Monthly Archives: November 2012

Working for the weekend? Yes and no.

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After almost 2 months as a teacher, I now know that they are not, in fact, strange beings with no social lives outside of school. They do not live in closets and hibernate during non-school hours. We have lives. And in Thailand, its a great life. The phrase “working for the weekend” does not necessarily apply in these circumstances. Yes we work so we can take advantage of what Thailand has to offer, but the week days do not feel like work. The kids are great, the teachers are great. Basically it doesn’t feel like work.

Some of my M6 kids

Some of my M6 kids

Last weekend I decided to meet up with some friends in Bangkok again, but just a few of us girls, to relax and have a good social time. We did some shopping, walked around, and enjoyed the city. Saturday night Katie (a fellow teacher who works near Suphanburi) and I bought “Wolfpack” bracelets for the four of us girls. Indeed it was a wolfpack weekend. As much of a cliché as it sounds like, I even heard “One Night in Bangkok” playing from hookah bar/café.

Wolfpack bracelets

Wolfpack bracelets

This past Wednesday was Loi Krathong, the festival of lights. It is an annual celebration on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar (this year, November 28th) that takes place all over Thailand. Loi means “to float” and krathong is the name for the offerings that are made. The krathongs are usually hand made from banana leaves and can become quite fancy. Mine was fairly simple:

My krathong

My krathong

The tradition is to send them off in the river as an offering to the river spirits and to the Goddess of Water (Phra Mae Khongkha).

Some krathongs loi-ing down the river

Some krathongs loi-ing down the river

During the release of your krathong, you are getting rid of the negativity from the past year.

Letting my worries float away

Letting my worries float away

In the same idea, lanterns are also released into the air. You make also make a wish for the upcoming year.

Lantern about to set sail

Lantern about to set sail

We have been told that if couples go to this festival together then they will break up that upcoming year, but if someone is single and asks a love interest as a date to Loi Krathong then they will end up together.

Loi Krathong love is in the air!

Loi Krathong love is in the air!

Today I finally tried the well known Thai food of mango and sticky rice. I was not let down at all. It is one of the best deserts that I have ever tasted. For some reason I had no idea that there was a cart right near where we are (temporarily) living! This is going to be dangerous.

Deliciousness being prepared

Deliciousness being prepared

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

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This past week…

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A variety of different things happened this past week:

The first was that i had to evaluate my M6 students on last week’s lesson (asking for and giving directions). They knew this was going to happen, that it was only worth 5 points, and also that they could not fail. Yes, the Thai education system does not allow students to fail. I was forced to give every student a 3.5 or more (3 is failing) even if they did not deserve it. This was a bit frustrating because some students didn’t even know what to do even though they had a week to prepare. Other students were so concerned with how they did that they asked me what grade they got after the evaluation was over (thankfully they were students that received 5s).

The second is about “Gangnam Style”. This Korean Pop song has taken over the world, and this entire country is OBSESSED with it. Beyond what you can imagine. It’s not like the states where people have a funny infatuation with it. Almost every day we hear our students ask us to dance to it. At the end of my last M1 class this week the students asked me to dance to it. I said I would if they joined me. Just as they agreed the bell went off so I decided to “Gangnam Style” my way out of the classroom, leaving the class in a hysterical laughing fit. Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0

Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style

The third thing was realizing how the Thai mail system works. Basically we can’t expect anything. Jessie received a package about a week late. I ended up receiving an awesome birthday present (a Tune Squad jersey) from my friend Cameron about 10 days earlier than expected (although it did take a while to arrive). I asked my coordinator how I can go about sending letters, etc. back to the states and she said to just ask her. So we will see how things go in terms of the mail system in the future.

Tune Squad Jersey

Tune Squad Jersey

On Sundays, we have started to work at a place called “English@Home,” which is for kids to learn English in their free time. It is small and has 2 classrooms. We are teaching a group of primary level kids for an hour or so. The amount of students can vary: there is supposed to be 12 kids, but only 5 showed up this week. Learning their nicknames is always fun (one was named “foremost”…where do they come up with these??) They are all very excited about the lessons and participate with enthusiasm.

