How do you say “good-bye” in Thai?

I’ve lived here for five months, and today, as I started final exams with my 800+ students, I realized I don’t know how to say “good-bye” in Thai.  I have ten days left with this sea of bright, chatty, vibrant, (and sometimes utterly crazy, yes!) group of teenage girls. And all of those girls, almost without exception, say “See you!” or “See you again soon, teachaaa!” when we part ways at the end of the class or at the end of the day.

In Thai, you will often say “Sawatdee” for both hello and good-bye — but how do you actually say good-bye?

It seems ridiculous that I wouldn’t know this, so I Googled it about five minutes ago.

Apparently, “good-bye” in Thai is “Laa korn”, but it is not often used because the implication is more like saying good-bye forever.  It is preferred, and more common, to say “Laew phop gun,” which is translated to “See you again.”

Well, there you go. Cue immediate onset of nostalgia and heart overflowing and missing these crazy girls before I’ve even left Sa-Nguan Ying School. (And I’m certainly not done yet – there are still 600 exams to conduct, and grade!)

There are so many things I could write about that I have learned here and that I will miss, that it’s difficult to even start. So, here is what I can think of, right now:

My students are the least sneaky, kindest, and most persistent cheaters that I have ever met. They simply will not let one of their own struggle, or feel awkward, or be put on the spot without help. For example: I’m giving oral finals this week, individually, and one of my students actually crawled under a desk (and out of my sightline) so she could do some sort of sign language to her friend, who I was testing. I caught her, but it’s impossible to get mad because a) it’s so ridiculous that it has to be funny! and b) she was helping a friend who really was struggling.

I love that the average level of chaos in a Thai classroom allows for a girl to go crawling under desks undetected for several minutes.

I love that all of my students have the same haircut, but the variety in hairstyles is utterly AMAZING, given this fact. My fave is still the ponytail made out of bangs, sticking straight up, unicorn-style.

I was totally nervous on my first day of teaching. And every day since then, I haven’t had one iota of the jitters. I quickly realized that the challenge with teaching isn’t the speaking in front of people, or what they think about you — it’s the actual teaching. Trying to figure out how to connect and communicate and be clear. I’ve learned to be much more precise with my words, and I’ll miss the looks on my students’ faces when they either get it (eyes lighting up, smiling) or totally don’t (brows furrowed, but still smiling).

I’ve loved our little trio of English teachers – Caitlin, Caitlin, and me. I feel lucky to have been placed with two awesome girls at Sa-Nguan Ying. We’ve navigated the constantly changing waters of living and working in Thailand together – been delighted and frustrated, amused and exhausted.

I’ll miss our Thai teachers. Preeda, Tim, Kanchana, Los, Dan, Pat — our Thai “moms”. Each of them radiates kindness, warmth, generosity, and a devil-may-care spark of funny — an ability to laugh at the truly silly minutiae of life. I can only hope to learn from them and carry that kind of spirit forward in my future path.

Next week, we will have our farewell party, and one thing is certain – I’ll be overwhelmed. Just as I was at our welcome party, just a few months ago.  I’ll hope that the incoming group of English teachers at Sa-Nguan Ying School are excited and enthusiastic and ready to learn. I’m sure they will be. But mostly I’ll be thankful and happy.

And I’ve decided I’m just not going to learn the Thai word for good-bye.  Because these hundreds of girls, and this place, have etched a permanent place in my heart, which means it’s impossible to say “good-bye forever.”  I think “See you again!” is much better.

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