Monthly Archives: October 2012

Living in Khao Chai Son

Another crazy day in the real Thailand…

 

So this morning I was woken up at 5am by the sunrise. The actual sun didnt wake me up but the amount of animals that woke up with the sun and started making sounds. To the left of my hut is a cow and her calf, behind my hut are ducks, and i can hear frogs this evening, and to the right of my hut is a troop of monkeys (not sure what the collective of monkeys is called, but it was that, and they are very loud!) Managed to fall back asleep and wake up at a more reasonable time, when i was picked up by one of the teachers and taken to see Madam. She let me use her computer to access the internet as mine wont be working until tomorrow, then took me on a tour of the town in her car, including the hot springs next to my hut, where all the monkeys were. They found it funny that i was so excited to see a monkey and i took photos! I’m glad I got my rabies jab considering they are literally my next door neighbours! 

 

Afterwards we went to lunch (thai street food – dont know what they cook omlette in but was so yummy!) with some more thai teachers and i was yawning so when i got back to her office she told me to sleep, and made me nap on her office sofa while she did some work. When i woke up I went outside and there was a moped for me!! I asked how much but the mayor said its for me, and he’s sorted it out. So i taught Madam how to ride it and then i got on the back and we had another tour of the town. Everyone stared.. I’m not sure if its because Madam was driving a moped, or because there was a foreigner, or the two together, but it was funny seeing everyones faces. 

Then I went round in circles by myself making sure i felt safe on it. Its still at the offices now because tomorrow they are going to find me a helmet.

 

This afternoon i was taken “shopping” in the city of Patthalung.. Shopping means i stay in the changing rooms (a curtain in the corner of the room) and everything Madam and Teacher Jai wanted to see me in was passed through and i tried it all on! With them asking “you like?” or “It fits?”.Was definatly an experience, and they bought me 2 skirts and 2 tops. One of which is “sexy” because it has a lace back.. i did ask if they were suitable for teaching and they said yes, because i have white skin it will look better! And I did want to pay but Madam said the Mayor had told her to look after me. After shopping all afternoon we went out to dinner in a really nice restaurant in the city, and I had ribs.. they were so good. More of Madams friends joined us, and her daughter too who is my age and speaks quite good english, so she translated for me. Also in this restaurant every half hour a song comes on and all the waitresses do a dance! Then teacher Jan and teacher pen arrived and ate with us too. Later we went to the cinema, where it was meant to be a thai film with english subtitles, but as the subtitles didnt come on, Madam made everyone leave as i couldnt understand anything! Saw the trailer for the last twighlight film though and it comes out here on Nov 15th and they all know i want to see it. This time it will be in english with thai subtitles.

 

On the way back to my hut we stopped at the mayors house and they made me shout hello from the car. There were a group of guys on the porch who looked very confused so the teacher then rang the mayor to tell him it was me saying hello. Tonight was a lot more relaxed and felt like a girls night out and everyone laughed lots. I think they were less embarrassed to talk in english with me, and I’m being taught Thai words too.

 

When we came back to my hut everyone came in.. Teacher Jai, Madam, Teacher Pen and Teacher Jan, to examine everything! They were so nosey! Also i have a new bed that wasn’t there this morning, apparently the Mayor sorted it because a mattress on the floor isn’t comfy enough. Its brand new, still with plastic on! Then everyone sat down and I showed them photos, and they realised i don’t have a few things so yet more stuff to sort out tomorrow. I’m being picked up at 10am again to go set up a bank account!

 

Im being treated like a princess here and everyone has been wonderful, another happy day. 😀

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Categories: Exploring Thailand, Teaching Thailand- Government School | Leave a comment

Arriving at Placement

So.. today is the day! I’m sat in the hotel lobby waiting for my agency to pick me up and take me to my school in SattingPhra, Songkhla. I’m excited but a little bit shaky too, its early here and the agency is late (Thai time i guess.) I also have to find somewhere to live today as well, so it feels like today is a really big day for me. I’m happy that I’m getting closer to doing what I came here to do.. teach!! I start next monday, so i’ll have a week to settle, and hopefully make new friends!

