Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sleeping with strangers

Casandra was so funny when I told her about the crocodile in my bed. She asked what his name was, and I said I didn't know, and she said "well if you're sleeping with him you should probably find out!". Well I thought it was funny. Maybe you had to be there.

Meeting with the English department

So, meeting with the English department (I turned up on the right day this time). Mostly they talk in Thai to one another. But I gather that I'm going to be teaching all levels of class, from Matayum 2 to 6 (that's age 13-18 I think). That means a lot of lesson planning. I hope I don't have to work too hard - I haven't had much practice at that. Also just remembered that kids scare me. In what world did I think this was going to be a good idea?

I got the bus!

Well, they call it a bus. What it actually is is a pick-up truck with some seats and a roof stapled on. I'm so proud of myself. I waited in the right spot, waved down the bus driver and even remembered where to get off (I made a special note of it yesterday when “Auntie” Pee Dar took me to the school). I went in hours before my meeting in the hopes that I would be able to use an internet café, but I couldn't find one. So I wandered around the market for a while. I love this place. I love that there are fruits I've never even seen before, that look like dragon eggs or giant grapes, and the mini bananas. I love that I just walked past a stall selling all kinds of huge scary machetes and meat cleavers – just right there, in the middle of the market. I love that the stall holders don't pounce on you if you linger by their stall for more than three seconds. I love how it's so hot! I LOVE that it feels actually, properly foreign. The whole language difficulty thing just makes it more of an adventure (the language difficulty thing can also be a total pain, but more on that another time).

So, anyway, I turned up at the school like an hour and a half early for my 2:30 meeting with Ajarn Wanna and the Filipino teachers. Wanna looked a little flustered (well I was pretty early), but she took me to her office, which happens to be at the back of a classroom full of students. Who insisted on me introducing myself. So I said hello in Thai, and they just went wild! Easy crowd. If they're all like that then this year's gonna be a breeze. So I told them my name, that I'm from Britain, that I'm the new teacher, that I've been in Thailand for a week. And then I stood there like a lemon, grinning inanely until the teacher said I could go. So I waited in Wanna's office. And I waited. 2:30 came, and there's no sign of Wanna or the Filipinos. It gets to quarter to three, and I realise the meeting must be at 3:30, not 2:30! Eventually Wanna came back, took me on a tour of the school, showed me my office, gave me a newspaper to read. And it was around about then that a little thought that had been trying to get to the front of my mind finally made it. It's Monday today. My meeting's on Tuesday. I wasn't an hour and a half early; I was a day early. No wonder Wanna was surprised to see me.

Oh well, at least I got to use the internet (email from Casandra: she has an apartment with internet; also she caved and bought a phone – yay! Email from Andy: M&S just isn't the same without me (okay he didn't actually say that – I'm reading between the lines a little here). Email from Joanna: bored at work. Email from Daddy: keep in touch).

And then all that remained was to find the way home. This is where I realise I have no idea where I live, so if I can't find the right bus then, basically, I'm screwed (note to self: get Smile to write down the address in Thai, in case I ever get hopelessly lost).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

People keep buying me stuff!

I don't mean to ask for it, but they don't distinguish between “do you like” and “would you like”, so I keep answering what I think is a general question and they go ahead and buy me bananas/popcorn/water. I must stop getting caught out by this!

Blog header

Saturday, October 28, 2006

There's a three-foot crocodile in my bed

Why wouldn't I expect to find a crocodile in my bed? I'm in a foreign place, after all. No of course it's not a real one, don't be silly.

So, finally I can relax. Thunk. Ouch. What is it with beds in this country – are they all designed for monks?

Oh yeah, incidentally, I'm staying in someone's house. I was meant to have an apartment sorted. Masako told us we would all have apartments sorted. But apparently that message didn't reach Wanna, my school co-ordinator. So when we met she asked me "so where are you staying, Shallot?" Panic. You mean you don't know? So, long story short, she's fixed me up to stay here for a bit, until I can find an apartment. I actually quite like it, even if the only English speaker is the 17-year-old son, Smile. It's a nice house – very big, and brand new. In fact not actually finished. No, it's okay, it's mostly finished, just the upstairs bathroom is a building site and there's no air con yet. But they've set up a bed (if you can call it that – possibly they've just laid some planks on a frame, I haven't checked under the sheet), and I have a fan, which is keeping me cool.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I have a friend

Me and Casandra. She's great. We bonded over a shared dislike of Coldplay. She's from Canada and says “I approve of that” a lot. Which I approve of.

In other news...

I bought shoes – two pairs for under 600 baht. That's like £8.50. I'm happy.

