On the Path to Fluency

Life Passions

The Thai language for me has been one of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with over the past year.  It started with not being able to speak or understand anything to then understanding a little bit and realizing that I prefered to not understand it as the things they were saying weren’t all that nice.

I’m now at the point where I can actually converse with people beyond placing a food order.  One of my best examples of this was last week when I was chatting with an 8 year old about why he had hit one of his friends.  The conversation was intense; at the thick of it, I had asked him what was going on with his heart that he would hit his friend.  His answer, after a couple minutes of deep thought, was because he was angry at a different friend but he wasn’t there that day so he vented out his frustration on this kid.  Being quite surprised that he actually gave me an answer and a deep one at that, we were then able to talk about how we should properly deal with anger and frustration, how to forgive, and that ultimately forgiveness isn’t so much for the offender as much as it for ourselves.   

The fact that I was able to share stuff that I only came to understand maybe about a decade ago, with an 8 year old is huge.  I feel like these moments are those God moments that He grants me.  Moments where a seed has now been planted through a single conversation and could potentially forever change how he thinks about the world and his interactions within it.


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My Thai has improved to a point where I’ve been able to teach math and so I’ve been helping out wherever I can with math homework.  My favourite story from this has got to be the day where I was teaching Dew, a 12 year old who doesn’t really like math.  It started with him being really hesitant to do our assigned math problems and so instead of pressuring him to do it, I flipped the responsibility onto him and simply asked him, “do you want to understand how to do the problems?”  It’s a subtle difference from, “do you want help?” because ‘help’ in the Thai context often just means the tutor will simply help you get through the problem versus trying to help you understand what the question is asking.  

The different phrasing of the question seemed to throw him off enough where he did end up taking me up on my offer.  We started going through the problems and the more he understood, the more he wanted to continue.  This starting getting out of hand when he kept re-answering the questions over and over again just to make sure that he truly understood.  He spent so much time on it that when his parents came to pick him up, he made them wait because he wanted to ask me one last time whether or not he got it right.  

And it’s stories like this that I’ve come to realize why God has brought me here.  

Last year, I had grand ideas of liberating the limitations of rural Thailand education with an online revolution and micro-finance loans.  I had projects to translate online education videos in hopes to help kids with their education and to provide employment for the local community.  I had income generating projects that would help with the sustainability of the work we’re doing down here.  But I’m starting to recognize that, as important as those things are, these seemingly simple and innocent conversations and interactions are actually more vital for these kids right now than any program.  

Originally posted to Life Passions