My Little Black Princess

I have the most beautiful, sassy, intelligent half-Black/half-Thai girl in my class. She is magnificent, but the people here do not notice her amidst the sea of white skin. She is the Black shadow: disappearing in the back of the class, sinking deep into the ground, evaporating into thin air. On her best days she is ignored, on her worst she is noticed and treated differently than her peers.

As her ebony-emboldened big sister I have to remind her every day how beautiful she is, how intelligent she is, how valuable she is. I willingly hold every inch of my body to her as a mirror, showing her that she is not alone–Teacher Kami looks just like you and is fabulous, honey!

It frustrates me that this is the culture my sweet girl has to grow into, that all of her magnificence will try to be leeched out of her skin. I do not care how different our cultures may be, any trace of racism needs to be acknowledged in every nation. Racism needs to be sniffed out, called out, then burned to the ground. I want that ish extinct.

It has no place in a world that celebrates color and difference. If flowers can bloom in their own unique way, why the hell can’t humans do the same?

Some days the ignorance regarding Black people here makes me want to hop on the next plane back to America. It is nauseating the things I have to see on a regular Sunday. For example, this Sunday, I am walking in the grocery store minding my own business, as I always am, and following my movements are snickers, stares, people clutching their bags as if I don’t have a job, which by the way is teaching their kids English in order to provide a better future for them.

Some days I want to say screw you and your ignorance! I teach your damn kids with all of my heart and this is what I get because I’m not white. Fine! I’ll leave. Keep your white men with their lack of experience and lack of true concern for your child’s welfare. Bring them in with open arms as they take your women and leave them. Smile as they box up your culture, then sell it back to you–

What has white man created that he first didn’t destroy?

But even through all of the poison this culture tries to give me, I drink and do not die. I drink and piss it out. Make every one see how resilient this Black body is.

Black people do this magic every day.
We take the insults, the violence, the poison,
and yet, still love, still create, still smile,
still breathe
still breathe
still breathe

I am teaching my little Black girl how to breathe. So every day while I am telling her that she is beautiful, intelligent, and valuable, I am also pushing her like no other student because one day she is going to see the brilliance she brings into every atmosphere and people will be begging her to stay.

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On Realizing I’m A Solo Traveler

A couple of weeks ago I went to one of the most beautiful islands Thailand has blessed us with–Koh Phi Phi.

Everything about that place brought well needed rest to my soul: the dark silhouette of mountains in the night; the kisses of light rain on my skin in the morning; the multi-colored ocean, changing from turquoise, to sea green, to a dark, mysterious blue.

IMG_7487IMG_7481Every sensation around me birthed tranquility… except the people I went with.

Let’s just say my next trip will be a solo one.
Anyway, things got so bad that we split our ways, and honestly, it was one of the best things that could’ve happened.

5:30 A.M. my alarm goes off signaling that it’s time to get ready for the hike up to Viewpoint; I knew I wanted to catch the sunrise, gasp as the sunlight slowly melts down the island’s landscape.

It was a tough trek through the bushes: I was alone, it was dark, rain was just beginning to fall, mosquitoes were lurking in the tall grass, and my body had not experienced walking on an incline in months. I wanted to quit so many times, reserve this hike for another time when conditions would be better, but I was already so far and if I had given up I’d probably never try again. I kept going, putting one foot in front of the other, remembering a wise lesson I learned a few years back when I was climbing an even bigger mountain in Ecuador.

Anything that beautiful is worth climbing for.

When I finally reached the top I was sweaty, exhausted, and stinkin’ proud of myself! I looked out on the horizon and drank in all of the beautiful natural miracles I would’ve missed out on if I had quit, if I had listened to my body’s weakness. After a few slow, meditative inhales and exhales I picked out a good rock and made myself lotus.

A few minutes pass by and in the corner of my eye I see my two former travel bodies plop down on a rock to my far left. We didn’t acknowledge one another. We just sat. They talked for most of the time which made a small smile tickle my lips; I was thankful to be free from idle chat.

They stayed for about 20 minutes, just when the sunrise started to pour down the tips of the mountain tops.

I stayed for the next 2 hours soaking in everything, after all, I don’t think my body could’ve handled making another trip up. The tummy-tickling smile returned: if I’d stayed with them I would’ve missed out squeezing every second of this wonder.

