Monthly Archives: September 2015

Updates

I apologize for the lack of updates! Everything has been crazy busy lately.

On Sunday I met up with my property manager and the owner of my apartment to sign a lease. The apartment is actually much cuter than I had remembered. I’ll be moving in on Friday, so I’ll make sure to put together a video tour!

I had to bring 27,000TBH with me in order to pay for first & last month’s rent, as well as a deposit. It’s about $750 USD, so I was feeling some heavy anxiety between withdrawing money from the ATM and showing up at the apartment. The lease conditions were all on par with what they would be in the U.S. It was much shorter, but it was written in English and I didn’t see any tricky language.

I was glad that I got to sit down and talk to the owner of the place, Emmy. She is probably in her early 30s, and is super nice. She knows very little English, but enough to communicate basic ideas.  She found me on Facebook and added me in case I needed to message her with any concerns about the apartment. She offered to rent out her motorbike to me at 2,000 Baht ($55) per month, which is a killer deal.  I would need to get a Thai driver’s license after I got my work permit in order to rent it, but I appreciate the offer. Emmy and the property manager were speaking in Thai for a while and I kept hearing the name of the school I will be teaching at. When I asked the property manager about it, she said that Emmy was asking about what I’m doing in Thailand. The school I will be working at has a great reputation on the island, and she was excited for me. She admitted that she was nervous to find a new tenant because the previous tenant she had was a 14 year old runaway from Saudi Arabia. He didn’t tell her that he was 14 or that he was on the run. 3 days after he had signed the lease and paid the fees, the cops broke into the apartment and arrested him. She just wanted to make sure I wasn’t in any trouble.

After I signed the lease, I was going to find a taxi home, but the property manager offered to drive me. On the ride home she told me about how she and Emmy have been good friends since they were young. She told me, “I knew her back when she was a little boy.” I was super confused. The lady laughed and said, “yeah, she’s transgendered!” I’m 100% cool with that, but I was so shocked that I couldn’t hold it in. Without any ability to control it, my mouth dropped wide open and I shrieked, “WHAAAAT?!!?!!” I hope she didn’t take it offensively. I was just really surprised! The property manager, the owner, and the apartment are all great. I’m super excited to move in.

Tomorrow is my final day of the TEFL course. It’s hardly a day of class, either. It’s more like graduation day. I have to go in and fill out a course evaluation, and then I’ll receive my certificate. This week was packed full of assignments, teaching lessons, and studying for the exam.

Monday night I decided to study a little extra for the final. I was so exhausted that I panicked and thought I wasn’t prepared enough. On Tuesday morning we took the exam, and it was harder than everyone was expecting. It was a 100 point exam, with 72 points for the grammar portion and 28 for the phonetics. It seems silly to worry about passing an exam about my native language, but I don’t usually think in terms of grammar and phonetics on a daily basis. Not everyone passed.

I was nervous when I asked the instructor to see the results of my exam. He laughed at me and asked if I was truly worried about how I did. He handed it back, and I scored 97/100. I AM SO HAPPY!!!!

Now that it’s over, I’m free to sit back and be on vacation until November. I might try to find some freelance online jobs for extra cash, but I’m relieved that I am now a certified TEFL instructor.

imageAll around Phuket Town they are starting to decorate for the Vegetarian Festival, which lasts for nine days in mid October. The extent of the decorations remind me of how towns decorate during the Christmas season. There are Chinese lanterns all through the streets, yellow flags with Chinese writing, and some stores have decorated their entire storefront with painted wooden structures.The heart of the festival is a block away from my current apartment. Unfortunately, I won’t be within walking distance, but I’ll only be 15 minutes away. It is celebrated throughout the island, so there will still be some festivities happening closer to my new place in Kathu.image

The festival is a Chinese ritual, where for nine days the participants will abstain from meat, sex, and alcohol, because they believe it will bring them good fortune. Additionally, people participate in self mortification rituals to evoke the gods. I’ve read that the events are not for the faint of heart, because they’re very gruesome. People walk on fire and pierce their cheeks with large sharp objects.  I read a warning on TripAdvisor that said “Pregnant women and menstruating women should not attend the ceremonies.” Naturally, I’ll be going. My curiosity is uncontrollable at this point. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about it once I see it.

I booked a flight to Malaysia today. I have to leave the country in order to process my 1 year visa, and I guess Malaysia is the easiest place to do it. I know nothing about Malaysia except for the fact that I’m going there on October 20th for 4 days.

That’s about all I have for now! 24 hours from now I’ll be starting my vacation. WOOHOO!!

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The Unspoken Spice Challenge from an Old Thai Woman


