Monday, January 5, 2009

My Tales of Leaving the Philippines and Embracing Thailand

Decisions can never be separated from us. We make decisions from day-to-day which determine our future. I am not wondering at what I am today because I am so sure that whatever I have and whatever I am at present is the result of the decisions I made in the past. I might have unconsciously opted one thing over the other but; nevertheless, it still made impact in my life.
Almost three years ago, I decided to leave my home country in exchange of what I called 'greener pasture'. I left my homeland with a hope that I would be able to find fulfillment in my career in another land which was so strange to me. My parents had to accept the fact that they would be left by their one and only son in which the question “When will we see each other again?” was still unanswerable. Although I had lots of musings that time, I never showed to them that I am not yet ready to leave and be totally independent. I had to let them know how determined I was to fulfill what I believed at a youthful age.

It was September 6, 2006 when I first stepped an international airline which brought me to Thailand - the Land of Smiles. While in the airplane, I started to wonder how the feeling would be in a country where the language is much different from what I have spoken since young. I was thinking on whom should I call when I am in deep depression considering that my family is miles away from me. I was thinking to whom should I share my good and bad days when I'll be back in my room as the day ends. I could think of nothing but to scribble on my pocket notebook a poem that could express the nostalgia that I was starting to feel and the hope that I had deep within for myself, my family and my country.

Few minutes later, the airplane landed at Bangkok's Don Muang International Airport. I said to myself, "It's all or nothing fight." I decided to be here, I have been safely brought here and so this is it. As I stepped out from the airplane, I started to hear strange words. I could only understand “Sawatdee Kha/Khrap” – a Thai greeting which reminded me that I was already in Thailand and there’s no way to deny that I was very far from my family.

My first week in Thailand was quite tough for I could hardly chomp most of their food and speak with the locals every time I needed something. I ended up eating Khao Phat (fried rice) for one week not just because I could not stand their spicy food but also because I had difficulty in ordering other Thai food. However, I felt better when I found some Nissin cup noodles at one of their supermarkets the following week in which the taste was just fine for me. At least, I had another alternative aside from Khao Phat. I also enjoyed Filipino food from time to time because my new-found Filipino friends prepared some and then we shared meal together, sometimes.

Weeks later, I got a teaching job in a government school in the smallest province of Thailand where I could hardly see foreigners milling around the town aside from my British and Canadian colleagues who came in five days after I started teaching. Finding someone to talk to was that difficult especially that most of my Thai colleagues could only speak limited or zero English. This time, the feeling became more evocative as I missed not only my family but the group of Filipinos as well, whom I met in the place where I stayed before.
I tried to hide the emotion from my students and my colleagues but my coordinator had observed and felt the nostalgia I was facing then. I couldn’t deny from her that I really felt distressed and isolated although I admitted that I should not live with that disparaging mood for the rest of my stay in that school. Later on, I found outlet when I met a group of Filipinos in the province and an online Filipino community in Thailand where I hang out until now. I discovered later that there was so much to focus than inhabiting the corners of my room and idling the time with pain. I had to develop my lessons and so myself to become better if not the best.

So far, I managed to have fifteen fruitful months in that small and peaceful province and had a chance to start my master’s degree in Bangkok before I transferred to a reputable, century-old Catholic school in the outskirt area of the country’s capital where I am currently teaching Mathematics to Grade Four students and handling a training program for Mathematics teachers. Indeed, God is so good (as He is always) for all His blessings did not fail to come as I patiently waited for them.

For my more than two years of stay in Thailand, I had a chance to go back to my home country and saw how changes ate all those views I used to see. This year, I am embarking to another journey for my third year of stay in the Land of Smiles.


1 comment:

Ana said...

Manong Jose,
What a nice narration of your first years away from home. Unsa, maantigo naka mag Thai? Naka adjust kana sa ilang kinaiya?
Wishing you a blessed Sunday,
Manay Tess