My first job was as a bagger at Schnucks. I got that job because my stepdad worked for the company and knew the manager of the store. My next job required a simple internet search and one application. Both were easy. Neither required an extensive job hunt. Not only is this week my first experience looking for work abroad, but it’s also my first real experience with job hunting. I applied to and visited a school on Monday with some of the staff from my TEFL course. The school is in a more remote area of Chiang Mai and definitely struck me as a place I would like to get my feet wet with teaching. The big class sizes, comparatively lower salary, and need to commute didn’t faze me. The experience is what I’m looking for, and the school seemed like it could offer a good one. But the entire visit consisted of the TEFL staff speaking with the Director of English in Thai. They later told me that almost the whole conversation was about whether the school was able/willing to pay me on time each month. Even after that, I was open to accepting a position with them, but I still haven’t heard back. I attempted to visit another school after that visit, but without a motorbike I got lost after being dropped off by a songthaew in an unfamiliar area of town, tried walking with the help of Google Maps, got dehydrated, and gave up for the day. At that point, I was feeling pretty down and as if the universe were shitting on me, and then the day ended with a bird literally shitting on me as I walked to dinner. Yes, it’s hilarious now. It wasn’t on Monday. That night I let myself get frustrated, and then I gave myself a pep talk, made myself remember why I was in Thailand, and rented a motorbike the next morning. I visited six schools. At the third one, I sat down with a member of the staff, and they laid a job advertisement in front of me declaring that they urgently needed an English teacher. I felt that the universe was back on my side. I met with a man named Looney Tunes, and he scheduled an interview for this Thursday. At the end of Tuesday my spirits were pretty high, and I still smile when I think of meeting a man named Looney Tunes. On Wednesday I started to panic. The interview was more than a week away. And what if I didn’t get the job? Then I’d still be without a job, and the further it goes into the semester, which started this week for many schools, the less likely I am to find open positions. So Thursday was spent calling schools around Chiang Mai (I wasn’t willing to rent a motorbike again), and I came out of that with another interview scheduled for Tuesday. I’m still not comfortable with my current lack of employment, but the prospect of the two interviews is helping me stay positive about it. But with the free time that has resulted from the gap between my search and the meetings, severe boredom has set in, only made worse by my lack of reliable transportation. I’ve tried curing it with random internet distractions, hours of reading, and a visit to a temple, but the cures are temporary and can only alleviate the boredom and the dangerous amount of brain stewing that’s happening right now. I have too much time to think about all the uncertainties, the (terrifying) prospect of actually getting a job and having to prepare twenty lesson plans in one week, the impending apartment search, and, of course, the things I’m missing back home. So as a result of too much free time I’ve gotten bored, and as a result of the boredom, I’ve gotten homesick.
This isn’t my first experience with homesickness here. I had a pretty severe stretch during my third week in Thailand, but this bout is worse simply due to the fact that I have more time to miss everything. All of my friends and family are posting their pictures from Halloween, and seeing their faces, the changing leaves, the scarves and hats, and the familiar background of my home is proving painful. During this time of uncertainty, I’m grasping at the things I know, the things I remember. I’m reaching for familiar memories, emotions, and sensations. I’m trying to remember what it feels like to have goosebumps on a cold morning, what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes like, and how comforting my mom’s hugs are. I have awesome friends here (special shout-out here to Li, Sarah, and Jeff!) that have proven the only effective remedy for the depression that accompanies homesickness. I’m currently living in a hostel, sharing a room with my friend Li, and I feel that, despite some of the negative emotions surrounding this week, I will look back on this time as one of my most memorable in Thailand. I’m staying in a tiny room that has no business housing two people, with no air conditioning, and with a shower that gets the whole bathroom wet when you use it, but the morning breeze I get to feel through my open window, the movie nights with my friends in the courtyard, and the late night laughs I have with Li as we fall asleep are leaving positive stamps on my memory that refuse to be overpowered by boredom and homesickness. I get a motorbike on Tuesday, and with the motorbike comes more opportunities to cure the boredom, as well as transportation to more schools and more job hunting. Yes, this week has been hard. Yes, it has been frustrating. Yes, I’ve let myself sink too often into negative thoughts. But each day brings a new chance for me to turn it around, and I will try to do so until I succeed.