Thursday 4th December: A Very Yellow Father’s Day
If Assumption does one thing well, it’s throwing a party! On Thursday 4th all Thai and foreign teachers alike came together in traditional Thai dress to celebrate Fathers’ Day. Another foreign teacher and myself were chosen to hold a beautiful pineapple-looking ornament and go onto stage, giving a “bow to the Buddha then a curtsy to the king”. When all the teachers had presented their pineapples, the fathers of some of the primary children came up to the stage and when seated, their children came to their feet and bowed. I was moved, but also got to think about how this sort of things is, like so many other celebrations, unique to Thailand. There was some traditional dancing and acapella singing too; the whole experience was pretty surreal.
5-7th December: Ko and Khao Yai
The next day brought the well-anticipated ‘long weekend’ that we spent two weeks prior umming and ahhing about what do for. After considering various places and accommodation, we decided the day before to go camping in Khao Yai with Ms. Boom’s friend, Ko, who it turns out, isn’t much of a walker. After nearly a 2-hour journey squidged in the back of his pick up truck, we explored a bit (to Ko’s dismay), and I can safely say it has so far been my favourite place in Thailand! I loved camping, and the whole experience of getting out of the city for a bit and submerging into nature was just what was needed after a pretty intense first month of teaching**.
The deer and monkeys there are ridiculously tame and have no worries about strutting over the roads and around your tents; water monitor lizards sometimes came up the bank and had a stroll too. Following one of them led us to a Thai family doing the same, and we couldn’t get away before they got some pictures with the Farangs (Felangs, meaning European foreigners). We took a night safari on the Saturday in the hope of seeing some other wildlife – I’d read that slow lorises, elephants and tigers had been spotted in the park, but alas, it was just a game of deer bingo. In the daytime, we met a bunch of Americans who were also doing TEFL further south, kind of gatecrashed their plans and went with them for a two-hour hike and see the two main waterfalls, which were beyond majestic.
After a slight misunderstanding with Ko about what time he’d be picking us up on the Sunday, we had a few hours to kill in the afternoon, and found a driver to take us to a viewpoint up the mountainside. The insane sense of vertigo aside, the landscape was like overlooking the Shire. With a hard hit back to reality and a super long day, Monday morning came waaaaay too soon after such a super weekend.
**Below is just a bit about my first month of teaching (after my week in St. Mary’s hospital), for anyone who is thinking of doing similar!
My First Month of TEFL: Exhausting, Frustrating – And Just a Little Bit Rewarding
When you’re applying for TEFL jobs, people seem to forget to mention that there’s a high chance you’ll spend the first two or three weeks intermittently feeling like you want to curl up into a ball and rock backwards and forwards in a corner. My class is Primary 4, 5 and 6, and with at least 45 kids in each class and 9 different classes, nothing I’d been told could have prepared me for the first fortnight teaching them. Kids were crying, replying to me in Thai, dancing, running around – one girl even jumped out of the window on my first class! Needless to say it was frustrating to the point of tears at times and so bloody tiring that I’d moved my bedtime to 9 p.m.
If I could suggest one thing to someone thinking of TEFL, it would be this: go in stern and strong, then ease off slowly. I made the sorry mistake of being all smiles and soft-voiced in my first week, and it’s taken a good couple of weeks to get the kids’ attention and in all honestly be taken seriously. Things are finally starting to settle down. It’s taken a lot of trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t! Now that I can get a good amount of them to listen, it becoming incredibly rewarding to see them understand something you are teaching. All being said, the kids are ace and will still put a smile on your face regardless of how bad your day has gone!