Two is Better Than One (Second Week)

I woke up Monday morning to a text from my coordinator that there was a pink bicycle waiting for me outside my apartment. I did not ride it to school because my current path to school takes me along a busy street and I would rather not be hit by a car. They drive on the left hand side of the road here; it is taking some getting used to. The school is on the right side of the street so I would have to do a U-turn to get into the school. I am not daring enough to do that. Nevertheless, bicycling around town will be nice; it will be easier to get to the food cart market. I think yesterday was the buffalo racing festival, and I missed it! Several of my students were writing about it.

The weather is suspiciously cool today and it is slightly overcast. I thought the rainy season was over, why the sudden shift of weather? That is not saying I do not like the change, it is just curious. My apartment will just be hot instead of stifling-cannot-walk-barefoot-on-the-floor hot. For lunch, my usual noodle place was closed; this was a surprise to me and several other regulars. I swung by the drink cart instead. Since the man at the drink cart does not speak English and I cannot read or speak Thai we were stuck. Fortunately, there was a woman passing on the street who was able to translate the menu for me. I order a Thai iced tea, or maybe it was Thai iced milk tea? It was a pale orange color and good. I drank it too fast to get a picture of it; I think it was a red tea with about half a can of condensed milk in it poured over ice, so sweet and so delicious, as long as you did not look too closely at the color.

I had two classes in building 3 today. The room I was in was similar to the room before, except this time, there were no desks and chairs, and there was a hole in the floor. When I showed up, my students were not there. I waited ten minutes before they showed up and I had started to wonder if they were coming at all. This was a class of 40 students; I got too excited last week about my smallish class size. They were chaotic. During the class, a girl stood up, screaming, and ran to the other side of the room. The students were all smirking and giggling, something had to be up. Upon closer inspection, a girl had caught a small lizard, put it in a coke bottle, and was threatening to dump it on other students. I had to put the bottle up next to me. While we were doing a speaking exercise, another girl took the bottle with the lizard and chased her classmates around the room with it. I had to take the bottle from her and put it back. All throughout the lesson, students kept trying to take the lizard back, and I was like “I can see you, I am not that blonde.” The second class was not much better it just did not have a lizard. But the students were ten minutes late and there were more than 40 of them.

The woman at the fruit cart and I are on a first name basis now. No big deal or anything. I got watermelon this time and it was as good as the pineapple. Crisp, cool, juicy, and delicious. I cannot wait to try all the fruits she has; I think I will be eating lots of fruit while I am here. By accident today I found the air conditioning instructions, now I actually know how to work the air conditioning, rather than just turning it on and off. Someone who owned my apartment before me was a smoker. My landlord placed small bags of charcoal around the room to absorb the smell, it kind of worked. I moved one of them today and found the manual. Have to count your blessings while you can otherwise I would be on the next plane to America.

Tuesday was actually uneventful in that nothing tragically awful happened. I had another 40+ student class but 40+ students sitting in desks are not quite as intimidating as 40+ students sitting on the floor. Maybe because when they sit in desks most of them quietly work on homework and when they sit on the floor they need a source of entertainment, like me or lizards. One of the other teachers in the CIEE program posted to our Facebook page another blog about a man who lived and taught in Thailand. He offered a list of games to play with large classes otherwise “the classroom might turn into a scene from Lord of the Flies” (http://monkeyabroad.com/27-esl-games-for-large-classes/). Sometimes my classrooms feel like a scene from Lord of the Flies; he put it so eloquently.

I almost successfully ordered my breakfast in Thai today; I am going to be fluent by the time I come back. Not really but I will be able to say fried egg and a piece of chicken. During lunch of noodles, I got a huge sugar craving. A craving like I wanted to just sit down with a bowl of sugar and eat it straight. It is true that I have been eating a lot in Thailand; the Thai people eat a lot too. But there is no sugar, there is a lot of fried food, however, it is not bad, greasy fried food like in America. Let us face it; rice is not that satisfying or nutritious. They have sweet food here but not sugary sweet food. Mangos with sticky rice is a popular dessert (I have yet to find it or try it) it is supposed to be sweet, not sugary sweet though. I think sugar withdrawal has hit me.

Since I am a real teacher at this school (I give out grades and homework), I have to prepare a midterm. Surprise, surprise, midterm week is December 21. Before that time, I am required to give three tests to each of my classes, same with the finals, three tests before. I am glad I found this out now instead of on December 20. Here I was thinking midterm is in January. I was also given the attendance sheet for all my classes. The 40+ classes have about 50 students in them, surprise miscount. The attendance list is written in Thai so I need to have the students write their nicknames next to their name. Thai people have their actual name and a nickname. Their real names are usually long and used for formal occasions.

