Category Archives: Thailand

On Teaching and Trains

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. Having been here for a month, I feel a lot more settled in the Land of Smiles. Reading the blogs of fellow teachers in Thailand has made me super interested in how other teachers go about their daily routines. Here’s a snapshot of mine:

7:00 (approximately..) wake up to alarm, surf Facebook/email/Foreign Service forums for 5 minutes. Heat up some instant coffee and eat a very sugary breakfast plus maybe some yogurt if I’m feeling healthier that day

7:45 head out the door of my on-campus apartment, remembering to turn off the air conditioning or “they’ll never come and fix it!” (quote from school coordinators)

8:00 daily school assembly begins, aka 30 minutes of the Thai national anthem, school song, and long speeches in Thai that I understand none of.

11-12:40 pick an hour for a lunch break, the cafeteria food is ridiculously good and a mix of very authentic Thai/attempted Western food. 4/5 days this is followed by a trip to the best coffee shop in town right next to the school. Thais love their coffee strong and very sweet, so I’m in heaven!

8:30-4:30 are our official school working hours. I teach 20 classes of 50 minutes a week, though they are often way shorter due to “Thai time” and students arriving 10-15 minutes late. Each day I have 4 classes of English ranging from very beginner rowdy 9th graders to some intermediate-mid 12th graders who I love. This means I have in total over 900 students, who I see only once a week. (!!) They are much better at remembering my name “Teacher Becky!” and treating me like a celebrity whenever I walk on campus. We have several breaks throughout the day, during which I obsess over anything related to the Foreign Service and 2016 A-100 orientation classes.

4:30 wander back to my apartment, usually take a nap! Finding dinner is challenging as we are the only people who walk anywhere in our town, and there aren’t really nearby restaurants. Night markets are an option, but a scary walk across multiple streets without traffic lights. I bought a microwave which has been a great investment so far!

Things I love so far about Thailand: trains! Anyone who knows me gets that I’m a huge fan of public transport. Which we have very little of in Texas. The trains in Thailand are awesome and I have already taken them most weekends here. This weekend I’m visiting a beach (about time!!) only 2hrs away by train. Stations are clearly marked and visible, someone will speak English, people walk down the aisles to sell you cheap and plentiful food or drinks- none of this is available in a minivan or bus. Trains are definitely my preferred mode of transportation here. Check it out for yourself!

Things I don’t love: the language barrier and lack of time to really dedicate myself to learning more than survival Thai, being placed far from my friends at orientation, the very low English level of most of my students. Considering these alongside the positives of living here though, I don’t have much to complain about. Other teachers might have better locations in Thailand (mountains!), or higher level students, but no one’s placement seems perfect. Teaching overall has been incredibly meaningful for the students who do care. I am starting to really enjoy life in Thailand and the holidays are coming up, which should give me more of a chance to explore some of its most scenic sights!

 

 

 

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Sawatdee from Thailand!

I have officially been living in Thailand for almost 2 weeks! Writing this in the middle of an afternoon thunderstorm, it’s clear that I still have tons to adjust to in my new home. After our orientation in Bangkok the first week, we have now moved to our placements throughout Thailand. I still wake up occasionally and forget where I am- even after flying 20 hours from Texas here, it’s all very new to me right now. Well, except maybe the heat and humidity I know so well from Texas 🙂 Also, my school hasn’t even started yet so that adventure is yet to come!

Here are some favorite moments of my time in the “Land of Smiles” so far. I’ve been able to explore Bangkok and my new province and city, Nakhon Pathom. So many exciting things have happened since arriving here, which makes me really look forward to the rest of this semester. Of course, there have been challenges as well such as getting “traveler’s tummy” on the first day of week #2 (I’m about 95% recovered, thankfully!). And the Thai language- Passaa Thai yaak! Thai is difficult! But also sanuk, fun. Today I bought a water bottle from a street vendor with my basic Thai and got a smile of understanding from her in the end. Moments like that make my time here absolutely worth it.

