Christmas and New Year in Thailand 

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!

Friday!

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!!

1513921040957.jpgWe 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!!

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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!

Saturday

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

1514422976006.jpg1514469997290.jpgMy 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!

Friday

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! 20171229_143012.jpg20171229_143007.jpg

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!

Saturday

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!

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Making new friends..

 

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!!

 

 

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Chaiyaphum – the first month 

It’s December! I’ve lived in Chaiyaphum for a whole month! Here’s what I’ve been up to…
Saturday (October 28th)

 

We woke early and headed to the bus station where I managed to find us a bus and soon we were sitting back and enjoying a comfortable 6 hour ride to Chaiyaphum!!
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We made good time having left at 9, we arrived at 2pm and were dropped at a small bus station in our new town. We had contact Narm our Mediakids consultant and within 5 minutes of arriving, we were picked up and taken to view two potential properties to rent. The first was very basic although a little bigger than the 2nd but the 2nd was close to our school, clean and there were quite a few other foreign teachers living there so we snapped it up. The rent is 3500 baht a month (£80) plus the bills. After dropping off all of our bags, we were taken to our local Tesco! Yep we have a large Tesco with a home and clothes section! I’m happy!  Should have brought my Tesco club card!  So we quickly equipped ourselves with bedding for our rooms and headed back. We indulged in a KFC as a reward for getting there!!

We chilled out in the eve and I was able to video call home which was amazing!!

Sunday

We lazed around for the morning and unpacked all of our stuff which was great! Feels more like a home now!

This is my new room featuring Nicole!

Then Narm picked us up and took us to the only western bar in the city where we ate an amazing lunch – a bagette! Yes! And then we rented our first motorbikes since being here! We had a bit of a practise first to get used to it but soon they were ours and we were joining the traffic and exploring the city!

We found a beautiful lake near our home! Yay!

In the evening,  we headed back to ‘1bar’ for a pub quiz….Unfortunately, our team came 4th but it was a great night and we were able to bond with the new and returning teachers across Chaiyaphum!

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Across the road from the bar, is a nightly bazaar selling clothes, toys and food!  It was a bit overwhelming at first as we had to decipher the Thai words/ look for whatever looked tasty. Amazingly, we ended up managing to order basil pork and rice which was perfect!

Monday/Tuesday

We spent the next two days settling into our new city exploring and getting ready for heading to school.

I’m teaching kindergarten so I decided I’d make a little sock puppet to help with teaching…We’ll see if it works!

Some toilet signs from the local bar…

Our local lake at sunset…

So we began school which was an experience but good!  Read my ‘School life’ blog for more info!

Throughout the month, we continued to explore, got to know the other foreign teachers and establish a routine.

Loy krathong festival (3rd Nov)

This is a festival  where people gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respect to the goddess of water by releasing beautiful lotus shaped rafts, decorated candles, incense and flowers onto the water. They also release lanterns into the sky.

We had been told that there may not be an lanterns this year due to the King’s death and health and safety concerns. However,  we arrived at our local lake to find lanterns being sold and set off so we joined in.
Our first attempt setting off our lantern nearly killed 3 people as it didn’t rise enough and when it eventually got above the heads of the crowd it landed straight into the water! Quite embarrassing!!

 

 

For some reason minions and cartoons were on all of the lanterns – not quite as traditional as the floating flowers!

Our second attempt was more successful! Up it went into the night along with hundreds of other lanterns. We watched the festivities for hours and were a little pleased when it wasn’t just us having lanterns difficulties…many a lantern went into the trees surrounding the lake or nearly landed on the people in the crowd! It was a health and safety nightmare but beautiful to watch.
Second weekend adventure

Mo hin khao

Today we traveled in convoy to Mo hin Khao which is called the ‘Stonehenge of Thailand’. It was about 45km away from Chaiyamphum so the longest ride I had done yet which at first was a little scary as we were going faster than I normally went around town but after I while I relaxed into it and wow…what amazing views we had on route! Mountains in the background, open fields and bright blue skies! Travelling as a group was really fun too and just added to the adventure.

 

We arrived after about an hour and found the ‘Stone henge’. There were 6 large rocks  which were impressive in height but weren’t quite the stone henge from the UK.But they were good to see and we were joined by a wedding party having photos taken.

 

 

I will try not to be a loud noise!!

The viewpoint

A little further along from the stone henge was the view point which was beautiful! I could have sat and looked at the view for hours!

Feeling on top of the world

Third weekend

Time to relax by the pool! The pool is at a local hotel resort and for 100 baht we could spend the whole day there! Just what was needed on a very hot day!

Joe came to visit!

Joe (the guy who interviewed me for the TEFL and works for Mediakids) came to visit us this weekend which was great!

We chilled out eating lots of western food at Ben’s bar before heading to one of the 2 clubs in Chaiyaphum called Oasis. Thai clubs are interesting as they mix DJ sets with live music.  There also isn’t really a dance floor but your group will have a table and you’ll dance near it. I really enjoyed it despite not knowing any words!

 

 

The sign in the girl’s toilet!

Sunday

We decided to explore a bit and found another lake. We drove onto it and found a little herd of cows who were actually a little scary to drive past! When we stopped they started coming to investigate us! The cows here are so bony!!

Specially made lamb kebab! Yum!
Found this guy on the car outside my apartment! Bit bigger than the ones I had as class pets last year!

 

Thanksgiving (Thursday 30th Nov)

I experienced my first ever Thanksgiving here in Thailand although it was put on by a Brit (Ben the owner of One bar) so it was more of an English roast than a proper American Thanksgiving (according to the Americans! It should be mashed potato and turkey and no veg!)  Turkey is also banned from being imported so we had ham instead. It was delicious! Yorkshire puddings! Roast potatoes! Cauliflower cheese!! I tried to eat apple pie for pudding and it sent me over the edge! I was stuffed! But it was a brilliant evening and lovely to have so many foreigners together at one time! My new Chaiyaphum family!

This is nearly all the foreign teachers in Chaiyaphum. Some have been here for 1 or 2 semesters already, some are new like me! So good to have so many here!!

Badminton

Next to the night bizaar there is a sports hall which is open every day and has nets for badminton always set up. It’s free to go so some of us have started  going. Having not played since secondary school,  I had forgotten how much I like it! I just need to buy a racket now so I don’t always have to share but the Thai people who go are great and welcome us to play with them all! You just have to watch the floor sometimes as a little broken in places!

Fourth weekend

Farmsook

We headed 30 minutes out of town to an organic farm where Breigh had been to before. It was beautifully set up with tents, hay bails, wooden seating areas, drinks and food available and farm animals to pet or feed. It was a really relaxing place to be in although because there were so many of us, we ended up being asked to pose for quite a few photos!