Day 2

Day two of lectures. We sat in the back row and all ended up crying with laughter (as quietly and discreetly as possible – there was a lecture going on, after all. It wasn't even a bad lecture, what bits of it I caught. We just bore quickly. But I digress...) over a chapter in my new book about ladders. I mean the chapter is about ladders, not the whole book. That would be a really lame book. And this is a funny book. Especially the bit about ladders.

Spent the rest of the day's lectures daydreaming about the hot guy three rows in front of us.

Lectures over, we moved onto the administration-type stuff. Ever been handed an form written in heiroglyphics and asked to please sign here? Plah gave us her assurances that it's not going to result in our bank accounts being emptied, and that “we promise not to copy your signature for doing bad thing”. Oh, well that's alright then – hand me a pen.

Then we queued for about a day to find out more information about our schools. I'm teaching teenagers. Casandra's been moved schools (the school she was originally assigned to wanted a guy. I call that discrimination) and will be teaching small children. I don't know which is better. Um, I just remembered how much I hate giving presentations, even in front of 10 of my peers. In what world did I think it would be a good idea to try and teach a class of 40 Thai students? Getting slightly apprehensive now.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Day 1

Breakfast at the hotel: egg-fried rice. Egg-fried rice for breakfast – I love that!

First day of lectures. To start, “welcoming remarks”. And then refreshments. First 2-hour lecture, okay. Lunch. Second 2-hour lecture, of which a large proportion is spent talking about teaching Grandma. Is Grandma really that interested in learning English at her age? And do we really need to devote so much time to the prospect? Oh wait, grammar. That makes much more sense. More refreshments. Third two-hour lecture. If it weren't for the fact the lecturer keeps bursting into song (he's the university choir leader, as we later discover) I would actually have nodded off (hey, it's been a long day!). Finish with a rousing sing-along.

Then to MBK (“what you would get if a market and a mall had a baby, and gave it steroids” ~Casandra). So I now have a phone. I didn't want to pay 1700 baht for a new handset so I got a second-hand Nokia 3310 for 1200 baht. It's retro. We also got ice-cream. I'm happy.

We were going to walk back to the hotel but we were brave and took the sky train. It's actually totally simple – there are only two lines and they only cross over at one point, Siam station. And only 20 baht. In coins. Coins? All we have is notes. We saw a sign for a change machine. But it turns out to be behind a plywood wall. So we tried the ticket booth. “Phya Thai, please” (that's our stop). I waited as the teller counts out the change, and Casandra did the same. We waited for him to give us our tickets. “Buy ticket at machine”. Okay. Back in line, and eventually we had our tickets. So we got on – we just had to change at Siam onto the other line. On arrival at Siam we dashed across the platform onto our waiting train. Only we didn't actually check it was going in the right direction. The next station should be Ratchathewi. “The next station is Chit Lom”. Ah. So we got off, changed platform, got on another train. And three stops later we were at the hotel. Simple.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I officially now live in Thailand

So here I am! I have no interesting news yet. Except that we've FINALLY been given some information about things. Although still nothing specific on the accommodation front, so I'll have to look further into that. Masako assures us that they've arranged studio apartments for us all, but in the information pack under accommodation it talks about being considerate to our host and not being allowed to invite people to stay, so here's hoping that's all just standard blurb. But on the plus side it turns out the whole 'project' is just that the Nonthaburi provincial government has decided to instigate this program to get native English speakers into all their schools, so at least I won't be building any villages.

Turns out the two who had their tickets changed and got off at Bahrain got the best deal after all - they got here ages before us after we were delayed in Oman for four hours. That was annoying. And then the plane was freezing (of course), but at least I had my sleeping bag. And then my bag was the actual last one on the carousel (after I'd dragged about seven others off to inspect them, having completely forgotten what either of mine looked like and that I wasn't looking for a black Samsonite wheelie suitcase. I miss my wheelie suitcase). And then because our plane was so late the bus had gone without us and we had to wait an hour for the next planeload arrived and go with them. But other than that it's all gone very smoothly.

So tune in for the next exciting and thrilling instalment of Charlotte's Adventures in Thailand. Maybe I'll have an adventure before I write next.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

So here I go...

I'm almost packed. Well, I say almost; mostly I've just taken out the clothes that I want to take. But having spoken to several people who've already been, I've got a fairly comprehensive list of essential items:

According to Joss:

  • Mosquito net
  • Super strength insect repellent
  • Insect bite cream
  • Special lightweight walking socks
  • Mini maglite

According to Jo:

  • Summer clothes
  • Light cardigan (for air-conditioned restaurants and shopping malls)

According to Justin:

  • Iodine (for sterilising cuts)
  • Citronella (to deter the bugs)
  • Ball of string (always handy)
  • Lonely Planet guide

According to Tash:

  • Lip gloss

So, I've got my maglite, I've got my mosquito net, I've got my lipgloss. I'm all set.