Foreign Hospitals

(Originally posted in Tickets To: 2014)

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Sometimes, when we move to a new country, we have to get a medical check. Hopefully it’s before. But typically your employer wants to know from a doctor who is native to their country.

So far, I have come to realize. You don’t go to the doctor. You go the hospital. Always the hospital. This makes it sound a lot worse than it is.

In Thailand, we had to go and get some blood work done to make sure we didn’t have some kind of ridiculous disease that I think they made up. I’m that person that passes out from a shot. I need to lay down when getting blood drawn or else the unfortunate person taking my blood (or giving the shot) will have to deal with my unconscious body falling face first onto the floor. So, I’m in a Thai hospital. After filling out paperwork incorrectly twice and waiting for about 30 minutes next to all the people hacking up a lung, I was called back. I explained that I faint. They smiled, nodded and told me to take a seat. I hesitated and had to mime to them that I pass out. They spoke in Thai and laughed at me, but eventually escorted me to a room shared by a guy who had broken limbs. You know that nervous feeling that you may throw up? It’s similar to the feeling of seeing someone with broken limbs and wanting to throw up. They saw my green face and closed the curtain and lay me down. The English speaking doctor (where was she this whole time?!) explained they needed at least two vials of blood. So naturally I covered my eyes and tried not to panic. They did what they had to do, I cried and got dizzy. I sat up and laid back down before almost falling off the gurney. So I stared at the wall while regaining my dignity. And there it was. Blood. On the wall. Blood on the wall. Let me make myself clear: THERE WAS FREAKIN’ BLOOD ON THE WALL. After a few months, I got over it. Because I needed to go to the hospital to get some stuff checked out. And it wasn’t as bad because it didn’t require blood. And interestingly enough, my doctor was my private tutoring student. That was awkward.

Flash forward to August 2013: Korea. The first week here, I needed to get a medical check. When I asked what it consisted of, the manager said ‘Oh normal things.’ So, I went and had my teeth looked at. Even though I had just eaten and hadn’t brushed my teeth, they said I have great teeth. Then I had my hearing tested (3 high pitched notes), an eye test (look at numbers after having a thing pressed against your eye and making vision blurry), a height/weight check (not your business), a urine test (haha! I passed that one!), and the blood test. SCREEECH. What? A blood test. Please stick out your arm. Um.. no I can’t do that. Yes, you have to, Teacher. You didn’t tell me about this! Oh sorry. You will be fine! I pass out. What? I faint. What? I need to lie down. Oh Teacher don’t be silly. No seriously, I need to lie down. Okay. (Insert crying and dizziness). Now please bare your chest so we can awkwardly test your heart beat. Now go upstairs for chest x-ray. Wait patiently while the nurses are distracted by their KakaoStories on their phones. Cough to get their attention. Then straight up say “Hey” and then put your chest against the x-ray machine. Relax. Now push so your shoulders are against the flat board even though you have huge knockers and can’t really be flat against anything. Okay thank you Teacher. You can get dressed now.

Well at least it was over and done with, right? Nope. My manager failed to pick up the documents by the deadline and guess who got to do it ALL OVER AGAIN?! Me.

Then, I got a promotion 6 months later. And last week I got a text message, “Teacher, I will take you to hospital tomorrow.” “Why?” “New contract. New hospital tests.” Le sigh. At least there wasn’t any blood on the wall.

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Obviously there have been some updates since February 2014. I have been in the hospitals for various surgeries as well.. Feel free to read those articles. 

The Battle Of Teaching Hill

Some say it began in the spring of 2012. Others say it wasn’t until late fall of 2013. In my opinion, The Battle of Teaching Hill began in May 2012. It was a year of struggling through the local children of Surat Thani, Thailand. Like any battle, there were bad days and worse days. It wasn’t always peaches and cream… oh wait, there were no peaches or cream in Thailand. But the battle wasn’t always Teacher vs Student. It was often just Teacher vs Teacher. The students are kids. They want to have fun, they want to play, and they definitely don’t want to learn English. They want hugs and smiles. But I’m not that kind of person. I don’t give in to their germs and tears. I may have been affectionate once, but since I started teaching (and probably long before that) I lost it.

Fast forward to 2015. I’m on year 3 of teaching (year 1 – Thailand, year 2 – Korea, year 2 – Korea). . and I have still very little affection for these kids. I have so little patience. I thought that by becoming a teacher, I would learn the valuable skill and art of patience. But alas, I have not. My patience excels in some areas, but when it comes to children learning English – – for some reason, it flees.

