Well, shit do I feel like the biggest asshole for ever having thought that now.
Enter my day to day life not speaking the language of the country I am living in - complete and udder confusion at every turn.
|This is Mandarin but it's all incomprehensible to me...|
I moved to Asia, like many other foreigners, looking for adventure, opportunity and a better life, without even knowing how to say hello. Expat is the nice word but really... I am an immigrant. I have to go to the immigration office and deal with the ridiculous rules and paperwork every 3 months. I get discriminated against because of my skin. I don't have the same rights as a Thai national and fear of the government and deportation. Sound familiar? It is a difficult way to live but I am so thankful I have put myself in this situation so I can truly empathize and realize how naive and cruel my old attitudes were.
Granted, my situation is not quite the same as the plight of Spanish speaking people in America. I am here because there is a demand and because Thai people want to learn English. I also actually get paid a much higher wage than my Thai equivalents, because of where I was born and my native language. But I do now have a taste of what it feels like to be an immigrant in America and fully understand what a terrible feeling it is to feel out of place just trying to make a better life for yourself.
I am now walking in a different pair of shoes and boy is it eye opening. I really don't understand all the hate coming from many (of course not all) American's, but whose families were all immigrants themselves in the past, and who believe in the "American Dream" ideals. While most Thai people are more interested in me than hateful, it is a different kind of racism that is not any better. And both are caused by ignorance.
I do speak what I have heard referred to as "taxi Thai" where I speak just enough of the language to get myself around the city and not get ripped off (for the most part.) I can say all the numbers, some directions, some basic formalities (How are you? Where are you from? Where is the toilet?) and a little food based language. I have lived here for a year and that is all I have learned. It is pretty sad and pathetic considering all the free time I have after school but instead of studying Thai, I download crap American TV and only speak Thai when ordering my fried noodles. It's shameful but we native English speakers don't realize how difficult it is to learn another language and how lucky we are that English is spoken around the world. Most Americans only speak English and even then many can barely communicate in their first language. It takes a lot of dedication and I have tremendous respect for people that try and do.
With the presidential election coming up, I really hope to see this attitude change in America, a place I always thought was so tolerant and forward thinking (and it is in many ways and not in many others.) A place that was built by immigrants and accepted everyone no matter what they looked liked or believed. A model that many countries now copy, trying to build their nation to be as "strong" as ours. If we want to keep up in this quickly changing world, we have to open our hearts and our minds to thinking differently, every country does really, because in reality, the world is changing whether we like it or not. I think I am going to try a little harder to learn more Thai, one person can't change the world but I can change my disposition (and try to change yours :)