Organized chaos is the best way to describe all of orientation week, and maybe this entire year. Where things are planned but are hectic and there is so much going on that you're unsure of what to do or where to go. That was this entire last week. I am the type of person who likes to know what's happening and what to expect, this trip has been and will continue to be so far beyond my comfort zone. Thai people have a "mai pen rai" lifestyle, which basically states that everything is going to be alright and it will all work out, this is one of the biggest things that I am learning to do here, just go with it.
Luckily I found some friends from the program at a layover in the states that were on the same flight and we got to work our way through foreign airports and customs in Bangkok together. I'm not sure I would have known where to go if we hadn't been together. After 20 hours of flying, we got to the airport having no idea where we were and only the address of the hotel to get there. When you're not sure where you are, with a taxi driver who doesn't know any English and seemed a bit confused by the address, you would hope that your hotel isn't 45 minutes from the airport. We did get there safely though!
After a day of much needed rest the orientation fun began, it was basically just class after class about Thailand and what to expect when teaching. A lot of it was very useful. The best parts of orientation though were the excursions. The day of the Grand Palace tour I woke up with a fever and chills (only 5 days into being here). Before the tour though a select few had to go to the US embassy for paperwork, lucky me got to be one of them! So I had to suck up my feeling sick and get through it. Then after terrible Bangkok traffic there and back, we had to go to our course training, then straight from there to lunch and the Grand Palace.
Pictures truly do not capture the beauty of the buildings. Made with real gold and jewels, it is the most impeccable building I have ever seen. After the tour, our nice buses were stuck in traffic that was at a dead stop on the opposite side of the road. Finally, after waiting for an hour and a half the leaders said we could find our own way back. We definitely over-payed for a tuk tuk to the hotel (I have to get better at haggling) but it was worth it after sitting around feeling disgusting and dripping sweat for the last hour. We had about 20 mins. to get ready for the dinner cruise, luckily I was feeling better by now and am pretty sure I was just dehydrated. Then we boarded the boat and enjoyed dinner, karaoke, and dancing and gorgeous views of Bangkok from the river.
The next day we met our first Thai students for a mock lesson, which was interesting to see the differences in their mannerisms compared to American students. For one, they are extremely competitive so much so that if they saw someone else was going to win they just gave up. They also have the most energy I have seen from a group of students, especially the boys who were constantly jumping and running and being silly. I also found out that when Thai students learn to shake hands (they normally wai where they put their hands together and bow) they think it is the funniest thing in the whole world. They did it to everyone of us while laughing really hard.
Anyways, after that we left for an excursion to Kanchanaburi to walk a bridge that was built by hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war. The experience and views were breathtaking. Then we had a nice and relaxing dinner on a boat with great sights of the mountains, I will definitely be going back to this province to find some waterfalls. And the next day we were whisked away by our coordinators and brought to all different areas of the country. It still hasn't really set in that I am here for an entire year.
**I also went into this placement thinking I will only be teaching 3rd and 4th graders, and found out when I met my coordinators that I will now be teaching 3rd, kindergarten, and advanced (MEP) 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. Mai pen rai!**
The Grand Palace
My first tuk tuk ride, and even though we over payed he got us there super fast. Worth it.
Our group for the Grand Palace tour (disregard my awkardness).