It’s been exactly 3 months (and one day) since I arrived in Thailand. Everything I’ve read about culture shock says that this is around the time when the initial honeymoon feeling wears off, and the shock really begins. For me though, I think it came in reverse.
I spent probably the first month and a half in Thailand really frustrated and overwhelmed. Since I arrived a few days late, I felt like I had to play catch-up to my fellow teachers. Though they had only been here a couple days longer than me, they had already made friends, explored Bangkok some, and were picking up the language. I felt like a huge fish out of water. In retrospect, I think I was still pretty stressed from my whole “stuff getting stolen” ordeal and being thrown into the middle of orientation didn’t help much.
When we finally got to Salaya, it wasn’t much better. Just trying to get groceries was a huge undertaking, and my normal comforts and stress relievers were nowhere in sight. I consider myself a pretty adaptable and patient person, but this was challenging me like nothing else before. There were a lot of tearful days where I thought to myself, “Holy shit, did I just make the biggest mistake of my life? What the hell am I doing here?! I am clearly more of Western European gal.” If you had told me 3 or 4 years ago that I would make the decision to move to Asia for a year, I would have laughed so hard and said, “Yeah, okay, and then I’ll become pope after that.” Asia had never interested me as much as Europe, so when Thailand wasn’t fitting perfectly, I thought maybe my year-plus-long plan to move here had been a dream or a delusion. Though there were good days or moments that validated the move, they didn’t come around as often as I might have liked.
Fast forward to Month 3, and I am finally feeling more comfortable here. The smells don’t bother me as much, I can navigate the market and buy food, and Thai sounds much more like a language as opposed to just gibberish, not to mention I can catch a word here and there! Sure, there are some days where all I want is a huge bowl of guacamole and a Fenway Frank, but the the homesickness is not nearly so acute.
Though three months doesn’t seem like that much, especially since my contract is for a year, we are only about six weeks away from the end of the semester (and summer vacation!!). The six-month teachers are winding down their stay here, while I feel like I am just hitting my stride. At one month, I was afraid of being honest when someone asked me, “So, do you like Thailand?” But ask me now, and I can say that though it took a while and the relationship is still complicated, I do.