The last event from this week is the most exciting. We decided to (finally!) get Thai massages. They were 2 hours and cost 300 baht each ($10)….$10 dollars for a 2 hour massage: is this real life?! It was like an intense athletic stretching session combined with a regular massage. You keep your clothes on (in my case, gym shorts and a tee shirt) and also have a light blanket over you. At the end they brought us a delicious Thai tea which was perfect after getting all the knots worked out. You definitely can’t feel any more limber than after a Thai Massage, and that is a fact…

Laem Mae Phim Beach

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After a very full week of teaching, there was just one thing on our minds: finding pina coladas. This is a difficult thing to imagine here due to the lack of any type of alcohol besides beer and whiskey. Jessie, Caprice, and I decided to venture to the beach (because who wouldn’t want to go) to find some drinks and relax.

Laem Mae Phim Beach

Laem Mae Phim Beach

We wound up swimming in the ocean, which was about bath temperature (unreal) and then banana boating which was so cheap compared to the states (100 baht or about $3.33 each). We eventually found a place that had a variety of drinks, free beach chairs, an assorted menu, and great staff. We are pretty sure that we will be frequent flyers there.

Cheers to us

Cheers to us

The sunset was beautiful, although a few Thai people asked to take pictures of us. Not WITH, just OF us. Caprice firmly told them that “we don’t do that in America” because they did seem to be a bit on the creepier side.

Trying to be like the locals

Trying to be like the locals

Besides that, all in all a good day. And the pina coladas were found and drank.

Missing my people for a second

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A few days ago, on Friday, I was in a pretty bad mood. There is no reason for me to elaborate on that but it led into homesickness and missing family and friends. What I do want to share are the 2 things that made me feel better…

  1. I talked to my coordinator (P’JIm) and she told me, “I am like your sister, do not worry, everything will be okay.” If it wasn’t going to be okay, just knowing how much she cares made me feel a bit better.
  2. Last week we met 2 Thai kids who belonged to a couple who make street food near our (temporary) hotel. The girl, Ice, is 10 years old, and the boy, Int, is 9 years old. For some reason they were completely fascinated by us (probably since we’re white), and since they were the cutest little beings ever, we couldn’t get enough of them. Well as Jessie and I were going to cross the street on Friday evening, we see these 2 small figures bouncing up and down uncontrollably, flailing their limbs about, and waving frantically while yelping “hello! hello! hello! helllllllloooo!!” It was Ice and Int. Nothing can make you feel better than being greeted in such a way. Instant warm fuzzies…

High Five for Beer

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Thursdays are my most packed days. I have one M1 class and 3 M6 classes. And then English club. I prefer teaching M1 because I do well with younger kids, so I always stress thinking about 3 M6 classes all in one day. However, I learned that this is something I need to get over, and today went much better than expected. I had fun in all of my classes and most of my M6 students surprised me by how much they understood so fast.

After class on Thursdays we have English club. Students are separated by age group but there are only a few kids who join English club from each level. Teaching M1, I got many more than I expected (around 30!…compared to 5 in another group). This made me nervous since I hadn’t prepared, but that hour ended up going great. I popped in “NOW 43” (yes, NOW CDs still exist, and yes, they are still perfect for middle schoolers). As Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and One Direction sang in the background, we played hangman and other word games.

I don’t know how this started but somehow I ended up teaching the kids what a high five is. After giving me quizzical looks, and then figuring out the concept, they got very excited about this American tradition. I thought that at the end of English club they would completely forget about it but as they were filing out of the classroom I got a high five from almost every student (with one of the kids starting the trend). One student who didn’t give me a high five then proceeded to air five me from down the hall…

I would call that a successful lesson.