With testing, or any assignment really, you need to be careful of copying and cheating. They do not view it as a negative thing; it is just helping a friend. I tried doing the activity where students are in groups and they each write a sentence, pass their paper, write another sentence, pass it, etc. It comes out to be a silly story. In one group the students “couldn’t think of any sentences” so they just copied their friends. I got papers with “I went to school” written repeatedly.

When I got back to my apartment, I decided to sweep it because there was a lot of hair on the floor. I swept up everything; I cannot believe I was walking on that for a week. There was a lot of hair, mine, and a whole lot of dirt, which makes me wonder if they swept the floor before I arrived. There was bird poop in my apartment near the door to my balcony. I know the birds like to hang out on my balcony, I like hanging out there too, but in my room?! Usually when I leave for school, I open the glass doors but leave the metal door closed so my room is not that stuffy when I get back at night. Do they wait until I leave and come sit on the metal door? Really, in my room. There was also a stick hiding under the curtains, makes me wonder how it got there because I did not put it there. Maybe the birds brought it.

As I was brushing my teeth, I noticed what I thought was a gnat on the edge of the mirror, upon closer inspection, it was an ant. They are back! Again! Thankfully, they are still in the bathroom, I would rather have them in the bathroom than in the bedroom. Thankfully, they still love the ant trap. I am surprised it has not killed all of them yet. It is one of those traps where it looks like food so they take it back to their colony and share it and it gets rid of the problem at the source. Or maybe not, because these guys seem resistant to it. Maybe I should try another product, except all those labels were all in Thai.

Wednesday morning my iPod decided it was January 1, 1970 and 18 hours behind my time, needless to say, my alarm did not go off. Fortunately, there was a strange popping noise in my bathroom that I got up to investigate. It sounded as if someone was popping bubble wrap. I could not find the source of the noise but I had gotten up only ten minutes late. The ants are gone again. I am waiting for them to reappear. That seems to be the cycle we are stuck in.

My students this morning were grilling me on my love life. They always seem so shocked when I say I do not have a boyfriend. “WAAAAAAA? Teacher, really?” Yes, really, students. Sometimes as I walk to class someone in a group of students will shout out “I love you” or “beautiful.” When I look at them, they all try to keep straight faces; they have bad poker faces. It happens on the street too. As I was walking to lunch, a man on a motorcycle blew kisses at me as he passed.

At lunch, I ran into another teacher from school. He always says hello to me but I never knew his name. It always made me wonder if we had met and I simply forgot. No, he just knows my name and that I am the new foreign teacher. Apparently, many people know I am Susan the new foreign teacher. It is somewhat difficult for me to blend in. He told me that Thailand has three seasons, “hot, hotter, and hottest.” I can attest to that, it is hot, or hotter, not quite hottest. It is like the joke that Chicago only has two seasons: winter and road construction.

I asked my coordinator about days we have off school. In China, my roommate and I would go to school only to find it empty. Upon further investigation, we would find that we were not informed of the days off. I really do not want that happening here. Friday is Sports Day, so no teaching (yay) and in December, there is a three-day weekend and two four-day weekends. In addition, there is a teacher filed trip in December where all the teachers go to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai for five days. I need to start planning some trips! But first, I need to figure out how to use the bus to get into Chon Buri city.

I love wearing long, flowy skirts. When the dress code said conservative—closed toed shoes, skirts that cover your knees, shoulders covered, and a high neckline—I took that opportunity to break out all my long, flowy skirts. All the other teachers look like teachers from the States, and they show their knees. I look quite strange in my long colorful skirts. I like wearing them because as you walk they kind of flow around you and make you feel like a fairy princess. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to wearing flowy skirts is when your classroom is full of fans and the breeze picks your skirt up as you try to teach. The breeze was not strong enough to get my skirt higher than my knees but it felt like my skirt was going to go over my head. Note to self: only wear flowy skirts when in air conditioning.

I decided to ride my bike to the food cart market area that I found on Saturday. First, I changed into jeans because I was not getting reacquainted with bicycling in a skirt. Then, it took me five minutes to figure out how to get the kick stand up. There were a couple of people who were watching me with interest and laughing about it. At one point, the bike fell over; it was laughable. Finally, the woman who sells rice next to my apartment came over and showed me how to get the kickstand up. You have to push in then back. I had a pleasant ride to the food carts; there was a nice breeze as I rode. I went past the school and the students stared at me. No shame. It was difficult to get to the food cart market since I was on the left hand side of the road and it was on the right, there was a very scary turn involved.

