Anecdotes From An ESL Teacher in Thailand

Teaching in Chiang MaiPeople often assume that life as an ESL teacher is something between the Peace Corps and Indiana Jones. This can certainly be the case when you’re navigating border crossings for visa runs, but mostly life is a lot like where you came from. You go to work, you go grocery shopping and you take some time to enjoy it all.

I was inspired to write this after having a wonderfully normal day in Chiang Mai. It didn’t stand out as a particularly notable day; it was perfect in its simplicity.

I finished working at my normal time, 4:00PM. The air was still warm and the breeze hugged my face as I drove home on my Honda 110. The dinner street-food carts were just getting set up and you could smell the charcoal.

I stopped my motorbike to enjoy the early evening scene – university students taking a walk, people enjoying a bowl of pre-dinner noodles, dogs waking up from their heat-induced afternoon lethargy. A woman grilling on the street offers me a glass of water and a few skewers of grilled pork.

I head out for a light jog under Thailand’s big, red setting sun. Chiang Mai University (CMU) is a perfect venue for late-day activities. At the base of Doi Suthep (the famous mountain in Chiang Mai), CMU has created beautiful spaces to exercise and recreate. With a jungle-y mountain as your backdrop, passerbys are quick with a smile and a nod along these tranquil footpaths.

Chiang Mai comes alive at night with people from all walks of life. Farmers to tourists, students and gap-year kids, all show up for some food and relaxation. I end up having dinner at my favorite restaurant – a local, all Thai establishment. I’m greeted with big smiles and some lighthearted teasing from the owners. I’ve become a familiar face here.

It’s a good feeling to be embraced by a community so foreign and far from the one I’ve known. I suppose there was something notable about this day – I felt at home. It’s days and moments like the ones that made up this day that ESL teachers abroad hope for. Being able to experience new cultures, new people and new communities to so deeply that the divide between you and them disappears.

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