Sunday, 18 June 2017

#25 Thailand part 4: The first month

It's already been a month since I started teaching in Thailand and I'm mostly surprised by how much I still don't hate it.

When I first applied the thought of standing in front of 40 very small children every day in 30 + degree heat terrified me. I wouldn't say I love it but by my standards not hating a job is a definite win.

After a few weeks of feeling like I was in a bizarre dream I gradually settled in to a routine until one day I realised I was actually happy here - for now anyway!

Each day begins with a short scooter ride to school and morning assembly where we say Buddhist prayers and sing the national anthem. On Thursday's I'm on gate duty which means standing at the entrance to the school and welcoming all the kindergarten kids and their parents. They don't call Thailand the land of smiles for nothing. So many friendly smiles and greetings.

The rest of the morning is spent teaching at the kindergarten which involves a lot of singing, clapping and dancing around the classroom. It's quite fun being as silly as possible and I love me a bit of silly.

Then it's lunch time. To an outsider it's probably quite a comical scene. I eat with the rest of the students at a tiny little table with my knees up around my ears. The other teachers get to eat later at an adult sized table when the kids are having their afternoon nap but as the token Farang I just do as I'm told.

After lunch I teach the 6-8 year olds. They are little rat bags and will take any opportunity to be naughty especially if the Thai teacher doesn't show up. At first it worried me but I then realised there's no point worrying when this is completely out of my control. All I can do is be well prepared and present my lesson in the best way possible. The rest is up to the school and the students.

I'm not going to pretend I took the job for any other reason than my selfish obsession to travel as much as I can for as long as I want to. I knew at the time it wasn't fair on the students to have a teacher whose heart wasn't in it. Here I was with hardly any teaching experience and I didn't even like kids but it was either this or go home broke and unemployed.

However as time has gone by I think I understand the attraction to this career and I feel like I am putting some heart into it after all.

Whilst I know teaching is not something I would want to pursue in the future I think this experience is a good lesson/reminder that having a career which you find rewarding and stimulating is such a wonderful asset to life. It's a good feeling when the students learn something and you can walk away knowing you've given everything you've got to that class.

The evenings are usually spent eating dinner with LS. We made friends with a woman who can cook vegan food for LS and does tasty cheap meals for me. She also speaks good English as she has a Dutch husband which makes things easier.

LS and I had to do our visa run to Laos a few weeks ago. It was a fairly unexciting activity and involved a lot of different modes of transport, a good few hours at the Thai embassy, quite a few forms and sweating out a few litres of water but we got it done and we returned to Thailand with out Non immigrant B visas which means we can legally work in Thailand until August when we are required to renew it.

We stayed in a town called Savannahkhet which is just across the Thai-Laos border. It's a strange place with a mixture of very run down old buildings, a hint of French architecture and very upmarket places obviously catering to the visa run tourism industry. The only thing of interest was a very dilapidated Dinosaur museum but it was closed when we went to have a look.

All the rickshaw drivers knew why we were there and immediately would ask to take us to the embassy. Laos is surprisingly quite an expensive place so I chose to walk everywhere including for an hour in the heat to the embassy from my hotel.

LS and I stayed at different hotels as I wanted a cheap backpackers whilst she wanted a bit of luxury. The place I chose also happened to be the same place that a few other ESL teachers were also staying that weekend for the very same reason.

I went out with them one evening for a few drinks but it just reminded me why I don't do that very often. There was terrible Thai karaoke music, shallow conversation and I got hit on by a Laos woman which was rather awkward. It wasn't my scene at all but it was an experience and made me even more glad to have LS to talk to one on one on a regular basis.

Last week I came down with some kind of bug so I spent three days in bed feeling very sorry for myself. Of course, with so much time to think, I began to remember everything I missed about home.

I missed the ocean, the west coast sunsets, the seafood, the rain, the sausage rolls and bakery food, my family and all my friends. I missed the cities, Auckland and Wellington and the people in them and I even began to feel sad that I was missing out on Winter. It would be fun to wrap up in a hat and scarf and go for a long blustery walk along the beach with Dad and talk about everything under the watery winter sun.

Thankfully I knew this was just a result of being stuck inside away from people and feeling below average and I got through it by imagining now amazing it will feel to come home after a long time and really appreciate everything. Sure enough when I came right I no longer felt the urge to scroll through old photos and Google image search all my favourite places back home.

When I felt better I began to take notice of everything I am grateful for. When you have very little expectations you really appreciate the small things. After India and Nepal I am grateful for having my own hot shower, my own room, a double bed, good wifi, good food places close by, for having an income and English speaking friends. I am grateful for the weekends and for the heat and for the beautiful tropical jungle that surround our block of flats.

I'm grateful for the adorable kids at school and their smiling faces everyday and above all I'm so grateful that I decided to take the plunge, quit my job and go on this adventure.

I am exactly where I want to be.

Some of my kindergarten students

It's got nothing in the west coast sunsets back home but there is something magical about dusk in Phibun

A temple in Laos

Me and my little red scooter


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    1. Thank you for your comment :) Not sure I understand exactly what you mean but I appreciate you took the time to read and comment.