Biking is our primary form of transportation here. After some preliminary bike maintenance headaches, I’ve grown rather fond of my new ride. I often bike with my friend (who is also my neighbor) since we are in the same language class. Last week, we were heading home as usual, setting a good pace and trying to make our sunset curfew when a massive lizard causally sauntered across the road. We just slowed our bikes, watched it cross, and kept on riding. In our exhausted state we didn’t even talk about it. Several days later I asked, “Wait, did a large crocodile-like animal cross in front of us the other day?!” We shared a good laugh as we realized our exhaustion had kept us from even processing the bizarre nature of that moment. This is an anecdote for my life right now. It’s a whole lot of bizarre and not a lot of time to process it.
Just over a week ago we hit the halfway point of our Pre-Service Training (PST). We are now beginning Week 7 of 10. Time here reminds me a lot of how time felt in Haiti. The days are long, but the weeks fly by. Weeks 5 and 6 have been formatted much differently from our typical schedule because we began Practicum. This is the period of time where we were all assigned schools to teach English at. Every morning we rode to our practicum schools and taught English to Thai students until lunchtime when we would ride to different schools for 3 hours of Thai language class. For practicum, I was assigned primarily Pathom 1 & 2 (the equivalent of about 1st and 2nd grade in the US), although we were all scheduled to teach classes other than our own as well to get practice working with students of various ages.
The experience was equal parts challenging, eye-opening, and exhausting. Finally being in the classroom and being observed by our Ajaan’s (Thai Language teachers) and our Program Managers was intimidating, but invaluable. The feedback and conversations that took place over the last two weeks have encouraged and prepared me for service more than anything else in PST thus far; even after a minor breakdown where I literally finished my class, held it together for feedback, and then cried on my friend’s shoulder. Through the frantic afternoons finishing lesson plans, to the late nights spent awake under my mosquito net making materials for 24 students, it was worth it. Worth it for the kid’s smiles. Worth it for the brief, but heartfelt friendships with the school staff. Worth it because it reminded me of why I’m here and assured me that I should be.