Christmas Season

I used to be so good at writing down everything that has happened, but lately I have been falling behind. Looking back a week it is difficult to remember everything that happened but I will try my best to recall everything.

Monday and Tuesday were regular class days; I struggled to figure out lessons since I had already reviewed for midterms in the classes. In the English for communication classes, we played the matching game from two weeks earlier. I told the students to use English and the English they used sounded a lot like Thai. On each of the cards I wrote numbers on the cards so it would be easy for me to sort them later, the students realized the numbers matched so they just called out the numbers (in Thai). I took the time to scribble out the numbers and the students were shocked. One of them asked me how they were supposed to match them without numbers. I told them to use English like they were supposed to.

In another one of the classes, we were quickly reviewing likes and dislikes, the students said “I’m don’t fond of…” I asked them what was wrong with the sentence. They stared at me as if I had three heads. It took them a while to figure out what the word wrong meant, but they eventually got it. Then they told me “smoking” is wrong. I asked them what is wrong with the sentence. Then they told me “I’m don’t fond of smoking.” I kept asking them what was wrong with “I’m don’t fond of…” They kept telling me “smoking.” I wanted to beat my head on the board. Finally, one of the students corrected the sentence to “I’m not fond of…” Their midterm is going to be rough.

Wednesday was the first day of midterms. They forgot to put me on the midterm list so I only had to work one day, which was not Wednesday. I sat in my office and graded papers all day. Thursday I did have to work. Proctoring exams all day was tedious and boring. There were two teachers in the room and we had to watch the students take tests all day to make sure they did not cheat. We were allowed to work on other things while proctoring so I filled in my attendance sheets. It took all day to fill out the attendance sheets. My coordinator told me even though I was not given the attendance sheets until week 7 I need to have the sheets filled out since week 1. She told me to mark everyone as present but I know for a fact they were not all present and there are some students who have skipped all my classes.

I received a package from my aunt earlier in the week, which was a nice surprise, included in the package were some ant traps. I did not think I would need them since it has been a while since I have seen the ants. But then I went to get some chocolate and noticed there were ants crawling all over my food boxes! All the food was in containers or Ziploc bags so the ants were not in food just crawling over the containers. I was so upset. Why do ants happen to me? Why did no one tell me ants would be a problem in Thailand? I killed as many as I could, then set up the ant traps all over my room. The ants had been coming in from the hallway, under my door, across my room, and into my food boxes. There are even ant traps in my hallway now. Ants versus Susan, only one can survive.

Friday was Christmas and I spent the day at immigration. First my coordinator and I had to go to the labor office to pick up my work permit. Then we went to the immigration office. We sat around for a while and were finally called up to the desk. The woman behind the desk told us to go to another part of the office where we had to pay a fine because I was not officially registered within 24 after arriving in Chon Buri. Problems just come back to haunt you. Then we had to go back to the first office and do some more waiting. There was a door leading to the office of one of the higher ups in immigration. People kept bringing baskets of food, coffee, and stuff to the door, knocking and giving it to the person in there. When to door opened the office was filled with these Christmas baskets. My coordinator said we could have brought a basket and we probably would not have had to pay the fine, except the basket cost more than the fine. There was a sign in the immigration office detailing the procedure of how things worked (take a ticket, wait for your number to be called, etc.) and it even had times of how long your visit should take. On one sign, it said the whole visit should take 10 minutes and if it takes any longer, you should go to the information desk and ask why there is a delay. We were there all day. However, I got my work permit, and my visa extended so I am good to teach.

After returning to school, on my desk were little Christmas surprises: a whiteboard marker, a red pen, chocolate coins, and “cookies.” Perfect teacher gifts. The “cookies” were from a student, they were crackers covered with frosting and sprinkles so they looked like cookies but actually weren’t cookies. I did not have any other work to really do so I snuck out of school early. I was meeting other CIEE teachers to see Star Wars. It was a great Christmas. It was a lot of fun to experience a movie in Thailand. Before the movie and after the previews there is a short piece about the king, there are pictures and some video clips with a song. The movie was in English with Thai subtitles. There were maybe ten people in the whole theater. After the movie, it was pretty late. I got to the bus stop at 10 and there was no bus. I called my coordinator and she said the bus stops running at 10. She called another teacher to go pick me up. I was extremely grateful not to have been left to fend for myself.

