My First Week in Thailand
Welcome to my blog. I've only been in Thailand for one whole week now, but I have already learned a lot. This past week has been a crash course in everything Thai.
My journey began when I touched down in Tokyo, where I was able to meet up with Stephanie & Pa Ger via the CIEE Facebook group. I thought that we would just fly to Bangkok and ride to the hotel together, but they quickly became my "orientation BFFs".
We had one day to adventure on our own, and we totally took advantage of it. In Bangkok, we took a taxi to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Thailand's busiest and largest outdoor market. We ate fresh coconut ice cream and had our first authentic Thai meal. Then we hitched a ride on a tuk tuk and made our way onto a private little boat to explore the Chao Phraya river and its canals. For the next five days of orientation, we took classes about the Thai language, classroom management and Thai culture.
At the end of the week, we took an overnight trip to Kanchanaburi. I got to see mountains and greenery and have dinner while floating on a raft down the Kwai River.
Here are a few crucial things I learned in the past week, in no particular order:
1. I'm not in this alone. At my orientation, there were over 150 other teachers. Everybody had the same mindset, and I wish I had known that making friends would be so incredibly easy. It was comforting for me to be in the same place as 150 other people who had quit their jobs, moved out of their houses and said goodbye to their friends and family to set off on this adventure just like me.
2. There are a million ways to get around. Boat, tuk tuk, taxi, elephants, you name it. Drivers here are totally insane, and every time I'm riding in a car I'm scared for my life.
3. Seat belts and other safety measures are just a suggestion.
4. It's only a little bit scary to attempt to speak Thai to the locals. Even when I butcher every single word, they smile and appreciate the effort... or just laugh at me. The language is totally intimidating at first, but after taking a few lessons during orientation, I can almost hold a casual conversation, as long as it doesn't go beyond "How are you?" and "What is your name?"
5. My favorite word is "Na Rak." It means cute, and it's the perfect word to use when referring to the many dogs and cats you see on the streets.
6. Breakfast food is essentially lunch or dinner food. This was a surprise to me... and it is taking some getting used to.
7. Coconut is EVERYWHERE and it is amazing. Coconut ice cream, coconut pudding, coconut everything.
8. Thai people are super welcoming. Yesterday, I was greeted in Bangkok by my school's computer teacher, and taken to my house in Don Tum, Nakhon Pathom. When we got there, a bunch of Thai and Filipino teachers were waiting for me. Luckily, a few of them can speak amazing English. After taking me to dinner, two of them came over to my house and we talked for hours. I immediately felt at home. Even though I am an hour away from any of the other English teachers in my program, I don't feel isolated at all.
This is the beginning of a very big adventure. I'm totally nervous for Monday, which will be my first day of teaching. My director at the school (who woke me up this morning and insisted on meeting with me right then, pajamas and all) informed me that I'll be teaching 1st-5th graders, four classes per day. I'll also be the captain of an intramural sports team (I requested purple team). Apparently I'm also expected to sing in the choir. She also stressed to me that I was chosen because of my background in Art, and that they would really like me to incorporate art projects into my English lesson plans, which I will so gladly do.
Right now, I'm sitting in a coffee shop in my little town by myself, and I just successfully ordered an iced green tea. It's funny that doing this in the US would feel totally normal, but right now it feels like a massive accomplishment. Baby steps!
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