Surprise! I live in Thailand now!
The last place I wrote about was Vietnam (and how I fell in love), and I completely skipped over my travels through Cambodia. I’ll get back to those, but for now I’ll tell you about my current adventure and new job in middle-of-nowhere, Thailand.
A few weeks ago I saw a posting on facebook advertising one-month teaching jobs. I had been trying to find long-term volunteer positions with NGOs but none of the organizations I wanted to work with were getting back to me. So, although I had declared that there was no way I was going back to teaching already, I was lured in by the thought of money and a temporary home. I applied and not much later found myself in front of a classroom full of high schoolers in Chaiyaphum, a mid sized town in central Thailand.
The first week of classes has been amazing and I am loving it. Without going into too many comparisons for now, it is a complete 180 from my job and lifestyle in Korea. Everything is laid-back, the people are friendly, and the kids are generally enthusiastic, well-behaved, and don’t make me want to hurl them myself out a window. I’m also learning quite a bit about Thai culture and am frequently caught off-guard by the way they do things here.
Here are just a few of the hilarious/interesting things I’ve noticed about teaching in a Thai school so far:
The ubiquitous ladyboys are a common sight on the streets of Bangkok, but I never imagined there would be a handful of excessively flamboyant teenagers in every one of my classes.
Weird English Names:
On the first day of class I asked the students to make name tags with their English nicknames. There are almost no ‘normal’ names, and instead it’s as if they opened a dictionary and pointed at random words. My classes are full of names like Milk, First, Coke, Flame, Beer, Tiger, Oil, Name, Arm, Pop, Best, Ice, Nice, Ring, Ball, Pepsi, Film, Copter, and my personal favorite, Boss. Oh, there is also one named Job and all I can think of is the scene from Mrs. Doubtfire. “I. Am. Job.”
Each morning before classes start the students at our school gather for an assembly. Part of it includes several minutes of meditation during which the 3,500 students actually sit in complete silence with their eyes closed. The thought of doing something like that at a school back home is laughable. It might be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
No bells, “Thai time”
No bells ring to mark the start and end of class. The time table does not allot time between classes so it’s generally up to the teacher as to when to finish the class. As a result, the students may show up anywhere from 5 minutes early to 20 minutes late. You just have to roll with it.
Someone who clearly speaks almost no English was apparently commissioned to make the most hilarious and sometimes inappropriate signs which have been posted all around the English building. There are so many that each day we find a new gem and we devote a considerable amount of time to trying to decipher what the sign is actually trying to say (or wondering who on earth thought it would be a good idea to say it).
Here’s some more:
Strange Variety of Uniforms
It’s not uncommon for students to wear uniforms, but they seem to have a different one for every day of the week and even the teachers are required to dress up fairly frequently. Sometimes a sampling of students and teachers will walk around in military gear. Earlier this week everyone was required to wear Thai traditional silk skirts and shirts. Sometimes we wear purple for King Day or other times we have to wear a specific color just because. Figuring out what to wear is never an issue in the morning.
Overall, I love my school. I am so lucky to have fun students, welcoming and friendly coworkers, and a laid back working environment. Teaching in Thailand was a fantastic idea and this month is going to fly by!