“She’s a teacher here, for sure.”
The low murmur followed me out of the room as I left from a meeting with my educational adviser. I turned halfway and flashed the speaker a smile and left, leaving her to wonder if I really had understood her statement in Thai to the lady beside her.
I get it a lot. Wearing a dress and a veil often gives Thai people the idea that I am some sort of important person. I’ve been asked if I am a nun, a sister, a nurse. I have been called an ajarn (a word often used for a professor) when I went in to registration at my university.
I grew up wearing dresses around women who always wore dresses, so our wearing dresses did not really reflect much of our personality. It is different in Thai culture. Thai people view ladies who always wear dresses as เรียบร้อย “riab roi” (proper) and along with that word comes a host of other presuppositions: you are gentle, you are organized, you are ladylike, you are the epitome of womanhood. I am none of those and sadly shall never be. I am not very “riab roi” either. I ride horses in dresses, I play soccer in dresses, I run races in dresses, I climb up waterfalls in dresses, I milk cows in dresses, and I go hunting in dresses.
But in thinking about all of this, I came to the humorous conclusion that few people understand me well and no one understands me perfectly.
And that is totally ok. I know Someone who does understand me. I have imperfect perceptions about people around us as well.
So in thinking it over, here are some different identities people around me give me, or I think they do.
WHO THE GENERAL THAI PUBLIC THINKS I AM
WHO MY CLASSMATES THINK I AM
WHO FELLOW NON-ANABAPTIST AMERICANS THINK I AM
WHO CHRISTIANS FROM MY HOME AREA THINK I AM
WHO NEWLY ARRIVED EXPATS TO THAILAND THINK I AM
WHO PEOPLE IN NEED OF TRANSLATION OR EDITING THINK I AM
WHO MY HOUSEMATES THINK I AM
Photo by 立志 牟 on Unsplash
WHO MY HOUSEMATES THINK I AM IN EARLY MORNING
WHO MY FAMILY THINKS I AM
WHO SOME OF MY STUDENTS THINK I AM
WHO OTHERS OF MY STUDENTS THINK I AM
WHO MY TEACHERS THINK I AM
WHO I THINK I AM
WHO I REALLY AM