make sure I make it back one day.

4. Non and Dti Dti
My Thai parents are incredibly open with their home, and along with inviting me to live with them, they’ve also taken in a niece and a nephew. Dti Dti is 18 and in technical college, and Non is 8 years old and in one of my 3rd grade classes. I absolutely love them both… my favorite afternoons are spent playing volleyball or riding bikes along the river with them. I also love that Non cannot say Haley for anything, so he calls me Pi Lee, which means older sister. I also love Dti Dti’s ability to listen to Taylor Swift for hours on end, and her attempts to sing along are pretty hilarious.

5. Ahan Thai (Thai food)
I’m pretty sure I discover something new and delicious every week that I’m here. Most recently, my discovery was Monkey Ice… Thailand’s version of the sno cone. Let’s just say it involves a lot of condensed milk, chocolate cereal, and marshmallows. I’ve put myself on a strict “once a week” Monkey Ice rule. Luckily, Thai fruits are almost as delicious as the chocolate.

6. What’s your nickname?
This was pretty much the first question I was asked as I stumbled off the bus at 7am when we arrived in Nakhon Phanom. I had no idea how common and important nicknames were at the time… now it’s hard to imagine my life in Thailand without thinking of my Thai name, Baibua. It doesn’t seem strange at all to me anymore that my students and pretty much everyone close to me refers to me as “Lotus Leaf” until I really start to think about it. And then it just makes me laugh. How do my students take me seriously at all when all of their questions begin with “Teacher Lotus Leaf!” I guess in a country where nicknames such as Cucumber, Benz, Chang Noi (Little Elephant), and Violin are common… Lotus Leaf isn’t so strange. I will never, however, be able to say “Hey, Tiger!” and not giggle at least a little bit inside.

7. My ride
I have two modes of transportation in Thailand that belong to me… my feet and my trusty bicycle. I’ve been amazed at the things I’ve been able to transport on my little yellow bike… you can fit more in a basket and on a “back seat” than you would think! I’ve driven a car once since I’ve been here (probably not the smartest decision when you are visiting Bangkok), and while some days I miss it… I also love the feeling of living in a town where I can get anywhere I need to go using my feet or my bicycle. Sometimes I actually get really overwhelmed when I think that I used to own my very own car.

8. AirAsia
In the US, you have Southwest Airlines. In Southeast Asia, we have AirAsia. If you think flights are cheap on Southwest… you would be blown away by the deals of AirAsia. I spend a considerable amount of time on their website planning imaginary trips, but I’ve also turned those dreams into reality and booked two trips for my end of the year backpacking adventure: Sri Lanka and Bali! Both of these trips… round trip… cost me less than a hundred and thirty dollars! I will never be quite as impressed with Southwest due to its ability to only fly within the U.S.

9. Cherry and Pink
I love all of my students… really, I do. They could easily be the most lovable group of children you will ever meet. I wouldn’t say I have favorites… but I really, really love Cherry and Pink. They are inseparable best friends, and I think what I love about them so much is that they remind me of myself in elementary school. Wherever I was, you could be sure that my best friend Joy Beth was right there beside me. Joy Beth is still my very best friend in the world, and I think these two girls make me feel a little bit closer to her when I see them together. I also think they are going to be heartbreakers in the future… not only are they incredibly sweet, but they are both so beautiful!

This list could go on and on… but I will leave it at that for now. Here’s hoping to another great two and a half months in this wonderful little corner of the world!

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