I had heard about a string of vegetarian restaurants that exist a few blocks down from my place. Yesterday  I wandered down that way and decided to try one of them. They didn’t have any obnoxious signage, and nothing was English. I pointed to some fried rice and indicated that I was hungry.
After my plate was delivered, I asked my server for some chilies to spice it up. Nobody in the place spoke English. I stood up and walked to the condiment dish on a different table, and I pointed. The server obliged, and brought me some chile flakes and pickled peppers. About 5 servers started speaking loudly in Thai and laughing hysterically. Out of nowhere, an old lady limped out of the kitchen with a bowl of sliced chiles in a sauce that I hadn’t seen before. She gave me a polite smile and bowed her head as she set it on the table. Something in her eyes told me she didn’t think I could handle them. I nodded to thank her. I accepted her challenge.
I’d seen these chilies before, but they’re normally served in a mild vinegar. These were soaking in a new kind of sauce. I tried one with my rice, as I usually do to test the level of spice. Usually the chilies of this size give a decent sized kick, but these chilies were hot.
I watched the old woman from the kitchen as she was preparing the next batch of fried rice. She was looking at what she was cooking, but she was watching me eat them out of the corner of her eye.
I ate some more just to show off. I kept my game face on, hoping to earn some rapport with this woman. I had convinced myself that I was going to finish all of the chiles. At this point I was already sniffling and sweating profusely.
I had almost finished my plate of rice when I realized I had about 25% of the sauce left. I looked up and made direct eye contact with the woman, as I poured the rest onto my place. She said something to a lady across the restaurant, and neither of them could stop laughing.
I can honestly say that in my years of spice challenges, that this was the most intense unspoken “battle of the spices” that I’ve ever been a part of. Those women could definitely tell that I was struggling.
I paid for my meal, and as I was headed for the door, the old woman approached me with the biggest smile on her face. Two other servers came up to me smiling and laughing, and patting my shoulder. One of them said, “please come back soon!!” Oh, I will. Despite the distraction of the chiles, it was the best fried rice I’ve ever eaten.

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House Hunting

I can’t believe it’s almost October! I’m loving it here, but I have to admit that I’m really missing fall. Halloween, the start of hockey season, the leaves changing, weather cooling down, pumpkin flavored everything…all of it. I wouldn’t trade the life I have now, but I’m missing it for sure. Once I get settled into a more permanent apartment, I will try to find some decorations (although I’ll probably have to get creative).

Speaking of finding a permanent apartment, the hunt for a new place has been better than I had expected. I started looking around online for long-term rentals, and the response has been overwhelming. Just like U.S. real estate has agents that sell houses, here they have rental agents that work off of commission to help people find rentals. I found an advertisement on a Facebook group called “Phuket Rentals,” and I e-mailed the lady about the place. She responded almost immediately, and included 2 more apartments for rent in the area. I messaged her on Thursday, and we made an appointment for a viewing at 6pm yesterday.

I really didn’t read up on Phuket before I came here. I knew it was an island, but had no idea how big. To be quite honest, I definitely didn’t think it was going to be a city. It is about 30 miles long and 13 miles wide, and home to a population of over 300,000. Right now I’m living in Phuket Town, which is the main city area/business district of the island, but my school is located about 4 miles away in Kathu. 4 miles doesn’t seem like much, but with the city traffic it ends up taking about 20 minutes. Kathu is much more relaxed with a residential feel. It is much less touristic than other parts of the island that I have visited. imageOne of the instructors from my TEFL course recommended I check out a complex in a great location within Kathu. The showings I had scheduled online with the agent were all located within the complex.

Before I went to the showing, I thought I might see if there were any other units available in the building. I found one, and e-mailed the company. Sure enough, a woman called me almost instantly. She was able to meet me before my other appointment, and she had 4 open units to show me that were all in the same apartment complex. Rental agents here are very aggressive. The 2nd agent wanted to make sure she did everything she could to get me in to see her places before I went and saw any others.

The complex itself is huge. It has 4 separate buildings with 8 floors each, a massive swimming pool, a gym and a clubhouse. All of the units that I saw were fully furnished and pre-decorated (groan). Interior design here is wacky compared to what I’m used to. Every apartment that I saw had the same floorplan, but the huge difference between them is the decorations inside. One of the apartments had a color scheme of baby blue and bright red. Everything down to the soap dispenser in the bathroom was decorated in those two colors, and it had accent decorations of cartoon fish in the exact same color. It was the most cringe worthy interior design I have ever seen. That’s my opinion, though. I’m sure some people could really dig it.

The worst one had a color scheme of mustard yellow and dark brown. It’s a shame, because the place included a washing machine, electric stovetop, and a sleeper sofa. I remember trying to convince myself that I could get past it and try to live with it, but it was just too awful.

I ended up seeing 5 units in total, all ranging in price from 9,000TBH-10,000TBH ($248-$275) per month. It’s hilarious that I keep thinking 10,000/mo is a splurge. It’s really not. These apartments are considered “luxury” even though they’re relatively small, and don’t have a real kitchen. Most of the apartments here have very basic kitchens that only include a small refrigerator and a microwave, but the cheap street food definitely makes up for that.

I ended up choosing one of the five apartments that I saw, as it was sort of the “lesser of the evils” when it came to the decorations. The one I chose has a “natural” theme, and it’s decorated with some kind of woodsy features. Some of the décor is hilariously cheesy, but it’s kind of endearing because it reminds me of Colorado. It is on the 8th floor of a building that gets a ton of natural light. It has a huge window next to the bed with great views of the mountains. I will have my own balcony and will be able to grow some flowers outside (!!!). I will make a video tour of it once I move in. Tomorrow I’m going to sign the lease, and I’ll move in on Friday, October 2nd. It’s funny to call it moving. I am literally throwing everything into my duffel bag and taking a taxi there.

This is the final week of my TEFL course!! We took a mock exam on Friday and I actually did pretty well. This upcoming week will be a bunch of studying, assignments, and completing my final teaching practice hours. It’s going to be busy, but I’ll still try to post.

