When I planned my trip to Thailand, I didn’t really think about the details of Christmas and what it would be like orb how I would feel. I knew if I had access to the internet, I’d be video calling home and that was good enough for me! Well, it’s been different, my emotions have been tested but it’s been brilliant in its own way! Here’s a taster of Christmas in Thailand!
My big surprise
A couple of weeks ago, I walked down to get my bike on my way to school to be called in by the landlady and given two purple packages. I didn’t have time to open them so I dropped them in my room and left for school. When I did open them that evening, I got the biggest surprise! Inside were cards and beautifully wrapped presents. And not just one of to but several! I instantly burst into tears as I realised they were from the staff at my school in the UK! I was overwhelmed by their generosity and support for me! Suddenly, Christmas had arrived!! When I had pulled myself together, I was able to video call Amelle (the fantastic organiser!) and say thank you and then started crying again! Couldn’t thank them enough!!
Later that week, I also got a stocking from my brother and sister-in-law with individually wrapped presents inside! All I had to do now was have self-control and wait until the big day to open them!
The week before Christmas
We began hearing rumours about events, shows and activities happening during Christmas a week before the day but nothing really made sense or was confirmed to us. On Monday 17th, we were told there would be a Christmas show on Friday 22nd rather than on the 25th. I heard it was because some of the teachers/director was in Bangkok on the 25th. We were told that there would be activities on the day but we didn’t know what activities meant as in Thailand, activities can be songs, dances, field trips or anything off timetable. It also sounded like we might have to put on an activity for the children to go to. At one point, it sounded like all the children would be rotating around the classes and we would have to teaching them all!! Very confusing!
This week was supposed to be the week we submitted grades for all the students so I was giving out tests but on Tuesday I had a very odd conversation, which was confused due to translation issues, about getting my yr 6 students to copy a piece of writing about Christmas. It literally was a paragraph written in English explaining Christmas traditions. I was also told to make Christmas cards for the display for Friday and to make a display. In the end, despite not really understanding, I decided to scrap the tests and started teaching my students about Christmas as well as making them create Christmas writing and cards for the display.
On Wednesday lunch time, one of the yr 5 teachers spoke to me and asked/told me that on Friday the foreign teachers should do a dance and we should dance to Panama. I hadn’t heard Panama before but the others did. When I asked if the other Thai teachers would be dancing, she laughed and said no..just the foreign teachers! Great! However, as this was the most definite thing we had heard we decided to learn a routine from YouTube ready for Friday. We were also told we could all dress up on Friday so Nicole and I headed to the 2nd hand clothes market and after a lot of rummaging found two jumpers!
On Thursday, I walked over to the Yr 5 building to give them the cards I had made and was told that they already had cards! Theirs were much better than mine! But now I had nearly 100 cards for no reason! Thursdays are also the day I teach Yr 6 so I went to get ready for my 9am class; I still wasn’t sure if I needed to do the writing task or not so had prepared a few ideas just in case! I waited in my classroom but noone appeared so at 9:15 I went looking for them. I found Pe Nok and she laughed and said there was no classes this morning – news to me! I was about to leave when she asked if I could watch her class whilst she went to buy candy and prizes for tomorrow. I agreed as they were only making Christmas cards anyway! What I didn’t realise was that she’d be gone for 2 1/2 hours and there’s only so long you can make cards for! But we listened to music and I showed them how to make snowflakes and paper chains. Then it was lunch! After lunch I went again to my classroom only to find the time table had changed – this has happened 3 times in the last 2 months! After speaking to Pe Nok, she asked me again to watch her class (1-2pm) and then pointed out that I actually had them English 2-3pm! So I spent another 2 hours with the same students. Luckily, they weren’t too bad. Just loud! I taught them some Christmas vocabulary and we played games using the words but 3/4 of the way through I was done. Having not had anytime to prepare anything for this double lesson, I was making it up as I went along! I ended the lesson a little early and then went to my desk. Beside my desk was a mountain of crisps, sweets and drinks which was what Pe Nok had bought for tomorrow!
As soon as I arrived downstairs, I was also told to go into the other office and write instructions on how to make a paper santa. I had no idea what Pe Nok meant but went in to find all the other P6 Thai teachers doing oragami and making Santas.