PS his name is Beer. High Five for Beer.

 

 

Sneaky Students for Stickers

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As a part of my lesson plan this week for my M1 students, I have decided to reward their hard work with stickers. I give them one smiley face sticker if they fill out their worksheets properly and pronounce the words correctly. I would give them more but mind you I have 10 different classes with about 35-40 students each, and limited stickers brought over from the US. These stickers are worth more than gold to me…and apparently to the kids too.

Little did I know that these stickers would turn them into little deviants. Granted the smiley faces are a good source of incentive, but some students turned right into schemers. One girl would steal her friends’ worksheets and try to come back pretending to be them. She must have thought I was blind and wouldn’t recognize her, or illiterate and wouldn’t notice that the name was different every time. She tried this 3 or 4 different times. She then proceeded to show me her backpack where she had placed her first (and only) sticker. All I could do was laugh at that point.

So if you are reading this, then please send me more stickers! It’s for the kids…(but really I would love you forever if you sent more…and so would they).

The first few weeks

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At the Grand Palace

At the Grand Palace

Since I have been here for almost a month I will try to summarize what has happened so far:

  1. I had a flight from Chicago to Narita (Tokyo) and stayed overnight. The next morning I flew to Bangkok and that is when the whirlwind started. We were told there was about 85 of us teachers at Orientation A…lots of new names and faces to remember!
  2. We began in Bangkok and were given an overview of teaching techniques for English as a second language.  We also learned about Thai culture, customs, and language.
  3. We got to visit the Grand Palace one day and see the show Siam Niramit at night.
  4. Then we moved to Kanchanaburi where we finished up the classroom preparation. We visited an elephant camp where we got to ride them, saw them perform various tricks, and also got to raft down a river. We also got to visit the River Kwai and see the location of the bridge.
  5. For dinner the last night we ate on a restaurant/barge that floated down the river…very cool. It did somehow turn into a dance party, with Gangnam Style playing every 20 minutes (they are obsessed with that song over here. Even more than anyone could imagine).
  6. After orientation week we got picked up by our various schools and were taken to our placements. It was definitely sad to say good bye to everyone after we had just spent the week together and started to make friends. Luckily we have still been in contact and are planning other travel adventures together.
  7. My school (Chamnan Sammakkhi Wittaya) is located in Klaeng, Rayong. We are about 2.5 hours south east from Bangkok, and 15 minutes from the beach. The school consists of 1,800 students, 80 teachers, about 10 English teachers…and only 3 native speaking English teachers (me, Jessie, and Lauren). We are also the first “farang” (foreign/westerner) English teachers at the school and they are over the moon excited to have us. As an example, they are building new places for us to live, complete with air conditioning and wifi (quite swanky for this area), and in the meantime we are placed in a hotel.
  8. The students: I am teaching M1 (7th grade) and M6 (12th grade). I have 10 M1 classes and 6 M6 classes…a pretty busy schedule, but its been wonderful so far. The young ones are adorable, but sometimes off the wall bonkers. However, I have been able to bribe them with smiley face stickers. Without fail I have had every single class either tell me they love me, that I am beautiful, or ask if I have a boyfriend (or all 3!) They are fascinated with the western look and stare at us 3 American teachers as if we are from another planet (in a good way).
  9. The food: so good, so cheap, and its everywhere due to street vendors. Most meals cost $1. Simply the best.
  10. Weekend trip to Bangkok: a group of us went back last weekend to reunite with other fellow teachers. It was short, but well worth it since I can now say that i ate a cricket…and a scorpion.
Scorpions that we ate on Khao San Road

Scorpions that we ate on Khao San Road

Much love to all from so far away. Stay in touch 🙂

PS: I would like to add how proud I am of my parents who figured out how to use Skype all by themselves. Go parents!

PPS: Here is a link to my other blog (http://julaybee.tumblr.com/) where I post various pictures, songs, quotes, etc. that I enjoy and that inspire me.