Before I go, here’s a fun fact about Thai culture that I learned this week….

Thai people use a fork and a spoon to eat. Noodles are eaten with chopsticks, but everything else is eaten with a fork and a spoon. The fork is used to push the food onto the spoon, and everything is eaten from the spoon. Putting a fork in your mouth is largely taboo. It would be like stabbing your steak with a steak knife and eating it right off of the knife.

Busy Busy Busy

I’m not even sure where to start! There have been a lot of changes in the last week.

A little over a week ago, I had an interview for a position as a Kindergarten teacher at a school here on Phuket Island. I didn’t blog about it because I didn’t want to jinx anything. When I had applied for the job, I was required to send a cover letter, my resume, a scanned copy of my degree, and a police clearance. I sent my resume in on September 11th. On September 14th I got a phone call from the kindergarten manager to come in for an interview on Tuesday the 15th.

We had scheduled my interview on a day that I got out of class at 12:30. I figured I would swing by the interview, and then get on with my day. The interview process, including transporting to and from, took about 3 hours. I hadn’t interviewed for a teaching position before, so I wasn’t expecting that.

The school is in the Kathu District of Phuket, and is located on the same road as the Kathu Waterfalls. It is about 20 minutes away from my apartment in Phuket Town, so I gave myself 30 minutes to get there. It ended up taking about 30 minutes with traffic, and trying to find the room made me about three minutes late. I am the type of person who is always painfully early, so I wasn’t too pleased with myself.

Once I found where I was going, I met Bronwyn, the kindergarten manager who had scheduled the interview. She is from South Africa. I had taken my shoes off before I went into the office, as I thought it was customary. We take our shoes off at the entrance of the TEFL school, which is also a language school. The first question Bronwyn asked me was where my shoes were. She let me know that I could keep them on while I was in the office. I was three minutes late, and I failed the shoes policy. I felt like I wasn’t off to a good start

I received a tour of the entire school, and was given a fairly comprehensive overview of what the classes were like and how the school was structured. After we had completed the interview, she let me know that there was another position to teach math with 1st graders. The manager wanted to interview me for that position as well, in case the kindergarten didn’t work out. I think that was the main reason that my interview took so long, was because it was two interviews in one.

I left the interview feeling overwhelmed, but knowing I did the best I could. At that point, it was out of my hands.

On Friday the 18th, Bronwyn e-mailed me to let me know that I was shortlisted. I’m not sure what it is about the word, but I felt disappointed when I first read it. I soon realized that it wasn’t bad at all.

Monday night at 8:30, I received another e-mail. “Thank you for your application and taking the time to interview…” I got a little pit in my stomach. Then I read, “It is my great pleasure to inform you that your application has been successful and I am able to offer you the position of Kindergarten 2 Teacher.”

WOOHOO!!!

I stood up and did a victory dance when I read the news. I e-mailed her back and accepted immediately. This school is one of the best government schools on Phuket Island. They are currently on a waitlist to accept new students. It is a bilingual government school that offers a program where more than 50% of the lessons are taught in English. Even when I asked the receptionist at my hotel if she would call me a taxi to the school, she lit up and started ranting and raving about it. I couldn’t be happier.

The children here have the month of October off of school for vacation, so Bronwyn wanted me to get in sometime this week to observe at least a day of classes before I start in November. I was hesitant to take a day off from my TEFL course, but the schedule for the TEFL course today was “job hunt information and conversations with current teachers in Thailand.” I spoke with my instructor and he said it was probably the ideal day to miss.

This morning I had to leave fairly early to arrive at the school by 7:40am. The children have an assembly every day, where they have routines such as raising the flag, signing the national anthem, and saying Buddhist prayers. A few of the kids in the school are Muslim or Christian, so they are allowed to stand quietly with their hands down during the prayer portion. The teacher who I am replacing is also named Sarah, so that’s convenient for the students and the staff.

Rather than alternating teachers, the kindergarten students stay in the same classroom with the same teacher throughout the whole year. In November I will be coming in at the start of the 2nd semester, so I will have the same class that I observed today. The following semester I will have a whole new class.

A few posts back, I had mentioned that I was not going to teach at a school with a British curriculum. Famous last words. I now work for the English Programme. Gahhh!!! Even spell check says that “program” is spelled wrong.

🙂

It’s not going to be too big of an issue teaching kindergarten, so I think I will manage just fine.

Now that I have a job, my next step is to find a place to live. I am currently looking at apartments close to the school. Kathu is the area that I will be living, and it is a lot less touristic and has more of a local vibe to it. One of my instructors told me it is the perfect place to learn how to drive a scooter, because there’s not the traffic like there is in the city, and the speed limit is much slower.

I am paid up at my current apartment until October 3rd, so I have a little bit of time to find a new place, but not much. I also have to open up a bank account for direct deposits, and do a “border run” to secure my work visa. I basically just have to leave the country and come back in. Since October is a holiday month here, I will probably make a holiday out of my border run and go to Vietnam or somewhere close.

Next week is my final week of my TEFL certification. I have papers to submit, and exams to pass, so the posts might become even less frequent. I will sure try to keep up though! I will also try to take more pictures. I realized I haven’t really taken any this week.

For your entertainment, these are all spelled correctly:

Civilised, colour, counsellor, deodorise, aeroplane, flavour, kilogramme, labour, kilometre.

