A big piece of advice I was given before I came to Thailand was, “Always say yes”. A friend that lived currently lived in Thailand gave me this advice and continued to explain that if a Thai person offers you something or ask you to do something, they really mean it.
Recently, I had to conduct parent teacher conferences through Google Meets. It was essentially like speed dating but with parents while conducting a conference(54 families signed up for a conference). As nervous as I was, I was kind of happy to meet some of the families and talk about how much I loved their child. Most of the parents did not speak English and needed a translator to assist, but I did have a handful of parents who spoke good English. It was really enjoyable to talk to those families. One family asked for my contact information because they knew I was going to leave soon.
A week later, the family invited me over for dinner. Of course, I said yes and felt so honored. The mom wanted to know every food, fruit, vegetable and drink that I like and don’t like. At first, I thought it was a bit overboard but as I thought about it more, I knew it was probably because they have never invited over a foreigner, especially a teacher at their child’s school. The mom continuously texted me about dinner. She even sent me pictures of the food that she was going to cook for me.
The day arrived and she offered to come pick me up from school which was about 20 minutes away. I’ll be honest, it felt like I was going on a first date with someone I didn’t know. I knew the child but only had a brief interaction with the parents and I wasn’t sure how much English they actually knew. The child was only 6 and his first language isn't English. I got in the car, and like a first date, it was a bit awkward. You don’t really know what to talk about and you’re both just nervous.
I arrived at their house and it was so nice! I had not been into a traditional Thai home yet, so I was very excited to see one. It was simple, small but so beautiful! I had the student and his sibiling in different grade levels, so I already knew both boys which was helpful. The little brother does not speak much English and is really quiet so he was very shy at first. Of course, they had to show me every transformer, Lego, and science kit they owned. The boys were beaming the entire time. They loved showing me their toy collection and explaining what each toy was.
The mom had prepared 5 different dishes for me to try. I was able to help the mom and son cook the dinner while they explained the different ingredients and showed me each step. We sat down for dinner and the food was incredible! I don’t think I had eaten that much since I arrived in Thailand. As soon as I would finish the last piece of chicken on my plate, they would add more to my plate. After dinner, they brought out a fruit plate with every fruit I had mentioned that I liked. (I wish I had worn stretchier pants). And again, they just kept piling food onto my plate.
After dinner, we made paper airplanes, watched a few Thai cartoons, and to finish the night, they presented me a bag of gifts. This was completely unexpected. I opened the gifts one by one and was almost brought to tears each time. The first gift I received was some Thai soap. It was in the shape of a flower and was purple. The mom mentioned that she remembered that one of the first lessons I taught online was about me and my favorite things. I told the students that my favorite color was purple, so she bought the purple flower. She also knew I drink a lot of coffee and she got a coffee mug made with my school picture and a sweet saying. I mean, a coffee mug with my school picture?! I don't even know how she got the picture! After I was completely shocked by the thoughtfulness of these gifts, she gave me a gift for my mom and a gift for my dad. I was shocked that she even got something for my mom and dad.
I honestly, could not believe the amount of thought she put into this night. I was just so honored to be at their home and eating the food she was cooking. The night ended with my heart just overflowing. I only had both students for one semester but it was so humbling knowing that I made such an impact on the family that they invited a stranger into their home.
I think back to the advice my friend once told me. I’m so thankful that I said yes even though I wasn't sure how it was going to go. It was one of the greatest memories I have while teaching in Thailand.