I have been back in Thailand for several weeks now, but have only recently completed my first full week of teaching. New students came in to school for an orientation on August 22, classes started August 23, but I did not start my lessons until the 25th. Plus, there was a week of orientation before all that, so I had a lot of down time. Getting back into the swing of things has been nice, but not without its interesting moments.
I am teaching year 2 in the little pool, which is a salt pool. One of the students asked me why the big pool was closed and I told him they were making it into a salt-water pool and he informed me that he was not an ocean animal.
One little girl ran shrieking across the little pool, glommed onto me, and would not let go, because something touched her foot and it hurt. Turns out, it was just a leaf poking her foot.
I went to pick up a year 2 lesson in primary and when we arrived back at the pool, there was a year 1 class waiting for their lesson. Sent year 1 back to their class because their swim day was the next day; they had a mistake on their schedule. I received many dirty looks from year 1 when I had them go back to class.
One little boy got out of the water saying “poop,” I directed him to the toilets. He shook his head and says “poop” then points to his swimsuit. He had pooped his suit; fortunately, the gap student that day took care of cleaning him up and disposing of everything so that I could focus on the lesson.
There was another class with two boys who claimed they couldn’t swim because they all had loose teeth. During the lesson one little girl exclaims “teacher, he’s bleeding,” and points to the kid next to her. The boy smiles and blood dribbles down his chin. He proudly holds his tooth out to me. The gap student for the day took care of that one.
Before one lesson, a class teacher pulled me aside to warn me about one boy. She said he has some undiagnosed problems, and his English is spotty. He’s been known to run out of class and she said she would not be surprised if he got out of the pool and took off. He liked being in the pool and he knew the basics of swimming already but that meant he would jump off the side or swim away so I was constantly having to keep an eye on him and bring him back to the wall. He was not happy when I would sit him on the wall.
One little girl was very worried about my watch breaking in the water. I assured her that my watch was waterproof and it could go in the water. Then one of her classmates jumped into the pool. He heard me say “go in the water,” and followed the instructions.
One year 2 class was being particularly naughty and the swim coordinator was there to watch the class. The students weren’t listening, they were constantly jumping into the pool, just all over the place. She helped wrangle the students in order and gave me tips on how to screw them into their seats. Most of the lesson was spent trying to get the students to sit quietly and listen to instructions, other classes didn’t have such a problem with it and they were younger students.
I am opening the pool again for the borders to have evening swim. Except, the small pool doesn’t have any lights so they only get a half hour at most. I was walking to go open the pool and a little boy was waiting for me by the pool gate. He asked me if I could walk a little faster because he had been waiting forever for me to get there.
Since the big pool is closed, the older primary students, year 3-6, are having an extra PE lesson. Two days a week, I have to teach t-ball. I had a crash course on throwing and catching, and a quick sample game. Fun fact: I broke my finger trying to catch a medicine ball, I am ill equipped for land sports, especially a game I don’t know much about.
The first lesson was a combined lesson with the swimming teacher who doesn’t speak much English and doesn’t know how to play t-ball. With the help of a gap year student we managed to get a game of catch going with the 50 students. Then we tried to explain the rules of the game. It is difficult to explain the rules of something you don’t really understand to a group of students with a short attention span. We had to split them into two games because there were too many students for one game, however our field was only big enough for one diamond so we had to squeeze two on there. It was a mess. Students everywhere. No one had any idea what was going on.
The second lesson was only one class but the gap student didn’t show up for it, he forgot about the class. It was also a mess. If you tell young students to go in a direction, they will keep going in that direction infinitely until you tell them to stop. Corralling 21 students on your own is not fun and I cannot teach throwing and catching. There was lots of “I’m bored,” “this is too easy,” and “I can’t do this.” The gap year student apologized profusely that evening.
I am also assisting with kindergarten PE classes on Wednesday; it’s fun to see the kids outside the pool. On the schedule, I am helping with two 40 minute classes. The teacher went and gathered the students at the meeting spot. We got the kids warmed up and started on a “gymnastics” routine, which was climbing up on foam blocks, jumping off, rolling down a wedge, and going across the balance beam. Then another PE teacher poked his head in to say there was a class at the meeting spot. I helped the kids from the first class put on their socks. The second group of students came in early. We got them warmed up and started on their routine, when a gap student came down with another class he found at the meeting spot. Two 40 minute classes turned into three 30 minute classes.