I watched, then joined in and then was told to write the instructions for it. This actually was quite tricky as I was trying to make it simple for everyone to understand. I then was shown a picture of bananas covered in chocolate and sprinkles and asked to write down how they were made. This one I could make up quite easily. Next, I was given the Christmas cards the students I’d looked after this morning had made to judge and pick the top 3 ! I had to sign all of them to show I had judged them. I was also given 8 stack loads of paper which contained the students writing. It was the random christmas passage copied out by every child in yr 6! The Thai teachers got them to do it so I hadn’t needed to worry! I had to judge the top 3 from each class. Then top 3 over all! Outside there was also plenty going on with scaffolding going up on the stage, ribbon being strung across it and lettering being attached. I stayed around to help out, taught 5 p6 students how to read the instructions I had written and was given a chocolate covered banana to try!
Eventually it was time to go home and I left feeling quite excited/ intrigued about the next day!
Christmas had arrived! I wore my Christmas jumper along with my santa headband and tinsel around round my neck and ankles! The kids just stared at me!!
We arrived at school and were greeted with Christmas music blasting out, stalls being set up around the assembly area and hundreds of kids dressed as Santa. I got excited very quickly and wandered around taking it all in! When I entered my office, I was given print outs of the banana instructions I had created and asked to put them on a board which was then taken around to a stall outside.
The show began with several Yr 6 kids being master of ceremony and speaking in both Thai and English welcoming us all! The show consisted of various children dancing to Jingle bells, Jingle bell rock and We wish you a merry Christmas as well as a mini production of Snow white by the Yr 5 students (in English) and a Santa costume competition! The show went on for a couple of hours and was chaos at various points with kids standing up, talking through, going to the stalls around the edge, chasing one of the teachers dressed as Santa because he was giving out sweets and at one point most of the students just disappeared – maybe to their classrooms? Who know!? We danced and sang along and were the only ones clapping as it’s not that common here!
We knew we would be performing our dance at some point but weren’t sure when. We were planning on getting some kids to sort out the music before we went on when suddenly we were told, we were up!! I panicked a little and asked where we could sort out the music. I was pointed around the back so raced to get the music sorted. As I was plugging in my phone, I heard Alyssa start speaking! I raced up the steps and we all said what we liked about Christmas before saying we had a surprise for them. The music started and the kids went crazy! They love panama! We planned to go through the routine once before getting them to dance but the music repeats three times and noone stopped it so we danced it through 3 times!! It was great fun! At the end, we managed to get a selfie with all of the students – all 2600 of them!!
The rest of the morning involved many more rounds of Panama, Jingle bells and We wish you a merry Christmas! Kids came and went as they wished. The stalls sold food and played games and the noise was crazy! Around 11, some students came up to me asking me to study with them as in I had a class! I tried to say no before I tried to disappear so noone else could ask! No way was I teaching that morning!
I met the others and we headed out of school to have food at Bun’s restaurant for lunch. None of us fancied risking the school dinners today….to many Friday’s it has been chicken feet!
Unfortunately, after lunch we were told we had to teach normal lessons! None of us were that thrilled as we all knew the kids were full of sugar and hyped up by the morning. Luckily for me, I waited for my class but noone turned up so I headed home early!
That evening, we went to Alyssa’s room, ate ginger bread biscuits and watched Elf – keeping it Christmassy!
We had a chilled day before heading to Holly’s house for a Christmas party! They had decorated the house amazingly! I even managed to make mulled wine so I was happy!!
Sunday (Christmas eve)
Yesterday, Alyssa and I had organised a brunch. She bought a little cooker and we borrowed one from Bun. We had croissants, fruit and then made and egg casserole with sausage, bacon, onion, pepper and cut up hash brown. Amazingly it worked and was yummy! It was a lovely start to the morning despite a few sore heads from last night’s party.
A few of us then headed to the pool! My first ever Christmas eve in the sun!
In the evening we were invited to Danny’s apartment for dinner which was lovely! A great Christmas eve with everyone!
Sunday (Christmas day)
I woke early so I had time to finally open all my presents – I’d managed to keep most unwrapped but had eaten some of the more edible gifts! It was amazing having them and Nicole joined me so it felt more like Christmas day! I was given earrings, a christmas top and head band from Sian so I decided to wear all of them to school despite knowing the kids and staff wouldn’t be dressed up!
