02/11/2015

Thailand. The art of simple, and letting go.

Together with my colleagues Irina, Jelle, and Ivan, I got the chance the ‘broaden my horizon’ in Thailand by participating at the Fund Isaan project. What an unforgettable journey!

First of all, I want to highlight that it’s impossible to reveal all of my experiences in Thailand in this short blog. You need to undergo the adventure to truly understand what added value it brings to your life.

The art of simple

Stranded in a charming little rural community it was great to observe  how people welcomed me in a very warm and friendly way. Thai people are gentle and respectful, but sometimes a bit worried.  Let me illustrate:

Since I like to hike, I asked P Im (the mother of my host family) whether it was ok to go out on my own to explore the amazing nature in the neighborhood. She agreed after I comforted her about my safety. Nevertheless, after 5 minutes, I was chased by some little boys requesting me to go back to ‘Im’s house’. Everyone in the village was already alarmed and distressed. A ‘fahrang’ lady (foreigner), wearing a short dress and walking ‘on her own’ in the village was not done. Apparently, independent ladies (as in: going for a walk on their own) do not exist in their community. It was a confronting but also very funny situation.

Being surrounded by smiling and caring people definitely has a positive effect on your state of mind. This contrasts heavily with the stressed-out behavior that characterizes our Western community. We lose ourselves in too many to-dos, must-dos, must-haves, must-sees  …

After spending six weeks in the Thai community, I’m convinced of the fact that the ‘art of simple’ can open the door to real happiness. Of course ‘the art of simple’ also has some side effects, such as a lack of progress and a lack of critical thinking. I was also confronted with the heavily bureaucratic administration to arrange the issuance of my work permit. I hope this evolves within the Thai society.

The art of teaching

Teaching students between 12 and 18 years old was a new challenge for me. But I experienced how I loved teaching. It was truly rewarding standing before such thankful and sweet students. Each of them stole my heart. No business requirements, no monetary impact, no risk of litigation, … Just teach and familiarize students with the idea that a good knowledge of English opens some doors to get a better view on the world, to increase their chances in life, …

I also received the challenging opportunity to teach the nurses and doctors at the Buached hospital during two days a week. It was key to enable them having a clear conversation with foreign patients. A real pleasure to teach this highly motivated peer group.

Of course, I always needed to gain the trust of all students. But being passionate and using an interactive way of teaching and asking everyone about their interests enabled me to have some unforgettable lessons. I also participated at their sports games after school, I organized some English games during their school camp, … It’s important to show that you are there for them.

And after a while it started raining with nice gestures of appreciation (being: receiving nice drawings, warm compliments, little presents, …)

Nevertheless, it struck me that the average English level of students and English teachers was extremely poor. That came to me as a shock. The educational level in Thailand is, in general, poor due to a bureaucratic school system. A system that doesn’t have any understanding of the current skills that are needed in our society.

The art of letting go

Anyway I would like to encourage everyone to let it go and to participate at the Fund Isaan project for the following reasons:

  • Perfect (back to basics) experience that enables you to take a look at everything from a different perspective. It allows you to step aside from our society and take a deep dive into a society where people still take time for everything and everyone
  • In Thailand, you can really experience what ‘care’ is about. ‘Care’ is key in the Thai society.
  • Teaching is a great activity that allows you to invest in creativity and you also get a great return on investment from the students. It sometimes asks lots of energy. But it’s worthwhile.

You should also take into account that:

  • You stay in a rural (sometimes isolated) community. This can sometimes feel a bit narrow.
  • Thai people are always very relaxed and live life much slower. You should step in into slow way of living or you don’t survive :).

 

Would you consider to take the plunge?

 Author: Florence Leterme. You can follow Florence on Twitter (FlorenceLeterme) or connect with her on LinkedIn