Saying Good-Bye

    Almost two years ago, Camden and I packed up and moved to Thailand to start teaching at Roong Aroon School in Bangkok. Now, we are in the process of packing up again to move back to America. As our time here comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on what life has been like living and teaching abroad, how I have grown, what I have learned, and the impression I will leave behind. Although this has not been my first experience living and teaching overseas, in fact, I even taught English in Thailand 9 years ago, this chapter has been something special and unique. This is the longest experience I have had living outside of the US and for many reasons, I feel like it has become a home. A connection has grown with the place, as well as the people, and as our final days here draw nearer, it is difficult to say good-bye.

The Proposal 

    There are so many memories in this place. As I write this, I look to the corner of our home where Camden asked me to marry him. One of the most precious moments of my life happened in this space, and surrounded by friends, I got to said “yes” to the one I love. Words don’t due justice to the sacredness of that moment. I was filled to the brim with joy knowing I would get to spend my life with this incredible person. There were many gatherings that happened in our home that also brought joy and celebration such as  potlucks, Friendsgivings, and a surprise birthday party for Camden. I am so grateful for the home that we made and the chance to fill it with friends and dear moments that made it just that much more special.

    The school also became our home. Sometimes, it felt like we spent more time at school than at home… and sometimes it was true. I was lucky enough to be blessed in kindergarten with my River Class Family. Together with my dear co-teachers, Fern and Emi (pictured) and Gim who was in our class last year, we cared for 25 incredible children from 3-6 years old. Our classroom was our home. We gathered together in that space five days a week to sing, play, clean, eat, and learn as a family. There are many things I learned from teaching at Roong Aroon these past two years but if there is one main lesson to share from my time, it would have to be the importance of relationships. To be in a trusting and loving relationship with both my students and co-teachers is the most valuable piece of education that I have discovered thus far. It is one thing to teach information or even read a story. However, it is the moments in-between that are so sweet and meaningful. The moments when I had a chance to really look in my students eyes and understand their feelings, or the moment when they spoke English to me because they trusted I would hear them and listen to them, the moment when they call me over so they can enthusiastically show me the insect they found under a log, or the moment when they tell me how they were brave that day because they overcame their fear of red ants. I will miss my students so much and all the precious moments that were shared between us.

KG3 Muay Thai Ceremony
Wishes for KG3 moving to Primary 1 

    I was also so fortunate to have had an amazing team of English Program KG teachers to collaborate with. In four classrooms with about 12 teachers, we worked hard to create our own lesson plans and content for teaching. We really had to make our vision come to life on our own and through this process we gained a greater understanding of the underlying value of all things. For example, in the second term of this past year, we had a topic of gardening. Of course, this means that we wanted the children to have first hand experience in the garden; planting seeds and tending to them as they grew. However, there was no prepared gardening plot for us, no flower beds, and most of us didn’t even know where to get seeds. Together, we supported each other and we came to understand that if we wanted to make a raised flower bed, we would need to get some wood or bamboo to create the frame, take soil from the composting shed, and prepare the materials on our own. Mostly, we did this alongside the children. Many of my students brought seeds and pots from home, they carried the soil by themselves to our garden, and they took the responsibility of watering them everyday. We learned together how to make a garden from scratch and how to grow organic plants such as butterfly pea, tomatoes, and morning glory.

Our motorbike

    To say good-bye is a tender practice of surrender and letting go. It begins with selling and giving away many of the possessions we have collected during our time here. From big items such as the motorbike that safely transported Camden and I to school everyday, to small pieces such as the candles that adorned our living room table. On one level it is difficult to let go, but once it is done, it feels refreshing and free. You begin to realize how little you really need from day to day and what really matters most. As I have been rather nomadic for the past 10 years, I have become somewhat used to fitting my life into two suitcases. However, the letting go extends to far more meaningful things than a bike and some candles. I am also saying goodbye to dear friends, students, and my work here as a kindergarten teacher. This week, our teaching team began planning and preparing for the upcoming year and it made it feel real that I would not be teaching anymore. 

    When sadness is present, it is also a great sign to me that joy is present as well. I have had such an amazing experience in so many aspects of life while living in Thailand and working at Roong Aroon. Of course it will be sad to say goodbye, but to know that my time here has been so valuable and joyful makes it a sweet sadness. 

    As one door closes, another door opens. That leads me to our next steps and the excitement that lies ahead as we return to the US. Upon our return, Camden and I have some preliminary plans to travel and visit holistic schools around the country. We hope to speak with teachers and school leaders to learn more about what schools are currently doing to integrate holistic approaches in education. During our journey we plan to document our findings, most likely through blogs or videos, so we can share about what we learn. In addition, we hope that this road trip will give us a chance to explore different communities and other places we could call home. 

Sunset on Koh Phangang

    I feel very blessed that I have found homes and families all over the world. It is a wonderful feeling to know that even though I am saying goodbye, this place will remain a home. The saying goes, “Home is where the heart is” and a part of my heart will always be in Thailand. So, for now we say goodbye, but with every goodbye, there is also a “Hello.” Swadeeka Thailand, Swadeeka ❤ 

One thought on “Saying Good-Bye

  1. What a beautiful experience Andrea. I can fully relate to the feelings you describe, as i am a fellow nomad. Your plans are amazing and much needed and i have no doubt that you will contribute to a more holistic approach of teaching children. It is so important… With love, anu

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