Wow, this first week in Chiangkham has been a whirlwind of emotions. We arrived very early, around 7AM on Friday, November 3rd, after our long, long, long, long bus ride. It ended up being around 12 hours, and while it wasn’t terrible, I definitely was feeling pretty exhausted after getting off. We met our coordinators at the bus stop, and they took us to where we would be living for the next few months. Emma and I are living in the same little house, but it is completely split in half, almost into two little apartments. The 3 other English teachers we came with from CIEE are living on the same property in a different house, and so are a few English teachers from the Philippines. My room is tiny, but pretty nice. Definitely better than I was expecting! I have a queen bed, a table with 2 chairs, a dresser, a fan, a refrigerator, seated toilet, shower head and hot water. There is also a little area in the back of the house to wash and dry dishes which is handy. Here’s some pictures so you can visualize!
After we unpacked, we were able to go to the local Tesco Lotus (Thai equivalent to Walmart) to get some things for our apartment. I bought a yoga mat (since I wasn’t able to bring mine with me), some cereal, fruit and crackers, tape to hang up my pictures, and a bunch of school supplies!
I hadn’t thought of it while we were there, but Bangkok definitely felt like a mix of a vacation and college orientation. It didn’t quite seem real that we were there to learn about teaching English and the job that we had signed a contract for for the next 5-ish months. My school’s semester goes from November 1st to March 16th. Schools here seem to be different than America in that they do not have any type of “school calendar” with days off, or the end of school listed. This is definitely stressful, but I am trying to use it as a way to learn how to go with the flow and live in the moment, but DEFINITELY something I am not used to.
My schools name is Sathitwittaya Chiangkham School or Sathit School for short. It’s about a 10 minute bike ride from my living accommodation, and right nearby the local Tesco Lotus , which is very convenient if I need to grab anything after school. The school is fun so far, I met two other Farang (Thai word for foreign) teachers, both from the Philippines and they have been super helpful filling me in on what colors to wear on what days, and other little tidbits about the school that I didn’t know yet. Turns out although I thought I would just be teaching kindergarten, I’m actually teaching all of the grades at the school! Pre-K all the way through P6, or 6th grade. That means I’m seeing around 300 students per week, in 19 different classes, meeting with every class only once a week (besides one class I see twice). This was definitely a terrifying revelation, but day by day it seemed less scary than the day before. It probably means I won’t learn all of my students names by the time I leave, but it does mean I get to work with all different ages and English levels which definitely a good experience to have for the future.
The language barrier is so real. At school, when trying to order dinner, when trying to pay our cell phone bills. Not a huge surprise since I had only been to Europe and the Caribbean before this, but it is definitely the largest language barrier I have ever experienced. My coordinator speaks some English, but has mostly directed me to my co-teacher for any questions I have. My co-teacher is so sweet, but sometimes our Thai/English conversations can be frustrating because I have no idea what is going on!!! Same thing happens when we try to order food. Emma is a vegetarian and I have been eating vegetarian for the most part since we have been here, but when we tell some of the street vendors “mang-sa-wi-rat” they just laugh or show us a head of lettuce. Luckily, we have found a few different vendors who will whip us up a fun surprise if we tell them, and they already recognize us since we are two of the very few Westerners in our town.
On that topic, since we don’t have a stove/toaster/oven of any kind, we eat dinner out almost every night. It was hard to navigate at first because it is so tempting to just order pad thai every time, but slowly we have been able to find other soup-like dishes or different types of veggie dishes. The closer we get to a routine, the better I feel about living so far away for the next 4ish months. That being said, even though we eat out almost every night, dinner is about $1. It’s usually around 30-40 baht for fried rice, soup, or a noodle dish, and the conversation is about 33 baht to every 1 American dollar. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of converting, but I think once I get my first paycheck it will be a little easier to think in baht. I also get free lunch at my school every day! Most days it’s white rice or noodles with some type of mystery meat, so I’ve resorted to eating the rice with a little bit of broth and soy sauce I bought at Tesco. Not the most diverse meal plan I’ve ever had, but it does the trick!
Just to give you an idea of how much things general cost:
Pad thai dinner- 40 baht or $1.20
Monthly unlimited data phone plan- 450 baht or $13
Iced latte- 30 baht or .90 cents
(I’ll write more about how much things cost as time goes on!)
While I’m still missing home a lot and sometimes feeling like March 16th is a long ways away, it has been getting easier as time goes by and my routine gets more sturdy. It’s excited to have fun things to look forward to on the weekends to get me through school during the week. Up next, first trip to Chiang Mai!