Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

To everyone celebrating in the US that is. Oddly enough, Thais don't find a need to celebrate a day where you dress up in scary and/or slutty costumes and knock on strangers' doors asking for candy.  Needless to say, I did not celebrate Halloween today, but did teach some of my students about it!

Teaching. This was our third day of classes and it hits me every once in a while that I am a teacher.  Theoretically I knew I was coming to Thailand to teach english, but I don't think I really thought of teaching as my profession. It my not be my lifelong profession, but when I stand up in front of these high schoolers, they think that I am actually a teacher. I have been thinking of my high school and junior high teachers a lot this week wondering if they ever felt like they were just faking it too.  Probably not since they actually had to have credentials to teach.

Most days I teach four 50 minute classes, except tomorrow when I only have one class! The school campus is very beautiful and it looks like a small university surrounded by rice patties. There are over 2,000 students and between Eric, Anna, and me we see all of them once a week. Each class is at a somewhat different level in terms of speaking, understanding, and behavior.   So far, most of mine are really fun to teach with a few exceptions where I am probably counting down the hour more than they are.  I am very fortunate that I get to teach M6 (seniors) because they can at least understand my directions when I am speaking slow enough and some classes are really smart.  My M3's (freshman) can also be really smart and I really enjoy teaching some of those classes.  Most classes are pretty noisy, but it is very cute that at the beginning of each class they stand and say, "Good morning/Good afternoon teacher" and stand at the end of class to say, "Thank you teacher." They also bow their heads or wai (pronounced why) me every time they walk by.  I'm totally into this respect your elders/betters thing.

The classrooms are very interesting.  All of them that I have seen have a smart board, which is super high tech, but the room Eric has been teaching in isn't air conditioned and has termites that chew through the desks leaving saw dust on the floor.  Others don't have A/C, but are in a little better condition.

The other teachers are super nice, friendly, and helpful so it makes teaching and working in the foreign language office very enjoyable.  It's pretty awesome that you go teach a class or two (which I kind of think of as "going into character") and then come back to your office and maybe work on a lesson plan for next week or read or hang out and talk until your next class.  I call it "going into character" since a big part of our job is simply keeping students entertained while also speaking english.  I think I am doing a pretty good job as a teacher and it is really helpful working with Eric and Anna so we can share lesson plan ideas and strategies for keeping kids quiet.

Overall I am enjoying being a teacher, shopping after work, and going out to eat near our apartment (tonight Eric and I had the best fried rice in our lives for $1 each).  Suphanburi is a city full of really nice people and it is beginning to feel like home.  Yay for Thailand!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

After a week in Thailand, I am finally in my apartment in Suphanburi where I will live for the next 5 months. Thailand is an amazing country with really wonderful people and I am so happy I will be spending the next 6+ months living here. The past week has been spent learning how to teach and live in Thailand with some really fun activities thrown in, too.

The first four days of orientation were spent in a nice hotel on Bangkok, but far away from the part of Bangkok most people think of.  It was relatively in the middle of no where, but was a good setting to sit inside and learn what we need to know before beginning to teach. We were part of the largest group that has ever come to teach in Thailand through our organization (Overseas Education Group: OEG) so there were a somewhat overwhelming number of Americans and British to meet. There were definitely some people that I never had a chance to talk to, but I was able to meet and get to know many interesting and awesome people that I am looking forward to traveling with throughout my time living here.

Our day was scheduled from about 8:30 am to 5 pm, but we did have a chance to explore a little bit after our lessons. We mostly stayed near the hotel and checked out the many street vendors down the street, but one night Eric and I went with another couple to Siam Square in Bangkok. It was basically a huge western shopping malls, which we did not go in, but instead skirted around the outside where there were tons of street vendors selling food and clothing. Another night we were taken to a show of Thai culture as a large group (stereotypical huge tour buses full of Farang-white foreigner).  It was definitely a tourist trap and there were many other Farang, but the show was actually really neat with great costumes, dancing, and a really cool stage that had a river run through it at times and rain come down from the ceiling. We also toured the Grand Palace where King Rama IX lives, which was very beautiful.