 

 

Later that evening…

 

I think its safe to say today has been the most surreal day I’ve ever had, so ill start at the beginning. I got picked up by my agency this morning, a little late and taken to the agency office, where they rang the principal of my new school to confirm he was meeting us at 10am in SattingPhra, the town i was meant to move too. He said he was unable to meet me, so the agency then phoned one of the teachers of the school, who said they would arrange a welcome party, but needed to check with the principal first. So, we waited in the office for a phonecall relaying times etc and none came, so once again my agency phoned the teacher. He said the principal said it was not his business to meet me and because the teacher did not want to affect his job he said he wasn’t able to meet me either. so the agency got back on the phone to the principal who said he could meet me next week, but I’d already checked out and was ready to move today!

 

At this, my agency felt that the teachers were not welcoming enough and did not want to send me there, so right there and then they offered me a new placement... I’m now in a town (very small town) called Khao Chai Son, in the South West of Thailand, about an hours north of Hat Yai.. So I’m no longer on the coast, I’m nearer to a city called Phatthalung. I’m pretty much in the sticks, its like a jungle out there. And the school is next to a Rubber Plantation.

 

So I arrived in Khao Chai Son, with the agency and a thai assitant called Mon (interpreter, she has been amazing!!) to meet, not the principal of the school but, the mayor of the whole town, who Im now to call Mr. Mayor (as you do..) and his second in command, the vice mayor, who now wants me to call her Madam Tiew. She sort of interviewed me (using the thai translator) and told me i had a beautiful nose.. and told me my nails were pretty but to delete them (remove nail varnish.) There was also so much talk in thai i had no idea what was going on. At first she came across quite harsh but i can tell now shes really nice and likes to joke. So after that they then took me to the school, which is the same name as the town but with council in front so Tesabarn Khaochaison school. Its still a primary school, so i get to teach 6 to 12 year olds!! So excited but a bit nervous as I’ll be their first ever English teacher. I met some of the other teachers, including the thai english teachers who were really nice but I could tell they were quite shy as well. Bad news is I have to be at school every day at 7.30am!!! But some days i finish at 1.30pm, or 3.30pm. On my timetable i have 19 hours of lessons a week, all conversation classes.

 

Then i was taken to where i will be living for the next 4 months.. Its basically a hut in a ‘resort’ I dont think you can call it a resort when it consists of 2 huts in the middle of knowhere- but considering its a hut, its a really nice hut. I have a double bed (mattress is currently on the floor but Mr. Mayor is bringing me a bed tomorrow) a fan and aircon, a fridge, a tv and a wetroom with hot water and western toilet! So all in all not bad, oh and a desk and cupboard to store things. Next door to me is a Hot Springs, and behind that the view from my window is of a mountain, its pretty cool! Outside my front door, which you have to go along some wooden decking as its raised, i have a raised covered area with seating to hang out in. Also another hut opposite me, but noone is living there at the moment, apparently an american teacher will move in soon, who will teach at the secondary school. Tonight however the landlady is sleeping there to make sure I’m ok on my first night, bless her. I said goodnight to her and used the universal gesture of sleeping to convey what goodnight meant, and she just ‘wai’ed at me and smiled.

 

After my hut was setup, Madam called her computer teacher and made him come over to set up my wifi, but it was broken so hes going to fix it later this week. Then there was a huge discussion (all in thai) about how much i am paying, and deposit etc. Im paying 4,500 baht (£90) a month for rent including electricity and water (yay i dont have to watch my aircon use!) and about 600bht a month for internet ( £12) but that will be split when the other person moves next door, which should be before the end of October. Since its not the first yet i was asked to pay 2500bht for the next 10 days but they haggled for me and im now paying 2000bht. Also i didnt have enough for the deposit of 4500bht and first months rent on Nov 1st of another 4,500bht so Madam is paying it for me and when i get paid at the end of November its coming out of my pay check.

 

Shortly after all the money side was dealt with, my agency and thai assistant left. It was at this point i panicked a little bit… i was totally on my own in a town, in a hut at the end of the road to town. But fear not, Thai people are super friendly, so i went out to dinner with Mr. Mayor, Madam, 2 of the thai english teachers from school, the ICT teacher, and 2 thai teachers, and we went to the city of Phatthalung, to a steak house!?!? The whole menu was in Thai so i told the english teachers to order me something chicken, and then all the thai teacher and Madam just ordered lots for us all to share. The first thing that came out was fish… not just any fish, but a whole fish, eyes, head, tail and all. I don’t like fish. The ICT teacher went to cut it open and i made him wait while i took a photo of it, which everyone found hilarious… then they put most of it on my plate. I thought i had to eat it to be polite, but it was actually okay, not fishy fish, more meaty. I asked what fish it was and the reply was “Thai fish”.. so still no clearer, maybe some of you can work it out from the photo?