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While I’m there I witness waves of people coming up, also sweaty, exhausted, and in awe like I was; I strike up some conversations and even made a few friends like Suzuki.

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And the sunrise just got better and better,
so did my soul.

Eventually we all made up and enjoyed the rest of our time together, but that morning I realized how much I love solo travel, how much I love the sweet space of individual exploration.

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In many ways life is better together, but perhaps travel is one of those tiny exceptions.
At least for me.

Third Way

I care about what others think. That’s just it.

I’ve tried not caring, then when that didn’t work out I tried the complete opposite–caring too much. Both failed. Miserably. And in the meantime made me feel miserable.

I should’ve know both of these extremes were not going to help me reach a place of “soul-solace”. I kind of live by this quote a professor of mine stated often, very often: all extremes are dysfunctional. 

(Perhaps my professor meant this to be taken in a particular context, but I think he would smile at this interpretation).

This epiphany of middle ground, third way, gray area smacked me in the face today during a small talent show my school was having. Now, I take performance very seriously, even if it’s a group of adorable, motor skill-challenged kindergartners: it needs to be stellar!

So as my students were heading up to the front and I’m getting in my place as their mirror to watch for dance cues, one of my American coworkers taunts, “Why do you look like a stressed parent?” or something along the lines of that. I’m instantly hit with panic because in that moment I realize how insane I looked.

Here’s when the two choices loom over me, both pulling for my attention: “Care about what they think. Deeply. You, after all, work with them. No one is going to be your friend now, weirdo.” The other makes it case, “Kami, you don’t need them. Who cares what they think. Just stick to your students. You already have friends, you don’t need them.”

But both of these arguments are not convincing: I don’t want to be stoic and I also don’t want to be spineless. There is a middle ground, there is a third way, there is a gray area that I can drape over myself.

I’m not entirely sure how that looks like yet, but I believe this space does exist.

I choose TO care about what others think, but I also choose how their thoughts will affect me. Caring makes me soft, and now sifting and sorting through each care will make me soft and strong.

Be Present.

peppermint tea nestled in a little yellow mug
hot oil burning over a small candlelit fire
soft lamp on
native american flute music and rain drops filling the space

today i was so busy working that i forgot to play with my students. i’m so thankful my co-teacher ripped me away from lesson planning because i got to see our precious students use math for the first time.

(i almost missed it)

i love my students and respect my co-teacher which is why i’ve been slaving away behind my desk prepping lesson plans weeks ahead.

i’m doing so well so far
i don’t want to let anybody down

but if i continue like this i’ll end up letting everyone down

i need to remember to be present
with their laughter
with their learning
with their love

so now i’m enjoying the company of myself, words, sweet smells, warm tea, and music. reminding myself presence is a tender space meant to be cherished

Delicious Life

The Thai have a saying: gin khao khondiao mai aroy, which basically means “eating alone isn’t delicious.” I’ve found this to be true with many things beyond the dinning table–living life, mainly.

Life is so much more delicious when shared with others.

My past work experience was a feast with the most beautiful, kind, hilarious, compassionate, helpful, and hard-working people I’ve ever met. Our friendship extended beyond the confines of our school gates; we were family on and off the clock.

We ate together, laughed together, cried together, played together… If anyone was in need we all chipped in to help. If anyone needed a shoulder or a friend, there was always one available a few doors down. We had the uncanny ability to communicate with each other from across the room with just a simple look. (We were pros at nonverbal communication, especially during meetings). We held hands, hugged, and kissed. We had feuds, but faithfully came back together. We had girls’ night, enjoyed a round of bowling, and even ran the Color Run together! We made so many memories as a family in just one year.

Honestly, I can’t imagine surviving my first year of teaching without them.

I appreciate our closeness and hold it close to my heart so much more now that I’m fighting to create that same feasting of life here in my new school. I was shocked to hear from a co-worker that the foreign teachers weren’t super close. We live in the same building, how in the world could we not be close??

Thankfully, I’m starting to see the legs of a table building: yesterday night I went out to dinner with two of my co-workers and we had great conversation, this afternoon one of the teachers helped me prepare crafts for my lesson tomorrow, and recently a teacher and I talked about taking a trip to Hong Kong together.

