Friday, November 20, 2009

Phuket Living

Since I haven’t moved locations, I want to really write about ways of life here, what I am adapting to, and who Thai people are.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Infamous Job Search

Wow a lot has happened in the last two weeks! We finished up our program in Pattaya, Thailand, got our TESOL certificates and got the heck out of there!
            Not to say that Pattaya is the only place in SE Asia with gross old white men walking around with young Thai girls but… well, we weren’t sad to leave it! About half of our group of 9 went straight to Bangkok. Myself and two other girls stayed with one of their friends in Bangkok. He had just been in a huge motorbike accident and had nasty scrapes all over and was walking with a limp; also, when we got there he had no water or electricity. Luckily it came back on that night; our classmates who went to Vietnam taught a couple of their practice classes by candlelight!
Oil TattooSo this guy and his roommate both had these tattoos done with bamboo by monks at a temple not far from Bangkok. The girls had been looking forward to doing this too so we woke up early the next morning and ventured out for this magical temple. It was a beautiful temple and known for giving these tattoos yet we were the only foreigners there (awesome!). I got an oil tattoo just for the experience. You don’t pick what you want or where you want it, it is up to the monk. Somehow though, you trust anything they do. So I got a scroll done on the back of my shoulder. He put gold on it and said some Buddhist prayers and then it was up to me what to give to him. I gave him 100 baht which is about 3 dollars and what everyone else gives. 
We walked around to the different monks in different rooms and buildings, all of whom had groups of Thai people sitting around them to get tattoos. It was fun to explore the temple which seemed like an active monastery. It was some sort of holiday and they had a he free meal so we partook in that too! And everyone washed their own dish in a giant tub! The girls finally chose a monk to do their tattoos. They both got a 9 column temple on the top center of their backs. This is usually the tattoo the monk will give if you don’t have any yet, after that the monks really just surprise you. We checked out Khaosan Road in Bangkok that night which is the backpacker district and very touristy.
I headed out of Bangkok the next evening, figuring I would be back sometime to see the rest of the sights. I had a job offer about 8 hours south of Bangkok so I took an overnight train down to Suratthani. The small town was on a river about an hour from the beach, the school was nice, and they provided accommodations for teachers but I wasn’t feelin it so I kept going south. I had a job offer in another small town called Phang Nga Town where they also showed me around town and the school. Phang Nga had gorgeous mountains and cliffs surrounding it and is close to a lagoon area where you can kayak in caves but still an hour from the beach and only 8 foreigners in the whole town. So I kept moving south!
Next I got here to Phuket and met back up with a classmate. Phuket (pronounced poo-ket) is a big island only separated from the rest of Thailand by a short bridge but an island nonetheless. There are a few towns on it so choosing where to stay and then getting to the schools to turn in applications was a bit difficult. The West coast of Phuket was hit by a big tsunami in 2004 but has recovered quickly and become even more touristy than before. The main tourist town on the West coast is expensive and taxis are more expensive here but getting a place in one of the other gorgeous towns and getting your own moto is completely affordable. Teaching salaries here are about 30,000 baht per month and rent is 4-8,000 baht per month. The way I see it I’m living on a tropical island so when I’m not working I’m already right where I want to be! The first few days we were here there were about 3,000 US Marines here so a lot of bars and clubs had banners welcoming them and needless to say, there were “jarheads” walking around everywhere. I actually talked to a couple who were stationed in San Diego.
The locals’ morning commute here is very interesting. There is a frame of about exactly half an hour where there is traffic. Pick up trucks will go by jam packed with people in the back going to the same jobsite, maybe fishing on the river or working in a lumberyard. Then if you think those are a sight to see, wait till you see the giant trucks go by with at least 100 people standing like sardines in the back, all dressed alike in what looks like scrubs. These people are going to construction sites of resorts. Talk about a carpool!
