Tag Archives: Thailand

The Sun, The Sand, The Sea…

It’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve been a bit busy these last couple of weeks. The last one was pretty long though, so I figured I’d wait a bit till I asked you all to read another. 

Children in traditional costumes of respective ASEAN countries

So unfortunately I didn’t make it to the beach at Songkhla a few weeks ago – the camp was pretty intense, and in the end it turned out that there just wasn’t time. We had to wake up at about 6am, and worked till about 9. While parts of it were undoubtedly fun, most of the kids were great to teach (their English being better than your average Thai student), and the ASEAN cultural show at the end was truly amazing, the song and dance that accompanied every new activity started to grate pretty fast. And I don’t just mean that there was a lot of hassle involved. I mean there was a literal song and dance, sometimes two or three, that occurred before we could move onto whatever else was planned next. There is, somewhere, video evidence of me taking part in this, which I sincerely hope never sees the light of day. We were also expected to come up with 3 hours of activities and lessons within about 15 mins, which was a bit outrageous to say the least. But in my short time in Thailand I’ve already learned not to expect any prior warning of things like lesson cancellations or room changes, so I can’t say this really surprised me or phased me too much.

The Seven Dwarves practicing their lines

For the most part I am actually enjoying teaching. The boys in the school love the fact that I play football (I have been likened to both Messi AND Ronaldo, and I’ve even started bringing kit to school on Mondays and Thursdays), and I’ll never get tired of being told I’m “perfect” by the girls. At the ASEAN camp I actually played guitar while a couple of the Thai girls, but when we started trying to find English songs, it became quickly apparent that we had wildly differing tastes. The songs they wanted to sing were truly terrible ballads – think Robbie Williams album filler – and even when I offered to compromise on ‘Better Together’ by Jack Johnson or ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz, they would not agree to anything else. So I have begun a campaign to introduce some not horrendous songs into the repertoire at my school. First up was ‘You Are My Sunshine’, which actually went pretty well, even if it did take ages to get Thai students to start counting in 4 and not in 3. Next up are ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘If I were a Boy’ – I’ll probably have to sing one of these myself at some point, god help us, so I’m definitely going to need to find somewhere to practice.

‘You Are My Sunshine’ as pictures!

While these ‘extra curricular’ activities are going well and are a lot of fun, I also think I’m definitely becoming a better teacher. Or at least I’m better at thinking up lesson plans that actually work in the class. I have started to prepare worksheets and to include activities that I can easily monitor, and do not allow half the class to zone-out, which happened with a couple of my overly-ambitious lesson plans in the first couple of weeks. I have to admit that I would probably fail any PGCE/TEFL/CELTA qualification if I performed one of my lessons for assessment, but then the techniques encouraged by those courses is not designed for classes of 40+ teenage Thai kids who barely speak a word of English. While I’m well aware that I could do better, I do think I’m doing OK so far, and according to another teacher, the kids do actually remember what I teach them!

Nearly all the children I teach are actually quite nice, and while their level of English can be frustrating, there are very few unpleasant children in the school. However, I am unfortunate in that I do teach one class recognised throughout the staff body as a horrible one to teach. My first lesson with this class was the only time that anyone has deliberately tried to make me uncomfortable or physically intimidate me in Thailand. But given the boys in question are in a low set in a school that is not particularly good even by Thai standards, I find it hard to get worked up about what they think of me. And although it’s early days just yet, they do seem to have realised that I’m not particularly bothered by their attempts to weird me out, and they’ve started to get on quietly with their business of sitting in the back of the class not doing anything. As long as they don’t interrupt me or the rest of the class I don’t mind, and they are welcome to get involved in the lesson whenever they want. It’s an arrangement which I guess works for all of us.

Holiday Project!

There is another class that I have found difficult to teach, but not because of any malice on behalf of the students (in fact I quite enjoy teaching this lot). Thai boys are very affectionate towards each other, and will quite happily spend an afternoon with their arms round each other or lying with their head in another’s lap – Thailand’s attitude towards sexuality and gender is pretty well documented elsewhere, so I don’t really need to go into any great depth – and I really have no problem with it. If anything, I think it’s pretty cool that boys in Thailand can express their affection for each other in such a way without it necessarily being ‘gay’ to do so. But I have to admit that when the boys will not do any work or sit still because they are too busy stroking each other, I do come close to asking my Thai assistant to ‘tell the boys to keep their hands to themselves for just half an hour’, something I never thought I’d have to say in the class room.

Outside of work, I am gradually settling into life in Hat Yai. Slowly, I am accumulating a circle of friends, although at times it can still be pretty lonely and a bit boring. But the same was true of my first couple of months in Holland, and my exchange year ended up being the best year of my life so far, so I’m not too worried about this just yet – I know from experience not to expect everything to be perfect straight away when you move away from your friends and family. While I don’t particularly like being the ‘new guy’, (who does?) it’s just something I’ll have to deal with. But I do now have a gym to go to, I get the odd game of football, and I have even started to take advantage of the 50m swimming pool just down the road. And there is always the opportunity to go out every Friday or Saturday if I want to take it – at the moment I’m on one night a week, but as I get used to waking up at 6 o’clock every morning I might graduate to two.

Buddha statue overlooking Hat Yai

Anyway, that’s all for now. I guess I’ll try and make my next post after the three day weekend or the 8-10 December, by which time I should have done a ‘visa run’ to Malaysia and actually made it to a beach.