Sunday Funday

Another great weekend on Phuket Island! My foot is almost all healed up, stomach is better, and my cold is almost gone. Tomorrow is the start of week 3 of the TEFL course. It’s unreal that we’re already half way through. Even though we’ve only been in the course for two weeks, my classmates and I have already formed a pretty strong bond. It makes sense, as we’re all going through a very similar transition. I feel like I’ve known some of them for much longer than two weeks.

On Saturday morning one of my classmates and I decided to meet at Kata beach. She was going to rent a motorbike and drive there, so I took the bus and met her there (haha). I’m still having a hard time coming around to motorbikes. On the topic imageof motorbikes, here’s a super long side note: I know it’s something I’m going to have to warm up to sooner or later. I even have taxi drivers ask me, “If you’re staying in Thailand, why don’t you just get a motorbike?” Right now it’s convenient for me to walk everywhere, since I live about 10 minutes walking distance away from the TEFL school. Being able to drive a motorbike opens up a whole new realm of possibilities on this island. Sure, you can just as easily take a taxi everywhere, but renting a motorbike for a month only costs about $60. I think most of my apprehension comes from living in Phuket Town where there is a lot of traffic. Once you get out of the town, the traffic flow is better and learning to drive a motorbike seems much more practical. Mom and Dad, don’t freak out yet. I’m not ready to drive one just yet.

Well now that I’ve gone off on that tangent, I’ll get back on track. Kata beach is less than a mile south of Karon, a beach that I went to a couple weekends ago. The surrounding area is very touristy, with restaurant prices about 5x of what I’m used to in Phuket Town. Most of the shops sell water, beer, towels, swimsuits, and sarongs. A little bottle of sunscreen costs about $20 in the beach towns. It makes me feel grateful for where I’m currently living.image

Kata beach has some decent sized waves and a huge stretch of beach. I ended up staying there for 5 hours. I was swimming most of the time, which explains why I am so sore today. Because we’re at about 7 degrees from the equator (same as Panama!), the sun here is HOT. I was putting on SPF 50 every hour, so I didn’t burn this time. This morning I woke up with a rash on my forehead that looks like acne. The same thing happened to me when I was in Panama, and I had spent a lot of time trying to treat it with zit cream. In Panama my host family had helped me find cream for a sun rash, but I forget the name of it. I really wish I could remember what it was.

Today I woke up exhausted and really didn’t want to do anything. It’s hard to be able to relax here, as I can’t get out of the “I’m in THAILAND!!” mindset. I often feel guilty for relaxing, and constantly feel anxious to get out and do something. This morning I went to Phuket Central Festival, a 4 story shopping mall. I don’t know why I went, I definitely don’t need to buy anything. Once I got there, I realized that the majority of the stores are super expensive and definitely not meant for a budget traveler without much disposable income. I found a sushi place and decided to eat my feelings while people watching.

I was expecting the sushi restaurant to be expensive. I’m used to dropping a pretty penny to eat sushi in the US because I IMG_9884[1]love it so much. I’ve been craving sushi so badly that I decided it was justifiable. The sushi that I ordered came with 12 pieces of sushi, miso soup, a bowl of kimchi, and an unidentifiable dish of tofu in syrup (??), and I also ordered a glass of lime juice. Lime juice is a common refreshment here, and I’m definitely okay with it. Anyhow, the entire meal cost me under $10. I saw the price in Baht and thought it was really expensive, but it’s quite a deal when you think of it in USD.

While people watching I discovered that the majority of the people in the mall were Chinese tourists or Western men with Thai girlfriends/wives. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s a pretty common sight to see an older Western man with a young, smoking hot Thai girlfriend. I’m yet to see a Western woman with a male equivalent.

On my way home from the mall, the taxi driver told me that I just need to find a Thai man to marry so that I could get my visa to stay here forever. We both laughed. He said that being a Western woman, I have the advantage of not having to pay a marriage fee to marry a Thai man. I guess when Western men marry Thai women, they have to pay a huge tax. The taxi driver said that Thai men are “free.” Lucky me.

That about sums up the highlights of my weekend. Here are a few random things to leave you with:

A few of our classmates went out and partied at Patong Beach on Friday night and were scammed out of some money by playing Connect Four with prostitutes.

A different classmate randomly decided to get her wisdom tooth out on Friday. It cost her $90 for everything.

I met a CO native and CSU graduate on Friday. He’s good friends with one of my old college roommates. Small world!

That’s it for now! I’ll check in again soon!!

Don’t forget to check out the “pics” section, as I’ve added a few more.

General Observations After 2 Weeks

It’s Friday! I’ve finished my half day of classes, and now it’s time for some R&R. I’ve officially been in Thailand for over two weeks. The time has been flying, and I feel like I can make a few generalizations based on observation (along with conversations with true locals). It actually seems like I’ve been here longer than two weeks. I’ve adapted faster than I was expecting!  I would like to post my “first impressions,” if you will, so that 6 months or even a year from now I can look back and either confirm or deny the observations. Do not take this as a representation of factual statements whatsoever. Also bear in mind that this is my experience living in the business center of the island of Phuket. Many of these observations could be isolated to my experience in this location.