I had to go to immigration on August 26, they said to be there at 1:00 which meant I would have to miss one of my classes. I arrived at HR on time, signed my paperwork, and was told to wait. Slowly, the students who were going with trickled in. The last student was a half hour late and we didn’t leave for immigration until 2:00. It was a long painful process and they almost forgot me at immigration. Once I got my visa changed, I had to wait for all the students to get their visas changed. I sat and read while I was waiting for them, glancing up every so often to see that everyone was there. Then I glanced up and they were all gone, went outside and found them in the parking lot.
I also made an oops with my passport. There is only one page left for my non-immigrant visa and no place for my work visa stamp. I need to go to the American embassy in Bangkok to apply for a new passport since the US doesn’t add passport pages anymore. I will have to go once in person to apply for the passport, then again in person to pick it up, and then go back to immigration to get my visa taken out of my old passport and put into the new one. I will have to miss lessons those days since the embassy and immigration are open during weekdays.
Since I have lived in Thailand before, I need to get a police report to say I don’t have a criminal record. In May I went to the police station and they took my finger prints to send to Bangkok to run them through the system. They told me to come back in two months. Three months later, I’m back in Thailand. I have gone to the police station on two occasions trying to get in contact with the person who took my fingerprints. The first time, they turned me away because it was Saturday and no one works on a Saturday, or Sunday. The second time I went on Friday after school, but the person had already left for the day. They work the same hours I do. They also warned me it’s been a while since they took my fingerprints so they might not have kept the report from Bangkok.
There seem to be more bugs in my room this year and I am not happy with it. I moved my jar of peanut butter and a bug crawled out from behind it. I quickly smushed it with the peanut butter. It looked like a baby cockroach. Another came crawling into my room from under the door a few days later. There was a beetle flying around my room and I have no idea how it got into my room. And I’ve had to step on three spiders in my room. Sometimes I can hear the air conditioning gecko laugh at me. It’s slacking on its bug eating job this year.
There are a ton of ants in the kitchen this year. Some people are leaving food open in the kitchen so the ants are getting in to it. There are also ants in the bathroom. I had a spare ant trap from my ant saga last year so I put one in the bathroom. Ants in the kitchen I can understand but I am not okay with ants in the bathroom. Someone kept emptying the dead ants out of the ant trap, which empties out the poison, which makes the whole thing ineffective.
Some of the new gap students had strange bites on their legs. The bites were small, red, itchy, and in rows on their legs. They concluded it must be ant bites or bed bugs. Great, ants in the kitchen, rats near the pool, cockroaches in the supply closet, fleas in the rugs, mosquitos in the couches, and now possibility of bed bugs.
August 27 and 28, I started my divemaster course. When I say I started my course I mean I spent Saturday in the classroom and Sunday in the pool. The classroom day, my instructor and I went over my knowledge reviews in the book, and watched the PADI movies. When I was done I took the two tests, and passed with flying colors. Then I needed to get a doctor’s signature to say I was fit for diving. Fortunately there was a walk in clinic around the corner. The doctor took my blood pressure then put a bunch of official looking stamps on the paper, all for the low price of 150 baht.
The pool day on Sunday was tiring. I had to do a 400 meter swim, tread water for 15 minutes, kick 800 meters with a mask and snorkel, and do an underwater equipment exchange. You were graded on the times and had to get higher than a 3. I thought the times were easy but forgot that I haven’t swam in a while and it was rough. The equipment exchange used to be called a “stress test.” It’s where you and another person breathe off one regulator, and exchange all your equipment. Then we practiced the basic skills that I have to know and have them at demonstration quality. The first time through was long; my instructor would show me then I would show him. The second time through was better because he just gave me a skill and I showed him.
Things were a little crazy the first week, and it will take a while for things to even out into their routine. It’s all part of the adventure! I am glad to be back, certainly miss everyone from home, but life here is keeping me on my toes!