Driving in convoy and making sure we have everyone still!
Apparently the USA and UK flags are bohemian which is why they’re at the farm!

Still haven’t quite mastered it!
I went and found this little guy and he was so cute!

Just one of many asked for pictures!

Evening stroll around the lake!

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Coffee Tree – local coffee shop by the lake

A few of us headed to Cofee Tree to do ‘work’ but ended up planning the next adventure when we finish teaching!! There are so many plans!!

I was able to read my book (I’m borrowing them from one bar and am on my third already) and enjoy some pizza bread!


Breakfast at Bun’s

Bun’s is a restaurant run by a Thai lady who is married to an Australian. She sells Thai and western food and it has become a sunday morning hang out for all the foreign teachers!

Tat ton waterfalls (2nd December)

A group of us decided to head to the waterfalls this weekend which was about 30 minutes away. There were two teachers visit Chaiyaphum for the weekend so I took one on the back of my bike. It was a little harder to drive as the bike was heavier and it was quite windy but we made it!! I’ve started listening to music as I ride which is amazing and you feel so free as you ride along with the sun shining down and the wind rushing past!

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I loved being by the waterfalls and stayed in the water for hours! We weren’t quite sure whether we could wear just bikinis as Thai people do like to be covered up so we ended up staying in our shorts and t-shirts most of the time ( we tried to get a little bit of a tan in one of the pools!) We already drew a lot of attention just being there so if we were showing off our white white bodies – wow there would have been quite a crowd!! Still makes me laugh when your realise you’re having a photo taken off you but really sneakily…I just think…where are all these photos??  Sometimes we just turn and wave!!

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This was our group just as we left for the waterfall. Two minutes before this was taken a small green snake had slithered out of my bike front pocket and up my arm. I had noticed and thrown it on the floor!! Quite a shock for the morning and my heart was still pounding for half the journey there!! First snake I’ve seen in Thailand!


In the evening we headed to the 2nd of the two clubs in Chaiyaphum. On the way my bike got a puncture but it thought my bike was really broken at it was making such a loud noise! Least it’s easy to fix!

 

So that’s the first month done! I’ve survived school, explored my new town and am continuing having a great time!  Roll on December!

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P.s As you can see, the arms are getting a good tan…the legs and rest of the body need more work! 

School life 

Here’s a little insight into what’s been happening  since I started teaching…

First day of school!!!

What a day! We arrived at school at 7.30am and tried to find out where to go. I’m teaching the ECD programme which is teaching English to each class once a week. After walking around for a while, we were directed to a room to wait. At around 8am  we were greeted and taken to another meeting room. Here we waited until we were invited to introduce ourselves to all of the students…all 2500 of them!!

After a bit of a nervous hello from each of us (there are 7 new foreign teachers in the school), we headed back to be welcomed by the director and get to know our co-teachers.

 

The first 30 minutes of the meeting was all in Thai so we just sat there and tried to look interested and laugh when the Thai teachers laughed! Whilst this was going on, lots of the Thai teachers were taking pictures but not subtly. They would stand up and take some (with the camera sound on) then ask their friends to take a picture of them at the meeting or with us in the background.  It was just quite funny as it was so obvious and loud during an important meeting. The last part of the meeting was in English and we were introduced to the other teachers.

Then suddenly the meeting was over and I was being taken to the kindergarten area and told I would be teaching 2 class now 10-10:20, 10:20-11 and then teaching P5 (yr 5) 11-12! It was a bit crazy but soon I was welcoming 25 super cute 4 year olds and singing endless rounds of ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ and ‘5 little ducks’. They were really cute and although they  screamed at my sock puppet,  they were able to listen and begin to respond in English back to me! Then I raced over to another building and into a class of 45 yr 5 kids! Luckily,  they were a nice class who wanted to learn and soon they were introducing themselves and playing introduction games.

I was very grateful when 12 o’clock came and it was lunchtime!! The school provides lunch for the teachers at 150 baht (£4) per month! Everyone was alittle shell shocked but we had survived the morning and I just had to get through 2 more lessons!

By 3, I was finished teaching and it had been quite challenging but the children responded to competition so putting them in teams helped keep them engaged. At 4.30 we headed home with nothing to prepare as I’ll be repeating my lesson to each class!

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My timetable: Tuesdays and a Thursdays are great!

Thursday/Friday 

It’s been interesting to say the least. Behaviour varies hugely from class to class so it’s been difficult working out what strategy will work to get 50 kids’ attention especially when they’re shouting in thai to each other! Names – of course each Thai child has their Thai name but they know westerns won’t be able to say them so they’ve adopted nicknames which can be equally hard to pronounce so I’ve had fun with it and just laughed my way through the register with the kids. Names include: Boss, Beam, Done, Ice (said eye), champoo (noone pronounces sh!) , phuem  (said pem), plai, fai, baiteuy  (said bay tee o) , max (said ma) and custard apple. At least being called Mim is easy for them. Nicole’s children are calling her Micole! And if all else fails we are just teacher, teacher, teacher!

We have also had to get used to working alongside other thai teachers. I’m lucky as I have been given own desk and computer in the year 6 office but the others are having to share computers or bring in their own laptops. Some teachers have thai teachers with them in class. This sometimes benefits them as the Thai teacher can keep the children quiet but doesn’t always help. I have noone with me which I don’t mind and although some children have been quiet cheeky, others help translate what’s being said or keep the others in line. I just have to use a lot of actions and few words! Quiet a challenge for me!!

On Friday, I was told that on Monday my office was moving upstairs and children and staff began to move things – there is soo much stuff: books, paper, ornaments,  random objects, just stuff everywhere! Also, finding a bin is near impossible.  There are hardly any bins in the building and around Thailand. Or they’re just not very obvious to us! So this might account for all the ‘stuff’ in the office! We’ll see what happens on monday!20171116_0904191729908422.jpg

I have two great thai teachers supporting me called Pee Nok and Pee Po. They’re really lovely and keep giving me things like lemons, a milk drink, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and passionfuit! It’s very kind!  At times,  things get lost in translation but we get there in the end but I do have to listen in carefully. You start zoning out when surrounded with thai voices. Then suddenly I’ll hear “teacher Mim” and I know I’m about to be questioned on something.

 

I currently have to find the children I’m teaching as each class has their home room so I’m doing a lot of walking around – good exercise I guess!! But each classroom varies on resources. Sometimes there’s a blackboard; sometimes it’s a white board. And the quality of the room sometimes correlates to the behaviour and ability of the children. Some classes have desks covered in writing and Tipex, rubbish on the floor and broken chairs and others have posters on the walls and clean desks.

We found out the ‘8 ‘classes pay a bit more money so they have their own floor in the Yr 5 building,  nice desks, white boards and a microphone! They also were the best behaved and highest ability class so it shows what money can buy.

