Sunday, August 2, 2015
A recurring topic of discussion for this month-long trip has been that of culture shock. Shock over the language barriers, shock over the food (“I just want a sandwich!”), shock over the transportation, and shock over the new environment (throw 12 young adults into the middle of a new country for a month, and watch the hilarity that ensues). Though we have all, in our own special ways, been privy to dealing with the stresses that these “shocks” create, there has been one over-arching theme that has helped us cope: success.
Whether it’s the success of getting off at the right stop for the campus shuttle or correctly ordering a cup of coffee, it has been these small moments that have made me feel more comfortable and more at home in this new place. Each of these moments have allowed me to celebrate the small things, thereby ignoring the cloud of “shock” that looms over my shoulder everyday, waiting to challenge me in unexpected ways.
My first big moment of cultural success happened during our first free day in Salaya. There was a group of six that wanted to go into the city and do some shopping, and there was another group of six who wanted to stick close to the apartments for the day and relax- I was part of the latter group.
Around 1:00pm, the group that stayed in town decided to wander just down the street for a quick bite to eat. Sounds simple right? Step one: walk down said street. Step two: find food. Step three: buy said food. Step four: eat food. So, a little after 1:00, we gather our things and set out on this simple adventure. Two hours later we found ourselves hot and tired and jet-lagged (though, thankfully, full of delicious Thai cuisine) and completely confused about our whereabouts.
Without going into too much detail, we (surprise!) managed to find our way back to our apartments at Bundit Place. Though it took some time and patience, we were all able to stick together and navigate our way home. We utilized the 5-6 Thai words and phrases that we collectively knew, as well as some universal body gestures (pointing can do wonders, as well as navigational harm…) to hop from bus to bus and eventually make the 2 kilometer hike home. (For an idea of our initial route, click here)
What I love about this moment of “success” is how empowered I felt afterwards. Sure, we were all tired and admittedly a little grumpy at the end, but to be able to get utterly lost in a new city, with no idea of language or direction, and to find our way back was pretty incredible to me. This was my first time to be completely immersed in a new culture, so I had some anxiety coming here. But after this moment, I found myself more willing to try new things on my own such as eating at a restaurant all by myself, or directing a taxi driver on how to get me home. It is very fortunate for us that all of the people we encountered tried to help us as best they could, despite the language barrier; they were all incredibly friendly. It is for this reason that it’s no surprise that Thailand is considered to be “the land of smiles.”
To watch the Trilogy of our adventure, click on the links below: