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Greetings From Thailand: Grateful to readers, foreign experience

12 December 2012 By Conan McEnroe, Columnist One Comment

The semester is coming to an end in Thailand. I can’t wait. Most people say they love Thailand or that if you go there you may never come back.

Honestly, I don’t like it here at all. There are some things I like, but these things stem from Western influences.

Don’t let me fool you, it’s a beautiful place with beautiful people, but many of the culture and personality differences really wear down on a boisterous Westerner looking for similar minds.

The language is built from an entirely different alphabet and history. Romantic and Germanic languages are built from similar base words, but the Eastern languages have nothing in common with Western.

To compound the learning process, the tones make pronunciation extremely difficult. If you haven’t grown up hearing these sounds, listening and comprehension is hobbled.

I’m not quite ready to return home, however. I’m afraid of assimilating myself into the life I left. I know things have changed and there will be some adjusting.

I will certainly experience reverse culture shock, though it may not be much. I have to do it sooner or later, so might as well jump in.

Before returning to the States, I will travel around Southeast Asia, going to Cambodia and Indonesia. I am not sure what I’ll find there, but I’ll find it.

Traveling will help pass time before the next semester. The winter breaks in Towson are too long and a tad gloomy.

Also, it’s about 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Southeast Asia, with plentiful beaches.

This trip has taught a couple of valuable lessons. I am no longer afraid to speak to other people in another language.

I have never been proficient in anything other than English and have felt anxious because I would fear I would say something wrong. Now I know that mistakes happen as part of learning a language.

If it’s completely incorrect, the conversation partner would be confused in the worst case scenario. Most times they would just laugh and throw you a bone.

I now have a tenacious desire to become proficient in Spanish. If I could come as far as I have in Thai, I should be able to make leaps and bounds in Spanish with my prior learning and newly found audacity to use something other than English.

Most importantly, I have learned the value of strong friendships. Everyone I meet here is on a journey and we all know it isn’t going to last forever.

There is an eerie milieu of brevity and times filled with frivolous social interactions.

I will cry tears of joy when I get home and can hug my friends.

We’re going to frolic and speak Spanish and laugh and predict each other’s thoughts then hold hands while running naked in the sand.

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