I have finished the MCAT. Haley (one of my housemates and fellow PiA’er) and I went to Bangkok this weekend to complete our MCAT journey. Regardless of how we thought it went, Haley and myself were more than thrilled to be finished with studying for such a vigorous test in a foreign country and with a full time job. We enjoyed a nice weekend in Bangkok–which ended up being much more overwhelming than either one of us anticipated. Filled with extravagant shopping malls, streets that seemed straight out of Vegas, and more foreigners than I have seen since my arrival in Thailand, I began to experience a very different side of this country. After spending the weekend feeling a bit like I was in a Spring Break video with so many foreigners around me getting drunk, talking about their Thailand beach adventures, and their supreme lack of knowledge about this country or the language, I was very happy to come back to Nan.
The last couple of days have consisted of me catching up on school work, sleep, and trying to figure out just what I’m going to do with my free time now that I don’t have to study for the MCAT. I have enjoyed just coming home after work and reading a good book. And I must admit it is very refreshing to have time to work out again. However, while all of these amenities are nice, the thing I was looking forward to the most after I got done with my MCAT was having the time to write.
I have kept a journal here. But many weeks the entries are sporadic at best. After looking through the journal, I wanted to provide you all with one small moment that has stuck with me during my time here so far. It is a brief moment that happened at the beginning of my time here in Thailand, but now feels like an appropriate time to share it with you all.
This morning I woke to the sound of rain pounding on the roof and unlike the usual smattering of sunrays that leak through my bedroom window, the sky is hazy and I have to turn on my lights in order to see the contours of my face in the mirror. I ride to school on my own, a little earlier than normal. When I arrive, the schoolyard is empty. Small puddles litter the pavement and there are no first grade boys with their brown sneakers to kick at the water or little girls in their black Mary-Janes to tip toe around it. There are only a few shy faces to smile at me before I climb to the office, quite a peaceful change from the bombardment of sticky hands and faces shouting hello to me with a thick accent and a mouth filled with milk.
The rain continues to come down incessantly and by the time I walk to first grade at 9 am (only 2 hours later), the sidewalks of the school have already self converted into rivers. It is much to my surprise to find my ankles sink into the water before my feet hit the pavement. Two girls try to pass me under their purple umbrella, attempting to haphazardly step around the water by hugging the wall of the school, but I can already see the liquid soak into their white socks.
I am only three minutes into my lesson when five children have come up to me and ask to use the restroom. Teacher Ann (my Thai co-teacher) looks at me: “It’s raining. They have to use the bathroom.” She smiles. The small bladders of children stimulated by the pounding rain outside their open-air classroom—it is something I never experienced in my own childhood. When there were thunderstorms in Colorado we would shut all windows and pull the drapes. The teacher would congregate us in the middle of the room and read us a story, trying to keep our hands from shaking and our ears focused on something else other than the next thunderclap.
“Five minute break!” I shout above the noise of the rain.
They all sprint to the door, grab their sneakers, shoving them on their feet only well enough that they can still walk the 50 feet to the restroom in the rain. They open their pink and turquoise umbrellas, unsnapping the strap and letting the wires pop open in front of their faces. Their arms brace the handle and their eyes close as the force of the pop spreads the waterproof fabric out in front of them. Umbrellas overhead they head in pairs of two or three, the girls holding hands and smiling at one another before they jump from the curb and run to the bathroom as quick as they can. The children left in the classroom giggle and squeal, shuffling to the door every thirty seconds to see their classmates brace the rain. A few come up and ask if they can use the bathroom too—“May I go out please?” they ask in their high pitched voices—and I watch as they too do the same rushed routine before a smile quickly spreads across their face when they jump into the rain. Five minutes pass easily like this—the kids coming and going, umbrellas opening and closing, dry and then wet, shoes off and then on, socks clean and then only slightly damp. I become entranced by the sheer joy they exert. Their smiles, their laughter. I am amazed that a simple skip to the bathroom in the pouring rain can fill them with such joy and bring me such happiness as well.
They lay their open umbrellas on the porch steps just right outside the classroom. This portion of marble stone is still covered by a roof. Their colorful domes stretch across the patio and it looks like those candy dot sheets I would buy on the 4th of July as a kid. The candy where I ended up eating more paper than sugar because I would rip them off with my teeth, no care for the plastic backing that would come with it.
It takes some cooing and loud words to get the kids back in their seats but about ten minutes later we are finally ready to start our lesson. The rain is just as loud but they are all much quieter now. Their hands folded in their laps and their feet resting on the bar of their desk just above the ground. We only have 30 minutes of class left and I know I will not get through all I have planned for that day. It doesn’t matter, though. The simple moment of stopping and enjoying the rhythmic pound of the rain on the ground; the sound of sneakers slipping through the water; observing my students faces as they jumped from a place of security and guaranteed dryness into the wet, oncoming rain; seeing their fingers comb through their wet hair after they laid their umbrellas out to dry; and the smiles that can’t seem to fade away even after many of them peel their damp socks from their already wrinkly toes and hang them on the metal shoe rack to dry; this is far better than any lesson I could teach.