There was a celebration on Monday night all over Thailand called Loi Krathong which takes place at the local river, lake or ocean. I went down to the beach with some Argentinean travelers and we watched all the lanterns in hot air balloon-like forms get launched in the air, causing it to look like an array of Christmas lights in the sky as well as the candles on tiny banana leaf boats float off on the ocean. Most holidays seem to be similar to this! They would be nothing without exact replication of the traditions. I thought to myself how a holiday involving launching things into the sky and water would not go over well at home due to pollution and was surprised the next day to see people combing the waters, picking up the many lanterns that had fallen out of the sky. I hadn’t realized that they wouldn’t go far. Also on the beach at night are men pulling big nets out of the water and setting them on the beach while they pick the crabs out of them. I was jogging by one night when they did this and saw a bunch of small fish flopping around too; it was kind of funny.
I have been in Internet cafĂ©’s a lot doing the job search since I left my first job. There are always Thai girls in there video chatting with creepy old white men. Its really sad because they will be talking about their families and struggles in extremely broken English and I think the guys just send them money. There are many bi-racial families here, 99.9% being a Thai wife and a white husband. It’s interesting because Thai children are very disciplined and many can be put in a classroom but when they are raised even half differently, they are little rascals!
           About my first job, I worked for 3 days at a small preschool. One English teacher started the same day as me and the other one had been there 2 months and had put in her 2 weeks. The other new girl lasted 2 days and then she got yelled at for one thing or another that we were never instructed on. They were also training a new Thai secretary starting Monday and she only lasted 2 days. The class I had was 4-6 year olds and had 5 teachers in the last 6 weeks. When I showed up my first day they were like here is the breakdown of the classes you teach and right then was English phonetics… And then later there were 30 minutes designated for recognizing colors and 30 minutes for tracing shapes and so forth with a repeating weekly schedule. First of all I don’t think kids should be sitting at desks all day until they are 5-6 and this class was the highest of 3 preschool classes. I believe they need more recess and independent work and just general exposure to the language. They need to learn respect and responsibility through something like Montessori curriculum which is age appropriate! Most of them spoke English except for a new boy from Korea and a new girl from Switzerland. The students and the Thai teachers mostly ignored them saying they can’t do it. The Swiss girl took a special liking to me because I took the time to help her and make sure she understood instead of ignoring her like the Thai teachers did. When these kids are without an English teacher they are only exposed to the poor English spoken by all the Thai “nannies.” Some of them didn’t even recognize their names and certain words said correctly. And they had already been taught the wrong words to some English songs. One teacher before me had taught them some form of a sign language alphabet that was definitely not American Sign Language so I didn’t know what to do with that… And after talking to the other English teacher there I found out that the couple who ran the place had lied to me about a few things, yelled at staff on a regular basis and he was possibly an alcoholic and wasn’t allowed back in his home country which is either Holland or USA, depending on who you believe. I would create a lesson but the Thai teacher in my room would just say no you need to do this now, even though I had good plans! She would say this kid can’t do that, this kid can’t work alone, this kid can’t work in partners, and so on. Like things were the way they were permanently. I had to spend an hour a day in the nursery where the kids ran around like wild and yelled and hit and were hit my teachers. I was expected to have a lesson plan in this room too… The Thai nannies would make fun of kids, let a few of the older ones box (since one was actually taking boxing lessons), hit them, and say inappropriate things to them that they will certainly repeat. I realized maybe I should have thought more about how I would react in a child care situation that would contradict my beliefs. The other English teacher at the school said that this place was atypical around here since she has been in Thailand about a year. Apparently the nannies were illiterate in Thai too. Anyway, job interview on Monday for older kids so until then… well.. I live at the beach !
Oh and it has now been 6 weeks that I have been a vegetarian. I might be tempted to eat meat at home but the thing is I'm really not here. I even found an Indian restaurant with a massive vegetarian menu and had an amazing meal; its incredible what you can make without meat. Oh and also haven't worn pants or sleeves or blow dryed my hair in 6 weeks haha.