Moving to Thailand was a difficult decision for Naomi to make.Now taking a gap year before college Naomi has returned home to Ireland for a while before she decides what to study in college. Here she talks about the challenges she faced, the countries she’s seen and all the things she has done along the way.
Naomi left Midleton when she was just 16. After being offered a job in Thailand for an aviation company her father moved her whole family over there, including her three young
brothers. He took the job because he it meant he didn’t have to travel as often as he did when they lived in Ireland. Talking about the decision to leave the country Naomi remembers how she really didn’t want to leave. “No I didn’t want to go but my dad told me that it wasn’t permanent and that we would come back to Ireland twice every year which made it much easier as I started to realize that it was an opportunity for me to experience something completely out of my comfort zone and started to look at it as a kind of challenge”.
It wasn’t long before Naomi and her family settled into their new home in Bangkok. Life is a lot different there and it took a lot to get used to. Thailand is still considered a developing country, which means that anIrish family living there would have a lot more than living
in Ireland. Naomi compares life there to life at home. ‘The people are unlike any other nationality I have ever experienced, they are quite spiritual people, and very hard working but always quite content with life even though they could live under a bridge with nothing but a rug to lie on to call their own. Overall Bangkok was just so different to anything you could ever experience, we have luxuries we wouldn’t have dreamed of in Ireland like the maid and driver, we have a pool and meals cost a quarter of the price they would over here’
While there have been advantages there have also been tough times too. Naomi recalls that in the beginning she found it very hard to adjust to being away from friends and family especially with a seven-hour time difference. He friends would be coming home from school back in Ireland when it would be bedtime in Bangkok.
Living in a country with a new language can also be challenging. For Naomi this language was important in her every day life. Whether she was just going to school or out for a day shopping with her friends she needed to know the basics to get her around. Luckily for Naomi the family’s maid taught her the words she needed to know. Naomi says
“eventually I learned enough Thai to get me around in a taxi in a restaurant and shopping”
Language, culture and lifestyle changes aside Naomi tells of the impact the new country had on her life. Seeing people in a country with so much poverty has had a great impact on her. Also difficult was the fact that she was used to one way of living and teenage lifestyle is so much different there. She says, ‘the biggest challenge for me was dealing with the amount of poverty around me, in Ireland teenagers are in a kind of security bubble, where they are protected against fully seeing the full effects of poverty”. This was a lot different to what she was used to. People can be seen begging on the streets of Cork everyday but Naomi explains situations where kids and disabled people had to beg to stay alive. “I wasn’t really ready for what I was going to see around me for my there, the children as young as 5 begging in the busiest parts of Bangkok on the stairs of the sky train and people with disabilities dragging their cups around after them while they pull themselves along the pavement because they cant afford wheelchairs.
The country is also overridden with stray animals. Naomi explains that in Buddha religion they don’t believe in killing animals so
“there are hundreds and hundreds of stray dogs roaming the streets starving to death, injured, and full of diseases”.
Living with a maid and a pool and a driver and a lot more advantages that you are not used to from back in Ireland can make you feel guilty about seeing the poor and starving on the streets. Naomi clearly found this difficult and explains feeling ‘helpless’ because there is just so many people and animals around that need your help and so little you can do.
While the locals and animals are living tough lives it is not always easy for immigrants either. While seen as more well off and living better lifestyles people from Ireland or any other country living in Thailand also face every day challenges. Naomi remembers a few times that scared her “The only time I was ever really nervous in Thailand was when the coup happened we were given a curfew to be back in our compound and school was cancelled for 4 days. Traveling can also be dangerous and it is essential to always travel in groups. Clearly a lot different from walking down an Irish street on your own this took a lot of getting used to. In her own words Naomi explains “there are such a diverse amount of people, some are friendly and harmless but in some cases there can be people who would be ready to steal your bag or even you”
Difficulties and challenges aside there have been some good times also. Moving to Thailand has given Naomi the chance to travel and explore other countries along the way including China, Singapore and Cambodia. It is clear that Naomi has benefited a lot from her experiences and she finds herself more open minded. “I would have been a different person if I didn’t move”. One of the best things that Naomi remembers is when she went with twelve other people to work in Cambodia for five days. While there she visited and worked in underprivileged schools and went to two orphanages, a school for children with aids and a playschool that was situated in a junkyard. She remembers, “there was a lot of emotional moments on the trip but we brought these kids clothes, school supplies, toys and shoes all the things they don’t have. Cambodia was the best thing that happened to me due to my move because it allowed me to do what I could to help these children. Just handing those two year olds baggy t-shirts or teddy bears and seeing their smiles was just the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me”.
Naomi is not the only young person to have moved to Bangkok in recent years and through living there and going to school she has made friends from all over the world. She says ‘In my group alone there was Irish, English, South African, Korean, German, French, Japanese, American. It gave me a different perspective of the world and also now it makes it so much easier for me to travel as I know people from every corner of the world”
Asking her if she has any regrets about moving away from Ireland and if she likes Thailand she replies “I love Thailand and always will, I’m not too sure what kind of person I would be now if I have never moved”.