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!