Jessica is diving into her fourth month in Chaing Mai in northern Thailand, where she teaches English to one hundred and forty students at Chiang Mai University. Within three months, she has grown comfortable making a fool of herself in class – acting, dancing, making funny faces, whatever it takes to keep her students laughing and engaged. She has come to expect the unexpected: Will the class discuss bisexual camels? interview Harry Potter? debate the merits of riding elephants as a means of “green” transportation?
When not teaching the finer distinctions between “say” and “tell,” she discusses Shakespeare sonnets with students she’s coaching in a regional competition. Recently, Jessica convinced her department to let her produce MacBeth, set in Thailand! Auditions are this week!
Off school grounds, Jessica is often found hanging from the local bouldering wall at Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures, nibbling on sticky rice in a local market, and learning the Thai words for “head,” “arm,” and “leg” from the women at her favorite massage parlor. On Wednesdays, Jessica pulls out paintbrushes and paper behind a major temple, where she has established an art program for neighborhood kids. When the weekend comes, she’s off on her motorbike, or a bus, or plane – adventures that have led her to help sell vegetables at 3am on the Fourth of July, bring banana offering to an elephant shrine, unexpectedly stumble into the red-light district of Bangkok, and sip locally grown tea up in the mountains near the Thai border.