Tag Archives: kathu

Some General Updates…

I can’t overstate how fast time has been flying. I cannot believe I have been in Thailand for 3 and 1/2 months already.

I haven’t learned much Thai yet. It’s especially hard to learn because I am not allowed to even attempt to speak Thai with my students at school. My friends outside of school don’t speak Thai either, so that doesn’t help. I’ve been making strides in my Thai lessons, but it’s only reading and writing. After about 7 lessons, I’ve learned to write 30 consonants and 15 vowels. There are 5 different tones that I am familiar with, but it’s still so hard. Lately I haven’t had a lot of drive to study in my free time. My Thai tutor is getting a little frustrated with me because we’re not really progressing. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve chosen a tutor that would teach me how to speak first and write later. It’s not very useful to be able to read Thai when you have no idea what you’re saying.

I’ve been trying to force myself to learn a few new words in Thai per day, just by using Google and whatnot. I have been choosing words that relate to food, as ordering food is really the only chance I get to practice (which sounds pretty pathetic, haha). I learned how to say “delicious,” “I can eat spicy,” “I like spicy,” and “very very spicy.”

Before I learned these words, I was being served food that had a little bit of a kick to it, but was pretty tame. I was starting to think that either “Thai hot” was a myth, or that I had just eaten so much spicy food that I wasn’t able to taste it anymore. All of that changed once I learned how to order spicy food in Thai.

The first time I ordered in Thai, I was a little nervous that I was going to say the wrong tone and everyone was going to laugh at me.  I was given a polite smile, a huge discount, and some seriously spicy food. I ordered a  spicy papaya salad that was so hot it turned my lips dark red/purplish. It was so ridiculously hot that about 30 minutes after eating it, I felt the same burn going on in my stomach. I have officially experienced “Thai hot.”

Another word that I learned in Thai that I probably should’ve learned earlier is the word for teacher. In Phuket especially, it is important to establish yourself as an expat and not a tourist. It comes with a larger amount of respect, and seriously cheaper prices.

For example, last weekend I wanted to check out a place called “Paradise Beach.” It’s a private stretch of beach that charges an entry fee to let people access the beach, beach chairs/umbrellas, snorkeling gear, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and beach volleyball. The standard entry fee is 500 baht (~$15USD) to enter. I smiled politely at the woman at the counter, and told her I was a teacher. One of the employees at the beach has a student at my school, and they immediately treated me like royalty. They let me in for free! I’m not usually one to try to use status for extra perks, but in Phuket it’s necessary. Almost all prices are negotiable here, and it’s critical to distinguish that my salary is paid in Thai Baht and not USD.

That was one of three beaches that I went to last weekend. December has been a little crazy with days off and holidays.

Last week I had a 5 day weekend due to the visa run and the extra day off for Father’s Day on the 7th. Father’s Day in Thailand is set on the king’s birthday, and Mother’s Day is on the queen’s. Everyone wears yellow on Father’s Day because it is the king’s color. Typically at school, we wear yellow on Mondays to honor the king. This year, there was a decree sent out that all government employees must wear yellow the entire month of December. I was a little upset when I got the news, but only because I look horrible in the color yellow!

Anyhow.

Teaching has been going great. My students have really started to grow on me. It is amazing how much psychology goes into teaching. I’m finally getting behavior management under control, but it’s taken a lot of mind games. All of my actions have to be really dramatic- super enthusiastic if I’m teaching a new subject, very serious if I’m trying to be strict. There’s a lot of acting involved.  I love kids so much and it hurts my heart to have to yell at them.

We have one more full week of school, and then the holiday schedule is pretty up in the air.  The Thai teachers are going on a retreat from Dec 21-24, so we will cover their classes, and then they will cover our classes for Christmas Day. After that, the school still hasn’t decided whether or not they’re going to let the English teachers have off the 28th-30th for covering the Thai teachers. the 31st and 1st are public holidays. As it stands right now, I could potentially have off the 25th-3rd, but the school hasn’t decided. It’s so frustrating! I’m trying not to get my hopes up.

Well, that’s the broad scope of updates for now. I heard that Colorado got a lot of snow today, and it’s hard to not get homesick at that! Being away from home over the holidays is definitely tough, but I know that I’ll never regret being where I am for them this year.

OH MY GOODNESS!! I ALMOST FORGOT.

I. FOUND. BAGELS. IN. THAILAND.
Click here! to check out the video I made of my experience. I had to upload it on Facebook instead of Youtube because they got cranky with the copyright issues of the song choices.

Enjoy 🙂

 

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Week 2 of Kindergarten

I’m starting to get into the swing of things, and  now time is flying by.

