Saturday, 27 May 2017

#24 Thailand part 3: Lesson plans, lightening and a challenge

Imagine you're watching TV in high contrast. Now add unfamiliar flavours, turn up the volume, change the language, switch off the subtitles and you have your very own DIY Thai experience.

As I write this we are having the most epic thunderstorm. The floor shakes with each clap of thunder and the lightening is so bright it hurts your eyes.

The first week of teaching wasn't as scary as I'd expected. Of course there were some classes that made me feel completely out of my depth but overall I'm glad to take on this challenge. I always knew teaching was hard work from what I'd heard from teacher friends and my parents but now I can comprehend that much better.

Despite the hard work and the lesson plans Thai life is good. Our living arrangement is perfect. It's a quiet place to call your own but there's a social element if and when you need it. An introverts dream!

Once a week I am required to speak in front of 1000's of students and teachers and teach them some simple English words. Strangely enough I'm not worried by this. If I mess up it doesn't matter because I'll be gone in four months. Plus they already think I'm a weird foreigner so I'm immune to any further judgement.

I wish I could take this feeling home with me to NZ and overcome the fear of public speaking. It's such a useful skill to have.

Another positive about Thai life is the food. It actually leaves me satisfied unlike in Nepal where I was constantly thinking about my stomach. The people are incredibly friendly and the landscape is beautiful. There's also so much wildlife here which keeps things interesting. Frogs, geckos, snakes, scorpions, friendly cats and dogs and the occasional unidentified insect.

After surviving the first week of school, SOB* and I took the mini bus to the larger city Ubon which is 40 minutes away from our town of Phibun, where we visited the mall.

* I'm going to stop using the SOB acronym now and change it to LS short for Life Saver, because quite honestly, this experience would be no where near as enjoyable without her.

I desperately needed more clothes as after washing and wearing the same three t-shirts for two months I was starting to feel a little shabby.

LS, being vegan, was finding it difficult to find good nutritious food but had found some vegan noodles and was keen to stock up on them.

Once we had all our supplies we ventured out to find a temple LS had seen on the map. In true Thai form it was spectacular and there was A LOT of gold paint involved.

We returned to Phibun after sweating from every pore of our bodies. I'm yet to get used to the backs of my hands sweating. It's not normal I tell you!

The next week passed in a blur of lessons, unrecognisable school lunches and asking 18 different classes to "sit down please..." over and over again.

In Thailand they still use corporal punishment and the kids know that if there is no Thai teacher in the class the foreign teacher (or 'the Farang') won't use the cane. To them this means it's time to cause chaos!

The first week I was left without a Thai teacher in all my older classes and boy did they take advantage of that. I discovered there's really very little you can do if the kids 1. don't understand a word you say and 2. refuse to listen even if they do understand.

Thankfully the second week I had Thai teachers present and the kids behaved themselves much better. The Thai teachers didn't need to do anything. Just having them there was enough.

The school days are long and teaching takes a lot of energy but so far it's more fun than an office job.

Finally the weekend rolled around and LS and I decided to explore the place that we are to call home for the next four months.

We wandered over to a nearby temple which was equally as beautiful as the one we visited the weekend before. It was slightly over grown but it was obvious that someone cared for it as best they could. It was surrounded by very lush green forest and bamboo.

When I think back to the last couple of weeks I still feel like I'm in a dream and can't wake up. I'm stuck with this odd feeling that this isn't real life. Or perhaps it feels like this isn't happening to me but rather I'm watching it happen to someone else. Maybe there's a name for this phenomena but I don't know what it is.

How did I end up here doing so many things that are so far out of my comfort zone? Public speaking, driving in a foreign country and working with children. Who even am I?

LS and I made our way to the river which looked alarmingly/comfortingly like the Northern Wairoa in Dargaville and had a good old fashioned heart to heart. It's difficult to put into words how glad I am to have a real funny, down to earth and interesting conversationalist to share these four months with. I really wasn't expecting to have such good company. It's definately the people that make a place.

The other night I glanced up at the clear
night sky, breathed in the humid, fragrant evening air and realised I felt properly happy. I hadn't been unhappy in Nepal, I just hadn't really felt any strong emotions at all. I'd seen so much in such a short time that things had stopped being surprising or amazing.

If you lose the ability to be surprised or amazed what is the point of travel? I guess this whole time I'd been looking for a challenge and now I'd found one.

To quote the Chic German Artist Girl I met in Nepal "this was definitely part of the plan."

Wat Phra That Nong Bua, Ubon Rachathani, Thailand - May 20
Wat Phu Khao Kaew, Phibun Mangsahan, Thailand - May 27

The romantically named 'Moon River' runs through Phibun Mangsahan and is a lovely place to sit and enjoy the river breeze


  1. Hey, nice post! I'm teaching in Thailand as well. Check out my blog if you like. There are teaching materials with Thai translations, vocabulary cards, etc. 😀

    I feel your pain about the heat! Have you tried Snake Brand Prickly Heat?

    1. Hey Laura! Thanks for your comment. Glad you like it :-) Just checked out your page. It's so good! Are you with mediakids too by any chance? Thought I saw mediakids shirt in one of your vids.

      Haven't tried Prickly Snake yet. I definitely don't notice the heat as much as I did 4 months ago thank goodness!

      How long will you be teaching in Thailand?

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