It's officially half way through the internship, and I'm already starting to feel very sad to leave Thailand. I'm starting to feel what was mentioned in our orientation before the placement started— time is going to go by so fast at this point— I feel it, and it's already October!
I truly didn't know what to expect from Bangkok. When people first asked me what I expected living in this city to be like, my embarrassing response is that my only view of Bangkok was from the movie Hangover II - which doesn't give justice to what Bangkok has to offer in the slightest. So, my expectations were pretty out in the open. I was more so thinking about embracing the unknown in this experience. And that is exactly what I did. There were so many uncomfortable, unknown experiences (and I'm sure there will still be!) but I pushed myself to not let this feeling cocoon me from this journey. In all aspects, at work; I doubted myself so many times at the beginning, questioned what I was doing here, and asked myself if I was qualified to do this type of work. In the community, not speaking the language made me feel like a fool, not knowing the social norms made me doubt my every move. Feeling a bit apprehensive towards the cuisine at the beginning made me feel childish, among many other aspects that perhaps my fellow interns can relate to depending on their respective placements.
Now, reflecting on how it is that I feel like a local and what parts of my day are western-like has made me look back at where this all started and my transition up until now. It makes me feel melancholic, and again, how soon this beautiful and marvelous experience is going to end. I usually wake up around 7am with the sound of squeaking runner shoes that tennis players make and the sound of the ball as it hits the ground. I try to stay asleep a while longer but the sun starts to sneak in as well. My intern partner Charlotte and I aim to head towards work at 8:50 because the fruit vendor will be outside our building at this time. Every time I see him it immediately brightens my day (and I thank the fruit gods) as I absolutely love eating fresh fruit in the morning. Although he wears a face mask I know he always receives us with a big smile shown in his eyes and I think it amuses him that we can say the numbers in Thai now, and I also can ask him how he is doing. While entering our work building we are often greeted by the many cats that roam around and lay in the cool spots like underneath the cars, among the foliage in the garden or on the cold stone floor. At work everybody mostly speaks English and we are able to communicate with one another. The office is often quiet and has lovely views of the houses below beside the building; some chickens, many banana trees, some papaya trees, some beautiful colorful rooftops, and some cats and dogs sunbathing. We also often hear roosters crowing even though it's 2pm. Our go-to place for lunch is P'Ning's — her food is so good, if we get there right at lunch time we often have to wait for an hour because it gets busy!— I think it also amuses them (especially one lady named Tuk) that I ask how much it is in Thai and understand the amount when she tells me how much I owe. Every opportunity I get, I repeat the Thai number back to whichever vendor that says the English number to me. I love it, though it doesn't entertain everybody: sometimes I get inquisitive looks and I confuse them.
Bangkok is so big, and even within these six months I'm sure I won't be able to see everything that this bustling city has to offer. However, I do feel like a local in my neighborhood. There are so many people that I will remember and will keep dearly in my heart; the many people I've met along the way and have had the opportunity to have a conversation with. And also those who I recognize and they recognize me even if we haven't spoken, or just briefly talked. The sense of being a part of this community, this neighbourhood - even briefly - fills my heart with joy. From now on, Thailand - especially Bangkok - will forever stay with me.
I often look back on my experiences from two, one year, six months ago and I think about how many things I didn't know back then, how foolishly I would tackle certain situations, and how different I feel from the person I was. It surprises me how short the period of time is from the moment I reflect back on my past self and I feel different - same at the core - but different based on the experiences I've lived and how they are shaping me. And it's funny for me that I feel that now. And I probably will feel it again when I return to Canada, but I truly do feel different from the person who arrived three months ago and I'm very happy about that. I'm so grateful for all the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of meeting along this journey, the conversations often with the help of google translate and laughs, and the exchanges of cultural knowledge and experiences. If someone had told me six months ago that I was going to feel like a local in Bangkok I wouldn't of believed it, but I'm very happy to believe it now.
Thank you for reading me :)
Hola! I’m Jennifer, I'm in my third year at Uvic majoring in Psychology and minoring in Global Development Studies. I will be living in Bangkok, Thailand for six months to work with GAATW, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. I'm very excited and ready to immerse myself in this journey ahead! I'm thrilled to share my experiences (and many photos!) with you humans.