Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beginning of Thailand

We started our journey from Cambodia to Thailand on a large bus.
At the border we had to get out and go through customs. On the immediate other side of the border, the buildings were bigger and nicer and they stopped accepting American money; fewer people made efforts to speak English as well. From the border we got into a van which fit my Thailand classmates and I perfectly with all our luggage. About an hour into Thailand they pull in to a van station and tell us to get into a different van, apparently this one can't go any further because it belongs to a different company. This new van has enough seats but no where near enough space for our bags. This is the biggest van they have but they ensure us our luggage can travel in a different van. Hell no, we say and we pack ourselves into the van with luggage up to our ears. We get to our destination, Pattaya, and they take us to a station instead of our housing where we have to take a baht bus. A baht bus is a pick up truck with 2 long benches in the back on either side and a roof, kind of like a tuk tuk but they function as public transportation with routes. This one takes us directly to our housing. We thought it was a hilarious day, which was 14 hours by the way, since our transportation kept getting more ridiculous.
Pattaya has one of the largest and most notorious sex industries in the world which makes it a bit unfortunate that the training center is here. There is a lot of Western feel here and tons of old white guys walking around with young Thai girls. Right now the whole town seems to have pink eye and The beach is kind of dirty, not clear the way it is down south but we took a ferry to an island for the day on Sunday. The beach was great but then a huuuge thunderstorm hit which was awesome to watch but when it didn't die down much we eventually had to get soaking wet to get on a boat back to Pattaya. Fun.
On Monday we were more or less thrown into a classroom to start practice teaching. We are lucky to be finishing our course right when the school year starts and schools are hiring but since it is summer break right now, our practice classes are limited. A classmate and I were assigned a class of thirteen 3-5 year olds at a private kindergarten where most kids know English and a few are white. We hadn't observed any teaching yet and we were trained to cater more towards older people. On Monday we had them for 3.5 hours. It was exhausting. Luckily the last couple days we only had them about 90 minutes because they have other lessons they can't miss. Yesterday, we watched their Chinese lesson followed by a Thai dance lesson. What brilliant kids! However I am amazed that kids so young are in a classroom with lessons and no toys for them to play with individually. We are racking our brains at night coming up with tons of games, songs, lessons, and crafts for these short attention spanned little kids yet when you go and teach a lesson it is like delivering a speech: you find that what you had planned was executed in half the time; improvising is a great learning experience too!
Today was the third day and I think it keeps getting easier. Although being thrown in is a big challenge, I think it is a surefire way to get better quickly. We dug through their supplies and searched all over the internet for ideas. I actually enjoyed being reminded of many songs from my childhood that I had long forgotten. The girl I am co-teaching with is from England and has a very thick accent so it is interesting for me to observe what we say and spell differently. Today she said she had never seen airplane spelled the way I wrote it on the board haha. And the best thing is we know all these children songs with the same tune but we know slightly different words to them. We sing them at night to collaborate and it is hilarious how many times we have discovered this. I don't think she wants to teach this age and I didn't either after the first day. As it gets easier though and I have access to more resources I think I might stay with this age.
In the afternoon, we take Thai classes. In addition to learning the Native language here, this is very beneficial to see the methods we learned used on people who DON'T already speak that language (us). This is very necessary since we practiced methods is our class on other English speakers which was obnoxiously easy and silly. This class shows that you can work on 3 basic questions for 90 minutes and several exercises and still not know them by heart. Teaching beginners is easy because your material is very short. The switch from Germanic or Romantic languages to Asian languages is very difficult because Asian languages are tonal. Changing the tone of a word changes the meaning instead of the emphasis. "Mai" has about 5 different tones and meanings. When beginning English learners speak and it isn't perfect we can often understand what they mean. If we say something close in Thai it means something else and they look at you like they don't even know what you could be trying to say. I am usually very shy about using languages I am learning with locals but I have been forcing myself to say "khop khun, ka" (Thank you) as much as possible. (Boys say "khop khun, krab"). We had to ask a couple people their names and where they come from as homework and I asked one of the ladies here at the hostel. In class we shared their names and when I told my teacher the name TookaTa she looked at me and was like oh, that means doll.... And we were like oh thats why in English she goes by Barbie! Neat! And today at kindergarten I recognized when the teacher was counting to three! I wish learning a language was as easy for us as it is for 4 year olds!

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