The Battle of Teaching Hill is an internal struggle. Unfortunately for the students, it occasionally ends up involving them. I know better. I truly do. I know I need to smile more and laugh. I know I need to breathe and just continue the lesson. But I lose it sometimes. Yesterday I got so mad at a student who didn’t do his homework because he had 15 minutes before and during class to do it and he just sat there. And it was easy homework. REALLY REALLY easy. Literally – it was a maze. I threw my red pen down and kicked it until it came apart. Obviously there are some anger issues. Perhaps I was just really tired from a week of cooking non-stop. Maybe it’s also my built up frustration of this student behaving like this several times a month.

Whatever it is, it’s not meant to be in a classroom. I need to get over it. But I’m not doing a great job of that. Am I good teacher? I don’t know. The students learn a lot from me because I don’t sit here playing Bingo every day.. but does it matter? Will it make a difference? I don’t know. I don’t think so. This is my last year teaching kids. If I decide to teach again, it will have to be adults and I will need to leave Asia. This is my Declaration of InterPatience.

I have 7 more months of fighting this Battle. Let’s hope I don’t wave the white flag or get shot.

It’s Not Fair to Compare

It’s Not Fair to Compare.

 

my input in the form of an article for the new online magazine Tickets To:

Secrets of Surat Thani – a short movie by RTapps

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A Refresher in a Friend

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it. I have spent the last few months quite unhappy in my situation – ready to quit at the drop of a hat. I wasn’t homesick – but I was finding myself lonely in a room full of people. My comments were ignored, my jokes missed and disregarded, my laugh was forced (if I laughed at all). It was a form of depression that I wasn’t accustomed to.

Today I feel great. The conditions are a little different I think though. It’s the last month of school and all the tests are done. The light at the end of the tunnel has finally appeared. But the real booster was a visit from a friend.

It was not his intention to come to Thailand to see me – he was just going because he could and something told him it was a good idea. And it happened that I am here. I found out 2 weeks before he came out (about 2 weeks before he knew he was coming out for sure). I was stoked. I have known my friend since high school. We were never particularly close but our mutual friends kept us in minor contact.

Anyway, the sun started to shine a bit more since he decided to come to Thailand. I had something to look forward to that wasn’t the end of school. The schedule got blistered a bit and it took another 2 weeks for him to get to my part of the country. But he got here and my soul’s thirst was quenched. I felt like a little kid – wanting to show him all my classes and what my students can do. (He missed the best class – but they’ll be famous in their own rights one day). I wanted him to try this and that and everything.

But the best part was finally when I relaxed, my words were heard and my jokes were laughed at. I ventured into humor that is borderline incredibly offensive. But the timing was good and it was influenced by my friend. I observed his style and realized it was similar to mine – and none of my coworkers really got what either of our styles. I wasn’t alone for once in this room full of people. I was here and with someone who I could be myself around. My ridiculous attempts at different accents was met with even more ridiculous attempts at accents. I was encouraged to speak my mind rather than hold it in. I realized how great of a person this guy is (not that I didn’t know before – but hey .. haven’t seen him in years!).

I’m only a minor part in his experience here but it’s something to relate to later and a story to share with our friends. I realize how much more fun I could be having here if I had someone like him around: someone to bring out the best in me because I can actually be me. I laughed more this past weekend with him around than I have in ages (sober or not).

 

So, my friend, I dedicate this entry to you.

I hope we can share more adventures in the future wherever we may be.

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Walentie Day

V. Vvvvvv. Put your top teeth OVER your bottom lip and make the ‘v’ sound. VaaaalentiNe’s Day.

Okay yes.

No, make the sound please. Vvvvv. Double-U is a wuh wuh wuh sound with your lips – no teeth. USE your teeth.

V. Vvvv.

YES! perfect. Now, Valentine’s Day

Vvvvvvv walentie day.

*Blank stare* Okay, excellent work.

————-That is basically how my Valentine’s Day went with my 4 classes of different leveled Thai students.

But first. before all that. before the pronunciation and linguistic aspect came into play.. there was fun to be had.

If you say “Valentine’s Day” to primary school Thai students, it translates into a literally-not-literal translation: “Use every sticker you have to cover everything you have with.”

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And they did.

It was a few moments before 10am and I had just gathered all the strips of paper for Valentine’s Day flower project. I was in a cheery mood, of course, and I walk up to my first class. To my FAVORITE class, of course (see MJ post). Before I made it to the door, I was bombarded. Stickers came out of nowhere. Big stickers, little stickers, pink, white, red, gold, hearts, animals, more hearts. They had no problem reaching up and putting them right on my chest. In fact, that seemed to be the prime location for this display. Big boobs = big heart? Nah. But whatever, I can’t do anything about it. So I go into the classroom and there are MORE students with MORE stickers. Thank goodness it was a long class. Because every student waited for stickers in return. So I pulled out the same stickers that I carry with me every day and started putting it on their cheeks. In return, they put them on my cheeks… and forehead, and neck, and hair.
I got them seated and showed them the project to do today.
They all said ‘Yay!’ and did the project. Some would come up to me randomly to ask a question and suddenly plant a sticker on my shirt. Others wrote notes that said “i love teacher’ and stuck those on my shirt too.
Their paper flowers turned out really nicely. They did a great job and I was proud of these lil buggers.