The last two days were spent in Kanchanaburi, a neighboring province to Bangkok and Suphan Buri.  We arrived at night and realized we were at a resort, not just a standard hotel. It was on the Kwai river, there were two beautiful pools, and a karaoke bar. After a short lesson the last morning, we went to an elephant camp where we rode elephants, went down the river in a bamboo raft, and watched the elephants do tricks including playing the harmonica, picking people up, and spanking people. I had low expectations for the elephant camp since I had such an awesome bareback elephant riding experience in India, but it was actually really fun and our elephant driver was very silly. After the elephant camp, we went to the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai from WWII. You can read about it here:

We were told that we had a surprise for dinner and OEG definitely delivered. We had no alcohol allowed (for good reason) dinner on a floating restaurant (basically a big raft being pulled my a tugboat), which turned into a techno dance party in the pouring rain. After that, we went back to the hotel/resort to hit up the karaoke room until 2 am.  It was a great last night with everyone before getting picked up to go to our respective regions.

We got to our apartment in Suphanburi (Note: I live in Suphanburi the city and Suphan Buri the province) yesterday afternoon and basically layed around and unpacked in the heat.  Today one of the Thai english teachers is picking us up to take us to lunch and hopefully to see the school so we aren't lost when we have our first day of classes on Monday.

There is so much more I could talk about, but this post has been long enough so I will write more another time.  All in all, I am so happy to be here and can't wait to make this place my home.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sawadee ka! (translation: hello--Sawadee krap if you are a man)

Tonight is the last night I will be sleeping in the U.S. as I get ready for the 17 hour flight to Thailand.  I have been anticipating and planning for this adventure for the past 9 or 10 months and can't believe it is about to start!

I am a mix of emotions as I near the beginning of this new chapter of my life.  There is the anticipation of missing my family (especially my brand new nephew), my friends, and my very content life that I have been living recently.  The larger anticipation of an adventure that I will probably talk about for the rest of my life and which will absolutely shape my future in ways I can't even know right now.  The anxiety of physically getting to Thailand (fears of missing the flight, getting ripped off by a taxi driver when we get there, finding the hotel in Bangkok, etc).  The excitement of meeting all of the other 150+ people teaching english in Thailand and of getting to know the Thai faculty, staff, and students.

Here is the general plan for these first steps of my adventure:

1) Flight leaves from SFO late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning.
2) Layover in Taiwan.
3) Get to Thailand in the middle of the day on Friday (the 20th)
4) Orientation in Bangkok until the 25th--learning how to actually teach, touring Bangkok, and learning other useful information.

  • This is where the orientation is taking place:

5) Move to my new home on the night of the 25th.

I am teaching high school students at a public high school in Suphaburi, which is 1-2 hours north west of Bangkok.  I am teaching during their second semester, which is five months long.  However, I have a one way ticket because I plan on doing a lot of traveling while I'm on that side of the world (India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia are my current list) and am open to doing something else (work or volunteering) if I am happy there.  

As far as I can tell, there is one other girl teaching at the school (who I will meet at orientation) with Eric and I (for those who don't know, Eric is my boyfriend and we applied to the teaching program together so this is a shared adventure). It sounds like a really great place to live in order to get a good feel for Thailand while also being relatively close to more westernized aspects of the country when I am feeling out of place.  I prepared myself for this move by reading the entire blog of a girl who taught at the same school for a year and that has definitely made me feel more prepared and excited for my teaching/living, eating, smiling, and exploring.  I will let you know how prepared I actually am when I have been there for a week or so :)

I was thinking that writing this blog post tonight would help me get some of my goals for this experience written down, so here are some goals which I am sure I will develop and add to on the flight and once I am in Thailand.

1) Become close friends with other english teachers and with locals in Suphanburi.
2) Actually use the Thai that I have been practicing and learn a lot more.
3) Find creative ways to keep the 50 high schoolers in each class engaged and interested in learning english.
4) Learn more about Buddhism (almost everyone in Thailand is Buddhist) and try to understand how it is incorporated into everyday life.
5) Try any weird food I am offered or see (besides bugs).
6) Keep a journal and update this blog.
7) Fall in love with Thailand.

My last day in the U.S. will be spent tying the loose ends together, packing, and spending time with my family.  This time tomorrow night I will be waiting at the airport to get started on this new and exciting chapter of my life!

Sawadee ka! (transition: goodbye, yes it is the same)