If 16 years ago you would have told me I would be singing in front of an entire school in Thailand I would have probably said nothing and ran away because I was so shy.
I was the type of kid to hide behind my mom’s legs when a stranger was within 10 feet.
Let me give you an example. When I was a mere tator tot I was at the public library with my mom. I had no care in the world besides picking out the best Arthur episodes on VHS. Suddenly I looked around and my mom was nowhere to be seen. I spotted her coat and ran up and yelled “mom” and hugged her legs. To my sheer horror I had unknowingly wrapped my arms around a complete stranger. To this day I remember the golfball sized lump in my throat and the thoughts racing through my head of never seeing my mother again.
Flash forward almost a decade and a half and a Thai teacher is handing me a microphone asking me to sing nursery rhymes to an entire elementary school. I’m 20 years old and on my first overseas adventure studying abroad in Bangkok. I’m wearing the typical Thai school uniform — a black skirt, white button-down top, and 4 gallons of sweat. I’m the only native English speaker who volunteered to teach English at the local elementary school for the day. The other volunteers have thick European accents and apparently don’t know the words to Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.
My mind races. I think of Lizzie McGuire on stage in Rome masquerading as an Italian pop star. I can do this. It’s just Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. My colosseum full of clueless Italians and Ms. Ungermeyer’s class is a courtyard full of tiny people who don’t speak English. If Lizzie can do it so can I.
So what happens next?
I grab that microphone and belt out the most off-key rendition of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes that Thailand has ever heard. And I love every moment of it.
I look out into the crowd of Thai primary students. They’re giggling and struggling to follow along. The teacher asks if I can sing it any quicker. Try and stop me.
We move on to the next activity and I (internally) take a bow. The kiddos run up to all of us English teachers at the end of the day and ask for our autographs in their little notebooks. We get dozens of little munchkin hugs, get in a little minibus, and head back to the university. Those kids have probably forgotten about us completely by now. A new group of exchange students visits almost every week to play games with them and practice their ABC’s. But I’ll never forget that day.
Travel makes you do funny things. Like forget about your childhood fears to put a smile on someone’s face and maybe help them learn basic body parts.