By Friday I was tired but optimistic for this term. It’s going to be different and very hot but like this whole trip, an experience!

Last Friday

I was just sorting out my resources for my final lesson after lunch when I was told there wasn’t going to be class as all the year 6 children and teachers were to go to a meeting with the director (big boss) of the school or province. It was quite a big deal and we even joked about putting on makeup! We entered the meeting room and I spent the next hour listening to different teachers talking to the yr 6 students. They were very restless and loud during the talk and so many of them were getting up and going to the toilet!

After an hour, the director arrived and then he started talking to the children.  Again in Thai although he did say good afternoon to me which was shock as suddenly all the heads of the kids turned towards me and I had to say good afternoon back. I was the only foreigner in the room so I stuck out! After listening to him and another man for 40 minutes,  it was picture time. Guess who was told to stand next to the director!  Yep – there I was sweaty and covered in chalk from teaching and now stood next to the director trying to have a bit of a conversation! Finally,  at 3 the meeting finished!  I was exhausted!!

School life over the last 2 weeks…

Thai schools are always LOUD! All the time, loud!  They have speakers which begin playing ‘come to assembly’ music from 8.10 -8.30 (it takes 20 minutes for them all to sit down) and it’s the same song everyday and it’s just so loud. They also have music between each class to indicate lesson change over which is blasted out every hour. Finally,  the kids are loud! It seems rather than making them quiet, a lot of the time the teachers go over them using a microphone or shouting.  This makes it hard in class as they’re used to that level of noise so trying to make all 50 of them quiet is tricky!

 

 

  • Songs work! I love singing so it’s not hard for me but the Thai children respond well to singing so I try to sing in every class! We’ve taught them a banana song and hello song which I use alot but I need to diversify! Roll out some classic campfire songs! 

  • Health and safety – it’s a little different here. The floors are incredibly slippy when wet, the  surfaces really uneven, there are dogs roaming the grounds, children play near open water canals and the children complete some DIY tasks which in the UK adults would do..E.g hammering a wire for the water station around the door whilst stood on a stool on a table!  

 

 

 

 

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Some random building work next to my office
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Hello Mr Pigeon inside
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    Electricity wires running through the corridor

    Photocopying – as every teacher will know, the photocopier is a life saver but also the most time consuming and frustrating object in the office! I’m trying not to use too many worksheets as I want them talking English more than writing it but when I have created one, I then need hundreds of copies of it for all my classes! Each year group has its own photocopier which means lots more walking! The first time I used it, the toner was running out and it cut off half the page so I had to get help but it was still very confusing and didn’t work half the time. We also haven’t worked out the paper situation. We were given two packs of A4 paper but that won’t last long when I’m doing 400 copies at a time! But we’re not sure where we get paper from after that as it seems  that each teacher has their own supply!

  • Food – the children are eating all the time! There is a tuck shop on site and kids are eating icecream and sweets at 7.30am. This might account for their behaviour! So far I’ve only had one class where some of the boys were eating mango so I had to explain that eating = no team points!! But they have access to the tuck shop at lunch and everything is high in sugar! It’s the pre-Jamie Oliver stage in the UK!
  • Lunch time -what is nice is that there is a teacher’s room for lunch with air-conditioning! The food is presented in large dishes and we help ourselves. We’ve learnt to always separate the dishes into separate bowls as you never know how spicy it will be – many people have been caught out!! Food can vary from day to day. There’s a lot of fish dishes and usually chicken as the other option. There was one day where it was chicken feet in a curry sauce! None of us were brave enough! 

  • Behaviour – what I’ve noticed is that there isn’t a clear behaviour policy or steps. Sometimes the teachers are disiplining the children, sometimes they don’t.  In assembly, most of the teachers stand at the edges ignoring the children hitting each other, eating, talking and just messing around but some teachers will walk amongst the children telling them off but it’s not consistent. I find it a little hard at times so I’ve taken to giving the children messing around a good stare until they stop and listen. It works sometimes for about 30 seconds so only really effective for 5/2500 kids! But it helps me as at least 5 more children are listening!

 

 

 

 

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  • Assemblies – Assemblies are every morning from 8:30-9am. The children sit whilst the teachers stand around the edge. It always starts with the Thai National Anthem and some prayers. Then we listen to one of the teachers talk. On Tuesdays, we (the foreign teachers) lead it. We’ve decided to sing every week! Just easier! Then on Thursdays it seems to be the day for giving out awards. This can take a very long time though! We never really know what’s going on but seem to end up being asked to stand for photos!! It happens all the time! Every award ceremony involves all the teachers taking pictures with the children and sometimes us! 

  • Class sizes – my classes are huge! 47 kids in each! We’re supposed to assess each child which is pretty tricky when you have 800 kids! I’ve been trying to write notes on the register whenever a child says anything and making some worksheets but again, that’s 800 worksheets to mark! The kids love games so I’m trying out new activities and seeing which work and which don’t!
  • Gate duty – once a week 2 falang teachets have to stand at the front gate welcoming the students. They bow and wai at us, we nod and say good morning. I said good morning over 100 times from 7.30-8am. I was exhausted before the day began. Of course we also had to pose for pictures with the Thai teachers who were there too!20171124_151014-218647324.jpg
  • Dogs  – there are random dogs walking through the school, drinking from the pond or chasing each other around the field everyday! They are also quite mangy dogs so I’m staying clear of them!

 

 

 

So that’s just some of what’s been going on in school!

Update:

I now have my own classroom with a microphone. I’m waiting for a computer and projector to hopefully be installed but I’m not sure when or if that will happen!  During week 4, I had to go and get the p5 children ands they hadn’t been to the new classroom! This was very tiring but took up 15 minutes of each class so the lessons went quickly! Hopefully they’ll remember next week! The room is in a pretty bad state so I’ve decided to try to ‘decorate’ with the limited resources available – no big stationary order for me!! I’ve rearranged the desks into a horseshoe with allows more space for games and just is easier to get to children at the back.
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I wasn’t sure what to expect and it’s been tough. However,  I feel that as we get into a routine,as I start getting to know my 800 kids, it’ll help and hopefully get easier! We’ll see…..

 

Laos visa run

We began our journey at 9.20am as we tried to find a tuk tuk to take us to the bus station. Unfortunately, after walking for ages, we couldn’t find one and we knew we’d missed the 10am bus so we would have to wait now until 12. We headed to Ben’s bar to wait it out and I was able to explore a bit of the the side streets around the bar. I hadn’t walked much around chaiyamphum as we drive everywhere so it was nice to see what there was including a 20 baht shop (50p)!! 

