I am grossly behind in my writing. I have been a little busy as of lately. However, here are the past several weeks…
Went to Koh Samet on Saturday (December 5), it was about 6 hours of travel. I did not have a reservation at a hostel; I planned to go from hostel to hostel trying to find a room. I figured since it was the King’s birthday, everyone would be heading to Bangkok. Wrong; there were people sleeping on the beach. On the ferry over, I met a very nice man who helped me find a place to stay for the weekend. A woman rented me a house (really a house: two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room). She felt bad that I was a solo female traveler and had no place to go. She does house rentals; the one I stayed in was being renovated. I was incredibly thankful for her generosity in helping me out. That evening, I went to a fire show with my new friends from the ferry. The fire show was amazing, and there were fireworks for the King’s birthday. Took a night drive around the island and I even attempted to drive the motorbike.
Sunday was a beach day. I really needed to get away and relax. It was your typical Thai beach, white sand and beautiful blue water. There was even a raft you could swim out to, so we had to swim out to it. Some fish were hanging out by the raft and I tried out the waterproofing on my camera. I lay on my stomach on the raft, stuck the camera in the water, pointed it at the fish, and hoped I got some fish pictures. A few of them turned out really great, others not so much. It is difficult to take pictures when you cannot see what you are taking pictures of.
There is something about the heat and the sun that seems to sap your strength. I took a nap when I got back to my house. I was napping on the couch with the door open because it created a nice breeze. Then I heard a clicking noise, which rather sounded like a cockroach. I quickly woke up, ready to do battle, and it was a dog. The woman who rented to house to me has a dog who just roams around the area during the day. The dog walked in like it owned the place and flopped on the floor next to the sofa. We napped together in the breezy shade. That evening I met up with some other CIEE teachers, with over 200 of us it is easy to accidentally bump into someone. It was great fun hanging out and swapping stories about our teaching experiences.
Monday was travel back. However, not before some beach time. I stopped for some fried bananas for breakfast. As it turns out, they were not bananas. I do not know what they were, it was like a cross between a potato and a squash; I have had it before in a potato chip mix and it is pretty good. It is white with little blue veins in it; do not know what it is. However, it was delicious; the outside was crispy while the inside was soft and warm. I went to a beach a Canadian couple told us about last night. They learned about it from a Thai local, it was a small beach where the locals go. I ran into my CIEE friends at the beach. There was a long dock that we jumped off; some local boys were fishing off it too. It was a quaint beach and absolutely beautiful. It was an excellent way to end my stay on Koh Samet. I got some bread on the way off the island. One thing I miss when I am in Asia is bread, actual bread, like French bread and toast. I almost fell asleep on the songthaew ride, it is a good thing I did not or else I would have missed my stop. On the van ride, I did fall asleep, and I was so tired when I got back to my apartment I did not go to aerobics class.
Tuesday was back to school. I had an awesome game for English for Communication; the students were begging me to keep playing it. If only all my classes went that well. The boys in the back of M3 snuck out of the classroom halfway through the lesson. It is like they do not think I can see them sneaking out, or notice the completely back row is missing. Teachers have eyes in the back of their heads, which is the best part about being a teacher; I have always wanted eyes in the back of my head. You can tell from the sounds and the atmosphere of the classroom what is going on.
I am enjoying aerobics class. It makes me feel like part of the community. I saw the woman I get noodles from at lunch. After class, my neighbor gave me a lift back to my apartment. I went to the fruit woman and her friend was at aerobics class too. It is difficult to blend in, people notice me when I get out into the community. In Asia, I stand out like a sore thumb, there is no blending in. Blonde hair, light skin, hazel eyes, yep I am different. Not to mention I am about the same height as many men here.
Wednesday is a down day. My English for Communication classes today loved the game too! They were begging to play it again and again. One thing the Thai students have difficulty with is the ending “s,” they just cut it off the word. This makes the difference between “I like orange” and “I like oranges.” One girl was absent last week so she took her friend’s classwork, put whiteout over the name and score, and tried to hand it in as her own work. I kept pointing to the obvious whiteout marks, and she could not understand why I was not accepting it. Copying is one thing, but that was a whole different level.
I was given attendance sheets because I am supposed to be taking attendance every class. The attendance sheets are very tedious to fill out. I was given a blank attendance sheet with the students’ names on it (in Thai). Then I had to fill out the week number, the date, and the class number. Then since it is all in Thai, I had to write their nicknames next to their Thai names. In my first class, only 16 out of 50 students bothered to show up. Maybe more will come now that I have to take attendance.
