Friday, June 7, 2013

Say What?

Hey yall ! My name is Megan Joseph and I am a second year grad student at the university of Kansas.  I received a degree in radio-tv-film from Texas Christian University in 2012.  I learned about music therapy during my undergrad and was fascinated by the idea of using music to help people enhance and improve their quality of life.  I have grown up with a love for music and a desire to help people.  This has made music therapy a natural fit, and I couldn't be happier. 


While there are many reasons why I chose to attend KU, the chance to study abroad in Thailand was a major draw.  I was blessed with the opportunity to travel a lot as a child and love taking the opportunity to experience other cultures.  That being said, I was not completely prepared for Thailand.  We walked off the plane and everything was different.  The humidity made it feel as though you were attempting to walk under the sea.  The air smelled salty, my hair immediately frizzed, and I couldn't understand anything I read or heard.
  I am not used to feeling so helpless when it comes to communicating.  Even though I am not good at Spanish I can express my needs and my shortcomings.  German can sometimes relate to English words.  Then to top it off all Western European languages have alphabets similar to English.  That isn't true in Thailand.  None of the words can be related back to English.  Their written language is beautiful to look at but has no similarity to our alphabet.  They have 44 consonants  in their alphabet and 15 vowels!
It is a bit overwhelming to realize you cannot communicate with the people around you.  You begin grasping at any foreign language you can think of.  Someone asks me a question and I immediately think "si," yes.  You want to know if I am hungry? Si, ho molto fame.  Yes, I am very hungry, it's a different language but not Thai.  Instead I find myself grasping at an odd mix of Italian and Spanish words.  The only things I can say with confidence is sawadee ka and kapkun ka.  Hello and thank you.  I don't know much, but at least I'm polite and friendly.  
The other thing that makes Thai so difficult is that the language is tonal, so depending on the tone you use, the word can have a completely different meaning.  We were taught how to ask someone what their name is, shoo arai.  We then spent a good amount of time asking children and various people shoo arai? Only to discover the way we were saying it didn't mean how are you but translated to "bad luck."  Excellent, that was exactly what I wanted to say to the children in the pediatric wing of the hospital.  You're sick and in the hospital? Well that's just some good ol' bad luck.  Eeeek!!!
Lucky for us, the people here are incredibly friendly so when we tell them bad luck they just smile and give us a weird look.  Hopefully by the end of my time here I will be able to say more than hello and thank you.  Maybe I'll even learn how to adequately ask where is the bathroom? That would be helpful.

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