Hope you’re all well, and thanks for the kind messages saying you actually enjoy reading this thing!

Horsinho xxx

Gap Yah

At the age of 24, having just completed my master’s degree and gained a job at one of the Big 4 in a completely unrelated field, I find myself with approximately 1 year to kill – a gap year, I guess, although like any sensible young(ish) British person these days, I am understandably reluctant to use the phrase.

What to do with this year? Well originally, my plan was to spend it in my home town of Hereford, working some shitty office job, playing football on the weekends and probably going out every so often with my friends that are still around, in an attempt to save a bit of money before I moved to London. However, one day of job searching in Hereford indicated that even finding a basic admin job would be difficult, and I found myself caring less and less about playing football. Living at home, claiming job seeker’s support and not even making Bartestree FC’s first team was not doing much for my chances of getting laid either (and I need all the help I can get), so if we’re being totally honest, there was very little reason for me to stay in Hereford, and just about every reason to get out. I could have just worked in London or something for a year, but I wouldn’t have saved much money, and it seemed like a shame to waste this year just ‘surviving’ when I could use it to do something exciting, live somewhere warm and maybe even learn a new language. And, well, #yolo.

So my attention turned to teaching abroad. Having no money for travelling, I needed to find a way of supporting myself, and this appeared to be the easiest/best way – my uncle has done it and so have some of my friends, and they have all be successful at it and loved doing it. I myself have done a little bit of teaching, and spent last summer coaching football in the USA, and while there are obvious differences, I nonetheless know that I am fairly confident working with children and presenting in front of a large group of people.

Initially, I wanted to go to South America, but it seemed to be too expensive and too hard to make a decent living as a teacher, especially with only limited experience in the classroom. It also emerged that in many places, they are very keen on a 1 year contract, a commitment I am unable to make. It made sense to turn my attention to a place where working arrangements are a little more ‘informal’, so I started to research teaching in Thailand, where my uncle taught for years. It seemed that as long as I got myself an English teaching qualification, then combined with my master’s degree and experience as a football coach, I would have no problem finding work (something which has only been reinforced by the feedback I have received to my somewhat speculative online applications). Sure, I probably wouldn’t learn much of the language, but the pay was enough that I could live a reasonable quality of life, and judging from friend’s pictures, all I’d be doing was attending the odd flag raising ceremony and hanging out on the beach. Sounds pretty decent.

With regards to where in Thailand I want to live, I’ve been told to steer clear of teaching in Bangkok and Chang Mai, or any of the other major tourist areas, as the cost of living is far more expensive. However, I am going on my own, so I don’t want to be the only English speaker in the middle of nowhere. As such it seems that the south of Thailand, with cities such as Hat Yai and Songkhla, would be ideal. It has some of the biggest cities in Thailand (according to Wikipedia), but the general cost of living is (apparently) cheaper than in many other areas. This may be a reflection of some of the Muslim separatist terrorist attacks that have occurred in the region in the last decade or so, but online testimonies of people who live in the region suggest that this only becomes serious risk further south, so I’m not too worried about it.

Whilst deciding on where I wanted to go, I set about arming myself with a 120-hour TEFL certificate. It was pretty simple, and I must have completed it in close to record time (just over two weeks), having spent nowhere near 120 hours working for it. I also began applying for jobs advertised online. So far, I have nearly been hired as a full-time sports coach and English teacher at East Thailand’s top technological university. I have an offer to work in a school in the south in Phatthalung (the lonely planet guide doesn’t even have an index reference for this place, so I’m a bit apprehensive to say the least), and I got a fairly random email from an agency I don’t really remember applying to asking me what sort of teaching position I wanted in Thailand. If none of these work out, I’ll just try to find work once I get to Thailand.

This has all happened very quickly, which is reflected in the fact that I only got my visa sorted this morning, and will need to get my last hep B jab in Thailand. On Monday, I fly to Bangkok. I then have a flight booked straight on down to Hat Yai, arriving Tuesday evening. Everything seems pretty positive at the moment, especially in terms of finding work. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having some nerves. While I have lived in another country before (The Netherlands), and have worked in the USA, in each case I was in a country where the level of English was much better than it will be in Thailand (insert lazy joke about US intelligence here). I was also given a great deal of support by the universities I was studying at and the company I was working for. In this case, I have never been to Asia before, let alone Thailand. The general level of English will be quite low, and I will have to adjust to the food/culture/and environment as I also try to earn a living. As things stand, I have no job or accommodation sorted. There might not be too many people who can help me should things go wrong. Basically, I am on my own – everyone I know who has done this before has gone with friends/a partner, or has at least saved up quite a bit of money before hand. But I guess that is what makes this a bit of an adventure – I am just packing my bags and going. And is it true that I can’t teach in a vest, shorts, and flip flops? Will I really have to be clean shaven all the time? Most importantly, will I be able to go to the gym?

I guess I’ll be able to start to answer these questions next time I post. But I think it’s worth making one last point, to answer a question I’m sure someone will ask. One of the benefits of selling out is that I will be able to repay the money people lend to me, so I have had my flights and TEFL etc paid by my parents – there’s no point denying this, and if I think it’s important that before I start complaining about living and adjusting to life in another continent, I acknowledge that not everyone has this opportunity.

Horsinho xx