I love and miss my BGIS family so incredibly much, but I can have a family here, too… after all, there is always more room at the table.

So, dig in.

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my family ❤

I didn’t think I would cry…

My weekend has been full of goodbyes. Really hard goodbyes.

The first was to my students. As you all probably know by previous posts I couldn’t mentally or emotionally handle my school. I needed to leave, so I did. Friday was my last day, a day I had been waiting for since I first started working at that school. I was so excited to be leaving that I worked overtime in the last month, making sure to check off everything so that I could have a smooth transition out of there.

On Friday I was all adios muchachos before the morning bell even rang.

At 3:30pm I thought I would be running out of the gate with a gigantic smile on my face… instead I left with a heart heavy with love and tear drops spilling down my cheeks.

Leaving was hard, harder than I anticipated. The first tears came as twelfth grade walked across stage to collect their diplomas: I was so proud of them. Honestly, I was shocked at my reaction. You can’t stand this place. You’ve been waiting for this day all year. Why are you crying?

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The answer swelled like a giant balloon in my chest– YOU LOVE THESE STUDENTS.

Sure, I knew I liked my students and that most days they were the only reason I got up, but there were other days where I felt like I didn’t even know them or if they even liked me. Even now I’m looking back at all the ways I could’ve grown closer to them, but I’m thankful for the ways that we did connect. They’ve given me a pocket full of memories that I’ll never forget.

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My students were awesome and I’m sorry I couldn’t show them that every day. They are fantastic kids and the next teacher that comes better wreck them with love and be prepared to be wrecked by love in return.

People say teachers make up a school, but I beg to differ–students make up a school. Without students teachers wouldn’t have the strength to go on. My students taught me so much about true patience, having fun (even when you don’t feel like it), perseverance, forgiveness, and sweet love.

They are absolutely the main reason I stayed and the main reason it was so hard to go.IMG_6968

I love you, my dear students. xoxo

It happens in waves

No one tells you about the loneliness. 

It doesn’t sink in slowly like honey in water, nor does it come hard and fast like a rock cast into a lake.

It comes in waves. Huge, colossal waves that loom over you for a few seconds just to create suspense, then come crashing down, making you a rag doll, tumbling in its giant hands. When it’s over it isn’t just over… loneliness takes its time with you, makes you soak in every drop of it until you wash up on dry land again, dazed and unsure of what to do with yourself.

What’s terrible about this kind of loneliness is that it comes out of nowhere. Today I was at the mall when it happened.

It’s weird, you know, I spent all morning in my room alone and enjoying every second of it. (Days off don’t come around too often). I cleaned my room, did the laundry, ate breakfast, watched a movie, read poetry, took up space all on my own and was happy. I was not lacking anything.

Around 4pm I decide it’s a good time to get some fresh air and run a few errands. I grabbed my keys, hopped on the river taxi, and headed for the mall. It didn’t even occur to me to ask anyone to join because I had been having such a great time with myself.

My first task of finding a specific shoe brush kept me busy, but as soon as my feet landed on the escalator going up, slow and steady, loneliness seized the opportunity to let me know how alone I was. I turned my attention to my phone, checking over and over again for any messages that slipped through. The disappointment in my bones when I found nothing.

Oh! I’ll call so-and-so in the states, I thought to myself, only to remember the incredible hour it was over on that side of the world. This moment of panic is that “looming” I mentioned earlier. After checking every social media platform and leaving empty the wave came crashing down mercilessly.

I am alone.

I walked around the mall like this for what seemed like ages, this thick sadness stuck to my spine. 

I got ice cream, probably the saddest thing to do alone, well, what I found out to be the saddest thing to do alone after receiving a funny look from the waitress when I told her it would just be me tonight. I guess I should mention it doesn’t help that I understand Thai and knew exactly what she was saying to her co-workers about me. The lonely girl.

It’s not like I don’t have friends, I think what I needed in that moment was more than a friend–I needed a soul mate. Please understand that I am NOT talking about a significant, romantically involved other, if we have reduced soul mates to that then I feel pity on us.

I have friends that are soul mates, unfortunately those friends live across the world. I have one friend here who’s almost like that, but between my limited Thai and her limited English it’s hard to decipher some emotional exchanges.