Saturday I woke up early to skype with my family during Christmas; modern technology is amazing. I can wake up and instantly be part of Christmas from the other side of the world. Speaking of Christmas, my mother does this 12 days of Christmas countdown where she sends 12 little gifts and you open one each day counting down to Christmas (or winter break when I was in college). She has done this for me since I was in college; she has even included my friends and roommates in this tradition. The gifts are not big or expensive but they are fun, like candy or chocolate. Some of the gifts she sent this year were chapstick in a penguin, and potpourri that smells like pine trees. She even sent me a Christmas tree that lights up and plays jingle bells. (Jingle Bells is one of the only Christmas songs my students know). Even though I was feeling lonely as the holiday approached, and it did not feel like Christmas without snow or colder weather, my mother helped make it feel like Christmas. On Christmas I opened a beautiful green, blue, and purple bracelet; she said she wanted me to have something to wear and feel special on Christmas.  After talking with my family, I headed off to Bangkok. I stayed in the same hostel as last time I was in Bangkok and they remembered me, I was impressed.

For a late lunch / early dinner, I wandered along Sukhumvit road (which is an awesome road that connects Bangkok, Chon Buri, Pattaya, and Rayong). I saw a sign for a restaurant I had heard about at orientation from fellow teachers and I decided to check it out. The restaurant is called Cabbages and Condoms; it is part of Thailand’s Population and Community Development Association (PDA), which is a sex education and AIDS prevention organization. The goal of the restaurant is to make condoms as easy and normal to buy as cabbages at the market. All of the profits from the restaurant go toward PDA. It is a condom themed restaurant with statues and displays made out of condoms and birth control. The food was quite good, and I sat out in the garden with the trees decorated with lights.

Looking at the Christmas lights took several hours, mainly because I got lost and was wondering in the wrong direction for about an hour. Finally, I was reoriented and headed in the right direction past a massive mall. With massive malls come massive crowds. I think I get road rage in crowds because these people did not know how to walk. It was so frustrating. However, I finally found what I was looking for and it was disappointing. The lights on the hotels were nothing to write home about. The mall I passed had better lights; there are houses in America with better lights. At least I can say I did it.

Sunday I went back to the weekend market from last time I was there. I needed some more soap and I found some amazing lavender and frangipani soap. Frangipani is a flower found in Thailand and it smells great. I tried the coconut ice cream with peanuts, it looked a lot better than it tasted. Now I have tried it, I do not have to try it again. Then I went back to Chon Buri. I took a van because van travel is fairly simple. I went to one stand and asked if the van was going to Chon Buri, the woman told me to go to a different stand. So I went to the other stand and the woman there told me to go back to the original stand I was at. So I went back to the original stand and the woman was like, “oh, yeah, Chon Buri.” Really, my accent is not that bad, all the other people could understand me but she could not. I got stuck in the back of the van which is one of the worst places to be, it’s higher than the other seats so your feet can’t touch the ground, it’s hot, and cramped. Fortunately, I got a window seat, which is less awful than the other spots. The girl sitting next to me was having an awful time, the man sitting next to her kept falling asleep on her, and she was getting so annoyed. She kept pushing him off her; he would wake up, and then fall back asleep on her.

Monday I woke up late, I woke up when I was supposed to be leaving. I turned off my alarm to sleep in on Sunday and forgot to set it again. Though, I made it to school on time; since I did not have to work, it would not have mattered much if I was late anyways. My sign in sheet says I arrived at school at 7:15, even though I was still sleeping at that time. I got to leave early since it was only a half day and I spent the rest of the day napping. In the evening, I rode my bike to the night market. However, first I had to dust off the bike and clear all the spider-webs off it.


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