26 August, 2015

My Time in Numbers

Griffin Gosnell is from Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Art. Griffin is a 2014-2015 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Maelao Wittayakom School in Mae Lao, Chiang Rai, Thailand. When she isn't teaching or traveling around beautiful Thailand, she has delved into learning Thai, taking free online courses, practicing yoga, and doodling. Following Fulbright, Griffin will spend time with her much missed family and friends, then she will most likely pursue a Masters degree in Marital and Family Therapy with an emphasis in Art Therapy at her alma mater, LMU.

It's hard to fit the past nearly eleven months into a two page narrative, so I figured I could share with you my time in Thailand in numbers.

Learning Thai is no piece of cake, but keeping track of all my new words has helped me a lot. Highly recommended.

Number of Thai words/phrases in my iPhone notepad: 163 

I try to write down everything new for me. While I haven't been great at learning the Thai alphabet, so I'm unfortunately still illiterate in Thai, I've learned Thai through simply talking to people and writing all my translations - English to transliteration of Thai. And although they may not be perfect, and I probably have never used the correct tones, I'm still able to communicate quite well with the people around me. Additionally, I've found that when I rely on Google Translate, I get translations like: "you're right!" = "koon kwaa." Which literally translates to "you are on the right." Nice try Google, you are not right. The translation I was looking for was "took tong."

Numbers of “wai” I give during a general morning at school: 35

“wai”-ing is a Thai greeting and shows respect. Thais wai to say hello, goodbye, and thank you. A wai consists of a slight bow to the other person with your hands pressed together near your chest, head, or forehead, depending on who you are wai-ing. Generally, you wai anyone older than you, and as one of the younger members of Mae Lao Wittayakom school, I try to wai every other teacher and staff first thing in the morning as a “good morning” greeting.

Students at Mae Lao all lined up for morning assembly and the national anthem.

Number of times I've heard the national anthem: 140
I've most definitely heard the Thai national anthem more than I'll ever hear the American national anthem. And so much so that I can practically sing along during morning assembly, to which the teachers around me snicker as the "farang" (foreigner) sings to the tune of "Plehng Chaat Tai" (Thai National Anthem). The Thai national anthem is played twice a day everyday, once at 8am (or during our school's morning assembly) and once at 6pm.

This wonderful woman kept me well-fed all year round. 

Number of som tams (papaya salad) eaten: probably as many times as I've heard the national anthem played 
As a vegetarian, finding veg-friendly meals at my school has been difficult, but thankfully, I love som tam and I love my som tam lady. Asking if you have eaten or what you're eating is a huge part of conversation in Thailand. And as such, teachers ask me what I'm eating or have eaten for lunch. I reply, "som tam." "Gigi, som tam, again?" They ask. "Tuk wan, tuk wan," (Everyday) I respond. "Aren't you bored of it yet?" They inquire. "Not yet!" And tuk wan, we have this conversation. I'll miss my som tam and my quick Thai chats about my "boring" lunches. I hope I can find me those papaya salad ingredients in the USA.

Number of hours taught: 400 

Now I say approximately, because Thailand is pretty notorious for canceled classes for everything from school cleaning days, the school's birthday, English competitions, sports days, ASEAN days, religious ceremonies, the King's birthday, and more. But while teaching, I have enjoyed many successes but also setbacks. Teaching is hard, especially a second language. Thankfully, my students have been wonderful, and each day I teach, the more fun we have together. I will miss the lovely students of Mae Lao very much and wish them all the most success in everything they do!

Number of massages: 16
When else will I be able to get $6 massages whenever I please?! And plus, teaching is no walk in the park, gotta de-stress every once in a while.

Mae Lao teachers and students after the teachers won the soccer championship!

Number of times I've been told not to eat spicy food: 1
Right after I got slammed in the face with a soccer ball during a student versus teacher game, the only advice I got was "geen pet mai dai" (you cannot eat spicy food). I am a lover of all things spicy, so this advice was... Not what I wanted to hear, but also confusing. Why can’t I eat spicy food?! What I hadn't thought of was the ball slamming my teeth into my lips and breaking the skin a bit, so the teachers were worried it would sting. I went on to eat some pad see ew without spicy peppers for the first time that night.... I healed quickly and quickly resumed eating spicy everything. And as always, I was very thankful for the kindness and caring of all the teachers around me!