  1. We live in a global economy. Yesterday, I woke up to a text alert that an 8.3 magnitude earthquake happened in Chile. I heard about it 15 minutes after it happened.  Granted, my smartphone is subscribed to receive CNN alerts about catastrophic events, and I have wifi, but that was fast. I don’t even have to be connected to a smartphone to feel connected to the rest of the world. I think that one of the reasons why I’ve been adapting so quickly is because there are small reminders of home everywhere I look. Which leads me to #2. #2 and #1 could probably be one paragraph.
  2. Corporations rule the world. In Thailand, Nestle is everywhere. Nestle’s drinking water is cheaper than Phuket’s drinking water. I went shopping to pick up some more shampoo yesterday, and found mimageyself choosing between Dove, Tresseme, and Pantene Pro-V. It’s the same with brands of face wash, condiments, cough drops, food, etc. The brands are the same, but they’ve slightly altered the product to appeal to Thai culture. The flavors of Lays chips here include spicy nori, chili basil, and chicken satay. The Clean & Clear face wash brand has “whitening power” in almost all of their soaps. McDonald’s serves rice. It’s cool to see different corporations’ adaptations of their product, but terrifying that they’re present in even the small market by my apartment.  There is a 7-11 on virtually every corner here. Even though I am across the world from the U.S., there are aspects of familiarity, but it’s still scary that these corporations are globally present.
  3. I am not the only foreigner here.  In the past, when I have traveled in remote towns in Panama, I was definitely the only foreigner for miles. In Phuket, they are everywhere. Phuket is an international tourist destination. There are tons of  Chinese, South Africans, Australians, Americans, and British. Although Thailand is a Buddhist country, there is a decent amount of religious diversity.  There is a strong Muslim influence, and there are also different Chinese temples and Christian churches scattered throughout the town. I had a lot of people ask me if I was nervous about any language and/or cultural barriers before I moved here. For anyone considering traveling these parts, I will assure you that you can get around just fine. I am traveling as a solo white female, and I’ve fallen in love with this place.
  4. There is a large population of Muslims here.  I know I’ve just mentioned it, but it’s something that I’d likimagee to say a few additional words on. Growing up in Fort Collins, CO, I haven’t really been around Muslim culture, and I’m extremely curious about it. For the past 2 weeks I had been noticing a symbol on a bunch of different food labels, and I had just assumed it was a corporation. I decided to look into it more, and after quite a bit of searching I had discovered it is The Central Islamic Committee Office of Thailand’s emblem. I guess the symbol is equivalent to an “organic” or “gluten-free” stamp, but to mark that the food is Halal. I am anxious to learn more about Muslim culture.
  5. Bring Your Own Booze. It’s totally acceptable here to show up at a bar with your own alcohol. In fact, when I went out with some classmates to a local bar, the bartender suggested we walk over to the 7-11 next door and purchase our alcohol there because it is cheaper. I can’t comprehend why the would allow it, but I’m not going to question it either. The majority of the bars in Phuket Town allow it, but I know that some of the touristy beach areas don’t. When we went out to Phi Phi, there were clearly marked signs for bars that did not allow outside alcohol. As a general rule in non-tourist areas around here, bringing your own booze is the norm.
  6. You must keep a cool heart. They don’t call it the Land of Smiles for no reason. It is considered extremely disrespectful to show frustration or anger in public. Even if you were ripped off and you want your money back, you have to smile. Even if you’re in a heated argument, you must not raise your voice, and you must smile. This is something that I’ve observed, but have mostly heard from people who have been living here for a long time. “Mai pen rai” is a term that means “no worries,” and it is practically the Thai slogan. Keep calm, and everything will be okay.
  7. Decide on a rate with a tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi driver beforehand. Metered taxis are few and far between on Phuket. If you need to get from point A to point B, chances are you’re taking a tuk tuk or riding on the back of a motorbike taxi. Motorbike taxis are about half the price of tuk tuks. Either way, if you don’t decide on a flat rate before you leave, the driver will most likely make up an absurd price once you get there, because it’s too late for you to say no.
  8. Restaurant sanitation standards do not exist. I met a woman from London who has been living in Thailand for over 9 years, and this is one of the first pieces of information she gave me. Everywhere you eat, you see signs of “excellent health inspection” and “clean good food.” This woman told me that the restaurants with the most money have these plaques on their walls. There really isn’t a food inspection or health standard for cleanliness of the restaurants. I found this was the case firsthand, when I had to use the restroom after eating at a cute little restaurant with a plaque up on their wall for cleanliness. A woman led me into a little room in the back of the restaurant. She proceeded to kick the dishwasher off of his station, and send me into the bathroom. There was a toilet and a urinal in the same room they were using to wash dishes. This was after I had eaten there!!! Needless to say I won’t be going back there ever again. Click Here to see the bathroom in all of its glory.

And I’m going to have to leave you with that. There’s so much going on here that I know it will be impossible (even after I spend more time here) to learn all that is Thai culture. I’m off to enjoy my weekend! I hope you all do the same.

Cue the Miniature Violin

I wish I had more exciting adventures to detail, but the last two days have been pretty mundane. This TEFL certification process is not a fun-filled tropical island paradise vacation (I mean the week days aren’t. The weekends definitely are). The training is 120 hours over 4 weeks, so it’s full time, but that doesn’t include homework or lesson preparation. I’ve never been a teacher before, but I’m learning that being a teacher isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

Yesterday, my classmates and myself all had an overwhelming feeling of “what the hell am I doing here.” We are basically reviewing everything that we learned in college about the English language. It seems silly to be stressed out about, but it’s a lot of information to remember. We also have a time slot to plan right before we teach our 43 minute lessons. Up until that point, we only have a vague idea of the topic we’ll be teaching, but no idea about the class size or skill level. It is an intense preparation, and I just have to remind myself that it will be much easier when I have time to plan for a class I’m familiar with. I couldn’t imagine doing this if English were my 2nd language, and 6 of my classmates are in that situation.

