I’ve been a bad girl. No presents from Santa for me this Christmas..
In case you think you’ve stumbled upon some poor, sordid piece of online fiction – you haven’t. I am in fact referring to the inordinate length of time it’s been since I last wrote a blog; over a year in fact. This alone is shameful enough, but it’s made worse by the fact that I’ve had more than my fair share of things to write about.
For, dear readers (yes, all three of you), I’ve been living and working in Thailand for the past 17 weeks. It’s my first time doing a ‘real job’ abroad, my first time in Thailand and my first time teaching, and if any country in the world warrants having a blog, it’s here.
Thailand is nothing short of crazy. If I had to sum the place up in one word that’s the adjective I’d choose. They party like crazy, drive like crazy, dance like crazy, celebrate like crazy and (often) act like crazy. Teaching in this country is like no other job I have ever had, or will ever have in my life. It’s a chaotic cacophony of colour, celebration, convolution, confusion, catastrophic misinformation and often frustration (thought I’d break up the alliteration there).
To sum it up in a few paragraphs would be impossible. Mai di, as you would say in Thai ‘I cannot’. So much has happened in the short time I have been here – not just in regards my job and personal and professional relationships with co-teachers, the school and the children – but from the very second I stepped foot in this country. From arriving during Song Kran (Thailand’s New Year Celebration) and experiencing a city-wide water fight in Bangkok, to seeing a Ping Pong show on my third night (please Google at your peril), to travelling overnight on a 17 hour coach journey to Phuket, to an intense and often emotional 3 week period of TEFL training, to my first ever experience of food poisoning, to making life-long friends, to travelling to the town of Lopburi 2 hours North of Bangkok and moving into a total ‘dive’, to riding and falling in love with my first ever scooter, to starting teaching and having up to 40 kids to control/teach, to teachers at our school quitting, getting sacked, to accepting that your new name is ‘Teacher’ in school and ‘farang’ outside of it, to degree legalisation, tourist visa extensions, B visa applications, multiple trips to Bangkok, blood tests, work permit applications, expenditure and more expenditure, constant stomach problems, an unexpected tooth infection and wisdom tooth removal, all mixed in nicely with the odd crazy person, the perputal manifestation of school celebrations that you’re never pre-warned about including magic shows that feature the school Director (Headmaster) as the main entertainer, trips to Monkey temples, dressing up for a special occasions pretty much every fortnight (of which you’re also never informed of), some highs, some moments of awe and some pretty low periods and moments of self-realisation and reflection.
Looking back, it’s been intense !
There is truly never a dull day here. As I write this sat in the computer suite, there are children to the right of me practising Thai dancing and singing for a competition (this school is all about the competitions) whilst music plays over the speakers from Youtube. Only 40 minutes ago you would have found me sat in my homeroom class playing Uno with my P6 kids. I came third FYI. Pretty good seeing as I’ve never played it before.
Tomorrow it is Mother’s Day (I think.. could be today – you never know what’s going on here) and all the teachers and assistants are dressed in blue like the Virgin Mary. As is Thai custom their dresses are frilly and/or laced, adorned with sequins and ornate stitching and, to take the diplomatic approach, incredibly eye-catching.
Thai clothing is bright, colourful and back home would be viewed as eccentric. Turning up to school here in black and grey (typical office wear in the UK) is viewed the same way by Thai people, because over here that’s not the norm. You look dull, depressing and melancholic in comparison to your surroundings. It’s an accurate depiction and conveyance of the culture. In Britain we show our feelings. We like to moan and whinge, especially about the dark, wet, gloomy, cold weather; and our clothing reflects this. In Thailand, ‘The Land of Smiles’, they hide their feelings and do their upmost to avoid confrontation. The bright colours and jewels they adorn themselves in reflect their customs and compliment the bright, sunny and perpetually warm weather.
And it’s not just their clothes, it is congruent with everything here; their decor, decorations, displays – everything from the curtains to the tablecloths. If you walked into a school assembly back home before a holiday you may find some bunting. Here the assembly room is filled with coloured drapes, flowers, golden vases.. think the equivalent of Christmas but for every single ocassion.
It’s a completely different ball game. One which I look forward to sharing with you during my remaining time here.
It’s sad that I haven’t documented and shared my experiences up until this point. It will all be forever ingrained in my memory however, and it’s likely a lot of backtracking will occur during future posts!
Today’s Mother Day assembly:
(The lady pictured in the centre is the Queen of Thailand and fellow mother. Both the King and Queen have their own songs respectively. You must stand during the songs and bow at the end. Thailand has the upmost respect for its royalty and framed pictures and billboards of them can be found everywhere; on roundabouts, in cafés, schools, offices. Everywhere!)
Yesterday’s ASEAN day assembly: