Signed, Sealed, Delivered

This is a scary thought:

 

For the first time since high school (ten years!) I will be staying at a job for longer than a year. The last job that I stayed at (that was actual 30+hours/week) for longer than a year was … working at a country club? I think. I may not have even actually been there for a full year, come to think of it. It’s not that I don’t like commitment, it’s just that I like to move to new places. I spent a year working in Orlando in my senior year of high school. Lived in Tallahassee for a year and worked at two different places during that time. Moved to Gainesville for a year for massage school and worked at another country club. After that I was in Orlando for about a year (working at a couple of different restaurants in the Disney area) before moving to Hawai’i. I worked at another restaurant for close to a year before transferring to their sister restaurant. When I came back from traveling I started working for a massage place. Within a year from that I moved back to Florida. I worked for a chiropractor for a few hellish months, worked for an off-property massage company, switched to on-property company. Soon, I quit that shit and moved to Tampa to work for a casino. After about 9 months there I moved to Thailand for a year. Then back to Florida for a few months, then out to Korea. And here I am.. signing another year with the same school!! 

Thanks to my friend Ben (whom I’ve known since kindergarten) I came to work for Wharton. The staff has been very friendly, the foreigner teachers have been pretty good, and the students are fairly smart. This new contract though came with a lot of changes. And I hope I don’t regret my decision to stay. I started by teaching 4th graders through middle school. After 6 months I was promoted to Head Teacher for Foreign staff (aka – she does what we ask in a super timely manner) and moved to the advanced floor teaching 7 classes: 2 5th grades, 2 6th grades, and 3 middle school classes. They were advanced. Seriously. We were discussing stuff like “What’s more detrimental: an oilspill or the declining population of honeybees?” WHAT?! Amazing – super great classes. They wrote creative stories on what would happen if they were the last people on Earth. They wrote mystery stories. They wrote intellectual-ish essays on the Syrian war and Korean education. 

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 The new semester started 4 days ago. I was switched….downgraded…punished? I now teach 2nd grade – 6th grade. Not advanced.  Before, we could post our homework during the class or toward the end. Now, we have to post our homework before class starts. ((how the heck do I know what they should have for homework already!?)) Before, I could ask the students to prepare a debate on whether elementary school students should have cell phones. Now, I ask “What is this? It’s a pencil.” Before, I was improving grammar. Now, I’m teaching it. With books that have so many errors in it. (ie: I have ever been to Jeju many times. – – oO)    Before, I got to school at 3pm to start class at 4:10. Now, I get to school at 1:30 and hope to be ready by 2:30pm. Before, I had 3-4 ‘prep’ periods lasting 40 minutes each. Now I teach from 2:30-7:38p with about allegedly 10 minutes break every other class. But the students come in and want to copy their homework down and want me to check their homework. ON THE BREAK!?  My ‘long’ break has been reduced to about 35 minutes. I don’t even have time to pee. 

Yes, I’m whining and complaining about getting paid well enough to save with an apartment that’s paid for in a country that has a lower cost of living than back home while teachers back in the US pay for their own supplies and bring their work home and grade essays during dinner. But I’m not a US teacher. I never will be and I never want to be. 

Yup. I’m done complaining. I’ve been stressed about this change. Mentally and emotionally. This vacation to Boracay is welcome. 😉

A Tender Age to Consider

Last year I taught primary level students in Thailand. I had an hour of kids 4-6yo; a few hours of 7-9 yo; and the occasional 10-12 yo.

 

This year the age (and the bar) has been raised. My youngest students are 10-11 and the oldest are 15 going on 30. The younger students are dreams. They do their work, they are excited to be there, they laugh at all the cheesy jokes I make… ❤ them.

 

But the older students can be a bit… what’s a good word for it? SHITHEADY. Some of them are quiet and do their thing. They do the homework, never participate in class, but write nice essays. Others don’t do their homework, talk sporadically in class, and write bad-to-average essays. But with this age group I realized there’s more to these kids’ lives than their speaking or writing ability. They’re growing up in front of my eyes…..

I prefer my students to leave their bags on the floor so I know they’re not playing with their phones or cards or doing other homework or whatever. One day I noticed a kid (14-15 years old?) with his bag in his lap. For some reason, I didn’t bother asking him to remove it. I was regularly distracted by his bag on his lap though. And then something popped into my head.

This is a boy. He’s hitting puberty. He’s in a class with a bunch of girls. Oh snap. Noooo way. Was I really about to experience an adolescent having an awkward moment in class?!! I had to check without being gross. So I asked him to bring me his test paper. He stood up with the bag on his lap and his hand over his bag over his crotch.