I went to the purple woman’s stand today. She gave me fried chicken with rice; I seem to be eating lots of fried chicken lately. Someone told me I need to look up pictures of Thai food and show it to the vendors. That does not seem like a bad idea at this point. She gave me some sweet and spicy sauce to put over my dinner. I tried a little bit, it was a little spicy, not too much, just enough to give it an edge and there was a sweet taste to it too. It was complex, delicious, and really good with chicken. On my way back, I stopped by a market that was happening outside the city municipal building. I was sorely tempted to buy some dried fruit except it was covered with flies so I left it there. There was also a man selling some beautiful fabric. Too bad I left my Thai phrasebook at home so I could not bargain. Probably for the best, I have some Thai fabric from when I was here the last time and I still have yet to make anything with it.

I stopped by the fruit cart near my apartment. She was very excited to see me and I got some watermelon again. Bike riding in the heat is hard work and watermelon sounded so good.  It was so good; I ate it on my balcony and watched the sunset. All of my coworkers live in the same building as I do; one of them said he pays 2,000 baht a month for his apartment whereas I pay 3,000 baht a month for mine. I was thinking it over and that extra 1,000 baht adds up, by the end of my stay here that would be five dives I could do. But he lives in the back of the building and does not have a balcony. Five extra dives would be great but I would be missing five months of sitting on my balcony and watching sunsets.

I was sitting at my desk writing about my day, when I turned around my floor was dirty. There were little black specks next to my bed. I was very confused because I swept the floor this week. When I looked up, I found the source of the black specks. Bugs were in my room, they had been attracted by the light, and the black specks were dead bugs. I am very not okay with bugs (or ants) in my room. Very cleverly, I thought if I turned my balcony light on and my room light off then the bugs would go outside. No such luck, only some of the bugs left. At least there were not any scary looking bugs, just gnat type bugs.

When I woke up on Thursday, the bugs were all gone. I wonder where they all went last night. There was a little gecko lizard in my bathroom. It scared me as it ran across the wall; I guess I scared it too. Lizards seem to be a common theme this week, which is fine by me, I prefer lizards to bugs or ants. Maybe the lizard ate all the bugs, and the ants. It hid between my bathroom tile and the wall. There is a space between my bathroom wall and the tiles, it makes me curious as to how the tiles are staying up or if there is even a wall behind the tiles. The space explains a lot about the ants, and the lizard this morning. I would really like some way to seal that up so I do not get any more unexpected visitors.

During my conversation class this week I have been having the students “interview” each other and write down the answers. It starts off well then the English stops when the copying starts. They do not seem to understand that the point of the activity is to speak and listen, not to produce the written answers. I asked one girl to read her answers about her partner and she asked me if she had to say them in English. For one of the classes, 10 out of 40 students showed up. I asked where the rest of the class was and they said absent. So I had them interview each other without writing down the answers and it worked much better. Maybe because there were only ten of them, maybe because they were all M6 (12th grade), or maybe I should just focus on speaking and listening?

This afternoon was the start of sports day. There were bunches of students watching football (soccer as we know it) and going crazy. There were others working on projects and painting. I walked into my first afternoon class and there were seven students in the classroom watching a movie. They said “teacher no class,” at least someone told me. I asked one of my coworkers about it and they said that generally on sports day the students opt out of class and you may get five kids in a class who would rather be watching the sports matches. No class tomorrow, just sports all day.

I had dinner in Henry’s restaurant again tonight. He brought me my food, a plate piled high with veggies some rice and some pork; he said his wife thinks I need to eat more vegetables. There was a new ingredient in my food today that I could not place. Usually, I can guess what each thing is that I am eating, or its equivalent, baby corn, asparagus, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers. But today there was this stuff that tasted like fish but had the consistency of tofu. I was not a huge fan of it. As I was leaving Henry asked me how I like my food, then he told me that they got a new food product and showed me the fish tofu package. I knew it, cannot pull the wool over my eyes. The Thai people have no problem mixing their meats, like pork and fish tofu (which is not really a meat, the point still stands). The noodles I get for lunch have pork and squid in them; it is a strange but tasty combination.

There was a big black bug in my bathroom, when I say big I mean the size of a dime. I freaked out and squirted it with the shower. Then stepped on a cricket that was also hanging out in my bathroom. My apartment seems to be the place for bugs to go. I swung by the Tesco Lotus because I was having a sugar craving, I have chocolate in my apartment but it was too hot for chocolate. I wanted to try a type of candy I have seen students eating but I could not find it. So I had to settle for fruit flavored Mentos. In my opinion, the strawberry and orange were the best and cantaloupe and grape were the worst, kiwi was not too bad either.

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Note: Unfortunately my computer is not wanting to connect to the camera so I cannot post the really good sunset photos, I will keep trying.

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