2015-10-22 10.03.162015-10-22 09.55.31Ayutthaya

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya has some of the most beautiful ruins I’ve ever been to. Plus we went here on the second day of orientation! Thanks CIEE and OEG, our Teach in Thailand program coordinators! Walking around this ancient Thai capital was amazing. Also, it’s just about an hour from Bangkok so very useful for a day trip.

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Exploring Bangkok via River Taxi

Coolest experience ever. It’s way faster and a lot more fun to get around parts of Bangkok in a boat taxi, we took one to visit the Royal Grand Palace during orientation. For a round trip from our hotel to the downtown area, it cost only about 14 baht. (current exchange rate: 33 baht=1 USD!)

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Grand Palace

A must see in Bangkok. So many golden pagodas and elaborately decorated halls. Many Thais make a pilgrimage here to see the Emerald Buddha- a smaller than you’d expect Buddha carved from emerald, definitely worth visiting in person. Glad we saw this during orientation as well!

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Getting settled in to live in Nakhon Pathom- local cats and more palaces!

These two cats are always around outside my school. They also happen to look a lot like my cats from home! One thing I definitely like a lot about this placement is having on-campus housing. Hooray for sleeping later! Today I adventured to a local palace nearby, which surprisingly was not listed in any Lonely Planet guide to my province, Nakhon Pathom. I highly recommend visiting, it’s called Sanam Chandra Palace.

Pre-Travel Musings

Two weeks from today, I will be flying to Bangkok, Thailand to start orientation as an English teacher with CIEE! I don’t think I’m aware yet just how much my life will change.

Since getting back from my backpacking trip in Europe, I have been living at home and mainly spending time with my family. It’s been somewhat challenging keeping busy when I’d rather just be starting work as a teacher or diplomat already! After October 18, I’ll be settling into life in Thailand and getting the chance to explore a fascinating and new region of the world. I can’t wait to leave Texas and live overseas again!!

There is something weird and thrilling in jetting off to Thailand with no firm return date. I do have a plane ticket back home booked for the end of March, but honestly everything depends on the Foreign Service and if/when they give me a confirmed offer to start A-100 in DC. Right now there are four orientation classes tentatively planned for 2016- January, April, June, and September. Last I checked I am still around #7-8 of 108 public diplomacy candidates and hoping for an A-100 invitation sometime next spring! Of course, if things don’t work out I have the option of extending and just teaching longer in Thailand 🙂

I’m beyond excited for this next step in my life-however long I end up staying in Thailand! Life is a bit in flux and I am getting more and more comfortable with it being that way.

An exciting disappointment

It’s been a few weeks since I learned that I will not be attending the September 8th A-100 orientation class for the Foreign Service after all. For the last class of this fiscal year, only 3 or so public diplomacy candidates I know of received offers. Despite my ranking of 7/103 (probably higher now!), I did not. This post should serve as a PSA to fellow Foreign Service hopefuls out there- it is much more competitive to become a US diplomat than you think! Hiring is really tough at the moment even if you pass every step along the way like I have. You can’t be 100% sure of a job until you receive the official offer, and it will be 28 days before the class starts, to boot 🙂

That being said, I am disappointed but not devastated. The Foreign Service will happen for me when the time is right- most likely in early 2016! If hiring stays around attrition like it has this year, I should get an offer before expiring off the register in December 2016. This gives me a shot at all the fiscal year 2016 classes- I’m especially hopeful that the January 2016 class will be larger and I will get an invite.

Until then, I am so excited to share that I’ll be teaching English at a girls school near Bangkok, Thailand with CIEE! I start in mid-October. My placement is in Nakhon Pathom province, about an hour outside of Bangkok: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand/bangkok/nakhon-pathom. Here is one of the tallest pagodas in Thailand right in the middle of my new home:

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In my view, English teaching is one of the US’s best forms of public diplomacy. I get to develop my public speaking and presentation skills, gain international experience, and live in Southeast Asia for the first time in my life. I can’t think of a better experience to have before joining the Foreign Service, whenever that may be!