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Out Of The Rat Race And Into Bamboo
By Greg Pfeffer

I’m not sure which benchmark in corporate America can be credited as the straw that broke the camel’s back; the final event that caused me to “go bamboo.” The chorus of seemingly uniform co-workers wishing me things like “Happy Friday” and “Somebody could use another cup of coffee!” The almost perverted detail I took in studying the walls of my cubical, attempting to conjure up ideas of how any postcard or picture could ever camouflage the walls of 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 face from the morning glances of their fellow commuters; they are 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 30th and 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(voice of the people) contributor Zach Sinemus, in My Entry-Level Trap, I too graduated with a BA 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 knew my degree in History gave me as much credit in the real world as a Magic Bullet blender in the kitchen of a Stephen Starr restaurant. My mother had snagged me a temporary position as an administrative assistant in the legal department of a large corporation in town. If I wanted to escape this karmic cycle of label, file, log, coffee, label file…I knew it had to be big… I would 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..

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 the inevitable…becoming a 9-5 adult. If I was to be Peter Pan, my never-ever land 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 to my Dancing with the Stars watching, technologically impaired yenta of a mother. “What and come back when you’re 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 officially sounding acronyms I can attach to my name is that since traveling to Southeast Asia, I now have both my Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B shots.

The most common reaction to my plans are “I wish I could do that, so jealous!” and also “My friends cousins son’s roommate in college did that; he loved it.” And what do they do now? I’d reply. “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 became normal, Genuardi’s 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 forty Thai teenagers. Perhaps I’ll be sweating by 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 R5..the train to Successville. Or perhaps it’s never too early to “go bamboo.”

Greg Pfeffer Bio:

Greg Pfeffer is a Bala Cynwyd native, who graduated from Albright College in May 2010. After a very brief stint in Hollywood, and an even shorter one in corporate America, he’s in Thailand teaching English, soaking up some culture, and gorging himself on red curry.

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