On the Arrival of New Teachers — by Levi

Mmm, spring-time! The climate’s warming here and the rain has all but stopped, leaving steamy humidity which begins ramping up around 8 a.m. It’s time again for folks to begin arriving from abroad. After having been here for one round of arrivals and now again for a second, I felt compelled to comment.

We tend to show up here, in the middle-south of Thailand, and we can’t know until later how visible we are as our expectations wick away. We expected ‘hot’, but not exactly like this. We expected ‘primitive’, but nothing’s as primitive as we’d read…but a sense reigns that all the new things here are very new and as seeded through the old contrast in a confusing way…we’ve arrived during a period of industrialization and weren’t prepared to witness its scale.

We expected Thai food, only to have our understanding of the term augmented. We had eaten American-style Thai food before, and we know that now.

We expected to have a “real Thai” experience but have found ourselves in the midst of a fluctuating expatriate community, wherein the members are all experiencing the same rendering of expectation we are. We’d expected Thai to be difficult to learn, but we’d also expected that we’d try harder to learn it.

The pleasant surprises, though, have been forthcoming. We hadn’t expected to laugh every day, nor had we expected to evolve personally as we have. We’ve been pleased to learn more about our social and professional selves, and we’ve been pleased at our rate of adaptation to the unexpectedly wild traffic norms here. It’s been a real gift to witness cultural development at a stage long passed in the industrialized world.

When I see new teachers arriving, I’m excited for them to enter in to the process which has brought me to a state of peace with a place I couldn’t have understood otherwise. As in role-playing games, there is a grand leveling-up ahead for many of them, those who haven’t lived abroad yet. Adventures, surprises, new understanding; all of these words whose definitions want updating will be satisfied in the minds of each new wave.

I didn’t expect to empathize with a grandparent’s perspective so young.

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