Just as I was trying to flag down a tuk tuk, Ben pulled up in a truck and said he was heading towards the bus station so he could drop us off. Even better once we were driving  he said he was going go Khon kaen..a city that the bus we would have caught from chaiyamphum would have gone through so he could take us there which was perfect!  
An hour and a half later, we arrived in Khon Kaen and were dropped off by the mall. We grabbed some food before heading to the minibus station to get a minibus to Udon Thanin and then from there we would go onto Nong Krai. At 3pm  on we got a very crowded mini bus but at least it only cost 80 baht and there was aircon! I was sat by the door so had to jump in and out as we let people on and off. When we first got on the driver started talking to me in Thai. I was saying I didn’t understand but he persisted and it seemed he wanted me to copy him so I did. He laughed and shut the door. As the door shut, a guy behind us said, ” Excuse me, that word means I love you!” Wonderful!! The journey began and oh what a journey. There was some very irratic driving going on and we were flying over bumps and pot holes!! I quickly plugged in my headphones and enjoyed the whole soundtrack of Les Miserable before we arrived in Udon Thanin 2 hours later. 
As the doors opened, we were greeted with and man asking if we were heading to Nong Krai.  

We nodded and were directed to pay 50 baht and then immediately got onto another minibus. This one was a little smoother than the first. At one point the other passengers were talking to the driver. I guessed that they were saying where they needed dropping off. Then I heard the driver speak and heard “falang” and the front row of passengers turned towards us so I guessed they wanted to know where we wanted dropping off. We only knew we needed the bus station so just said that which seemed to work. 

An hour and a bit later, we arrived in Nong Krai. I tried too find our hotel on my maps but it kept saying two different locations which was a little confusing. We got off at too the bus station and were immediately greeted by a tuk tuk driver. I tried to show him the hotel location but from his actions it sounded and looked like either he couldn’t read the map as it was English or he couldn’t really see – bad eyes. This wasn’t hugely reassuring but when we said the name of the hotel he seemed to know where it was so even though we thought he was pretty sight impaired and didn’t really know if he knew where we needed to go, we got on!! As you do in Thailand! The tuk tuk was pretty old and he drove quite slowly again confirming the eye problem but I tracked us on my map and we got to our hotel 15 minutes later! 

Once we arrived, we found our room which was pretty big. The hotel had been booked through our Mediakids consultant so we hadn’t known what to expect but there were 3 beds, a big TV and air conditioning. The bathroom was slightly less pleasant with hair in the drain and the fact the walls were paper thin and the window for the bathroom went out on the main corridor!! We relaxed for a bit and flicked through the hundreds of thai TV channels but none were in English!  Then we met our visa agent to give them our documents and pay them. 

Back on my tefl course, the company had photocopied all my paperwork needed including my passport, university certificate and transcripts and DBS check. They also helped us get our photos done for the visa (the ugliest photo I think I’ve ever had in my life! ) and then once we started working our Mediakids consultant got the contract from the school and a letter saying we work there. So all of these documents were sorted for us which made the visa run a lot easier. We handed our documents to the agent and 5500 baht which covers accommodation,  transport and food in laos.  We were then told to meet her tomorrow at 6am by 7/11. 

We then explored Nong Krai a bit and found a huge night market. It was one of the biggest I’d been to and was like and rabbit warren.  You got stuck on the path as it weaved round and along but there was yummy food and many stalls to look at. I had rice with slow cooked pork and cabbage. It was lovely! We continued exploring and Nicole found a Bluetooth speaker for just 180 baht. I bought one from tesco the other day for 400 baht! But it’s very useful in class so worth it. We also found a shoe stall and amazingly they had some Toms style shoes in my size so I grabbed them for just 80 baht as I need a few other pairs of shoes here. After a while,  we headed back to the hotel to relax and sleep and I was able to skype my cousin. However,  despite being in the corridor the girls said they could hear everything so probably kept some people up woops! 

We were up at 5.30am, packed up and walked round the corner to the border where we were supposed to meet 100 or so other people to go through the crossing with. There were people and we saw a huge crowd begin walking towards the bridge at 6am but we couldn’t see our group (people with red badges) so we waited and waited. 

 At 6.20 am,  we were a little worried we had been left or robbed of our money but suddenly a girl pulled up on her motorbike and beckoned us to follow her towards the bridge.  We didn’t know who she was but she seems to know us so we followed and found ourselves queuing by passport control. Luckily, we also found ourselves with the rest of our group! After 20 minutes, I got to the front and handed my passport in. The departure card I had received when I arrived in Thailand was taken and my passport was stamped. I was then ushered through the door to a table where they wanted my passport. Of course, we’re always told to never lose/give your passport to anyone so that was a little worrying.  I was given a ticket which I thought was for my passport but no that was a bus ticket and about 3 seconds later I had to give that ticket to a man so I had no passport and was being directed into a very large crowd, luckily with Brieh and Nicole, when the bus arrived. We were directed to get on the bus and we did, all 100 of us. We crammed in and I was at the very front on the steps  squished up against the window and still one more guy got on before the door was shut. So that’s how I entered Laos, no passport and trying not to lean on the people around me. We bumped over the bridge to Laos and after 5 minutes or so we arrived at Laos’ immigration. We had no idea what to do next and so copied the other red badge holders and waited.  

About 40 minutes later, there was sudden movement and we were being directed towards a minivan. Still no passport. On we got and enjoyed a 40 minute drive into Vientiane. When we stopped, we were at the embassy and we joined the large queue which was already there. We waited about 30 minutes when suddenly we heard ‘chaiyamphum’. That’s our city so we responded and were taken out the queue, past the other people and to chairs at the front.  Then our consultant was there asking us to sign some paperwork..Apparently the form which we had submitted was out of date so she had re-written our details on a new form. I was able to see my passport at this point and given it for about 10 minutes before the queue started moving and we were directed to a table where we handed in our passport and the paperwork and were given a ticket number for tomorrow’s collection. 

We were told to leave the embassy and taken to a local restuarant to wait for our ride to the hotel. Noone actually told us what we had to do; we just waited until someone spoke to us again! 

20 minutes later, we were directed to a minivan and taken to our hotel which was called Memory Hotel.

 We weren’t sure what we needed to do the next day to get our visa so I asked the driver who said he’d pick us up at 12 tomorrow. When we checked in, we were told we could have breakfast now (it was only 9.30ish) and then dinner was at 6pm and we would have breakfast tomorrow.  Once we had dropped off our bags in our rooms (which were actually quite nice and one each was a bonus! ) we headed for breakfast. French toast was on the menu so that was a definite option! There was a sauce on the table which I think is condensed milk (the label said tea creamer) which I put on my toast. It was yummy!! Super sugary but lovely! I also had a good old cup of tea so I was happy even if the milk seemed more like cream! 

Afterwards we all rested and then headed out to explore Vientiane. 