But alas, no other teacher got completely engulfed in stickers like I did.

The best part was getting my students to learn and sing ‘My Favourite Things’ from Sound of Music. And they sound lovely. 😀

Happy Walentie’s Day

Holiday Show Happiness

"Mai" a student dressed in MJ garb

“Mai” a student dressed in MJ garb

In August, our manager informed us of a ‘holiday’ party in December that we were expected to perform at. Cue: Collective groan. Then she told us we needed to prepare our students for a performance as well.

I played a few songs for my P3 class (7-8 y/o) including the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, and India Arie. Apparently this was NOT cool. They wanted Lady Gaga. I scoffed because we had just gone over ‘Like/Dislike’ and in my ‘Dislike’ category I had written Lady Gaga. Then it hit me: Michael Jackson.  The students were familiar with the name and enjoyed rockin’ out to his music during dance time.

So we played lots of MJ songs until I  we collectively decided on singing “man in the mirror”. We started rehearsals immediately. I taught the students the words and we sang a few times a week at the beginning of class. They loved it. I loved it.

After they learned the lyrics I choreographed a fairly complicated easy dance for them. They caught on quickly. I caught on to the few that were not coordinated and put them in the back – as any good drama geek turned teacher would do.
We rehearsed with the other half of the class that another teacher taught. Without sounding too cocky – my class was WAAYYY better than hers.  they were all very good.

December came along and we gave them the outline for their outfits:
Black button down/zipped shirt with long sleeves
white t-shirt
black pants
white socks
black shoes
fedora

Students were bringing in amazing outfits to put together. I realized that there were 2 key element being forgotten about 2 weeks before the performance: the sparkly glove. No MJ performance would be complete without it!! So they brought gloves and we decorated it with the devil glitter. Also, they needed to know how to moonwalk! So they practiced moonwalking down the hallways for about 30 minutes. Not an easy task. But HILARIOUS to watch.

Our director loves me and came to watch the students perform a couple times. She loved it. I loved it. We all loved it.

Holiday-show-day was upon us. I walked into the GIANT convention hall and saw the itsy bitsy stage the students were to perform on. All i could think: “SHhhhiiiiiit. Someone’s going to fall off stage.” But then I saw their adorable little faces in the brilliant collection of MJ style costumes and no longer cared. For a few hours, I filled the room with Thai MJ impersonators.  No MJ fan could have been happier.
The performance itself was good. Not great.
Reason 1: No microphones. They took away the microphones because there was no room for it. So you couldn’t hear a damned word they said
Reason 2: The kids were so afraid of ruining their precious glittered gloves that they didn’t actually clap. They fake clapped! ((Insert: SMH))

———————–
On a side note: the girls of my P3 class decided to sing “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. Of course when I say “decided” I actually mean our Thai director told me they were going to perform it. They dressed like divas and threw roses into the audience after the performance. They did a fantastic job.

I’m uploading the videos to youtube so you can see the performances at the show and the ones from their classroom (which are WAY better!!)

The P3 girls and the solo sax player

The P3 girls and the solo sax player

The singers after the performance

The singers after the performance

Little MJs

Light One Up in Thailand

I really enjoy light, however. Thailand has some very pretty light things going on.

Their lanterns are fantastic. It’s amazing to see people celebrate their holidays with cool traditions like that. Thailand just celebrated a couple holidays recently: Loy Krathong and Father’s Day/King’s birthday. The lanterns filled the skies and turning into small specks amongst the stars. It reminds me a bit of Florida when the shuttle took off. Obviously those are completely different scenarios – I’ve probably offended some NASA people by comparing a lantern to a space shuttle – not my intention I ASSURE you.

But the way the light is so close and then just disappears really hits home. If you ever get the chance to send off a lantern, don’t pass up on it. (And if you’re in Hawaii, don’t pass up a lei – those things are fantastic.) You can get different kinds of lanterns too.. there are angry birds, angry pigs, doremon?, and zebra stripes, etc. So get creative with it!

I also reverted for a few minutes to my 5 year old self. I saw a firefly. A lightning bug. Amazing. They’re there and then they aren’t! It’s like magic. I was mesmerized by these little buggers. The Thai folk we were drinking with laughed quite a bit at my expense.. but I couldn’t care. How can one care when a bug that has a light-up butt be anything but the most important thing at that time?

The floating lanterns aren’t the only amazing light spectacles. All along the river the trees and light posts are lit up like christmas. There are these oversized and  ridiculous light fixtures on the side of the road. Some of bunnies that look a bit like a kangaroo, others are strange little people doing random things. I know that was very vague, but look at the pictures and you’ll understand.

