Trying to communicate when you can’t speak Thai: my every day challenge.
Generally our conversations go a bit like this:
Them: “Sabai dee mai kup?” – How are you?
Me: “Good”. “Sabai dee Kap”
End of conversation
At the beginning of my stay in Koh Phi Phi, I would have thought I would pick up Thai. After a couple of months, I still can’t speak any, which makes me feel quite bad sometimes.
However, the beauty of communication goes beyond words and I can now tell you proudly that some of my best moments on Koh Phi Phi were with my Thai colleagues of The Adventure Club!
By the way, my name is Tom; I am a French Divemaster, who joined The Adventure Club seven months ago, in October 2014. I have done around 450 dives around Phi Phi Ley, Bida Nok, Hin Bida, Bida Nai, Gareng Heng, the Kled Gaeow Wreck and I would like you to know that I enjoyed every single one of them. I love this job! But that is not the topic of the day!
Respect is the key to everything when it comes to work with locals. Our Thai friends here at The Adventure Club are in charge of the Reef Ranger boat, the tanks, the equipment cleaning, the cleaning of the shops, the administration and organization of long tail boats for night dives, snorkeling trips, and so many other things. Eventually, you realize that they are the base of the pyramid and that if they weren’t here here, then nothing would go right.
Our communications started with a “good morning” every day, and a smile, a nod, and a “thank you” each time they assisted me with something and little by little, we started to have more and more interaction.
No word needed. A mime, a sign, a silly face, a situation, anything can become an opportunity to share a good moment. Sometimes, one of them would bring me a beer for no reason at the end of the day. We cheer, we smile, but we can’t really speak to one another. So we laugh, play some videos, joke about Candy Crush, other random things, and if you would pause those moments, you would see two faces, one French, one Thai, with no words exchanged but with two big smiles on their faces.
I learnt a lot from them, they are simple people, with hard jobs, but they always smile, and they seem always happy to help. I deeply believe that if our customers at The Adventure Club are so glad with the diving experience, it is highly thanks to our Thai staff.
I thought of a title a little catchy so more people would read this article but it was a tricky way for me to salute those men and women and to tell them how much I appreciate working with them every day. There is no harder challenge and you quickly realise that it is sometimes easier than working with your own countrymen. I would like to share few good memories I had with my Thai colleagues and friends.
– I sometimes help them push a trolley full of tanks from the pier back to the shop and I had once a crash and they made fun of me for few days.
– I play Hide and Seek and Pictionary with the 5 year old daughter of our secretary. She is so much fun.
– We occasionally take them diving and it is awesome! Most of them are brilliant under water. One of them loves night dives!
– The boat boys are very often making me try their own food. Sea food.. Very spicy! Between two dives, it might not be the best idea but itís part of the experience.
– Attending a wedding with them. We had such a cool party for the wedding of two of our instructors.
– The Adventure Club Secret Santa. That felt like a family party and we were from all around the world. Everyone received a present from an anonymous colleague.
– When they welcomed me back after my 2 month’s holidays. They seemed so happy to see me, we hugged and they made fun of my 2 month beard ( I didn’t shave it for the whole vacation). It was fantastic seeing them.
The list is long, but I could keep going way further. I just wish to everyone reading this article the same chance as I have to work and live with different people from different cultures and become more open and stronger from the experience. I truly believe I got lucky finding those guys at the dive shop and I just want to thank them for everything.
I would also like to tell you that they love it when you say thank you to them, so don’t hesitate, come diving with us, be part of the experience, check out ‘behind the scenes’ and you will see that in the shadow of our work shines some very precious men and women.
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