 

Then my chicken steak arrived and that was good, but everyone was just staring at me and talking in mostly thai, a little bit of pidgeon english. And they ordered me chocolate cake but i was so full, i made them all eat it too. After dinner Madam asked what fruit i liked then bought most of the fruit stall for me. I’ve just counted and i have 16 bananas… how could i possibly eat 16 bananas, as well as 5 pears and a whole pineapple before they all go off? Then we went to her office and she picked up everything that wasn’t hammered down, including 24 bottles of water, mugs, cutlery, bowls plates, wash basket etc for me to take back to my hut. Then we stopped at Tesco lotus (theres a mini tescos here!!!) and got me all cleaning stuff, and wanted to buy me more food. She wouldn’t let me pay either. I can’t believe how nice and welcoming everyone has been. The Mayor kept checking I was happy, and Madam has told me to ring her at any time if i have a problem. Though she also said the Mayor has told the police to patrol my area every hour all night long.. just to make sure I’m safe. They really want me to be happy here, and are making such an effort, i think i will be! So i made it back to my hut about an hour ago, and Madam has already phoned to confirm that I’m okay, and that I’m being picked up tomorrow at 10am for breakfast and coming to her office to use the internet until mine is set up on wednesday. I don’t think ill ever be hungry here. And Mon (thai assisstant) has phoned too, to check I’m happy and settled in and if she needed to phone anyone to make plans for tomorrow, but was impressed i’d made some already! And as her husband is English so she passed me over to him who told me about a new elephant park opening near Hat Yai, so hopefully I can visit soon!

 

So although today has been crazy, especially learning last minute that all plans can change, I will be going to bed with a smile on my face in my new home!

Categories: Exploring Thailand, Teaching Thailand- Government School | Leave a comment

I’ve nearly been here a month already!

So, the last few weeks have flown by so fast i havent had a chance to write the blog! Im currently in transit from Surat thani to Hat Yai in the south, where i have been placed as a TEFL teacher in a Primary school in Songhla province and my town is called Sattingpra. Its night  time and dark so i couldnt read any longer, so thought it was about time i wrote this and will upload it later when i have internet.

 

I arrived in Bangkok on the thursday 20th Septemeber and after getting a texi to the hostel i checked in then got some street food, a strange mixture of rice and crispy port with gravy, boiled eggs and cucmber. Then after meeting the rest of the TEFL trainees we went for cocktails in a bar called the Water Bar. The next day i got up and went to see the Grand Palace where the emerald buddha is held. The buddha is tiny! Be careful when entering as  we were told by many tuk tuk drivers that we couldnt enter as it was closed that day and then invited to see what they wanted to show us around Bangkok, but it turned out that was just the entrance for Thai people and when we walked round the corner we were able to enter, after the boys had bought crazy thai pants to cover their legs! Just the first of many thai cons…

 

That night the TEFL trainees were met by the trainers and we all boarded the 9 hour bus to Suratthani. We paid 1,200 bht each for a private VIP bus that had a flushing western toilet and free snacks, and we stopped off midway for a free dinner at 1am in the morning, before continuing. Once at Suratthani we had a 2 hour ferry to Koh Samui, our training destination for the next 3 weeks.

 

We stayed in a hotel called Joy Residence, that was really nice and had air con and a swimming pool, it was also where all our training was held. And it was a 15 minute walk to Chaweng beach, the busiest part of the island.