Number of international meals shared: 4
Whether Mexican or Italian, I have really enjoyed cooking meals to share with my fellow teachers. Foods such as tacos and pizza are hard to come by in Mae Lao (as in don't exist), so it has been fun sharing a part of my life with them.

Number of times this pescatarian (vegetarian who eats eggs, dairy products, and fish) has eaten things outside of the scope of her diet: too many.
Now, I have to admit, some of these were by ....choice? If you can call it that. I've eaten a HUGE scorpion, a deep fried frog, tons of unintentional pork, live wasp larvae, grasshoppers, and crickets, oh my!

Number of ants eaten unintentionally: enough for forever (still haven't eaten any intentionally) 

During internship month, I lived in Khao Sok national park. Bugs had no mercy there. And one day while eating my honey toast, I was so delighted at how yummy it was that I scarfed one slice down so fast that I didn't even realize that all the "wheat specks" that I thought I was seeing were actually teeny tiny ants that had found their way to the deliciousness of the honey. And then to my belly.

Number of countries seen: 4
Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand, duh! All four of these countries, although in close proximity, have such amazingly different cultures, foods, and languages. They all made me fall in love in different ways. In Myanmar, I would suggest eating Tofu Oon, an incredible tofu soup in the Shan State that I still dream about today. In Cambodia, I would recommend seeing the Phare Circus – absolutely incredible – a true testament to how far they have come since the Khmer Rogue. In Indonesia, don’t miss the laid back Gili Islands where you can relax, surf, or, my favorite, scuba dive. And in Thailand, make sure to engage with the Thais – I have never been met with as much hospitality as I have here and will truly miss the smiles I see everyday. It certainly isn’t called the Land of Smiles for no reason!

Number of times I've had to stop a bus for emergency toilet stops: 4
Road trips with a colon disease are hard, but thank goodness for the good ole "tong sia" trick, which literally means "broken stomach." You can infer the rest.

Number of Thai provinces visited: 14
I have had the privilege of traveling nearly every weekend in my time in Thailand. Usually just to neighboring Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai, but I try to go further on all my long weekends.

The difference between hottest and coldest temperatures: 50 (in Farenheit)
It was so cold during the winter that students built fires outside of my outdoor classrooms. And so hot that... just take my word for it, it can be so hot.

Spirit + smiles + lots of singing = successful English camp!
Number of English camps participated in: 2 (so far) 
English camps are a great way to get students excited about learning English and get me to understand how hard it is to dance and sing on a microphone at the same time – the Hokey Pokey is a lot harder than it looks. Respect, BeyoncĂ©, respect.

Number of blog entries written: 26
As an extrovert living in rural Thailand, writing in my blog to share my experience with family and friends has been a way for me to connect regardless of how far away I am from home.

Number of books read: 5
Shhh... Now I know what you're thinking, "I read five books a month!" Well, I'm a non-reader, so this is big for me. So let me bask in my five-book glory.

Number of photos taken: 4,704
And these are only the ones currently on my computer... being a procrastinator, I still haven't uploaded many on my camera's SIM card, oops! I take so many that I have to delete a million pictures every time I want to take one!

That's me planting a coconut tree at school!

Number of trees planted: 2
After a devastating earthquake in 2014, my school is still in the process of repairing old things and building new buildings. Planting trees to help in this rebuilding process is something that I've had the opportunity to do not only once but twice since I've been here!

Me and fellow ETA, Michelle, at 30 meters down under in Koh Tao.

Number of meters I've gone under the ocean: 30 
Over travel month, I had the opportunity to go scuba diving. One of the most incredible experiences of my life hands down. It's literally a whole new world. And you're breathing underwater?! Definitely recommended if you ever get the chance.

Number of seconds a day: 300ish
For over two years, I have been capturing my life everyday with one second video clips (there's an exception where my phone shattered, you'll see it in there… and some days where I’m human and I forget, womp womp.).

With each second from nearly every day since I packed up in Phoenix, AZ to now, I hope to share with you a piece of my time here—my students, my fellow teachers, my friends, insects, landmarks; sunset captured; lessons taught; meals cooked—as a Fulbright ETA in Thailand.

one second everyday from Griffin Adwoa Gosnell on Vimeo.

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