I had my last Thai lesson this week and it really felt like the end of an era. I’ve been taking lessons since the end of March last year, a week after I arrived, and during this time I became very good friends with my Thai teacher. Aside from all of my workmates, she’s the only other Thai person I regularly interact with, and I’ve gained a lot of insight into Thai culture through the lens of her own experiences. At the same time, I know she’s also learnt a lot from me through the many interesting conversations we’ve had over the past year. So she’s been an integral part of my life here and I was pretty sorry to finish up, but I had to quit because I just have too much on my plate at the moment with some massive projects at work for AusAID (HIV and drug-related harm reduction) and the IPPF (safe abortion), as well as organising TEDxDoiSuthep on top of all that. When I throw in trying to have my normal busy life as well, my time is completely tied up until June.
So how good is my Thai after all the lessons I took? Well, I wasn’t a great student on the whole, doing precious little Thai study outside of the 3 hours a week I was in class. But doing 120+ hours over the past year was a decent stab even if it wasn’t always the most effective use of time. I feel sure that if I wasn’t in such a demanding job I would have been able to dedicate myself to my studies much more. So as it is, I’m reasonably satisfied with my Thai abilities. I can basically read signs and menus, and pronounce words well. I understand a little and make great educated guesses — and if I have to, I can even speak a little. I have a lot of fun with my Thai workmates and my efforts to learn Thai have been the source of much amusement over the past year. I think if I knew any less Thai than what I do, I would feel like I haven’t lived up to my own expectations.
So part of the reason why I had to give up Thai lessons relates to work as well my last post about some exciting developments that require attention over coming months; but I actually have a WAY more exciting reason than that, which I haven’t shared on my blog for various reasons. But now I can finally make my big announcement! I’m swapping Thai for French because…
…I’m spending the summer in Paris! I’m going to Bali with Josh for my 30th birthday, and after that I’ll spend a week passing through Bangkok, Helsinki, Stockholm and London, before catching the Eurostar over to Paris. C’est vrai!
I’ve actually been concocting this plan since late September last year and a few weeks ago I signed a lease on an adorable one bedroom apartment in the 7th arrondissement for two months. I’m spending all of July doing an intensive creating writing course and all of August taking French lessons at a small school. In preparation for my two months in Paris, I’ve already started some French self-study but I have a head start because my competency with French is actually about the same as my current ability with Thai already. These French classes will be the first time I’m learning a language so intensively, so I’m looking forward to seeing how I progress and to find out what kind of language learner I can be, given lots of time.
The few months leading up to the development of my Paris plan back in September was a real period of upheaval and pushed me to my limits in many ways. I was super stressed and losing sleep and had the distinct feeling that I wasn’t really chasing my dreams the way I should be. The universe was shouting at me: something has to change. So I took that message to heart and ended up deciding that from the moment I turn 30 in June this year, I will live my life differently. And in order to find that path, I knew for sure that I would need to take time off from working to pursue my creative interests and see how far I can take my love of writing. More importantly though, I will also have the head space to think about my future. Although I’m happy with all that I’ve accomplished so far with my work over the past ten years, I now need to take some sideway steps to make better use of my skills and abilities. It’s very likely I’ll still do a bit of casual work till the end of the year, but I’m basically taking a career break. Yay.
One of the greatest things I’ve gotten out of this past year in Thailand — out of many, many life-changing experiences — is meeting inspiring people who have forged unique paths and are changing the world in their own way. For example, I’ve lately become friends with a Belgian man named Michel through organising TEDxDoiSuthep. It turns out that he is very well-known for his organisation called the P2P Foundation and he often flies around the world talking about his revolutionary ideas. He told me how important it was for him to take a two year sabbatical after a serious corporate career because only then was he able to work out his next move. Meeting truly unconventional people like Michel has been great for me, and has made me realise that I aspire to have some sort of unconventional path as well.
At the rate I’m going, I could easily land a senior communications role in another country or back in Australia…but if I’m honest with myself, I’m just not that interested in climbing ‘the ladder’; not now anyway, while I still have the luxury of doing anything I like without having to worry about the responsibility of raising a family. Before I get to that point I need to create my own ladder and climb that instead. And the first rung on that ladder just happens to be Paris.