I arrived at school on my first day wearing the wrong color and without a clue how to find my first class. Despite that my school had indicated on their profile that specific colors were not required on certain days of the week, it was immediately apparent to me that I should have been wearing yellow instead of navy. As I realized this, I also decided that I had more pressing problems to solve before my wardrobe.
Another teacher, who would turn out to be my most useful source of information over the next few days, found me in the courtyard and offered to walk me to the foreign teachers’ office. Upon entering the cheerily colorful room, I was overwhelmed by greetings. I confirmed that “Viv” was an acceptable nickname and tried to make quick mental notes of everyone’s names and nationalities. There was a desk waiting for me, drawers emptied and a pink cushion to make my plastic chair more comfortable. The teacher who had brought me there donated a pen holder to my barren desk, a welcome gift. That afternoon, our office took a group fieldtrip to the local department store so that I could buy some essentials for my apartment. They helped me choose bedding, decipher laundry detergent labels, and reminded me to grab hangers.
Waiting for a very delayed English Department staff meeting to start, the teachers in my office took the opportunity to make introductions. I listened in awe to the life summaries of my colleagues. Several are Thai, one is from South Africa, one from India, another from Bhutan, and two others from the United States. This makes for a stimulating blending of languages and cultures in our office. I am always learning and trying new food.
As I settle into my life here, this group of people has gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome and supported. Having gone through the experience of moving to a foreign country and figuring out how to not only survive but build a life in a place where everything is unfamiliar themselves, they know how daunting it can be. I have received a remarkable amount of support.
The day after I arrived, I received a message from a teacher who does not even work at my school, welcoming me and letting me know that I was not alone. The foreign teacher community here is small, and she had heard about me. She and two other foreign teachers in town took me out to dinner that Saturday, and I joined them for a day at the lake the same weekend. They answered many of my questions and promised to stay in touch.
I am beyond grateful for the warm welcomes and patient answers. The other teachers told me all the things they wish they had been told—invaluable information. They also made me a list of which colors to wear on which days.