Due to the French colonization, there is quite a lot of French influence in the city with tree lined avenues, french cuisine and what excited me most…bagettes!! Our accommodation, breakfast, transport and dinner was included in our agency fee but we needed lunch so we had to get our heads around using Lao Kip. It was roughly 10,000 kip = 50 baht but we found food was quite expensive when converted to baht – most meals being 100 baht where we would normally pay 40.  Luckily, the shops and stalls in Vientiane take baht so we didnt have to change our money; we just got kip as change! During the aftwrnoon, we wandered the streets passing the precidential palace, beautiful temples and many little cafes and bars before we arrived at the COPE visitor centre. 

The centre is with a compound which helps to rehabilitate and aid those with a disability.  The centre explained how the American government had dropped millions of cluster bombs between 1965 – 1975 over laos in an attempt to stop supplies going not Vietnam.  Millions detonated but millions did not so now laos is covered in unexploded bombs also called bombies. These can detonate when hut by farming tools, played with by children or when someone is cooking above ground and the heat explodes them. The centre helps to support those affected by these bombs and to help clear land to make it safe for those living there. Such a sad reminder and legacy of war and destruction. I’ve been so lucky to live in such a safe country and it just makes me sad that as a human race we have such a love for destruction, selfishness and violence. To create such evil devices which are only getting more powerful and sophisticated is to me such are waste of human inguinity. Surely, if we can create such evil, we can use that knowledge for good, for prace,  for unity? ! Anyway, rant over but it puts the little moans and grumbles we have in perspective. These are innocent people living their lives and then being blown up and having to cope without limbs and I complain when I’m a bit hot and need air con! 

After the centre, we grabbed a tuk tuk back to the hotel and rested. Nicole and I took a wander around the local streets to find a pharmacy (Nicole’s not feeling great) but we ended up finding a supermarket which sold everything including many western products and lots of Christmas items!! They were even playing Christmas music!! Hearing ‘Let is snow’ in 30 degree heat is a little odd! We then went back to the hotel for dinner which turned out to be a buffet with spag bol, fried chicken and even beef stew! It was great! My first spag bol since being in Thailand! 

A little later, went joined some of the other foreigners we had met at the border and went for a drink at a local bar which has views over the Mekong river (the river separating Thailand and Laos). I tried the Lao beer as it is brewed in Vientiane which was good but I didn’t like it as much as Chang. 

In the morning, we headed down do breakfast (French toast again!) and had time to explore a little more along the river and back. 

 

We also found a bagette stand so grabbed one for lunch.

 Then it was time to head back to the embassy. We arrived at 12.30pm. It was pretty quiet so we could get a seat and then we waited.

 By 1.30pm,  the embassy was pretty full but then the numbers began to be called. 

Due to our queue jump the day before we were 37,39 and 40 so within 10 minutes of the counters opening, we were at the front. Just before the counter,  our agency handed us 2000 baht to pay for the visa. It was a very quick process. We signed a paper, gave in the money and got our passport back with our new visa inside.  

The agency lady asked for our red badge back so we gave it to her and she said to go to the minivan with the group. So we head out but are immediately hassled by several minivan drivers telling us it’s 100 baht each to go. We were a little confused as thought we would get a lift with the agency. Luckily, Nicole spotted the minivan driver from before so we went towards him. We had to explain how we didn’t have badges but thankfully he let us on! Again, our passports were taken but we were in a van so had to go with it! Halfway towards the border, we’re pulled over and a random lady got in. I think she was to do with the agency?! 

We arrived at the border and were told told meet again in 30 minutes so we’re headed to duty free for the air conditoning -it’s been a very hot day and I was a sweaty mess after being in the van! 

We met the man later and he handed us our passports which had been stamped saying we were departing Laos and he gave us a departure card to fill in.

☆ You can see the number of passports were being collected below and this was just one group out of many! ☆

 We weren’t exactly sure what to do so we began to walk towards the departure area.

 We skipped one queue and nearly queued in another before realising we didn’t need to as our passport was stamped so we headed towards the bus stand. The man had given us a ticket which we handed in and joined a huge crowd waiting for a bus. When it arrived, we again squeezed on and headed back to Thailand this time with a passport. 

When we arrived we followed the crowd and got our new thai and stamp. Then we were back! It felt like coming home especially as I had data again! 

We decided to get some food as knew it was going to be a while on the vans back to Khon Kaen. We had sent our visa pics to our consultant and as we were eating I got a text saying my visa had been stamped wrong!! I needed 90 days not 60! I was told to go back and ask an officer! That was daunting as I knew this would been difficult in the UK yet alone thailand! So I tried. I walked back through the doors, jumped in the front of the queue with the same guy who stamped it and tried to explain it was wrong…amazingly, it worked and he restamped it!! Phew!! I’d been a bit nervous but thankfully all was sorted in 5 mins!  

Then our journey back began! We took our first minivan from Nong Krai to Udon Thanin which took just over an hour. We then hopped into another van took khon kaen.  This took about 2 hours as the driver seemed took be some some extra errands on the way such as picking up a package fro a random guy on the street. He also was a little irratic in his driving and had his phone hooked on the rear view mirror which he was using to make numerous calls and play music through Youtube. He didn’t wear a seat belt the whole way except when he saw a police road block so he quickly put his on and made the front passenger put his on as we drove past the officer.  We weren’t stopped so as soon as we past it, the seatbelt came off! 

We managed to get dropped off at central plaza after I had another of my conversations where I guess what they’re saying in Thai at about 7.50pm.  I had found a cheap and near hotel online so we walked for about 20 minutes to get there. We arrived and asked for 2 rooms. They said it would be 350 baht per room but I’d seen online at 290 baht so tried to show them. In the end we got it for 300 baht a night (£8). The hotel reminded me of the classic horror film hotels! The rooms opened onto a carpark in the centre and the facilities were a little bare and basic but it was cheap! Amazingly there was also American TV!  This is the first hotel with English programmes so that was a bonus! 

In the end I actually slept quite well and despite the bathroom door not being able to lock/shut properly, it was alright! We headed out about 9.30am and found a local coffee shop where we enjoyed smoothies and waffles. 

Then we walked back to Central plaza, browsed a few shops (I bought some Christmas headwear as it’s the first place in Thailand I’ve seen selling christmas products) and then went to the minivan stand where we were able to catch a minibus straightaway to Chaiyaphum! Just as we were getting into the van, we’re heard shouts and there was Sinead from school and Reka from our Tefl heading off themselves to do their visa run!! 

We got back to chaiyamphum around 2pm and it felt like we were home! It’s been a busy and a little haphazard the last two days but we succeeded..we now have our Non-B visa!!

 Time for a rest before school tomorrow!! 

Bangkok! 

