Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Better Late than Never...

Somewhere over the Pacific ocean
First of all, let me apologize for this long-awaited first blog post. The truth is I've been here 2 weeks and JUST got internet in my apartment #FirstWorldProblems. I'll try to make this brief, though I could probably write a book.

The trip here was long, I mean looooong. Also, Asian flights like to serve you meals constantly. They served us "dinner" at 2 AM on the red eye out of L.A. It was 4 AM for my body clock so I wasn't feeling the weird chicken rice meal, but you take what you can get. All in all, after 3 flights and one lengthy layover, it was 27 hours of travel from St. Louis to Bangkok. In that time I managed to get about 6-7 hours of sleep, so needless to say I was struggling when we finally arrived.

Once in Bangkok, a bus picked us up to take us to our hotel. Our hotel was considered "close" to the airport, and it was at least a 30-minute ride. Maybe that gives you some idea of how HUGE Bangkok is.'s one giant sprawling skyline, I can't even tell where the actual city is. Once arriving and receiving our rooms in our hotel which was, well, not the fanciest thing in the world, we decided we had to keep awake to make sure we would sleep through the night and not wake up at 4 AM...which happened to many. We decided the local bar would be the best option after our long journey. Before long it was packed with about 50+ "farang" - this is what the Thais call foreigners. My roommate and I called it a night around 8:30 and passed out for a good 11 hours, it was awesome.

Shots from the Royal Palace
For the sake of keeping this brief, I'll sum up the bulk of the week in a few short words. Orientation basically consisted of a week of Thai language classes, teaching prep classes and other presentations sprinkled in here and there on the Thai education, culture, etc. The Thai language was somewhat helpful, but it was a lot to take in at once. The teaching prep class ended up not helping me much at all due to the fact that it was geared towards those teaching very basic English to entry-level students, and I had been placed at an international school with upper-level students teaching computers, technology and occupations (I know...what?). We still managed to have fun though - we went out on the town one night to a Bangkok bar with a pretty legit DJ, and tried out a decent Mediterranean restaurant the next night (which actually had pizza...and it was pretty delicious after a week of fried rice!). We also took a trip to the Royal Palace, which is absolutely gorgeous. The attention to detail on every building was wild. Many of the temples had hand painted "wallpaper". The outsides were also intricately decorated with tiny tiles and gold leaf. I could make an entire post of those photos, but I'll just include a sample here. My Facebook page has more :)
The best part of orientation was the end of the week when we made our way to Kanchanaburi, a town a couple hours outside of Bangkok which is BEAUTIFUL - lots of mountains and lush green jungle.  Though we were only there one night, we stayed in a really nice hotel right on the River Kwai with an awesome mountain view.
View from the hotel balcony in Kanchanaburi

Bridge over the River Kwai
In Kanchanaburi we got to do several really cool things. First we went to The Bridge over River Kwai - the story behind it is quite tragic, but there isn't really any signage near the bridge that explains its significance. Just looking at it, it just looks like a bridge's not fancy, but it's historical. There was a large Buddha statue you could see from the bridge that was pretty neat.
 That night we had a big dinner on a "floating restaurant" which is basically a flat raft barge thing that can be tied to others depending on how many people there are. We cruised down the River Kwai and then a DJ started playing some dance music and had a light show and everything. By the end of the 3-hour boat party, however, we were all pretty wiped out. We had to rest up for the upcoming day at the elephant park!

The next day we loaded up onto our bus and went to the elephant park. Upon arriving I was a little concerned because the baby elephants were cuffed inside their gate, however, after spending some time there and doing a little research after leaving I think it was a pretty reputable place. We almost immediately jumped on some elephants' backs and began a trek around the park. Myself and a friend were sitting on the seat of one elephant when our manhout (elephant trainer) jumped off and had us sit bareback on the elephant while he led and took photos. When our ride was finished we got to see the baby elephants (roaming free at this point) and feed them bananas as they did tricks. They were really cute and very social...and LOVED bananas! To wrap up the day we got to float down the river on some bamboo rafts, which offered some beautiful views. Some even got in a floated down the river in their life vests. Sadly, after a fun-filled day, it was time for us to head back to our Bangkok hotel where we were to meet our school coordinators and make our long journeys (for some) to our schools. For myself and the 2 other girls at my school, we didn't even know how we were getting to Phuket. By bus it was 11 hours, so we were praying for a flight, but hadn't heard anything yet.

When we got to Bangkok we were greeted by our coordinator, Took. The good news was that we had a flight, the bad news was that it was at 10 PM (we got back around 1:30). This meant lots of bonding time in the airport. We also had to say goodbye in Bangkok to all of our friends from orientation. In just a week we'd made a lot of good friends, so it was tough to leave! When we did finally arrive in Phuket after a LONG day, one of the girl's luggage didn't make it. Somehow it got left in Bangkok. Once we tracked down the missing luggage, we headed to yet another hotel. We were under the impression we were moving into our apartments/permanent living situations that night, so the thought of living out of and lugging around our suitcases for another day wasn't so great. However, the hotel they put us in was nice, so there's that.

The next morning we had orientation at 9 (could've used a few more hours of sleep to be honest). When we were picked up we were informed we were actually going apartment hunting! This was news to us since we thought our housing accommodations had already been picked out. It turns out the ones advertised to us aren't used anymore because a girl got robbed outside of it in the past....yeah I'll pass on that. They took us to a pretty nice apartment building, which happened to have 3 rooms available. We went to lunch after, but when we went back to sign contracts, one of the apartments had been swiped! Of course I was the one displaced, so one of our school department heads made a few calls and got me a place not far from the school. It's pretty nice, but I have to pay $1,000 baht extra per month compared to the other apartments and I'm by myself, but it could be worse.

After a weekend of moving, Thai American cover bands, near death experiences due to charging angry street dogs, and a few other dodgy experiences, our first week was upon us. The first day wasn't so bad teaching-wise. It was your basic "introductory" lesson, but the reality of teaching really set in. Myself and the other 2 teachers all had classes we hadn't been expecting, and were told to create unit plans and lesson plans for all of our classes. Remember, none of us has taught before,  much less made a lesson plan. As I previously mentioned, our students speak pretty good English, so I might as well be teaching computers, tech and occupations to American students. Each night this week has been devoted to lesson planning (which I actually have to get on right after this post), but I think we'll get ahead of it soon enough and get to enjoy our time outside of school with more fun activities. I'm currently counting down the days to Friday - we're planning our first beach trip and I could not be more ready after a grueling week of awkward first lessons. So there's my "brief" post. Hopefully now that I have internet I'll be able to post more frequently and they won't be so daunting :) Congrats to those of you who have made it this far, you officially have a longer attention span than the 7th grade students I'm teaching. Until next time (which will be soon, I promise), "sawatdee kha!"
Floating down the River Kwai

No comments:

Post a Comment