Surviving the First Week

Wednesday morning I was running late to school, I was busy dealing with the tiny ants in my apartment. More seem to be coming in and I still do not know where they are coming from. I quickly rushed to school, I had not gotten more than a block when a car honked at me and pulled up beside me. My landlord and his wife gave me a ride to school so I ended up getting to school early! Today is a Buddhist holiday, one of my coworkers brought in sticky rice with bananas his grandmother made. They were good. Wednesdays I have two classes, they are lower level classes with not that many students in them. I have not yet had a class with the anticipated 40 students in them. Wednesday also seems to be uniform day; the students are wearing their scout uniforms instead of their regular uniforms.

The latest update on the immigration saga: we brought the evidence to the immigration office and they called the hotel to verify I was staying there. However, the hotel says they have lost my information. We have to go back to the immigration office again later to try to settle this. Without registering, I cannot apply for my Thailand teaching license, or my work permit, or extend my visa. Which means my stay in Thailand could be cut short.This happened in China too, except that time we were taken to the police station. As with that situation, everything worked out and I trust this will work out too.

I went to my second class of the day only to find an empty classroom. I asked the teacher who was there before me where all the students were. Her English was not very good but we were able to piece together an answer. The students are preparing for their university entrance exams so they are not at school this week. On my way out there were some students in the hallway, one of them had a cat. He was just casually standing in the hall holding a cat. I assume it was one of those “only in Thailand” moments.

The school where I have been placed is the equivalent of grades 7-12. All the students wear uniforms. There are nine 50-minute class periods throughout the day. There are no passing periods and no bells. The end of class is when the teacher decides, so students will wander into class late all the time. Another interesting point, students cannot fail. They are not allowed to receive a failing grade, the lowest they can receive is a 50. It really puts an interesting twist on education.

There is a restaurant near my apartment where the owner, Henry, speaks English. I went there for dinner because my coworkers told me the food is good, but he was just closing up. I stopped by a street vendor and had delicious chicken instead. On my way back to my apartment, I went to the Tesco Lotus Express (a little convenience store) to do my shopping. When I was getting drinking water (because you cannot drink the tap water, it is safe to brush your teeth with and shower in but not really safe to drink) I accidentally knocked a bottle a strange green liquid off the shelf. It shattered and went everywhere. I apologized profusely to the employee who came to clean it up; she said “mai pen rai.” Mai pen rai is the equivalent of Hakuna Matata, or no worries, do not worry about it. Miss the bus and late to work? Mai pen rai.

Back in my apartment, I noticed that the ants got worse. There was an obvious trail of ants across my room. What I really wanted to do was sit down and cry; instead, I marched back to the Tesco Lotus Express and bought one of those ant poison traps. I marched back to my apartment and set it up. I went on my balcony to watch the sunset and bumped into one of my coworkers on her balcony. Apparently, we all live in the same building. She confessed that she is shy and does not like to speak a lot, and she is lonely and missing her family in the Philippines. I am glad I am not the only one with those feelings. I spent the rest of the evening reading my guidebook about all the scuba diving in Thailand.

Thursday morning I woke up and noticed a significantly less number of ants in my apartment, only a few lost stragglers. It made me feel super self-sufficient; I can solve problems on my own! On my way to school, the crossing guard asked me if I wanted to ride his motorbike to school, I declined. This conversation was all mimed; I am glad I went to China and became fluent in mime. At breakfast, the breakfast woman taught me to say rice, eggs, and cut up chicken (as opposed to a whole piece of chicken). I think I like the breakfast woman, besides the fact that she has breakfast. Thursdays are sports days, so all the students wear rainbow shirts, the teachers all wear green shirts. Except me, I have not gotten the green shirt yet. During the morning ceremony, there was a stray dog wandering around among the students and the students just ignored it, which made me think this was a normal occurrence. Again, only in Thailand.

Later, I helped M2 (8th grade) carve pumpkins. They were little Thai pumpkins, not the big orange pumpkins. The pumpkins turned out really cute and the students were super proud of their Jack-o-Lanterns. Halloween is sort of a holiday here, not a big holiday like in America, but the students are familiar with it. I helped M2 decorate their classroom too. These students handle scissors better than I do. I felt like a preschooler trying out scissors for the first time and making a mess, as they were cutting out bats and spiders and witches. Their classroom looked awesome; I want them to decorate for my Halloween festivities every year.

I only had to teach two classes today, since M6 does not have to come to school this week, but they were back-to-back classes. The first one was M1 (7th grade), and they were awful! Students everywhere, it was like being in China again. I have them three times a week, it is not a one and done type of deal; I do not know what to do with them. It was their last class of the day so hopefully that is why they were so rowdy. The next class was M4 (10th grade), there were ten students in the class. They were laid back and had a great sense of humor. For dinner I successfully made it to Henry’s restaurant, the food was good, no complaints here. I am the same age as his daughter who is at university. I had another problem with the shower, the water mysteriously turned off. I tried the water from the sink, the sink coughed up brown dirty water. That is why they say not to drink the tap water, and then the shower went back on and the tap ran clear. In addition, I can attest the ants are gone! (Knock on wood; do not want to jinx it!)

Friday was another day, nice walk to school and learning Thai from the breakfast woman. I learned that every day I have to sign in, which of course I have not been doing since no one told me. I saw M3 three times today and M1 once. The only time I saw M1 silent was when we were playing hangman. A bunch of my M3 students think that English is funny; I asked them why they were learning English and they said English is funny. As part of their Western Culture class, M2 dressed up as zombies and went “trick-or-treating” around our office today. Their costumes were realistic; they frightened one teacher who was not paying attention. I also learned how to use the internet at school and my coordinator gave me directions how to use the bus to get in to Chon Buri.

It was a fairly successful day except my classes just run me over with their chatter and I have no idea how to get them to focus. They seem to focus for all their other teachers, maybe they can sense weakness. I have a lot to learn about this teacher thing.  The shower did it’s turning off randomly trick today too. And I found ants in my bathroom. Not as many as before but they found a new place to enter my apartment, I made a makeshift stopper out of part of a latex glove so hopefully that will stop them. I turned my air conditioning off after my shower since cold shower plus cold room makes for a cold Susan, and within minutes, you could feel the heat seeping into the room. Thailand is hot, and the dry season is coming. I do not know what I am going to do with my weekend, a whole two days to rest, explore, and make lesson plans.

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