First Month Teaching in Surat Thani, Thailand

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Flag of Thailand  , Surat Thani,
Monday, October 25, 2010

I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand on the 1st of September not knowing what to expect.  I made a last minute decision to come to Thailand only a week before when I got a call from my school director asking me to come ASAP.  My director, an English woman named Emma, informed me that one of the teachers had a job offer from England that was simply too good to pass up.  I I was later informed by other teachers that the ex-teacher (an English girl)  had some issues with the school and decided to pack up all her things and leave without telling anyone.  

After an uneventful night in Bangkok, I arrived in Surat Thani to begin teaching. I was greeted at the airport by a Thai man and a young Thai girl.  The man spoke little English, so my communication was limited to the Thai girl.  She informed me that they worked for the Language (company my school is in contract with) and they were going to take me to my house.  After driving through Surat for about an hour, I realized that my what I read about the city on Wikipedia, was completely out of date.  I pictured Surat Thani to be a small tourism-driven town of about 125,000 people, when in fact it was quite the opposite.  Now, Surat Thani has close to half a million people, and hardly any of them are tourists. The city itself is nothing great, very industrial and plain.  On a positive note, it is very traditional, and if you are coming to Thailand to experience an authentic Thai city, Surat Thani is just that.  There are hundred of road side shops that line the streets, which sell absolutely anything you can think of. 

My house is very nice for Thai standards.  It has 2 decent sized bedrooms, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and a living room. The outside of the house is the highlight, as it has a surrounding fence, sliding gate, Buddhist shrine, fish pond, and a nice sized setting area (pictures are posted on my Facebook page and webshots account).  The area I live in is about 20 minutes from the city center and school I teach at.  For this reason, I have been renting a motorbike, and am purchasing a bike from a teacher in the next couple of weeks.  

Teaching has been going well. When I arrived, we were towards the end of the term, so I was immediately put to work with preparing finals and lesson plans.  I chose to come to Thailand to teach because I wanted to experience living in Thailand, not because I particularly liked teaching.  I figured that I would have a bit of difficulty in the beginning.  This was not the case, I have found teaching English, particularly to younger students, to be both fun and rewarding.  There is no greater feeling then to be greeted by a bunch of your students, all screaming "teacher Shane" and rushing to give you a hug.  I got in a motorbike crash on Koh Samui a few weeks ago (nothing serious) and had some pretty nasty scars to show from it.  Of course, this does not go unnoticed with 6 year olds for more then about ten seconds.  I informed my class that I was mauled by a grizzly bear in America a few weeks before I came to Thailand.  The class grew silent and mouths began to drop.  Within seconds, I was being bombarded with question upon question.  

Like most people, I have had my struggles in Thailand as well.  I have never lived in a country so different then my own.  Little things that we don't think twice about in America have such a strong effect on my everyday life.  The first words I learned in Thailand were "hello", "thank you", and "not spicy".  Getting used to the culinary differences took some time for me.  I am used to a bit of variety in my diet, and in Thailand, its rice with a cover dish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  If you ask for something a little bit spicy, chances are its going to be blistering hot.  There are so many little pieces of information that are so important for everyday life in Thailand.  

I have a two week break from teaching in the beginning of October, and plan to head to Bangkok and northern Thailand.  I will add another journal entry as soon as I come back. 

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