My students and I have been talking about citizenship. Moe has also been studying citizenship in his class. So a lot of our talks at home have been about the subject.
It is quite interesting how being in such a diverse population completely changes ones ideas of citizenship. Some of the things that my kids and I talk about are completely obvious to them but I think might not be obvious to Americans or vis-a-versa. Other things blow their minds that are not the same everywhere. We have had wonderful discussions and its a topic that I am surprisingly really enjoying. I wanted to share some of the conversations and experiences that we have had.
We have defined citizen as a person who belongs to a community. So saying that all of us in my class are citizens of Thailand is obvious to them, though I struggle accepting that.
Words like patriotic are foreign to my kids because they have so many places that they call home. They don't know how to be patriotic for one particular place, because they care for all the places they have been.
We talked about how a foreigner in Thailand has to have permission to be in the country (a visa) and many of them had no concept of that (even though they all have them). "Why do you need permission or a visa? Why cant some people come to the country?" they ask.
Passports were one of the major things that I was able to blow their minds with (which I very much enjoy doing!). I asked them to raise their hand if they had a passport, and they all raised their hands and many of them then laughed. I then told them that many people around the world do not have passports and might not ever get one. Many people do not want to leave their home country. "WHAT??? WHY???" They were so confused.
Next week I am talking about the role of the government(s) in class and Moe and I had a great conversation about that. In his class he has Burmese, Vietnamese, and American people plus the Thai professor. Discussing the role of the government is very different for all of them. Some think the government can do no wrong and we should always listen; others think the government should never be trusted; and others think the government tries their best to take care of everyone.
Weve talked about how as citizens you have certain rights and owning land is one of them. So as a foreigner I cant own land in Thailand. I have many half-Thai students and they were so relieved to hear that they could own land some day! This is also true for hilltribe people who are not citizens. They cant own land so that are constantly worried about losing the places they are staying and having to move.
I am constantly reminded of the uniqueness of the environment that I am in. I truly value and appreciate the diverse community and the various perspectives that come along with it. It is such a cool place to live!