I sort of, kind of have this internet thing figured out so now I can hopefully update this more frequently! I wrote this a week ago but this is the first time I have had reliable internet to actually post it…
Saying a lot has happened in a week is a bit of an understatement. I arrived safely in Thailand with no mishaps. Though, on the flight from Chicago to Seattle, when we were landing at Seattle there was weather and the plane missed the runway and had to take off again. It was a little worrying, but the pilot came on the speaker and told us not to worry that they were going to try another approach and everything was perfectly safe. Every flight I took, I met more and more people from CIEE. It was interesting you could tell who was part of CIEE just by looking at them. Almost as if we all have something in common that recognizes it in each other. On the Taipei to Bangkok flight, I watched Inside Out (such a cute movie!) and tried really hard not to cry on the plane because that is not how I wanted to start off orientation. If you have seen it, you know exactly what I am talking about.
After arriving at our hotel, we checked in and I ended up wandering the streets of Bangkok for a bit with some other teachers. The city is just like I remembered it, big. Jet lag was taking its toll and we didn’t wander for very long. We checked out the hotel swimming pool and ended up going swimming before turning in early because the rest of the week was very busy. I was glad I wore my compression socks on the flights. Not only are they super cute but they prevented my ankles swelling up like many of my fellow teachers did.
Wednesday was our first day at orientation. Almost every day we had lessons in Thai and the Classroom. After our lessons we had a welcome ceremony. We received white string bracelets, they look similar to friendship bracelets. We are supposed to wear them until they fall off; cutting them is bad luck. The bracelets are blessings for courage and luck and happiness during our time in Thailand. Later that evening, I wandered around Bangkok again with some of the people I met at orientation. We got lost and on a random little street we found some of the best chicken fried rice I have ever eaten.
My first lesson in Thai, I was so overwhelmed. Our teacher spoke so fast and went through the PowerPoint so quickly; I was struggling to keep up. My language learning skills are slow, I take language slowly and she was moving way too fast for me. But I did learn a few useful things during that lesson. I learned many useful things. Unfortunately, I have not retained most of what we learned. I can say “hello,” “thank you,” “no spice,” and “no worries.” When the rubber met the road, I really learned the most, like eating with a spoon and fork, using the fork to push food on to your spoon. It’s one thing to learn in class and another thing to actually do it. I still wei incorrectly even though we practiced in class.
The classroom lessons were very useful as well. The teacher gave us a great first lesson I am going to use in my first lessons. I think most people are going to use it as well. From these lessons I learned about the Thai classroom. We went over problems that the Thai students will have, what to expect when you first enter the classroom, and games and sample lessons to do in the class. I feel a bit more prepared for class, but still nervous.
Thursday was field trip day. We went to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. I have been there before while I was teaching in China. Went wandering around again with some other teachers and we stumbled across another temple; I didn’t go in, I was hot and needed to sit in the shade for a bit. I sat next to a tourist from Boston. We got to talking and I really marvel at how traveling creates a shared experience. He told me about his travels, I told him about mine, and we swapped places to go next. If I was back in the States, I would most likely not talk to a random person sitting next to me on a bench. After the ancient temples we went to a floating market which was a huge tourist trap but it was one of the coolest tourist traps I have seen. It was literally a floating market, there were vendors on boats and you walked along a pier. I also high fived an elephant. Tourists were talking elephant rides on the streets, when they went past us I stuck out my hand and the elephant touched it with its trunk.
Friday was more lessons. That evening a bunch of us went to a sky bar in Bangkok. We crammed into a taxi and took it into a city. I have never been to a sky bar before and if you have never been, I recommend it. We were at the top of a hotel with a view of Bangkok, the city was lit up and it was beautiful. I had a Thai mojito, which was similar to a regular mojito just without the mint, there was a substitute leafy thing instead. It looked as if there was a salad at the bottom of my drink; it was good. I felt very high class sitting at this sky bar sipping a fancy drink with Bangkok spread out before me.
Saturday was pretty low key. We got out of classes early so some of us went to get Thai cell phones. We went to a bargain mall to get used cell phones. Writing that makes it sound risky and sketchy, but really it was just overwhelming. We all got our phones successfully and wandered around the rest of the mall. The mall was huge! It was seven floors with a movie theater and bowling alley, you could easily get lost in it. I went off looking for a sim card for my new cell phone and a Thai guy started flirting with me. I was so flustered that I abandoned my search.
Sunday was our field trip to the Grand Palace. It was amazing! And hot, the sun was brutal, I was glad to have my water. The architecture blew me away. The royal family designed many of the buildings. The only U.S. president to be invited to stay at the royal guesthouse was Bill Clinton. Do you think they will invite Hillary if she is elected? Our tour guide asked me if I was old enough to be teaching. She also had difficulty pronouncing the name of my school and just gave up trying. You know it’s difficult when a native speaker cannot even pronounce it. That evening was our river cruise. My roommate and I needed a snack so we went to the street corner and got grilled corn from a street vendor. It was delicious, sweet corn with a hint of the smoky flavoring. For the river cruise, we all got on this big boat, ate, danced, and floated along the river. It was a lot of fun and a great last night.
Monday was our last day at orientation. Before meeting our coordinators, you could feel everyone’s tension and nervousness. We were all stiff, jittery, and talking way too fast. My coordinator gave me a hug when she welcomed me to Thailand and the school. The ride to Chon Buri was a pleasant ride. The scenery was beautiful. When we arrived in the Chon Buri providence, there were mountains. Not really mountain mountains but really big hill mountains. We stopped at my new apartment to drop off my luggage. The apartment is a bedroom with a bed, closet, desk, and nightstand. My bathroom is so small that the shower is in the toilet. But it’s a cute place. There is a balcony with a mountain view so I can’t complain. The only problem is I start school tomorrow!