I realize that many of these posts have been focused on traveling around Thailand, but there’s a lot to be said about where I live in work when I’m not traveling. I consider myself very lucky to have been placed in Phrapradaeng, which is basically a suburb of Bangkok. There’s a definite small town feel walking the streets, and I am usually running into people I know from school or locals and we exchange a smile and a wai. I can buy anything I need or want in town, either from the little shops, Tesco (grocery store), or street stalls.The side streets are designated for either produce, fish, or meat stalls. It’s like a giant farmer’s market within the town, which is a common characteristic of Thailand found throughout the country. It’s interesting coming from America, a place that I thought was obsessed with shopping. Turns out, Americans got nothin’ on the Thais! Thai people find their little space on the street and will set up shop selling just about anything; everywhere. Checking out the market is one of my favorite things to do, there’s always something to buy or look at.
My apartment building is a non-descript four-story building that sits back on a quiet soi (side street). The building is home to all Thai people, except for us five foreign teachers. There are some families that live in the small one room apartments, but you would never know it by the constant quietness in the hallways. My apartment reminds me of a college dorm complete with white cement walls, twin beds, a wardrobe, small fridge, and a vanity. To our shock, we found TVs in all of our apartments upon moving in. There’s an endless amount of Thai channels and luckily 2 English speaking channels. The Universal channel. We’ve become a little too familiar with the handful of shoes on this channel than we’d probably like to admit.
I have a small balcony that faces that loudest high school in the history of the world, where they love to use a megaphone as a means for everything. The alley between my building and the school is cluttered with some trash, but is mostly a thick mess of palms and mango trees. The other day I watched a large monitor lizard slyly slink his way through the alley, a subtle note that I am indeed living in a tropical country. We live about a 5 minutes walk from school and about 10 minutes from the main area in town. I pass the beautiful temple of Wat Songtham everyday and sometimes there are festivals going on in the yard. They range from religious to downright ridiculous, but there’s always good food and people watching.
I wake for school a various times each days, depending on the rain that morning. If it’s sunny, the students are gathered in the school’s courtyard to pray to the Buddha statue, sing the National Anthem and a Thai “Happy Birthday to You” to whichever student is celebrating on that particular day. Next on the list is a funny song that everyone, myself included, is required to dance along to. I like to think of it as the Thai Macarena, with some simple moves that are hilarious at 8 am when executed by 500 kindergartners.
I share an office with three Thai teachers who are always bringing in treats, both Western and Thai, and sharing them with me. It’s usually a delicious exotic fruit like rambutan or mangosteen, sometimes it’s little cakes or candies. Today’s office treat is some sort of seed that pops out of an over sized green pod. My class schedule is spaced out, leaving me 2 hours for lunch everyday. I walk over to the primary school and eat their delicious soup for 20 baht, it’s the same everyday but I haven’t tired of it yet.
My students are bursting with energy every time I see them. If I don’t have a particular activity or game planned, it means 40 five year olds running around screaming and knocking each other over. My lessons are simple and always include a physical game, song, or drawing activity. I reinforce the English lessons they learn in their regular classes, attempting to inject a little creativity and fun into their day. This week we are learning animals, but the kids already know the names of many animals in English. That makes it easier on me, so I gave them an assignment to draw their favorite animal. They wrote the sentence, “My favorite animal is a….”. Their drawings are creative and some are really talented! Their handwriting is superb, I think it’s because Thai writing is so intricate and beautiful that when they write in English it comes with ease.
I laugh a ton in my classes. Some days the kids don’t want to listen and then we end up sitting in silence with their hands over their mouths (a Thai method, not mine) until they are ready to learn. My students are still young and innocent for the most part, they love to run up and hug me, and five highs are their favorite. I recently started teaching an extra 2 hour class on Saturday mornings and it’s simply hilarious. It’s more of a summer camp feel than school. This past Saturday started with the teachers all wearing cardboard chicken hats and dancing to the chicken dance. I teach two 30 minute classes which are hardly enough time to play one game, so it’s not a lot of pressure for me to come up with a sixth day of lessons. I like to spend the extra time with the Thai teachers on this day, it makes me feel more like I’m part of the staff since they welcome me into all of their photo ops.
Amnuayvidhya School is a great place to work. Everyone is friendly and the kids are respectful and cute as hell. It definitely doesn’t feel like work most of the time. Our school has been run by a family for the past thirty years, and the adult grandchildren now hold positions as Director and Head of English Department. We were recently invited on a weekend trip with the family go to down to Hua Hin in September. It’s definitely going to be an interesting weekend; I’m looking forward to traveling with Thais and experiencing what they do on a holiday weekend. The fact that they invited the us foreign teachers means a lot to me.
The weeknights in Phrapradaeng are quiet and relaxing. I try to spend a few hours in my office after school doing work so I won’t go home and take a long nap (tough life, huh?) The rainy season has officially made its way to the Bangkok area, and the daily spurt of rain has turned into downpours that last hours. The rainy season will last until November. Here’s to hoping that our area won’t flood… that much. Bangkok is accessible by one of the city buses that parks just around the corner, and we go often for shopping, mainly, and Western food. However, we are still removed from the hectic life of the city and our town sees basically zero foreigners. I really couldn’t be happier with my little life here in Phrapradaeng.