 

The first day was spent getting to know everyone on the course and going over the obvious teaching ideas, with lots of demo lessons from the trainers and trainees. The second week felt like the week of assignments, where we had to do a lesson plan, a grammar essay, a teaching methodologies essay and the final week was a refelction essay. In the final week we ran a summer camp in Baem Loi primary school, on koh samui, for 3 days. Each trainee had to teach at least a half hour lesson every day on different topics as well as run a group activity with 3 other trainees. It was great to see everyones confidence grow and put into practice everything the course had taught us. It also made me realise that I really wanted to teach little ones, as i was put with the 9 and 10 year olds all the time, and they were so cute, i really enjoyed teaching them. (I sent an email requesting that i get primary school and although they replied saying they couldnt guarnatee it, I’m on my way to teach primary!!) I got to act like a nutter in front of the class and they loved it. For my “nature” lesson I taught them the vocab such as stones, sand, leaf, flower, grass, stick. Then we went on a nature trail around the school collecting the items as we went and repeating the vocab to me. After we went back to the classroom and made rubbings of the leaves and drew the flowers – the kids in thailand are so artistic! They’re great at drawing, and instead of drawing any old flowers they copied the ones they had picked.

 

During the course it wasn’t all work, at weekends I made sure to explore what was nearby! The first weekend pretty much everyone went on an organised tour to Ang Thong National Marine park, a 2 hour boat ride away. Its where all the amazing views of the thai islands are from as you can climb (literally on your hand and knees) to 500m and see the views. Afterwards we rented Kayaks and went kayaking around the islands.. They were beautiful and i loved the trip. The following week I rented a moped with Tara and we went round the island on our bikes. We drove to Waterfall 2 where at the bottom is an elephant trekking site and i think it was a zoo too. I didnt do the elephant trek as the adult eles didnt look too happy, but I did go and play with the babies. I love elephants so I was happy to see that the babies really responded well to the mahouts, the people who look after them. It’s unsettling that the adults weren’t so close to the mahouts, but i guess they are trained that way. We climbed up Waterfall 2 and at the top there was a lagoon to go swimming and jumping into, it was refreshingly cold after the hike! Afterwards we went to Fishermans village for dinner and then saw the big buddha before it got dark. The big buddha is a big gold one over looking the sea, and fishermans village is a more chilled out place, thats meant to be more expensive, on the coast as well.

 

This weekend there was a party on friday night as we all passed and graduated from the TEFL course, and won awards. I was nominated for “most creative teacher” and won “person most likely to steal an elephant” and “worst kept secret – Zoe loves elephants”I guess they’re both true.

On Saturday we caught a boat to Koh Tao, the island that is scuba diving paradise, and takes about 2 hours from Koh Samui by boat. We stayed at Bans diving resort, in the basic accomodation there. They do offer luxury rooms aswell but we went cheap for 500bht a night (£10) for a fan room (no aircon) and cold water (where the shower was over the toilet?!?!) The next morning we booked in for an introductory dive, (2000bht for the day) so we were in class again to fill out a medical form and then had some information and then met at the pool and were taught all the basics of scuba diving. We were put with a couple from Ireland who were nice, and easy to get on with, so went for lunch with them, before getting on another boat to take us to the dive site. The dive site was called White Rock and after getting all the equipment on we jumped into the sea. I had a small panic over adjusting to breathing underwater but eventually got over it and we went for a 40 minute dive. Managed to see a blue spotted stingray, clownfish (nemos), parrotfish, triggerfish, and more that I’ve forgotten the name of! We also paid 2000bht between the 4 of us to hire out an underwater camera and have photos taken. Ellie, from Scotland, was our dive instructor and she was brilliant, and very patient when I got nervous!

 

The next day was spent getting back to Koh Samui and grabbing suitcases from where we’d stored them in Joy Residence. This time we moved to BB Hotel Samui, right next to the night market in Chaweng for the night where the offer was 500bht for a nice aircon room instead of 1000bht as it was last minute. I really liked the night market on Samui, the mojitos cocktails are really good for only 60bht (£1.20) and the food was good and the stalls interesting and cheap if your ready to barter!

 

This morning those of us who were placed in the south, got on another 2 hour ferry to Suratthani (450bht) from Nathon Pier, then an hour bus to Surrathani town centre (100 bht) and am now in a mini bus on a 5 hour journey to Hat Yai (650bht, think we got conned again as at the port we could have paid to do the whole trip for 750bht)

 

Tomorrow we are being met by the Visions agency guy. Forgot to say, im no longer with Media Kids agency who place people in the North, as they ran out of placements, so 15 of us have moved agencies. Mine agency is now Visions. Wish me luck 🙂

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