Yup. There was nothing to see, I wasn’t looking for anything specific. I just needed to confirm that this was the likely scenario. How horrible of a teacher would I have been to ask him to put his bag on the floor or off his lap in general? How much more awkward could I make being a teenager be for this kid? I had a good pondering about it after school on my way home. This was something I didn’t have to deal with before. Hopefully I won’t have to deal with it ever. But I’m really glad that I stopped for once and considered the situation.

I hadn’t thought about it when I accepted the job to teach middle school students. I mean, who WOULD think about that, right?? Well, this is definitely a lesson. I’ll have to be a bit more observant without observing anything in regards to my older students. :/

The Low Down (like.. really low)

IF there is one actually a thousand thing that people overlook when traveling to Thailand, it’s the toilet situation. In most tourist places (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui, etc) you’ll find the good old fashioned sit-your-ass-down toilet seat. But there is a little squirt gun (similar to what you find to do the dishes with) next to it. It’s there to spray your ass after you $hiT. And with all the curry and spicy food your body isn’t used to, it comes in handy. You’ll also find hopefully a trash bin next to the seat and you are expected to throw your toilet paper into it. Thai sewers aren’t quite as updated as our western ones are. Just respect the country and toss it in the bin.

BUTT – there is something else to warn you about. If you are like me and don’t go camping every weekend, or hike, or do the nature thing in general, If you are the type who will hold it until you get home (or at least somewhere you’re comfortable going to the bathroom at), some of the smaller towns and bus stations will come as a shock. You will politely excuse yourself from the table and find this stall that may or may not have a door attached. In the middle of the ground is a what looks like a metal toilet seat with ridges on the top. “Why is this toilet seat so low?” you’ll ask yourself.
.. it’s a squat toilet. You have to squat. Don’t work out? Too bad.

If you are a woman, you stand on the ridges facing the wall and squat down like a baby would to pick up a bug they found on the ground. Then you do your #1 and hope you remembered to bring the tissues. Should your bowels be a moanin’ and a groanin’ you will face away from the wall and squat (see previous description) and let it all out. And then hope you brought EVEN MORE toilet paper. And sanitary wipes. And a Glade scented candle.
When you have finished doing your dooody, you will (hopefully) see a trash bin with water filled in it. You will take the bowl that is floating in that water and proceed to ‘flush’ your by-product down the hole. A few good bowl fulls should do it. If not, you’re shit out of luck (ha!!).

It’s disgusting. Some people don’t mind. Some people say it’s better for your posture and blah blah blah. I will NOT miss this. I went 5+ months without having to use one of those bastards. Then I had a reallllly bad stomach one day during class and had no choice but to do the squat. And it was HORRIBLE. You may dribble on your shoes, you may miss, you may spatter, you may want to throw up. And no, you don’t get used to it. At least I didn’t.

My favorite quote concerning squatters: “F- that.”

Advice:

  • ALWAYS carry wipes or toilet paper
  • Have toilet shoes/sandals
  • carry hand sanitizer
  • avoid if at all possible
  • learn to hold it
  • wipe tiger balm under your nose before going in – it wreaks.

That’s the toilet story. I had to warn you, my cyber friends. Good luck.

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.”

valentines

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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Blame it on the..

It’s been a long while since I have posted an update. My apologies – I blame the heat. Actually, one can blame the heat for a lot of issues here:

A certain laziness sets in that makes joining a gym or working out just seem torturous. I luckily have looked past this (and into a mirror) and joined a gym that does not have air conditioning. They have fans, but I haven’t seen them on yet. I spend more here on a gym membership per month than I did in the States.

A rash is inevitable. Heat rash mostly. The constant Florida summer heat can make sensitive skin break out in ways and areas that make ZERO sense. Luckily, pharmacies are as accessible as the drugs they sell. I picked up some cortisone for 180Baht (roughly $6).

I blame the heat for bad hair days! Being a native Floridian, having a ‘good’ hair day keeping long hair straight for longer than 2 hours. Here… maybe there is, maybe there isn’t an excuse. It’s too hot to blow dry and straighten my hair. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve used a blow dryer… which was actually used for drying my paintings. The straightener bit was a few times more I think. I end up sweaty before I get through half of my head. However, Thai girls have good hair days everyday. I think they may wake up hours earlier than they should to make sure they look like dolls. Thai teachers especially. They rarely have an ‘off’ day. (Maybe I can blame the heat for the laziness of not getting up early to sweat from straightening my hair!)

I blame the heat for dirty clothes. Darling English people.. I know you LOVE to wear white in the worst combinations but white + heat = sweat stains. And they are obvious. I have a couple of white shirts that I have not and will not wear in Thailand. If not for the heat and sweat, then the rain that will give the Thai culture a real sense of spring breaks in Florida.

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