*For some reason only some pictures are uploading! Not sure why!*

Monday
We were up at 5am to begin our journey to the capital! Lugging all of our luggage was a massive task but with a bit of help from the others, we were soon relaxing on our very comfy coach!!

Just one of my many bags!

Our route!  Although in a coach it’s more like 10 hours!

Our pile of bags!

I binged on animation films: Angry Birds, Moana, Ballerina and Sing!!

After 10 hours, we arrived and were picked up by two representatives from Media Kids who took us to the hotel.

Reka and I were sharing a room which was spacious although we were greeted with a little surprise in the bathroom….

Luckily the usher was able to remove the creature for us!

We had arrived at the hotel around 6.30pm so soon were ready to find some food and just a few metres down the road we found a little restuarant and could enjoy a good meal and a refreshing beer!

Tuesday

Today we began our 2 day orientation with the company placing us in schools called Mediakids. There were 50 teachers attending: some new like us and some renewing their contracts for another semester.  During the day, we were given information about getting a working visa, we set up a bank card and were given the curriculum for the next semester.

After the course, we decided that we would head to the infamous Khaosan road. Due to the late king’s cremation we would only be able the go out tonight because from tomorrow everything would be shut for a few days…the king died last year and on Thursday it is his cremation and nearly all shops will be shut whilst 100,000 visitors + those living in Bangkok will watch the royal procession and cremation! Everyone in Bangkok has been wearing only black or white in respect for him!

So we headed out. The road was really quiet again because of the cremation but we made the most of it and enjoyed buckets or cocktails and an amazing chicken kebab! Fact of the day – in the USA they don’t have kebabs!

Wednesday

Waking up the morning after was a little less enjoyable for many people but we survived the rest of the course which included playing games, singing songs and creating a lesson in 10 minutes about food. We also got time to talk to our area consultants and ask all the questions we had about starting at our new school.
I found out that in my school I’ll be teaching classes of children in Kindergarten 1/2 (3-5 year olds) and Phatom 5/6 which is Years 5 and 6 so it’s going to be interesting jumping from one to other! But it’s exciting and very real now! 

At the end of the course we had to begin to say goodbye as this was it..our group was splitting up and spreading out across Thailand! What a brilliant group of people to have met! I’ve been very lucky and I’m excited to be able to visit their new homes and explore even more of Thailand!

Nicole and I then headed over to Abby’s new apartment  (Abby isn’t with Mediakids but found her own job in Bangkok). Her apartment was amazing with  a spectacular view over the city! 

Cecelia had invited us all for a final meal at her hotel as her room had cooking facilities so Abby, Nicole and I headed over there and we all spent a final evening together before everyone headed off to their new homes.

We stuffed ourselves on pasta and chicken and cookies it Nutella! It was my first pasta meal in over a month! 

We headed back to Abby’s whose bed is soo big all 3 of us could share it! It was the comfiest bed I’ve slept in so far in Thailand! BLISS! 

 

Today was the day of the cremation. We had a lazy morning and enjoyed eggs with cheese and ham (cooked by our verybown Doug who had slept on the sofa) and a fruit bowl.

Then we began to watch the ceremony and procession on TV. It was being played on every channel! ! 

We knew a the shops would be shut so we headed to the pool in Abby’s complex for a few hours.

In the evening we had another homemade pasta meal before continuing to watch the cremation ceremony which went on late into the night!
Friday

Abby headed off to work and Nicole and I had a lazy morning before heading to a local mall. There we found an amazing pancake cafe! We couldn’t resist!

We returned to Abby’s and bid her farewell as she was off to Krabi for the weekend and then we ventured out again. We managed to work our the underground (MTR) and soon we were aseekendgain Terminal 21 – a shopping centre where each floor is decorated to represent a city from around the world. It was really impressive.

We ate some cheese tarts but they were more like custard tarts and very sweet. After our pancake lunch, we were in need of savoury not sweet so we ended up going to a mexican restuarant for dinner.

We then grabbed an Uber to take us over to Wat Pro and the Grand palace. However, as we were getting closer the traffic was awful and then we found out the road was shut so we got out of the car and found ourselves in a huge flower memorial/walkway which had been built to remember the king! It was incredibly busy and we were the only foreigners there! But it was amazing!

Once we had walked through the whole structure, we carried on down the road and were able to see Wat pho before finding a riverside restaurant where we had a cocktail with a beautiful view over the water and of Wat Arun!

Getting a taxi home was a little more challenging but we managed to use the Grab app and get one. It took ages! So much traffic around!

Once we were back at the flat, it was time to repack our bags ready for our journey tomorrow! Banglok has been great and I’m looking forward to visiting Abby again over the next few months!

So off we go to Chaiyaphum tomorrow! It’ll take a 6 hour coach ride but soon we will be in our new home and ready to start our new life!

Chiang Mai – Week 4

The final week….

Tuesday 

Today we had time to plan our final two lessons. I had simple past tense in the context of going to the beach and then a monsters lesson. I managed to get them done and then I could help the others. 

Some of the group only had 30 day visas which they got at the airport so today they had to go and extend them. This cost 1900 baht and took over 4 hours so a little annoying to have to do! When we start working, we’ll have to do a visa run which means we have to go to Laos to get our working visa – just a casual 12 hour drive!  

In the evening, we were all pretty tired and just wanted to chill. So after 3 weeks here, Nicole and I worked out how her fire stick works and we were able to watch Netflix. So far I’ve been using youtube to watch TV,  mainly ‘Mock the week’ and ‘Bake off’ as that’s all that seems to be available. Oh and a crazy tattoo program called “Just Tattoo of us” it’s awfull! So Netflix was a luxury and we could watch it on my TV so it was a big screen. We ended up watching Jack Whithall taking a gap year in Thailand and then Jurassic World! 

Wednesday 

We were up bright and early for our 5th lesson. As I was first, I was done by 9.30 which was great as then I could just relax. The kids found the past tense hard “yesterday I..walking/drinks?!”  so it took a bit longer to get the lesson going but they got there in the end! 

Everytime we go to the school they give us snacks and drinks which have varied alot!! Today they gave us coconuts. They were different to ones I have had before and the skin you pierced with a straw was squishy and a bit like a brain!! Unfortunately, I didn’t like it but didn’t want to waste it so luckily I could donate to Doug! 

^ This is the sweaty mess look!!^ 

We headed back to class to finish planning our final lesson and then a few of us jumped in a red truck and headed to an art gallery I have read about. It was called ‘Art in Paradise’ and specialised in creating optical illusions. The paintings were painted on the walls and ceilings and you were encouraged to stand on the painting to create a 3D image. It was quite amazing! Only slight hitch was that we hadn’t realised we needed to download an app which brought the paintings alive but we soon downloaded it and could experience the full effect! 

