In part two of a series of articles by WWU student missionaries, Philip Duclos, 2014 graduate with majors in theology and history, writes about his time working at the Ekamai Seventh-day Adventist International School during the 2014-15 school year.
I came to Bangkok, Thailand, expecting to have a difficult transition, to be completely overwhelmed by the language, people, culture, food. But, I’m not, and I don’t believe I ever was.
They said to take photos during the tourist phase, but the tourist phase wore off with my jet lag, and I didn’t have the opportunity. While the language is different, as are the streets, the foods, and many other things around me, being here is, intriguingly, normal.
I’m 23 years old, and I’ve graduated from WWU with a bachelors of arts. I have worked, and I have traveled. Yet, I believe that despite these things, everyone can experience the normal I am experiencing. As an American, I grossly misjudged what I would find in Bangkok. There are far more similarities than differences. Everyone here is human, and the similarities between “us” and “them” outweigh the differences. When I walk down the street and buy crepes and fruit and smoothies and tea from street vendors, I’m just like any other Thai.
We all experience life: we work, try to save some money, think of our families, plan for the future, and remember the past. We shop in the same markets and malls, watch the same subtitled movies. Thailand is different, but in a bigger way, it is the same.
Our humanity causes us to label people, places, cultures, according to our standards. Yet, the beauty of the world isn’t the differences in everything, but the similarities.
I haven’t taken photos as a tourist here, except for a few. My time here, spent being “not a tourist,” has allowed me to realize that people are the same, with the same wants, desires, and needs. I’ve started to understand that beauty is similarities expressed differently.
When I don’t blog for two weeks, it’s because in my eyes, it feels like I’m blogging about college or my summer job. If I wanted to be a teacher, I would consider staying in Bangkok.
I know my experience is probably different than others, but here’s my advice: make local friends; some of them will undoubtedly become close. They also know how to get around better than you do. Try to learn local words, but even when you don’t know, communicate as patiently as possible. The locals will appreciate your efforts, and so will you. Avoid judging others: you don’t know their circumstances. And finally, expect that your experience will be normal. Seek the similarities; not because what you’re used to is the best, but because in your transition seeking similarities will make it easier to recognize that, for example, your street vendor Thai tea is just like Starbucks, only better.
Posted Sept. 3, 2015