Before I came here I had emailed a former American teacher at my school in Thailand asking how his experience both in the area and at the school were for him. He said he considered himself very lucky to be placed at Amnuayvidhya School in Phrapradaeng, and hoped I would feel the same way. How right he was! We’ve only been here about a week and so far we love our little town across the river from Bangkok. We are so close to the city bus that we can hop on a city for about 15 minutes, walk to the BTS station (Bangkok’s Sky Train: the most immaculate and modern public transport I’ve ever seen) and be on our way to anywhere in the city. With that being said, at the same time we are very removed from the craziness that Bangkok has to offer. There are virtually no Westerners here (I’ve seen about two older British men in the supermarket with Thai wives. Shocker.) Us five American ladies are stared at everywhere we go. Not in a bad way, it’s more of a “Whoa, look at that foreigner!” kind of stare. Mostly the stares are met with shy smiles and a “hello!!” from people on passing motorbikes. Everyone we’ve met tells us that we are “suay ma”, very beautiful. We’ve been helped by many strangers who see us on the bus wondering where to get off or where something is. One woman who spoke quite good English walked with us from the bus stop to the BTS Station to make sure we didn’t get lost. The kindness of Thai people makes being in a foreign country much easier when you can hardly speak ten Thai words.
Samut Prakan is the province that encompasses the area south and southeast of Bangkok, along the Gulf. We live in Phrapradaeng, a bustling town located on the southern edge of the Chao Praya River. It’s definitely no where as crazy at Bangkok but it has everything and anything we could need. There is a large superstore similar to Walmart just about a 10 minutes ride away in the Songthaew (a large pickup truck with a covered bed with benches that serves as an open air communal taxi), a 7-11, tons of shops on the main road, and a market with stalls that sell clothing, food, and DOUGHNUTS! There is a beautiful temple just around the corner from our apartment building. We’ve yet to check it out because everything we pass we’re not dressed appropriately. You have to have a skirt or pants down to your knee and covered shoulders. Thailand is hot as hell this time of year so you can imagine I’m hardly ever dressed like this, except for going to school. There are apparently a couple of great parks nearby which I’m planning on checking out this weekend. The surrounding area including Bangkok offer some pretty options to check out on a weekend that I plan on staying in Phrapradaeng. There is the city of course, with tons of shopping at markets and stores alike, food options, etc. We went and got Mexican food the other night in Bangkok which was AMAZING but very expensive (Western prices) compared to Thai food. If you’re ever in Bangkok and craving some Mexican, check out La Monita near the Ploen Chit BTS stop. Some of the islands are only a few hours away on bus. Being so close to Bangkok means I can easily get on a bus to anywhere in Thailand just by heading into the city which is about 20-40 minutes by city bus depending on where you want to go.
This Tuesday we went to school for a staff meeting to meet our director and fellow Thai teachers. After the meeting we were served lunch with the heads of school who were all related in some way and welcomed us into their family. Each American teacher was partnered up with a Thai teacher who we will be co-teaching with. I found out that I would be teaching at the Anuban school, which is a smaller school across the street that is for kindergartners. They start the kids in kindergarten around age 3 in Thailand, so I will be teaching K1-K3, ages 3-5. The other teachers were given their class schedules but I was told mine was not ready. My teacher is named Pi Poo (Pi is a word used for someone older, to refer to them as older brother or sister.) She is super cute and excited to have me teaching with her. She immediately was asking about my family and told me that I was now her new daughter.
We discussed what the kindergartners would be learning throughout the year. I don’t have any workbooks since they are too young, so I will most likely be doing games and songs with them all year while I teach them very slowly about letters, numbers, fruits and veggies, etc. On Wednesday, we went to school to work on lesson plans. It was basically us sitting around on the internet searching for games and songs and coming up with a basic first two days of lessons. I looked through the school’s library and found some very basic books to borrow for class about the ABC’s and basic greetings in Thai and English. At the end of the day, I went over to the Anuban school to meet Pi Poo, and she showed me around the school a bit. Then she told me I wouldn’t be teaching until Monday! That’s how Thailand rolls I’ve come to find out, sometimes you find out things with no notice whatsoever. Amnuayvidhya’s main school started today, Thursday, but the younger kids don’t come in until next week. Even though I will be separated from my friends during class hours, I’ll be able to walk across the street to eat lunch with them and visit when I want. I can’t wait to meet my classes, I’m sure they will be adorable and probably scared of me at first. I’m happy with my placement, since I have so much experience nannying toddlers and young kids, I know that age. After school, four of us new teachers were talking to the Songthaew to go to the Big C (Thai Walmart) and all of a sudden Pi Poo pulls up in her car. “I take you to Big C”, she tells us. And without hesitation, packs us into her backseat and carts us to the store.
This weekend I’m staying here in Phrapradaeng with my friends. We’re going to hit up a weekend market called Chatuchak in Bangkok and where you can buy tons of clothes for very cheap. Next week we have Friday off of school, so I’m planning on going to an island that’s about 3 hours away by bus and ferry with a couple of my friends and fellow teachers. I can’t wait to lay on a beach and see the beauty that Thailand has to offer down South. It’s so hot here right now that swimming in the Gulf is going to be heavenly. I’m so happy with where I’m living and the people I was placed with. I got really lucky in that sense, that I love each one of the girls here and can’t wait to see what the year has in store for us!