That being said, I think the lesson I delivered today was on point. The previous two were much more problematic, but this one went very well. I might be getting a grasp  on things.

All of this exhausting class work, and about 60% of the class is sick. We’re all kind of a mess. I started off with the cut on my foot, but I’ve since developed a runny nose and cough. A few other people in the class are also coughing with a sore throat. Two of the girls in the class have food poisoning, and have been violently vomiting for the past 24 hours. I finally had to bust out the pills for traveler’s diarrhea, because well, my stomach was tired of me testing it. I think we’re all starting to come down from the honeymoon stage and our bodies are telling us it’s time to slow down a little bit.

Yesterday I went to the supermarket to get tea and cough drops, and I ended up buying cough drops and junk food. Being sick overseas comes with an overwhelming need for comfort items. I found comfort in Kit Kats, Lays andimage gummy bears. I really haven’t craved any junk food since I’ve been here. Something about being sick really did me in. I don’t even feel guilty. The typical meals I eat here include a combination of soup, rice, and proteins. I’ve been here for about two weeks, and I can already feel that my pants are getting a little easier to slide on. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in my class that moved here from the U.S. has already lost about 5lbs. Bread is not used in Thai cuisine, and cheese isn’t either. Have I mentioned cheese doesn’t exist in Thailand? I would kill for some cheese.

I finally got my laundry done. Well, sort of. I found a coin laundry place about two blocks from my apartment. I gathered up everything that needed washing, put on the only clothes I had left, and headed for the coin laundry. The washer cost 30TBH (~$1). After I threw all of my clothes in and started a load, I looked for the nearest dryer. imageThere was one dryer, and there was a line to use it. Now I have clothes of all types strewn up around all parts of my apartment. On the way back from the Laundromat, I slid across some wet pavement and hit a piece of cement with my big toe. The big toe on the foot that was wrecked this weekend. This foot is an absolute mess now.

Cue the miniature violin.

So here I am, with a mountain of homework, a head cold, wicked stomach cramps, a super busted foot, and laundry hanging all over my apartment.

I guess I’m just mopey today. I know that tomorrow will be better. I get done with class at 12:30, and then the rest of the day is mine to do whatever I want. There is a smoothie place on the corner that has fresh fruit smoothies in just about every flavor, and they use fresh fruit. So far I’ve tried passion fruit and kiwi. I know I can’t get in the habit of drinking them because they’re expensive. Oh, who am I kidding, they’re $2USD. I’m going to try lychee tomorrow.

I promise the next post will be less dramatic and more fun adventures! 🙂

P.s. On a super happy note, I would like to congratulate my sister, Mary Culligan, on their successful court date on Monday! Nova now legally has Cory as her legal dad, and I couldn’t be happier for them!!!

Back to Phi Phi!!

WOW it’s been an exhausting few days. I apologize for the lack of consistency in posts. I noticed a few people checked the page over the weekend, I’m sorry to disappoint! I’m pretty sure there’s a way that you can “follow” this blog, so that you get an e-mail when I post something.

Anyhow, I’m not sure where to start. On Friday night a few of my classmates had invited me to go with them to Phi Phi islands to stay the night on Saturday. I was hesitant because I had just been there last weekend, but I still wanted to go because I felt like I didn’t have nearly enough time to walk around and get to know the place. I woke up Saturday morning to a message from them that they were leaving in about 30 minutes, so I threw together some clothes in my backpack, and we left.

imageI think I had previously mentioned that I thought it might be cheaper to buy ferry tickets to Phi Phi on the pier, but I found out that’s not the case. There’s a man in our class who has been living here for years, and he said that they’re most expensive when you’re at the pier because the people selling the tickets know that you need a ticket and it’s your last option. I’m glad we bought tickets beforehand. They cost us each 500TBH for a round trip ticket, which is about $14. At the pier they sell them for 600 one-way, which would come out to a round trip of about $33. Do not buy them at the pier!!

The ferry this time was much smaller and much less nicer than the first trip I took, but it wasn’t a big deal. I was with the two girls from Czech Republic, and two guys from the U.S. Lucie started talking to a Thai woman, Betsaya, who had a very interesting story. She lived on Phi Phi islands until the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. She owned a bar/restaurant, and had lots of friends and family there. She left the island right before the tsunami. She lost absolutely everything. Her sister and brother survived, but the rest of her family died. She lost a lot of friends, and her restaurant was leveled. She picked up what she had left and moved to Belgium. On this trip to Phi Phi she was on vacation to visit her sister.