Working at the school hardly feels like work. The teachers at the school are all wonderful, and make for great company throughout the day. The English department has teachers from all over- the U.S., South Africa, Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia, and of course Thailand. Everyone brings their own slang and dialects, and I can’t imagine how my vocabulary will change over the next year. So far, I’ve caught myself using the words “mates” “keen” and “proper” in ways that I hadn’t before I had arrived. To my students I am supposed to use the word “trainers” for tennis shoes, but I don’t think that word will stick with me. Same with “jumper” for sweater. I won’t be calling it that when I get home.

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This is Paeng. She is the sweetest little girl in my class. Always well behaved, and she’s crazy smart. She’s a little doll.

The students have really started to adjust to me, and I’m impressed at how quickly they’ve done it. The construction at the school has me shouting out my lessons, but the kids are still managing to pay attention. The construction outside of our classroom is set to last at least another two months, which nobody is too excited about. It is rumored that the whole Kathu District is supposed to be without power for the next 2 weeks. That should be interesting. Hopefully it will give us a break from the construction!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but our classroom is open-air. So far it hasn’t been too hot, but we’re technically not in the hot season yet. If 87 degrees is not considered the hot season, I’m curious to see what is. I like the open air room, as we have some critters that come and go as they please. These are including, but not limited to: dragonflies, giant bees, birds, lizards, and dogs. It’s hard to keep the kids under control when a critter enters the room. The other day a giant bee flew into the classroom, and my attention span matched that of my students.

The Thai teacher in my classroom, Fee, is awesome and we get along great. She is always willing to step in when I need help, but she keeps her distance otherwise. She is 7 months pregnant, so she’s training a new teacher to take over for when she’s on maternity leave. Here’s the depressing part:

The principle told Fee that she is to keep her pregnancy a secret. She is single, and a Muslim, so the pregnancy is frowned upon. Fee has been wearing giant if dresses, but compared to her small frame you can definitely tell she’s not just gaining weight. I’ve heard that she won’t be on maternity leave for long, because once the baby is born she has to give it to her parents to raise because she doesn’t have a partner.

She is always smiling though. Thai people, I tell you what.

It’s crazy to think that I’ve only been teaching for two weeks, but I’ve been affected as a person. Something about guidingimage 30 five-year-olds makes you feel like you should be a better human being. It’s like having 30 mirrors staring back at me. I so badly want to be a positive role model for them. The picture on the right is from our P.E. class on Wednesday. I HATED P.E. growing up. I’ve always wished I were more enthusiastic about physical activity. I guess now I’m going to have to learn!

On Friday I received the great news that my work permit was finally processed. I  found out a little more about what the holdup was. The school I’m teaching at has a contract with an “English Language Provider” so a company that is paid to help staff teachers at schools around the island. The company is basically HR for the school’s English programs. They are in charge of processing all of my paperwork as it relates to the work permit and teaching license. The school signs a yearly contract with the provider, and usually it is a smooth process. Well, this year the guy at the very top of the organization died. His replacement came in and wanted to review every last detail of the contract with the school. Neither the school nor the company knew with 100% certainty that the contract was going to go through. Apparently the entire English department had their jobs on the line. I was still on vacation when this was going on, so I had no idea.  It usually takes about 1 week to process a work permit, and mine took about 6 weeks. Now I can leave the country and re-enter on a Non-Immigrant B Visa.

I was talking to my supervisor about when I could leave the school to do my visa run. On Friday, December 4th, normal classes are cancelled and the students come to school for Father’s Day activities. I’m not sure if I’ve previously mentioned, but Father’s Day is always on the king’s birthday. I’m under the impression that it’s less about biological fathers and more about the king. There are shirts everywhere that say “I love Dad” and have a picture of the king on them.

Anyhow, the normal classes are cancelled on Friday, and then Monday is the official observance of the holiday, so schools are cancelled. I’ll have to leave Wednesday night in order to have 2 business days to process the paperwork. I am going to get to have a 5 day weekend to leave the country and get everything taken care of. I got really excited, because I heard that the Thai embassy in Singapore is really nice and efficient, and I wanted to go because, well, it’s a weekend trip to Singapore. I started looking into flights ($45 round trip, at that), when one of the teachers told me to make sure the paperwork wasn’t written for a specific embassy. Sure enough, we asked the secretary and she said it’s all addressed to the embassy in Penang, Malaysia. I was a little bummed, but it’s still a new place. I’m going to try to get my paperwork done quickly so then I can hop on a plane to Singapore for the 3 day weekend. Wow, I’m so spoiled. I’m just going to “hop on down to Singapore.”

Speaking of spoiled…

With another long and exhausting week of school finished, I decided to get out of the city and head over to the island of Koh Yao Noi for the weekend. My experience on the island was amazing, and it will definitely require its own blog post (coming soon!)

Here’s a fun fact to leave you with:

My school is a Buddhist school, so the kids say a prayer at assembly every morning. There are 2 kids in my class who aren’t Buddhist, so they just stand with their hands at their sides. Every Thursday, everyone wears white because the school goes vegetarian. Pretty cool!