It was hard when we arrived arrived it was just a normal school day. Everyone was slightly emotional and missing home. During assembly, we were told some of the yr 5 kids were at another school’s Christmas show. I teach yr 5 on Mondays so hoped my classes were cancelled. I also teach kindergarten on Monday so thought I couldn’t go to the show. Then a few minutes later, they told me they were all going to go so I could too! That helped my mood as no teaching for me! I headed over to kindergarten who were dressed up in Christmas clothes and learning about Christmas. I joined in their assembly singing ‘We wish you a merry christmas’. Then I taught my class who were extremely cute dressed up as mini Santas!!
I returned to my office to see yr 5 and yr 6 students waiting by the road. Then a bus arrived and somehow half the kids got onto it! I don’t even know how they all fitted! So off a bus load of kids went with no teachers with them! Hopefully there were teachers the other side to keep an eye on them!
I was offered a lift in one of the teacher’s car and off we went to one of the secondary schools in town. The school was set up like a fair with stalls around the grounds which had different activities in them. Lots of them were English based and the kids got a stamp for completing them. There were also food stalls and music. As I walked around, I saw lots of the kids I teach and they came up and showed me what they had bought or won. It was completely random but it saved me from having to teach on Christmas day!
I was told to meet the teachers at 11am and then we began trying to find all the students. This took over an hour – Yr 5 has over 350 students in it so is quite a task finding them all!! Kids just wandered up without a care! Somehow the teachers were aware of how many kids were left as at one point we had 4 kids left to find!
The others had gone to Bun’s for lunch but I was a bit late so Nicole brought me back some basil pork and rice! Again noone fancied school food! In the afternoon, we had normal lessons which was hard but not awful. I had Christmas word searches and games for the kids to do so time went quickly!
After school, a Nicole and I watched a film before getting ready and heading to Ben’s for our meal! I continued to wear as much Christmas themed clothing as possible!
The bar was packed with people and we tucked into a three course meal! I had been craving potatoes so was happy to have roasted potatoes and Yorkshire puddings!!
After the meal I headed home and was able to video call my friends and family! I loved seeing them all! And they had received my parcel so could open it with me there!
Despite the festivities, it was interesting how we all dealt with the emotions of the day. Some people hadn’t been able to talk about the day or get christmassy until the actual day, some just felt sad on the day, some expressed how much they missed home, some didn’t. I hadn’t been sad or missing anyone but had a moment in the morning when I was at assembly and suddenly needed to cry and then straight after the meal, I needed to again but I wasn’t super sad. I guess by being with so many others at this time where we were all talking about what we normally do at Christmas and what we miss, you begin taking on the emotions of others too! However, once I saw my family I was just pleased and grateful to be able to share in this time together! Thank goodness for technology!! And I felt so grateful to everyone who sent messages! I really have been supported amazingly on this adventure!
Rest of the week
From Tuesday it was back to normal schoolwise although my room continues to have christmas decorations around it – these will be up until I leave in Feb! I was also able to video call home again and join in with my family opening more presents on boxing day!
However, normal isn’t really normal in Thai schools!
Wednesday morning Nicole and I headed to kindergarten to teach only to find they were going to the zoo so no lessons! I was asked if I wanted to go! Yes! But unfortunately I had to teach yr 5 too and we wouldn’t be back in time! So I had 2 hours to wait until my next class. Milly (who teaches the special English programme kids) had been told the yr 1s were having a party so I waited to join in with them! However, it was raining so apparently they couldn’t start yet as they didn’t want to walk in the rain!
Wednesday evening came and I found a checkered top at the 2nd hand market to wear! We arrived and the hall was decorated with lights, balloons and tables for each year group. The yr 6 and yr 2 teachers were dressed in cowboy clothes whilst other year groups had masks and were dressed in matching outfits! The kindergarten team were dressed in football kits!
There was so much food – a buffet! My favourite! We ate and listened to numerous teachers singing karaoke on the stage. Then it was each year groups time to perform. Some danced, some sang and then afterwards they took a number from a pot and got a prize! Prizes ranged from towels and plastic pots to a brand new bike!
This went on for hours with lots of additional singing and dancing between each group! We had been told that we would be performing our dance again although this time, we were given Thai skirts to wear! Eventually it was our time and it was great to see all the teachers join in!
My gift was 3 ceramic pots! Just what I need when travelling!! At 10 pm, it was still going but we were exhausted so said our goodbyes and left!