As we were talking to Betsaya she told us that she would help us get a reasonable price for food and accommodation on the island because she knows a lot of people there. She told us that as a local, she can get ferry tickets for 150TBH round-trip ($4.16). Once we were on the island she showed us to a restaurant, waited for us to eat, and then showed us to the accommodation. The room that she found us was 200 per person (under $6 each), which was a pretty good deal. The little room wasn’t much but it had air conditioning, locks, and a safe. We ended up spending most of our time at the beach anyway. The beaches in Phi Phi are absolutely stunning. When we had first arrived, we were so overheated and all we wanted to do was jump into the ocean. The island has a very shallow beach that you can walk out quite a ways without it even hitting yourimage knees if the tide is right. It was so far out that we didn’t even want to try to walk all the way to where you could swim without touching the bottom. You could walk through it and see starfish, coral, crabs, and tropical fish right at your feet. The tide change is so drastic that within a couple of hours, you can start from the same point on the beach and be unable to touch the ground within walking 7 feet into the water.

Make sure to check out my pics gallery for more pictures. The scenery was unbelievable.

That being said, Phi Phi is also in the process of cleaning up and rebuilding. Even though it’s been over 10 years since the tsunami hit, imagethey are still recovering. The island was completely wiped out when it happened. They are still moving debris with dump trucks and rebuilding hotels. When we were sitting in the sand we would randomly find pieces of brick or metal, along with a bunch of other random trash.

Phi Phi also has a huge party scene. There is a “party beach” where there are rows of bars with lots of entertainment. They had tons of men spinning fire batons, and a ton of really young kids were doing it along with them. Little kids as young as 5 were spinning fire better than I’ve seen most grown men do in the U.S. I wish I would’ve gotten pictures of it. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I see it.

As we were walking home on Saturday night, I made a rookie mistake of walking in the water during the night without shoes on.  Sure enough, I stepped right onto a huge piece of coral and cut my foot open in a couple of different places. The cut was really painful, as it cut through the pad of foot right under my big toe. I cleaned it pretty well, so I think it should heal up just fine. It’s still hard to walk on, and I’m struggling to keep it clean, as the streets here are filthy. Luckily there is a pharmacy on every corner, so I was able to pick up some hydrogen peroxide and antiseptic cream without a problem. I won’t post a picture of the wound itself, because it’s disgusting.

I was exhausted when we got back home yesterday. I have been procrastinating doing the laundry. The ladies in the hotel will do it for me, but it costs a little more, and I’ve been feeling extra cheap lately. There is coin laundry around the corner from my place, so I’m going to go tomorrow afternoon. I am teaching two lessons this week- I had one today and I teach again on Wednesday. I really appreciate the process of this TEFL course and how they’re really making us work for the certificate. I could’ve done an online course for 1/3 of the price of this one, but I know I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much out of it as I am. I am very grateful for the hands-on practice.

I think that about sums up all the big points from this weekend/today. I’ll write again when I can!

It’s FRIDAY!!

TGIF!!! I’ve survived my first week of TEFL school. I truly didnt realize how little I know about the English language until I started taking this class. To my grammarian sisters, if you’ve been having sharp pains in your head this week you’re probably feeling the pain of the poor English being elicited from college graduates in Thailand. It’s really bad.

That being said, I am looking forward to improving my English through this experience.  I guess the schools here are pretty split between teaching American English in their curriculum vs teaching British English. If I am hired at a British school, I will be required to teach spelling accordingly. This is a daunting thought, because I’ve already made an American vs Britain mistake this week. I was reading over a lesson plan written by one of the girls from Czech Republic. She wrote, “Controlled Practise” and I corrected the s to a c. After I had left, it dawned on me that she was spelling it like they do in the U.K. I met up with her  later and apologized, but we both laughed about it.  If I end up teaching in a British school, I’ll be screwed. Colour, favourite, etc. I’m going to avoid that situation at all costs.

Yesterday I taught my first 43 minute lesson, and I think it went okay. Nerves got the best of me, and I kind of rushed through the first part. The TEFL school that I’m at focuses on a teaching style ESA- Engage, Study, Activate. I won’t bore you with details, but it’s very structured, and I like that. I think I connected well with the students though, and hopefully I taught them something new. It was actually very encouraging to hear the students learning.

We got out of class at 12 today, and even though it’s Friday, I decided to treat the rest of the day like a school day. Our instructor Eric said that we should be submitting our resumes to different schools now, so that we can go into a job straight out of the course. October is vacation month for the students, and a lot of the English teachers will be transitioning out, hence an abundance of job openings. I made it a goal to apply for at least one job before the weekend, and I’m glad to say I’ve finally gotten that done.

The CV(resume) format here is a little different, as you have to include birthday, marital status, and a picture. Passport photos are generally what people attach to their CV. After class today, I realized that I needed to get a passport photo taken before IIMG_1227 could submit my CV. I walked into a photo studio/frame shop that was suggested by an instructor, and the lady knew exactly why I was there. The walk to get there was about 10 minutes in direct sunlight. My backpack was heavy, and I was wearing a thicker shirt so I could appear professional in the photo. When I walked into the little photo studio, I was bright red, covered in sweat, and looking pretty disheveled. When I asked the lady if I could cool off before she took my photo, she said, “don’t worry! It’s ok It’s ok,” stuck me in front of a white board, and snapped a few headshots. She then took a memory card to her computer and edited the red right out of my face and the sweat off of my shirt! She even made my skin whiter (I will go into more detail as to why below). I had her put a copy of the photo onto my flash drive, and she printed out 12 copies for me to attach to paper resumes. Done. In and out in about 5 minutes, looking cool and professional, for only about $5.50.

imageThe instructor warned me that they were going to try to make my skin pasty white. Being pale is all the rage here. All of the advertisements, lotions, skin creams, etc. have bleach in them. Where in the United States we have taglines such as “healthy glow” and “bronzed beauty,” here they have slogans such as  “antiaging white” and “white as a snail.” I guess they view being tanned as being of lower socioeconomic status. People who are working in the sun all day generally have darker skin. Being pale is a sign of affluence. To the left is a picture that I snapped in the grocery store (albeit discretely, because taking photos in the bigger stores here is a no no). I haven’t had to buy lotion yet, but I know I would have a hard time finding any if I had to.