When the wave finally subdued and washed me unto shore I realized how much of myself I close off from people. (My counselor was the first one to realize this, but I guess today I really see it). I could have way more soul mates than I allow myself to have.

Will having more soul mates stop the great waves of loneliness? Not necessarily, but maybe it will lighten the blow of them and have me coming unto shore with new revelations.

Normalcy is the Adventure

When I first came to Thailand my entire experience was filled with adventure: riding elephants, trying new foods, hiking in burning forests, swimming in waterfalls, learning a new language, taking new and interesting forms of transportation, making friends from the other side of the world.

Of course, I came back because my heart was tethered to Thailand on the first night, before the adventure had truly even started, but I wonder if all of those crazy experiences made it a little easier to come back.

…even if that were true, it certainly isn’t true now. Normalcy is the new adventure.

I buy my groceries at Big C Ramkhamhaeng, get ice cream from the same seller outside of 7 Eleven on Saturday afternoons, pay bills, do laundry, go to the doctor, have “do nothing days” with friends in my room, have “do nothing days” by myself–life is normal besides the fact that I’m in Thailand and that is the adventure!

I’ve never been in a place long enough to where life begins to feel, well… normal.
I love it!

This morning a friend of mine asked about my recent trip to the States and how it felt to be there knowing that I had been entertaining the thought of returning due to difficulty finding a job, honestly, I felt nothing. I just knew I was coming back.

Because its home. Because its normal.

The days where I’m running errands or chilling out with a close friend are the days that feel like an adventure, the days that get my adrenaline going,

the days that mimic the feeling of riding an elephant for the very first time.

Those days are adventures, too.

Options

The end of my contract is quickly approaching which means I’m both overjoyed and overwhelmed.

Guys, I NEED TO FIND A NEW JOB.

A few weeks ago I had zero options, zero open doors, zero hope of me actually being able to stay in Thailand. I started entertaining the painful possibility of heading back to the States.

But you know what? I wasn’t really doing much.

I applied to a few international, high-end schools and became discouraged when everyone rejected me. Well, what was I thinking??? I’m a recent college graduate with, yes, a lot of experience for my age, but not nearly enough as the veterans who have been teaching for years.

As much as I wish I could make like Cinderella and have my dream job come to me overnight life just doesn’t work that way. (However, if my fairy godmother is out there you are more than welcome to intervene).

After having a talk with my mentors it became apparent to me how stagnant I was in my job search. Honestly, I figured if I had faith alone the Lord would just drop a perfectly good job in front of my doorstep. That night, after that talk with my mentors, I realized that I was being dumb: it’s far easier for God to direct a moving train than one that is parked. I needed to get this train moving!

To be honest, motivation didn’t come overnight, it took several days for me to get out of my motionless slump. Slowly but surely the wheels started to turn: I finally emailed a school that my co-worker recommended months ago (I’m now scheduled for an interview next month), contacted a recruiting agency that a friend recommended about a year ago (I’m now in the application process and they said I could be placed in a new school by June), used resources from the Teachers of Bangkok Facebook page to send in documents for application, sent in my resume to yet another school mentioned by my mentor, and recently have sent in my resume to an awesome school a different co-worker recommended to me.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but thank God for potential stones before me! Just a week ago I had nothing, now there are options.

Please keep me in prayer friends. ❤

And then we took the boat home

1. Paired my bright pink “Singapore” t-shirt with my black and white polka-dotted shorts. I felt comfortable in my skin.

2. Greeted the doorman and confidently asked him–in Thai–how to catch the bus to my destination

3. The motorcycle driver understood me and took me to the right bus stop.

4. Got on the right bus.

5. Traffic was awful, but thankfully I recognized the area and got off the bus to take the boat the rest of the way.

6. Got on the boat and did not die.

7. My friend and I enjoyed shopping together.

8. The lady at the food court complimented my Thai and said I was cute.

9. Practiced Thai with my friend without feeling too self-conscious.

10. Ate kuay tiaw tom yum and it was delicious.

11. Took the boat successfully back home.

12. Played with a little baby girl on the boat.

13. Got off the boat and did not die.

14. Wrote a poem.

15. All of these things were done without anger, self-doubt, or overwhelming anxiety coursing through my veins.

It’s been a good day despite the marathons of bad ones I’ve been having recently.

🙂