There had been New a year parties happening across the school throughout the week so I asked if yr 6 had a party and was told no but the yr 6 teachers had a lunch together on Friday! I headed to my room for my first class and waited. Noone turned up! I went to look for my class and found them in another room. I found them by themselves basically having free time. Some kids wanted to have an English lesson so I began to give out the test and review the work I had planned. However, that’s where it got even more complicated as I had given tests to my Thursday p6 classes but now the classes were mixed up again so some of the kids infront of me had done the test already but some hadn’t! I ended up just playing vocabulary games with those who wanted to but it was difficult as outside the room the yr 2 classes were having a christmas party of their own!!
I went back to my room and found a class waiting for me so taught them my planned lesson although noone really was in the mood for learning!. After that lesson, I went searching for my group 8 class. The group 8 children are in a special programme called SMP (science and maths programme). They pay more and know more English then my other students. When I arrived, all the SMP kids were having their own new Year party! The games they were playing were crazy!
Then it was lunch so I headed back to meet the other yr 6 teachers! I was lucky I didn’t have school lunch as again it was chicken feet! During the lunch, one of the teachers took orders for coffees. We then ate and chatted. Well I just sat there and had very brief conversations as they all spoke Thai! We also got a little gift from one of the teachers which meant another photo shoot! And we had cake so I was happy!!
At 1pm (end of lunch) noone seemed bothered about leaving and I was told to wait for the coffees to arrive! At 1.45pm, they finally arrived! During that time, I’d ended up having a conversation with the teachers about trying took find an English boyfriend for one of them! And one of the teachers started showing me pictures of her sons! The match making has begun!
Finally my drink arrived and I wandered around the classrooms! Each room was full of students blasting out music, eating crisps, sweets and other snacks and drinking fizzy drinks! They were in full party mood!
I joined Pe Nok in her class and it was time to give out presents. Each student had brought in a present. The students then pulled out a number and that student gave them their gift! It’s a really nice idea as everyone gets something. When 45 was pulled out, Pe Nok gave a gift to the student who pulled put the number -500 baht! Quite a prize!
Apart from the gift giving, the students had been pretty much by themselves all day! So different to the parties we have in the UK!
Friday evening we were all exhausted so headed to bed early as tomorrow we headed to Bangkok!
We caught the 8.15 am bus to Bangkok. Nicole and I decided to walk to the bus station. as it’s only 15 minutes walk away. As we passed our local restaurant, the lady who runs it shouted to us in Thai where were we going. We said bus station, Bangkok then carried on walking. A minutes later she pulled up on the motorbike beckoning us to get on so Nicole does and off she goes to the station! I carried on walking and saw her drive back but she didn’t see me so zoomed past. I continued and then suddenly she was back so I jumped on and was dropped at the station! It was so kind and random!
5 hours later, we arrived in Bangkok, grabbed an Uber and headed to Khaosan road.
We stayed at Khaosan palace which is right in the middle of the street. The rooms were tiny but it had a rooftop pool and the location was perfect!
New Years eve
We had breakfast then headed to Chatuchak market! There were 5 of us in the taxi so Alyssa sat on the floor!! Luckily, at the police stop, noone noticed! The driver was also trying to charge us more than what our App (Grab) said! We gave him 100 baht and thankfully he didn’t say anything! The market was massive! Rows and rows of stalls! We stuck together as we would never have found each other again!
After a few hours, we ordered another taxi. Again all 5 of us squeezing in! Between us we manged to have quite a good coversation with the driver using all the Thai we have learnt.
We spent the rest of the day by the pool.
After a nap, we headed out for new year! It was crazy busy but so much fun! I loved the fact I was still in shorts and flipflops, there was a brilliant atmosphere and I had a great bunch of people with me.
We squeezed through the crowds holding onto each other in a train and still lost people but it was okay as we all met up after the countdown at one of the bars.
The count down was different as I’ve been with close friends the last few years but it was quite an experience to say the least!
Monday 1st Jan 2018!
Today we spent the day by the pool! A fantastic way to start the year! In the evening, a few of us searched for an Italian as a treat! For pudding, I decided I’d try an scorpion on Khaosan road! I only managed a little one and it wasn’t too bad but the skin stayed in my teeth for ages!
Then it was time to head back to our little town of Chaiyaphum and back to work!
So that was my crazy Thailand Christmas and new year! Different but equally exciting and very memorable! 2018 is going to be a very exciting year!!