I would love to tell you how absolutely perfect and easy this trip has been so far, but I am not trying to glorify anything. So, instead I plan to share both the stresses and the joys in the process of teaching and travelling here.
A festival I was more than thrilled for, but with some hiccups in our travels to Phrae, was told we wouldn't make it back in time. I was a little bummed, but definitely nothing to get upset over. As we traveled on we only had about a half an hour to get to our town when the sun was setting. My hopes were raised within a matter of seconds! Travelling with our two coordinators they told us that we were going to be dropped off at our apartment with half an hour to settle in, and then one coordinator and her husband would pick us up on their mopeds to take us to the festival, but before all of this we would need to stop by the police station "quick". To give you a fast explanation and understanding of the police station visit it was basically an exact replica of the sloth scene from the movie Zootopia; no exaggeration! It pained me to watch. But after that, I was overwhelmingly ready to see the lanterns but had to wait for our coordinator after being dropped off. They then picked us up and took us to a nice Welcome Dinner before the festival. We did end up making it, with every event still going strong. This was my first real experience with needing to accept the "Mai pen rai" mentality (everything will be alright).
Loy Krathong is a festival celebrated to thank the god of waters, so the main event is floating a Krathong (lantern), generally made of banana leaves and flowers, on any body of water; in Phrae they float in the canal and river. Mostly in the northern region of Thailand, it is also custom to float a Chinese lantern in the sky. All-in-all it was a wonderful first evening in my adorable town of Phrae.
I came with a bit more experience in education than a large amount of people at orientation. As great as this may sound, the downfalls were that I came in with a lot more expectations and honestly I got a little too confident with my teaching ability before stepping into a classroom here. I would say that I was far more nervous about the actual act of getting to Thailand than about anything I had to accomplish once I got here.
Reality hit me like a truck when I stepped into the classroom on my first day. I was filled with all of these ideas that I would have resources (not a ton, but some) and that Thai students would be overwhelmingly respectful. I walked in to find a white board and a marker, that was the extent of the resources I had. Even getting copies made, I have to make 100 or more at a time and they could take 2 or more days to get back. If you want it sooner than that you have to use a different machine and pay to use it with your own money. As far as student respect, it does exist, but mostly towards the Thai teachers. They see a foreign teacher walk in and believe they can do whatever they want. Though fortunately, this was not the case with all of my classes, any advanced classes I have had have been extremely well-mannered from the start.
In Thailand they have Thai teachers they call co-teachers. Whenever I heard the term co-teacher I assumed that it was someone I had to split the classroom with 50/50, which I honestly wasn't all that thrilled about. What they actually mean is someone who stays in your class, knows Thai, and is able to discipline and give your students exact directions. The first two weeks I didn't have any co-teachers and trying to control and direct my students was a pain and a half. I just started having co-teachers two days ago, and they are my saving grace!
All-in-all the experience has been challenging, but I know that there will never be a dull moment!
One of my students carries around a beta fish in his backpack. The first time I saw it I thought it might be for observation or experiment for another class, but turns out it's just his pet that he brings to school.