Thursday 

Our final day on the course!! We headed to school and I had a brilliant lesson on monsters. The children were brilliant which meant we could have a laugh and enjoyable lesson. It was and great end to the course! Oh and the snack today was donuts!! I accidently ate 3! 

All the children who came to school over the last few days were all volunteers as it’s actually the holidays!

So a month later and we’re all certified ESL teachers ready to start! If anyone’s interested in doing the course and trying out teaching here in Thailand , let me know! 

 We finished up and then headed back to our hotel to chill before all heading out to Ram bar. 

Friday 

It was lovely to wake up and and not have to go anywhere! We had a lazy morning, did some laundry and then headed for a massage! This time I had an aroma therapy massage…it was bliss!! Although I did have to ask for her to do it a little more gently at times!! 

We ended out hour massage with a cup of blue tea! No idea what it was but it tasted amazing! 

We enjoyed an evening by the pool and a final visit to Ram bar! 

Saturday 
This morning, we were picked up by the Thai teachers from last Friday and headed to a local temple called Wat Suan Dok. 

Here were learnt some more Thai as well as information about temples and buddhism. 

We were treated to lunch by the teachers. 

We were dropped off in Old town and after wandering  around for a while we found a couple of other temples to explore.

 

Sunday 

Time to pack!  I seem to have gained stuff and my bags seem to have shrunk!  But I’ve just about managed to get everything in my bags ready for the trip to Bangkok tomorrow!  

Nicole and I headed to Maya Mall where I got an extra rucksack (extra room!) and some new flipflops and then enjoyed browsing the shops – some sell some quite interesting products!  

What are these?!?! 

You can ride these around the mall! 

We enjoyed a little break at Starbucks before walking back.

Then I headed off to church..took an Uber today as a little luxury! After chuch I met the others at Srifaa’s for our final meal and we said goodbye to Ang who runs it. 

So the first month is done! Chiang Mai has been brillaint and a great introduction to Thailand! 

Things I’ve learnt:

☆ Always have toilet roll on you and be prepared to squat! Also the bum gun isn’t that scary! 

☆Be confident crossing the road. Yes you might have to walk out infront of bikes and cars but don’t hesitate midway, just walk and they’ll stop! 

☆Always keep you eyes on the path in front.  There are many random holes and  drains which you might trip on! 

☆ Red trucks are brilliant but don’t pay more than 30baht in town but get Uber or Grab to make it even easier to get around! 

☆ Get a Thai sim card early on and get unlimited data (300 baht/month)

☆Carry an umbrella during rainy season and be careful what you wear. The rain arrives suddenly and you’ll be drenched/see through if not prepared! 

☆ Gradually begin to eat street food but try it as it’s great! Rottis are amazing! But if you’re craving bread rather than rice, head to 7/11 for a cheese and ham toastie!! 

☆ Use the water stations to fill up your water bottles! For 1/2 baht you can get 4 litres of water! And it means you’re recycling some of the many plastic bottles which are being used by everyone! Also, you’ll be given a plastic bag for everything -no 5p rule here! 

☆ The electricity lines are crazy! Just watch out for the random wires dangling down in your path!

☆ You will have a sensory overload just walking down the streets which are lined with stalls selling everything from raw meat to clothing but it’s amazing! 

I can’t wait to see Bangkok then head onto Chaiyaphum!! 

Kob khan ka for reading! 

Sawadee ka! 

Chiang Mai – week 3 

I forgot two things from last week…

1. Haylee keeps finding the biggest coachroaches in her room! We think they’re pushing the shower cover away and coming up through the shower!! Eww!!

2. The most embarrassing moment of my life so far I would say…

I was walking to class after lunch with Nicole, just chatting away. We get to the last crossing having past street vendors, 3 separate lines of traffic and I walk in front of her. At this point she shouts and starts pulling my skirt. I thought it was a bug on me..no..much worse. My skirt as been tucked in my pants the whole walk!!! Everyone has seen my bum and underwear!!! In the UK you might get hooted at but here noone said a word! We just stood there dying with laughter!! Awkward!

Back to week 3…

 Monday 

More grammar today. We have a test next Monday so just got to get all the information into my head!

After the course,  a few of us decided to head to a local massage parlour. We sat down and immediately they brought out bowls with warm water and limes in it and nd washed our feet. Then the 3 of us headed upstairs wheRe there were a line of mattresses separated by curtains. We all opted for a traditional Thai massage. I could keep my trousers on as they were thin and I just put one of their thin tops on. Then the massage began. It was different to any I’ve had before..a lot of prodding and pushing and there are no oils involved but it was great. My legs were aching from the waterfalls so it helped them! All was very relaxing when suddenly there was are huge bang and the lights went out! They came back on but a few minutes later it happened again. Slightly ruined the peaceful atmosphere!  Nearing the end, I was asked if I wanted to be stretched! I was a little nervous but said yes. She held my arms then twisted my back to each side which caused it to pop. She then pulled my back upwards. It was odd but seemed to work as I felt great afterwards! It was 200 baht (£5) for an hour! Worth it!!
Tuesday 

Tuesday was a great day! I managed to get my lesson planned quickly..this week “Should and should not” in the context of Stitch from Lilo and Stitch being at the mall. What should/shouldn’t he do there?!

Nicole and and I also finally took our clothes to the launderette next to our course building.  They have huge machines so we shared and for 50 baht it was washed.

At lunch (fried rice with spicy sausage), Abby began to feel really ill so I walked with her back to the hotel, hung up my washing to dry and returned to the course. I managed to plan and sort Abby’s lesson quickly for her  so she could sleep.
Then Evan, Nicole and I began to plan our drama for Friday. It’s about buying fruit at a stall and must be in Thai. Mam, who works at the course, helped us with the pronounciation and then just laughed at us as we tried. It was so hard! In English we put tones into our voices to emphasises the word but if you change the pitch or tone in a thai, you end up saying the wrong word!

Mam was very patient with us as we tried to write down what we were hearing but it was hard! We have until Friday to learn it off by heart which should be alright. We were going to go and use our new “skills” to ask a real vendor for some fruit but as we left for the hotel, it began to pour down!  I was drenched (a denim dress absorbs water quite quickly!) even though I had an umbrella!

