I've never really noticed this before, but I picture symbols in my head. Like when someone says "I'll meet you at four o'clock," I draw out a 4 followed by two dots and two zeros in my mind's slate board. I'm really slow at learning Thai, because I have to translate unfamiliar combinations of sounds into Romanized letters and then memorize what that black word looks like against the white background I create on the projection screen produced onto my frontal lobes. It's very tedious.
I remember back when I was applying to be here, I thought: "Do I ACTUALLY want to work in an orphanage in another country? I won't be able to communicate with the children." I spoke to Keara, who worked in my "orphanage Plan A" last summer. She said "Oh yes. You will learn a lot about non-verbal communication." It was kind of the sentence that made me officially decide to come to Thailand. I can't believe I didn't see it before. Contact comfort: the exact thing I wanted to "see in action" through all my studies in Psychology. Thailand was the culmination of everything I ever wanted out of my degree.
But sometimes, that's hard to remember.
I've heard it said that "the definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing twice and expecting different results." So I was sitting there on the mat, on the grass, with a little girl that wouldn't speak or smile at me, having "one-by-one time," and the older group came outside with their bikes all noisy. I guess I was silly to think they'd leave us alone.
Over and over and over again, the swarm of six 4-year-olds reached into her basket to take one of her toys.
"Mai. Mai. Mai."
It means no.
Over and over and over again.
They'd reach in and I wouldn't let them take anything.
I thought my nerves would lash out and I'd start going off at them in English….but I tried desperately to keep my mind cool.
"Isn't ANYONE watching after you?"
A teacher finally came and shoo-ed a bunch of them away. But still some lingered. I think I ended up just taking the little girl for a walk and bringing the basket with me so the other ones would forget about us and continue riding their bikes. I don't remember. My mind is hazy since then. But the girl ended up wanting to walk around for our whole hour-together-time anyway, so I stashed the toys and let her wander under my watchful eye.
Still no smile.
So I leave desperate to speak their language, and hope with all my heart that if I'm supposed to spend my life's career helping children in a foreign country: then I will be called to learn a language on my mission.
24 more hours and I should know.