Now that I’ve gotten the laundry list of chores done, I’m off to enjoy my weekend!!! I will write again soon.

foot stuff

Time is flying by. My days are filled, and I’m constantly moving, so I guess time flies when you’re having fun. I have to use cheesy taglines, because there is NO CHEESE IN THAILAND. I’m sure there is, but I just haven’t found it yet. I am definitely craving cheese though.

Yesterday after class I went to a nearby diner because it was raining hard still and I didn’t want to walk too far. This place is called “Spaghetti & C” and they have an Italian theme (obviously). I ordered a spicy shrimp dish just because it was called “spicy shrimp dish” on the menu. It came out and it was about 5 shrimp with diced tomatoes, a mountain of French fries, and a pile of imageundressed lettuce. I think it’s safe to say that this is the first time I’ve eaten something here that I didn’t like. Something was going on with the shrimp that I have never seen before- it fell apart when I picked it up by the tail. It was flaking off into small pieces. I wasn’t sure if it was a result of over-cooking, if it was rotten, or what was going on, but it didn’t seem right or taste right. It was expensive, so I soaked it in Tabasco and choked it down. That was the one thing they had going for them- they had my favorite hot sauce on the table. I have to laugh at myself when I say it’s expensive because it was really only 140TBH ($3.88), but you can find much better food here for about 1/3 of the cost.

Anyhow, I woke up this morning and was sick to my stomach. Since I’ve gotten here I’ve eaten strange street meat, curious looking seafood, and eaten food so spicy I should’ve gotten sick. For some reason, this shrimp really did me in. I know now that I shouldn’t have been so stubborn, and I should’ve just counted the 140 TBH as a loss and moved on. Now I know. I’m feeling much better now.

We only had a half day of class today because it’s a teaching day. On teaching days you only have to stay if it’s your day to teach in front of the class. There is a time block in the afternoon where you have to lesson plan, and then a scheduled class later in the day that you will teach one half and a peer will teach the second. It was nice to have the afternoon off today.

I went to lunch with a fellow classmate to a soup restaurant nearby our apartment. I ordered the braised chicken soup, and I hadimage two little surprises pop up at me- chicken feet! I got a right foot and a left foot, so I’m guessing they were from the same chicken. I’ve really been wanting to push myself to try more exotic foods, so I convinced myself to try it. I worked up the nerve, and went to bite into the finger. I bit straight into a bone. My confidence was wiped right out of me. Looking at the gelatinous foot bounce on my spoon, I figured it didn’t contain any bones. I guess I’ve never really looked into the anatomy of a chicken before, but there were tons of small bones. I was so turned off by it, so I just took a tiny bite out of a non-bony part and gave myself a good pat on the back. It kept staring at me like a little gremlin hand. I also think the picture looks like ET’s hand trying to phone home.

After lunch, I was determined to find the department store that one of my instructors told us about. He said it is a good place to find clothes for teaching, so I thought I’d go check it out. Last time I tried to find it I ended up walking through the Chinese festival. As it turns out, I was walking down the street that runs parallel to the store, and literally could’ve seen the building it is located in if I had looked up. Robinson is a 5 story department store, kind of like a Nordstrom or Macy’s. They probably exist in the United States somewhere. My reaction to the store was probably hilarious. The whole time, I had been imagepicturing a market-type store like I had seen on corners here. It is so Western, there is a Clinique counter, a Body Shop, and various other U.S. brands. I shopped around a little bit, but didn’t find much. Once I got there, I realized I didn’t really go there to shop as much as I went there because I was bitter that I couldn’t find it the first time. I left and went to a nail salon/spa instead.

Here it is required that you take off your shoes before entering certain businesses, as I may have previously mentioned. At the TEFL school, we take our shoes off before entering the building. I’m pretty sure this is the case with all schools. Today in class I became hyperaware of the condition of my feet. Pedicures here are very reasonably priced for foreigners, but this won’t be the case once I’m on a teacher’s salary getting paid in Baht. I decided to give in and treat myself today.

The pedicure/manicure combination cost 700TBH, which I considered a huge splurge. It’s really only about $20, and it’s definitely worth it. The whole deal took almost two hours, and I felt like a princess. They had really comfortable recliners with pillows and blankets, and they served tea on a cute plate with a hot towel and a flower. When all was imagesaid and done, I realized my feet were in worse shape than I thought. I’ve had a callous on my big toe that I legitimately thought was a part of my foot until after she scraped it off. She took off so much dead skin that she got a broom and a dust pan to sweep it all up when she was done. It’s disgusting, but now my feet feel cleaner than they’ve been in 24 years.

 

I originally opened up my computer to work on my resume so that I can start applying for jobs, but I ended up writing the longest blog post to date. I’ve found that taking things one step at a time, and blogging to reflect on my experiences has really helped me unwind. I’m going to work on my resume tomorrow. I need to sleep now!

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