Thursday was Constitution day so no school! I met up with some other CIEE teachers in Chon Buri. We went to an aquarium in Bang Saen. Originally, it was 220 baht for foreigners, but we told the woman at the ticket counter we were teachers and she let us in on the Thai price (80 baht, quite a difference). The aquarium really seemed to like clown fish. In addition, we are spoiled by aquariums in the States. This one was nice, but simple, and it was under construction. We arrived at the big tank in time to watch three people scuba dive to the bottom and feed all the fish. It was great. After the aquarium, we walked to the beach. We rented a three-person-tandem bike. At first, we failed. We were wobbling all over the place and crashing into curbs. We were laughing and all the Thai people around us were laughing. The people riding past on four-person-tandem bikes were also laughing at it. We traded in the bike for a different bike that was much better. We actually got the hang of riding a three-person bike. After bike riding, we met up with some more CIEE teachers for dinner at a market. We got smoothies after dinner; I ordered just a strawberry smoothie but the woman decided that was too boring so I got a strawberry, kiwi, mango smoothie instead. It was divine. After 6pm the green bus moves, so it was not in its usual spot. I had to call my coordinator twice to finally figure out where the green bus had moved. Finally figured it out and made it safely back to Ban Bung.
Friday was Bike for Dad, an event for the king. At first, my coordinator thought we would have the day off, unfortunately, we did have school. Though, many students were absent for the event. My first class, none of the students showed up. I sat in the classroom waiting for them for forty minutes before finally leaving. Several of my troublemaker students were absent from M3 which made the class easier. On Fridays, I see M3 three times, one of the times I saw them there were a bunch of men in the classroom fixing the air conditioner. My only other option was to hold class on the stage, in front of all the other English teachers. I gave them free time. That evening, I went to Pattaya. I am getting better at traveling by myself. This time, I stayed in a different hostel in a different part of Pattaya. I liked it better, much less risqué.
Saturday (December 12), I went scuba diving. They told me the driver would be there at 8 to pick me up, when I went downstairs at 7:30 for breakfast, the driver was there. We dove the wreck Brenman, which is rare to dive because the location is susceptible to currents, weather, and other factors. One of the dive masters at the shop had been diving in Pattaya for 13 years and this was the first time he was able to go. Another had been here for 4 years, and this was his first opportunity too. I was lucky to get it on my first go. There was a little bit of a current when we got there, it kicked up a lot of sediment so it was kind of difficult to see. But the wreck was cool. It had been down there for 90 years; it hit some rocks, caught fire, and sunk. It is at the bottom in pieces, there was a bathtub (still intact), and dishes littering the ocean floor. In some ways, it was eerie, but definitely worth seeing. The dive shop was really great and they were impressed with my diving. I will be going back. I had dinner with a Russian man who could not speak much English; we spent the meal miming things to each other and laughing.
Sunday, back to Chonburi and back to daily life.
The week between that Sunday and this Sunday (December 20) has been life as usual. After one of my monster classes, a girl came up to me and told me English is her favorite subject but she is not very good at it. Then she asked me to help her improve her English, I agreed. In another one of my classes, a student came up to me and thrust something fuzzy at me. Close up, it looked like a giant centipede; it was actually a foxtail. They found it hilarious; I did not find it funny.
I played Jeopardy with all my classes to review for their midterm. I took the questions from the test and used them on the game. Surprisingly, the monster classes loved the game, while my EP classes could not care less. I told the EP students since I gave them the answers to their midterm they had all better get perfect scores, which shut them up real quick.
Midterm season has been tedious. First, I had to write eight multiple-choice exams (at least 20 questions, along with their special headers and footers). Then, I had to get the exams approved and sent to the copy room (there is a person who copies everything, we do not do our own copying) (there is also a special copy form I had to fill out). While I was waiting for the copies to come back, I had to create the answer key for each test (which had its own form). Once I received the copies, I had to package the tests with the score sheets (where the students write their answers). On the packages, I had to fill out another form with the grade, the date of the test, the location of the test, etc. Then I had to bring them to another building and sign more forms to say I brought the midterm packages to the room. It was all very complicated, time-consuming, and painful because I was sick.
For the midterms, I will not be giving my own exams, the students will receive the exams and other teachers will proctor the exams. We received a list of which exams we have to proctor, every teacher has three days where they proctor exams. I was forgotten on the list so they randomly squeezed me in one day. There are six days of midterms, I am working one but am expected to show up for the other five days. Maybe I will get back on the blogging bandwagon that I have fallen off.