At 5, Nicole and I went and got takeaway basil pork and rice and then I headed on my first solo adventure on a red truck! I was going back to a building next to the church for a bible study. I managed to get a truck quite quickly and then spent 40 minutes travelling around the old city which was good as I could see where lots of the temples and bars are. I arrived and was welcomed warmly into the group of 4 guys and Kelsey, the girl I had messaged before coming to Thailand.  After the group, the others all left on their motor/push bikes and I went off to find another red truck. There weren’t any for ages so I walked towards the old town.  Finally one stopped. The driver couldn’t speak English at all and didn’t really understand my map. I ended up using his phone on Google translate for ‘Dunkin Donuts” and then he called someone to help. He agreed to take me and tried asking for 40 baht but I used my new thai and said  “saam-sib” which means 30. He agreed but asked me to sit in the front.  It was the first time I’ve worn a seat belt since being here..it felt natural when I saw it to put it on hah! We tried having a half conversation on the way back; we said Dunkin donuts a lot and tutted at the bad drivers cutting up our path. When we turned off the main road, he said “china”then used thai and actions to explain we were dropping the chinese passengers (sat in the back) off first. I used my GPS the whole way and soon we were next to Dunkin Donuts! I had been a little worried at first going out by myself but as I walked the streets and rode the trucks, I was fine and actually felt quite at home! It’s just been a really productive and successful day so I’m feeling great!!

Wednesday 

We planned and prepped for our next lesson on Thursday. This week we’ve been hit by illness which I thought might start happening as we’ve now been here 3 weeks. I’ve been okay but a couple of the group had to take the day off and stay in bed and sleep it off!

This week there has been a pop up stand on the street outside the hotel selling rotti’s which are a bit like British pancakes but folded and fried. I had my first one with just cheese in it. The man asked if I wanted condensed milk and sugar on it…with cheese?! I thought but I had a little condensed milk on the side. It was amazing! Really unhealthy but tasted good and the condensed milk was a great bonus! I had another one on Friday with banana, chocolate sauce, condensed milk and sugar on it! Wow! Just amazing!!

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After the course, a few of us decided to head to the old town to explore a bit. We entered the ‘Tha Phae’ gate but our exploring was hindered by our need for food! We ended up in an Italian restaurant and gorged on pizza. So

Today for lunch I had crispy pork (bacon) with veg and rice. It was so garlicy!! Then my pizza was also covered in huge bits of garlic! All I can taste is garlic now!

After food, we wandered down to the night bazaar and found a cool seating area which was surrounded by food stalls including a cowboy grill, French crepes and a bar in a VW camper van.  We sat and chatted and listened to a varied mix of music as well as a live performer. Joe and Cecelia joined us just as we were about to leave so Haylee,  Nicole and I stayed with them and ended up back at Ram bar to see the cabaret show which was Spanish themed this time. We were only going to stay for the first half but ended up staying for the whole show. It’s such a vibrant and fun atmosphere!snapchat-913160364-416688860.jpg

 

Thursday

After the day in class and more grammar, Nicole and I tried to study a bit and then practised our Thai drama sketch with Evan. He told us he was heading to Central Festival to see a movie in 4D and we decided to join. It was such a cool experience. It cost 300 baht but that’s similar to a normal film in the UK.  We then sat on the chairs which have foot rests and feel a little like you’re on a ride. We had gone to see ‘Geostorm’ which turned out to be perfect for 4D as it’s about space and the weather so all of the effects could be used! Not only was it in 3D but the chair moved with the action and movement in the  film; it felt like we were on a roller coaster and as if you were  flying through space! Then there would be a big gust of wind and you’d get squirted with water! It was brilliant! I’d highly recommend it!

Biggest bucket of popcorn I’ve ever seen! He managed 1/20 of it during the film!!

 

Friday 

Today we performed our drama which went well although once I stood up, all the pronunciation I had practiced disappeared and I found it hard to remember my lines. It really showed how embarrassing,  frustrating and daunting learning a new language and speaking it in front of others is! I need to keep this in mind when I’m teaching and asking children to stand up and speak!

We finished class early but had the grammar test looming over us – it’s on Monday. Nicole and I did a bit of revision (studying if you’re American) but we also wanted to chill out a bit so we headed to the local cat cafe. It’s called Catmosphere and all the cats are named after Star Wars characters! There were 23 cats in there! A couple of them had been shaved and were wearing cute knitted jumpers! We enjoyed an iced chocolate with them before heading back to the hotel to study.

Earlier  in the day, we had agreed to have a Thai lesson with someone from the Thai Language school in our hotel. It was a free lesson so we jumped at the chance to learn a bit more Thai as none of us are very good at the moment. The lady teaching was really friendly and informative but Thai is so hard!!

For example: the word that sounds like ‘My’ means 5 different things depending how you say it. There are 5 different tones so you might try to say horse but say dog or no! It was funny but confusing as our ears just aren’t hearing the differences in the sounds! We’re hoping to have another lesson next week where the lady will take us to a temple where we can practise our Thai.

Saturday 

We hired another red truck and headed 30 minutes up to the mountains to Mae Sa Waterfalls. As foreigners we had to pay 100 baht to get in but it was worth it. There were 10 stages of the waterfalls and several where you could jump in and swim. It really was paradise with the amazing scenery surrounding us.

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After several hours there, we headed home and continued our studies.

Just after this picture, I was asked to join in a selfie with one of the Thai girls behind me! It happens a lot here..I do stick out with blonde hair..just funny as it wouldn’t really happen in the UK! 

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We had to walk under these rocks..I was hoping the sticks weren’t holding them up! 
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Unattractive shoes but one of the best things I brought here!! 

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Sunday 

We didn’t do much this Sunday other than study and eat! It was great to have each other to revise with as we could ask each other when we were stuck. I headed to church and nearly had another underwear incident! As I was walking to grab a red truck, it began to pour with rain. Today I’d thought I’d wear a skirt which apparently goes a little see through when wet! During the drive, I was desperately trying to dry it out and luckily by the time it had to get out 1. The rain had stopped 

2. My skirt had dried! 

Church was good and I was able to speak to some of the small group people. I also managed to catch one of the first red trucks I saw which was great! 

Oddly on the way to church I had seen one of the boys from the course in old town and then on the way back I saw some other people in McDonald’s! Just strange to see them when the route is random and it’s across the whole city!

We continued to study as a group before calling it a night ready for the big day tomorrow! 

Monday

The day of the grammar test… 

I haven’t taken a test since uni and I wasn’t nervous until I sat down but the studying helped and I was done after an hour. 

Nicole and I headed to the shopping centre May’s where I finally sorted out my Thai phone so now I have unlimited data for a month for 300 baht £7. Then we had a huge celebratory lunch (celebrating just doing the test) at Duke’s where Nicole had mash potato which she’s been craving before heading back for the results.. 


It was a great day as everybody passed so with just 2 lessons left to teach, we’re nearly ready to head to our schools!! That’s going to be a shock to the system…work…everyday!?!?! 

My treat for passing…chocolate cake!!
Tonight, there was talk of seeing a boxing match but it was really expensive so we’re heading to Ram bar to celebrate passing the test instead!! 

Just 1 week left in Chiang Mai! Then I head south…