About the ACC to TEFL Series: In this series, I recount my journey, logic and reasoning behind making the shift from accountancy in Reno, NV to TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in Bangkok, Thailand.
Note: This is the last entry in the ACC to TEFL series.
A Journey of A Thousand Miles Begins With A Single Step
So I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand after bidding my farewells to mom and dad in San Francisco and quitting my accounting job in Reno.
I was scared, minus a day trip to Niagara Falls, Canada a few years before, the last time I had been abroad was as an exchange student in Shanghai.
This time was different though, during my study abroad trip, I was going there alone as well, which was scary as I was only 20. But I knew I had an entire support network backing me in Shanghai as well as in my home university in Reno.
Plus I had a place in Chinese society:
你做什麼工作? （What do you do?)
我是留學。(I’m an exchange student)
Losing Most Everything (Except What’s In My Pockets)
Not this time though. This time it’s on me. All by myself in a foreign country with a foreign language. No support network, no job. And the job thing was a big factor. My last retrospective paycheck had just rolled in so no more money.
And with older folks who’ve built their careers for decades, it would be a huge blow. But even for me, it hurt losing the “accountant” identity, which was replaced with “backpacker” a vague term and not a long term option.
So yeah, landing on a foreign country with no support network, no job, no plans to go home and no income, I was scared.
Starvation Mode: Extreme Saving
In fact so freaked out that I remember when I got there, instant noodle became my staple food. And not just that, I remember my favorite restaurant 7-Eleven had 2 options for ramen, one was an instantly ready cup version that cost 13 Baht (40 cents USD) which was a necessity because I didn’t have a kitchen. But I looked over and saw the packet version without the cup and fork cost 6 Baht.
So I devised a plan, I bought the 6 Bhat instant noodles and went over to the beverage section. I grabbed 2 of the Pepsi cups and broke open the packet, stuffing in the ramen. Then I used the hot water to cook it. You need 2 cups stacked together because 1 would be too hot. I had an old plastic fork, so I saved 7 Baht.
I was too ashamed by what I was doing and felt that I was being judged, so I walked some distance away from the 711, stopping for a few bites before parking to the side to finish the “meal.”
No income, this was survival mode.
Losing A Limb: The Heart of Loneliness
And when I arrived in Chiang Mai Airport before that I didn’t take a taxi, I walked from the airport to my hostel, it was 10pm when I got there.
First time I stayed in a hostel. And as I lied in bed with a room with 7 strangers, I thought to myself,
“What the hell is you doing boy?”
You had yourself a nice steady accounting career, plus they just gave you a bonus and raise.
I was looking for some kind of support from people back home. I was expecting a message from someone asking if I was okay, from a person that was close.
The night passed,
Then the next day,
Then the next,
I counted on this person so much through childhood, now they weren’t there.
That is the heart of loneliness.
It is when people you’ve come to rely on in whatever capacity, emotional, financial, physical, don’t show up. It’s as if you’re missing a limb.
And this was not the first time this person has tossed away water for the relationship. The gifts I had given and put a lot of thought in were negligently broken or discarded, whenever I talked what I wanted to do there was a put downedness in the person’s response, they had gotten my name wrong as well among other things.
In such instances of abandonedness, the rational thing to do is to cut them out, no matter how much it hurts, so that you can make room for other people.
And that’s a wrap for this series. I made it out to Thailand where the global odyssey all started. Of course I would end up in the capital Bangkok instead of Chiang Mai. And I would eventually find a job as an English teacher because I needed something to validate my self worth, but that is for the next series.