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Why I Am 'Going Bamboo'

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I'm not sure which aspect of corporate America can be credited as the straw that broke the camel's back and made me decide to "go bamboo." Maybe it was the chorus of co-workers wishing me things like "Happy Friday" or chirping "Somebody could use another cup of coffee!" Maybe it was time I spent studying the walls of my cubical, attempting to conjure up ideas of how any postcard or picture could camouflage the  plastic box I worked in.

Most likely, however, it was the unenthusiastic chatter of my fellow 20-somethings every morning on the R5. IPod in ears, the front page of The Metro shielding their faces, they are daily ushered from the suburbs like unwilling passengers on the River Styx. As the doors on the regional rail opened, it was as if the hand of Charon himself ushered them off at  Market East, putting on the last leg of their daily journey towards an office, a firm, a corporation somewhere in Center City. I wanted out of this Hades, so I broke free.

Like fellow VoxPop contributor Zach Sinemus, I graduated with a B.A. that would "teach me to think critically and be an excellent, well-rounded candidate" Before the ink was dry on my liberal arts diploma, I realized that my degree in History would give me as much standing in the real world as a Magic Bullet blender in the kitchen of a Stephen Starr restaurant. My mother, through her connections, had snagged me a temporary position as Train Reader 2.jpgan administrative assistant in the legal department of a large corporation in Center City. If I wanted to escape this karmic cycle of label, file, log, coffee, label file. I knew I had to think big. I decided to escape the rat race entirely, and leave the US of A behind.

I decided to concentrate on working with the skills I have. I knew that I could speak English (well, at least to some degree) so I decided on a career teaching English as a second language overseas.

But where to go? The bohemian nightlife of Prague? The towering skyscrapers of Tokyo? Tangos in Buenos Aries until the sun rises? Countless places around the world seemed like my own personal Shangri-La, mostly because they weren't the Main Line. But after spending a semester there as an exchange student, I knew where to return to in order to delay becoming a 9-to-5 adult. If I was to be Peter Pan, my Neverland was going to be Thailand. A Google search of "TEFL Courses Thailand" and a little networking on Facebook, and I had a one-way ticket to Bangkok booked.

Granted, having previously traveled to Southeast Asia was a definite calming factor for my Dancing-with-the-Stars-watching, technologically-impaired-yenta of a mother. But that didn't stop the questions: "What and come back when your 30 and get a job? When will you go to law school? How are you going to find a wife?"

As if being constantly judged by an imaginary chorus of my peers, my parents watched as their friends' children earned MBAs, JDs, MDs. The only official sounding acronyms I can attach to my name is that I now have both my Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B shots.

The most common reaction to my plans to teach in Thailand are "I wish I could do that, so jealous!" and also "My friend's cousin's son's roommate in college did that and he loved it!" To that last statement, I'd reply: "And what dooes he do now?" only to hear "Oh, I have no idea, but they loved it!" I reassure myself by lying to my own voice of reason and assume these people eventually returned and became normal, Genuardi-shopping, King-of- Prussia-Mall visiting members of society....or not

So, to all the young professionals taking regional rails next Monday morning, think of me when you flash your SEPTA pass. Perhaps I'll be tearing my hair out in frustration in a classroom of 40 Thai teenagers. Perhaps I'll be standing at a steamy Bangkok food stall, sweating yet content, as I slurp my Tom Yum Goong. Perhaps I will be back in a year, get the wanderlust out of my system, actually commit to buying a one-month SEPTA pass and begin to break in a seat on my favorite car of the 8:19 a.m. R5, the train to Successville.

Or perhaps it's never too early to "go bamboo."

 

Greg Pfeffer is a Bala Cynwyd native and a 2010 graduate of Albright College.

 

 

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