Tuesday (October 27) was my first day of school. Talk about nerves! Not only my first day in a new place but also the first day of school too, the day after orientation with no time to get my bearings or explore my surroundings. When I got up this morning, I found tiny ants in my apartment. I did not even notice them at first until what I thought were specs of dust, started moving. I cannot figure out where they are coming from or how to get rid of them. It is a vexing problem.
The walk to school was a nice walk along the backroads of my town, passing street vendors and whatnot. I passed six coffee shops as well; I want to try all of them. The first group of students I saw said, “Hello teacher, so beautiful!” Seemed like a good start to the day. When I arrived at the English office, there were a bunch of shoes by the door. We were warned beforehand that in some places, you are expected to take your shoes off before entering, and you should watch the people around you and mimic what they do so as not to make a cultural blunder. I made the rookie mistake and took my shoes off too. I walked in the office without shoes only to find out that rule only applies to students, teachers can keep their shoes on.
During the classroom lessons at orientation, we were given a first day lesson or else I would have struggled a lot more. The schedule they gave me was very confusing; I had to figure out the class codes, the class levels, the rooms, and the textbooks. The day started at 8 am with the morning ceremony, apparently, I am the advisor for M4, but I was told I did not have to do anything for that only stand by them during the morning ceremony. I learned how to get breakfast at the cafeteria. One of the women working said she saw me walking to school. This stresses the importance of always acting like a teacher and dressing respectively outside school because people notice.
My first class was okay, not the best, not the worst. It was in building 3. I had no idea how big this school was! There are about 3,000 students in the whole school; there are six buildings, and they are building another one that will be for the English Program. English Program is where the students study English intensively, taking most of their classes in English. The first class was not part of the English Program, just a regular English class. Building 3 is the social studies building; it is an old building with wooden desks and chairs that squeak when the students move. Two of the walls were opened with giant wooden shutters to let air flow through since there was no air conditioning or fans. It got very noisy, one of the walls opened to a hallway and students would pass by during the class, and the other wall opened outside where all the other walls opened and you could hear the other classes going on.
My second class of the day went better than my first class. The students were at a higher level so they could understand and communicate more, these are also students in the English Program, and I am supposed to be their social studies teacher. Before I went to the class, the head of the English Program warned me that these students could be very naughty. It was a “why me” moment. Give all the naughty classes to the foreigner that is a great idea. For being the naughty class, it went really well. They sped through the lesson plan I had so I had to make up activities as I went along. It could have gone a lot worse.
After my second class, I looked at my schedule for my third class of the day, and it was the same students. The second class was a social studies class and this class was an English class. I had 50 minutes to throw a lesson together because I had planned to do the first day lesson with all my classes. On Friday, I will have these students 3 times. I was told that I only have to make five lesson plans a week but if I see the students more than one time a week then I have to make more lesson plans, lots more. We ended up playing a bunch of games because that was all I could think of on the spot. I met a tutor at the school who invited me to church on Sunday. There is a Thai church in Chon Buri city that has a Thai service with English translators.
At the end of the day, my coordinator and I went to the immigration office in Si Racha (yes, like the hot sauce). Since the bombings in Bangkok, all foreigners have to be registered with the immigration office within 24 hours, for every place they stay. Well, the hotel we stayed at for orientation did not register me (I cannot say about the other CIEE teachers, but I had that problem). They wanted proof I had stayed at the hotel in Bangkok; of course, I took all that out of my wallet the night before. I was worried that I was going to get deported. The immigration officer was looking unfriendly which is not common in Thailand, because technically I was here illegally for a week. We worked it out as long as I can prove that I was at the hotel, we will not be fined, and the hotel will be fined for having unregistered foreigners there. My coordinator said the officer might have wanted a bribe. It seems like getting in trouble with immigration is a common theme with my teaching abroad.
In the evening, when I returned to my apartment, I unpacked a bit trying to make my room seem homier. I finally braved the shower. There is no water heater so it was a cold shower; once you get used to it, the cold shower is nice after sweating in the heat all day. Fun fact: the bathroom is so small that the shower is in the toilet so to successfully shower the shower head needs to be pointed towards the sink and you need to stand between the toilet and sink. The bathroom door will not shut either, which is fine since I am the only one living here, good thing I do not have a roommate. In addition, I learned that I brought two bottles of conditioner instead of shampoo and conditioner. A trip to the store is necessary, for shampoo, and for toilet paper.