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Moo 2 Kathu

We’re not in Phuket Town anymore!

Thursday was the final day of our TEFL course. We all went in and did a course evaluation, listened to a final spiel from our instructors, and then received our certificates and took a group photo.  I am classphotopretty relieved that the class is done!

Friday was the day that I moved out of the Phuket Center Apartments. It was actually kind of sad. I lived there for a month, and had gotten to know some of the staff. To anyone looking to travel around Phuket Town, I highly recommend staying there.

Before I packed up and moved, I went back to the photo shop because I needed pictures taken for my teacher’s license, work permit, and Non Immigrant B Visa. A few posts back I had mentioned that I went to her for a CV photo, and I was pretty impressed with how she could photoshop the sweat from my face in the wrinkles in my shirt. This time I needed 12 photos- six 6×5 cm and six 3x4cm. The guidelines for the photos are pretty strict- hair must be neatly pulled back, no jewelry, no smiling, blue background, and you must wear a collared shirt. I didn’t pack a single collared shirt, but she assured me that she could photoshop one on.image

Whereas last time I waited 5 minutes in the shop, this time the woman told me to come back in about 15 minutes and they’d be ready. I really wish I could’ve stayed and monitored her editing of the photos. When I came back to pick them up, I was trying so hard not to laugh. She could’ve at least asked me which shirt I wanted! Why did she have to make me so pale?! Why is my head so much smaller than my body?!?! I was laughing hysterically inside, but I politely smiled and thanked her. This lovely picture is going on my teacher’s license, work permit, and visa. Fantastic.

Packing and moving was pretty easy. When I left the US, my suitcase only weighed 33lbs. I really haven’t bought much since I’ve gotten here.  I started to neatly fold my clothes and arrange them in my bag, until I realized they were coming right back out in less than 1 hour. I shoved them all into the duffel bag, and sat on it to close it.

The area I moved to is called Kathu (pronounced ka-too).  Neighborhoods or residential zones are called “moo,” and I’m in the 2nd one, so my address is “Moo 2 Kathu,” which I think is hilarious.  Moving into my new place was exciting, as is moving into any new place. I realized pretty quickly that I needed to do some shopping for things like hangers, trash bags, shampoo, etc., so I decided to go to Tesco Lotus, the Walmart of Thailand. The Tesco Lotus here is bigger than any Walmart I’ve ever been into. They have anything you could think of. There is a religious aisle in the store where you can purchase gift baskets for monks.  (Side note: I haven’t learned too much about Buddhist culture yet, but I know that as a lady, I am not supposed to offer a gift directly to a monk).

When I was done shopping, I found a taxi stand out front with set prices on a list. I asked one of the men how much to go to my apartment complex, and he pointed at 300 TBH. I knew it was way overpriced, and so I haggled him down to 150 (which is still overpriced), but I got him down from $8 to $4, and I was ready to get home.  And I had a lot of stuff.

The driver spoke English pretty well, and he talked a lot.  He is a sweet old man who likes to practice his English, and told me that if I ever need a driver, he would come pick me up. He told me to call him Mr.B, and he is quite the character. During the 10 minute ride home, I had learned that he had an English teacher named Sarah who was from Michigan. He recently lost his wife to stomach cancer, and he is always looking for new friends. He told me that he would take me to meet a woman who could teach me how to cook Thai food, and he would translate for me.  He gave me his phone number, and had me call it to make sure it worked. It all sounded like a sweet deal, but I took it with a grain of salt. Unfortunately I probably won’t be taking him up on his offer, because I’m just not sure I can trust him. I saved his number in my phone in case I’m with friends and in need of a ride, though.

imageOnce I got all unpacked into my place, I went down for a swim in my new pool. The pool is huge!!! It isn’t terribly deep, but it’s ideal for swimming laps or relaxing. The trees that line the perimeter of the pool produce a gorgeous white flower.  These flowers are amazing. Here they fall off the trees and float in the pool, and it’s absolutely serene.

These type of flowers remind me so much of a friend that I lost a couple years ago in November. She would always wear one of these flowers behind her ear. The first time I saw them on a tree, I got pretty emotional that I couldn’t write her and tell her that these flowers are everywhere in Thailand. I really miss her.

Anyhow.

Tomorrow I am going into the school to fill out all of my paperwork for the teacher’s license, work permit, and visa. Classes are out until November, but I’m going to be working on redecorating my classroom. The school year is only halfway done for the students, so it’s going to be a big change for them. My boss told me that the children are going to test me, so I have to be incredibly strict. She told me, “no smiles until Christmas.” My property manager told me that Thais love foreign teachers because they won’t hit the students. Corporal punishment is still a thing here, but unfortunately I’m not in any position to say anything about it. I’ll know more about it once I’m actually in the classroom.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. I made a video tour of my apartment for your viewing pleasure. It was awkward for me to talk to myself during the tour, and it’s painfully obvious in my voice. Enjoy!

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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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