Small town USA meets small town Thailand
I had spent part of a term teaching in a Thai village outside of Bangkok. This sweet little town is Kamphaengsean. It is a hard one to pronounce and it was a challenge living here. It truly is a small town feel and an adventure of just true authentic local living. It has a lot to offer and often goes under the radar in terms of travelers, but it has a small town charm.
In Kamphaengsean, my mornings started with the chickens , roosters, and cows singing "wake up its morning, another new day". Then I would take a stroll on my bicycle to my school where I worked. Every morning I would greet an old lady who woke to see the sunrise. After, I would stop in at the small shoppe outside my flat to get some snacks for the day. If I had forgotten about breakfast I would just get my fried banana and thai coffee to begin my day. I realized I started to gain some from eating so much of the delicious bananas, but man they were the best thing of the early mornings and I don't regret indulging in this sweet treat. In this town in particular, all the locals think you are a superstar for teaching their kids English. They truly go out of their way to welcome you with their hospitality and the well known "thai smile", further supporting this is the "Land of Smiles" for a reason.
I taught in the Thai Anuban school, where all the locals in this town go to school for the elementary level. The town also has a university, which gives it an aesthetic charm.
School starts soon after the sun rises, I would arrive at 7 something in the morning to be greeted with warm smiles from all the Thai kids. The mornings were always bustling with excitement and just the sound of life. When I think of the school I think of the motorbikes, the whistles of the people conducting traffic, the kids all greeting each other with laughs, the stalls selling their delicious treats, the smells of rice, chicken, fried bananas, and doughnuts. I would greet the other Thai teachers with a "wai" (bow) and a smile to the duty greeter at the entrance. I would start my day unknowingly what that day would bring.
I can say that every day I taught at that school was an unpredictable adventure. Whether it be all classes are cancelled because the monks are here to teach, its science day filled with experiments, the printer is not working because the ink exploded, themed filled weeks, Thai festivals, or just a fun and successful day of teaching. By the end of the day you feel exhausted. Unsure if it is because of the Thai heat or the fact that your class of 25 leaves you with no energy due to all the teaching, singing, dancing. grading, and discipline. Then, I would dodge the crazy after school traffic of motorbikes, kids, and cows to my apartment. Can you believe they hardly have any lights or stop signs? You earn some courage biking or crossing a street in this town, a skill set I think I should be able to add to my CV of travel skills.
I liked to enjoy various cafes and food stalls, that I became a regular at. In the beginning, visiting these places were always a challenge, due to language. I mean why would a small town in Thailand speak English right? I already had learned some phrases from when I was in Bangkok wandering around solo, but this was a different kind of immersion. A kind where you need to speak Thai to eat, to buy things, to communicate. It was super intimidating and you had to be brave. I was surprised at my willingness to try what I heard. At the market, I would walk around listening to people talk, as I enjoyed the local life of rural Thailand. I would ask how much does this cost to anything and everything. From there I built more and more on my language skills of trying to grasp a tonal language. I had this favorite cafe I would go to with my other teacher friends and the menus were in Thai. I mean you really are immersed and you realize simple things aren't such a simple task. I started to learn more food items, drinks, and how to ask for things, if they have it or don't have it. I had no fear anymore after some time had passed. I told myself, just try the little Thai you know you have no choice. I saw a change I was learning from my mistakes and accomplishing ordering food and buying things. It was a proud moment.
Let me introduce you to my Thai friend who owns a restaurant. I found this place when I first had wandered around this town and just full of curiosity. She has a family business and this place had a homey feel, a typical Thai style place. I would order fried rice every time and have a few drinks -whether that was tea, beer, Thai wine called Spy, or just ice cold water. It became really fun, because I was becoming a regular and I was always greeted warmly. This is a fun place to just eat, drink, and talk with your friends. There was one time I invited my teacher friend to come with. We enjoyed our meal, and then some locals offered to buy us drinks. We kept conversing back in forth in broken English and broken Thai. I had seen them before. We had a fun night really and when it was time for us to go they paid for our meal too. In moments like this I appreciate people so much. When people are just hospitable and kind. I will remember them and their kindness.
Us teachers shared this experience every week and we enrolled in a Thai gym where we got to use the nice gym membership with a typical exercise room, a couple pools, and our favorites were the classes. The classes were filled with Thai people and then us. We stuck out like a sore thumb. The classes were so much fun, a intense workout, and a language class all in one. The classes I loved were yoga, zamzju (like zumba),and dance boxing. In the class, there was an instructor and you would just follow their moves and learn more Thai, what an adventure it was.
Kamphaengsean is a home and has a place in my heart, always. It was a town I got to discover more of Thai culture. I got to meet lovely local people, overcame many obstacles, and gained a deeper rooted confidence in myself that I am in control of my feelings when things are hard. I am in control of my mindset and openness is the only way to enjoy your surroundings.