Inspiring Caring Leaders Across Cultures  

Jasmine Bolden

Published Date : Dec 3, 2019

Life’s Little Bracelets

Jasmine Bolden is a 2018-19 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Rajprachanugkroh 8 School in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, where she teaches students in Prathom 1, 4,5,6 and Mattayom 1 and 2. She graduated from St. Olaf College in 2018 with a B.A. in Social Studies Education. Born in St.Paul, Minnesota, Jasmine has grown up surrounded by many peers from South East Asia. This year, Jasmine has spent her free time writing, working out, and meandering the streets of both Tha Sala and Muang Nakhon in search of friends and food. Jasmine’s main reason for coming here however was to develop her teaching skills as she loves education and how it is practiced differently throughout the world. Upon completing her ETA program, Jasmine hopes to apply to graduate programs in Comparative International Educational policy.

Racing through my school as my students motion for me to “come on,” seeing the joy and laughter as they engage in an activity that I made. Feeling my students respect as I tell them in Thai that they have hurt my feelings. Sharing personal stories and lessons. Showing my students that dark skin is beautiful and why, and seeing skin comparisons come to and end in my 8th grade classes. Attending an English camp with students from all over Tha Sala, dancing and singing in front of 100+ strangers, and having a student teach me how to tell my students at Raj 8 “don’t speak too much or you’ll get a sore throat,” in Thai. Recommending cartoons to my 8th graders and discussing our favorite characters over FB messenger, and teaching first grade barely anything, but having a blast doing it!

“This is where I am supposed to be.” I think to myself as a calm sensation engulfs my body. Memories from all of the lessons I have taught playback in my head, and I can barely believe that my first semester teaching here in Thailand has come to an end. It’s been hard for me to get to this point in my thought process though. Most days I find myself questioning my position in life. I am not someone who strategically plans out my life, or someone who has known what they’ve wanted to do since they were 18. I don’t typically think many decisions through, instead usually I see something pop up on my screen, or in an ad, and get dazzled by the oohs and aahs and decide it’s definitely the life for me… my mom can vouch for this issue of mine, considering she had to sit with me through all those meetings with the Navy as I was convinced that was the path for me after a recruitment day in high school….

As you can see I don’t typically sit down and think about the decisions I make, I don’t weigh out the pros and cons I simply just act on impulse. I will say this is annoying to most people because it can come across as negligent and flaky when I finally realize it isn’t the path for me or at last-minute make a different decision. My excuse is that I like to live in the moment, but the truth is making last minute spur of the moment decisions has made it hard for me to know who I really am, or if any of the decisions I have made are actually representative of my likes and desires. I say this because sometimes I find myself doing things because they seem o.k for the moment or because I’m being backed into a corner and need to choose something quickly. I’m not sure most people know this but most classes I took in college, clubs I joined and even the major I chose were last minute decisions made simply because I needed to decide on something. Often times I find myself wondering what my decisions would have been if I had thought things through and made more intentional choices.

When I first got to Thailand I felt out-of-place, I saw my friends, get jobs, go to graduate school, get boyfriends or even engaged. Doing all of the seemingly necessary steps to setting up a successful life. I found the comparisons building and building like giant skyscrapers in my head, as I began to feel small, lost and inadequate. I say this because while Thailand is amazing, it often times feels like someone pressed pause on my life back home while I went and traveled to an alternate universe, as if I am not really living life but instead taking a break from it. I get nervous about what’s to come once I return home with no money and a plethora of memories that no one at home will understand…

However, on Thursday as I collapsed in bed after belting out way too many songs and engaging in weird dance moves to get the students excited for English camp, my body expelled a sigh of relief. All of the thoughts I mentioned above were none of the thoughts in my head, in fact they were the furthest away from my mind they have ever been. As I laid there on the bed, with my arms to my sides, legs dangling off and eyes closed, I cracked a smile. I began to smile out of pure happiness and I thought about my previous job with the ELCA over the summer. I remembered being asked one day to explain a time where I had felt called to do something. I remember in that moment I made something up because I thought I had never had that feeling before. The truth is however, that my idea of what it meant to “be called” was skewed. Because I had never physically felt God tugging at my clothing pulling me to a help wanted sign, or writing in frost on a window a hint at something I should be doing, I thought I had never been guided towards a decision. On Thursday though, I began to finally realize that all of the jobs, clubs, classes, my major, and even Fulbright were all presented to me as steps in the right direction.

I think sometimes we have this idea that our calling is going to be spelled out for us and that it’s always going to make sense in our heads. But the truth is, sometimes it might be the smallest of love taps in the right direction, sometimes so small that we don’t even notice them.

I applied for Breakthrough Twin Cities for no reason I can recall, if someone asked me why I chose to be an education major, I wouldn’t be able to pin-point my exact decision-making moment, and to this day I can’t tell you why Fulbright –however, I can tell you why Thailand, because country selection is a strategic process–, but just because I can’t tell you the specific reasons or moments of realization, does not mean they weren’t present. In my moment laying in my bed on Thursday, I came to the conclusion that a calling is not a situation where you can break down all the 5 W’s, and write out an in detail road map, I finally understood how little events have led me to where I am today.

I hope others can resonate with the feeling I had that day. The feeling where all the events in your life string together perfectly, like small beads, all weirdly shaped and colorful, confusing on their own, but once all put together and packed tightly between the clasps, they all make sense in the form of a cute, retro one-of-a-kind, bracelet. While I am only 23 and this will only represent a small portion of my life, I am so happy I was steered in the direction I was, and was able to gather the beads I needed in order to create my, let’s call it my “teacher bracelet.” It represents to me all the steps it took to come into my calling as a teacher, it gives purpose to the multiple avenues I have explored and equips me with a unique and different perspective to share with each room I walk into, it makes me the teacher I am.

While I am still growing as a teacher, I am no longer questioning if it’s the place for me, or if there is something I’d serve a better purpose doing. Thursday I realized the blessing in teaching and how much it makes me, me, and allows me to enjoy life. Teaching is hard work most of the time, but it is mostly a job where I get to wake up and spend my time learning and laughing with amazing students. I am supposed to be here in Thailand, I will grow here in Thailand, I will be a better teacher from this experience, and it is not just a year of my life on pause, it is a year that will impact me in ways I might not even know throughout my entire life. I feel called to be a teacher, and I can feel in myself that being here in Thailand is for a greater purpose, and while I don’t know what it is yet, and probably won’t for some time, I can’t wait to see what my next bracelet will look like.
–I love teaching, I am a teacher, I was born to be a teacher.