There are some very cool lights, lamps, and lanterns all throughout Thailand and I love every moment of it. If you visit Thailand, make sure you take some of these light creations home. They’re not found in the US for sure.

Of course there are Angry bird lanterns.

Of course there are Angry bird lanterns.

 

Handmade floating flower arrangements with a candle and a prayer.

Handmade floating flower arrangements with a candle and a prayer.

Let the lantern go and blend in with the stars

Let the lantern go and blend in with the stars

Coffee shops

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Every traveller knows their favorite asset is knowing where the closest coffee shop is.

In Thailand I live in a southern city called Surat Thani. It’s the place that your guide book says to pass through without a glance back. I don’t blame it. But if by chance you find yourself here, here are a few coffee shop recommendations.

@Mycup is on Donnok Rd. it’s a two story adorable shop that offers hot, cold, and frozen beverages. There are a few sandwiches and snacks. There are lovely cakes and ice cream options also. The decor is a quaint collection of garden style seats and tables. The cabinets are filled with beautiful tea and coffee sets that are definitely only for display. The main display is covered in nonfunctional clocks and bicycles. Internet is available depending on the weather. The upstairs is more comfortable in the lounge type of feeling. There are Thai and English menus available. I highly recommend you try the Green Teacinno. The service and food quality rival each other in mediocrity.

ADay Cafe is on Chonkasem. It’s a large single floor cafe that is decorated in bright green and yellow walls. It’s frequented by Thai students as there are several schools around. The coffee is good and the service non existent. Once your order is placed you only are another grain of sand. While conveniently located its not my favorite place to frequent.

My newest coffee discovery is on a road that I ride on everyday and couldn’t tell the name of. It’s called Hom Coffee. It’s fairly new and undiscovered. It’s lovely. I walked in and was immediately greeted and given a verbal English menu. The shop is decorated with vintage knickknacks. I’m sitting at the table featured in the picture. It’s a block of tree trunk holding a glass table top displaying a Thai version of the Batman comics. My napkin holder is a pumpkin trickortreat bucket. My mocha yen (iced mocha) was great. The owner brought me almond wafer cookies and water as well as the wifi password. The terrible 80s style Thai pop was replaced with English R&B including songs by Otown and Destiny’s Child. The owner actually hummed some of the songs. It’s brilliant. It’s quiet and sweet. It will be frequented on weekends though due to their store hours mirroring my work hours 10-8pm.

If you come to Surat I recommend this spot but doubt you’ll find it. The easiest for visitors is probably MyCup.

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How to Be a Respectful Roommate

Section A: The Living Room

1. If you leave your shoes there, put them where one will not trip.

2. If eating there, wipe down the table after you spilled the soup.

3. If drinking there, throw away/recycle the bottle when finished and clean your cup.

4. If you have guests, clean up after them if they can’t for themselves.

 

Section B: The Kitchen

1. Ants exist (especially in Thai kitchens) – wipe down the area that has been used into a trash bag, not the floor. (these areas include but are not limited to: stove top, sink, counter space, dining table, microwave, fridge)

2. Ants exist (especially in Thai kitchens) – don’t leave food that has been opened out of the fridge. 

3. Thank you for cleaning the entire inventory of utensils and dishes used, now put them away.

4. BUT don’t put the dishes away when ANTS are crawling all over them. 

5. Sweep up after your 1am pancake crumbs.

6. If you created two bags of trash, remove them. If not, let them just sit there.

 

Section C: The Bathroom

1. When male and female live together, put the toilet seat down. 

2. Remove the 5 empty bottles of Head&Shoulders that have piled up in the corner of the shower.

3. Replace the toilet paper when it’s run out. If it’s not your turn, then kindly inform the other to purchase it. 

4. Take the old toilet paper roll off and replace it with the new one!

5. Ants exist (especially in Thai bathrooms) – wipe down your spit and shavings from the counter. 

6. If mold starts to appear on your toothbrush or other vanity objects – get rid of said object… for your own health. 

7. Don’t mooch off the roommate’s toothpaste for a week. A day or two at most then replace your own. 

8. Wipe the floor, mirror, and door handle once in a while.

9. Do something simple like spray some bleach on the shower to clean it, and 20 minutes later rinse it off. Wiping isn’t even necessary. 

 

Section D: Bills

1. If you use aircon in Thailand, be prepared to pay for it. That shiz is expensive and it’s rude to pay only half if you’re the only one. 

2. Water bill only 85baht? High fives all around.

3. Communicate when the bill arrives and when it is due. Decide who will be in charge of paying it. 

 

Communication is Key. Without it, the doors for possibility stay closed. 

 

This is not directed toward any particular person. It is just a handy reminder to roommates everywhere. It doesn’t have to suck to live with someone. Be fair. 

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