A Day in the Life as Teacha Emily

As we begin our last week of school here in Chiang Kham, I realize I have never really talked through what a full teaching day is like here. In an attempt to give you more of a peek into daily life here, this post will be dedicated to an average day in Chiang Kham.

6:20- My first alarm goes off urging me to get up ready for the last Monday of school. After not sleeping well the night before, I turn it off and wait for my second alarm to go off. Ughh Mondays, am I right?

6:40- My last alarm goes off, and I decide it’s really time for me to start getting up. Before I get out of bed, I put on one of my morning meditations with the app Simple Habit”. Listening to a meditation in the morning helps me to calm the millions of thoughts in my head and start my morning on a positive note. I get up, throw on my classic teaching outfit– a maxi skirt, nice shirt and birkenstocks and get ready for the day.

7:25- On Mondays, my laundry gets picked up and done, so I bring out my laundry bag full of my clothes from the week before. Crazy that this is the last load of laundry I will do here!! It has been really great getting my laundry done. It costs 300 baht a month, just under 10 dollars, and gets picked up once a week. Since we don’t have a washer on our property, I would have to bike with all my dirty laundry to a local laundromat and bike home with a bunch of wet laundry. Emma and I meet outside to bike to the morning market and get breakfast/lunch for the day.

7:35- We make it to the market and to see who has set up a stand today. First we stop at one of the waffle ladies who sells small coconut, pumpkin, sesame (and more) waffles for 10 baht. We each get a coconut one, and despite never having liked waffles before, I do really enjoy the ones here. Perhaps because it’s a little taste of home, the fresh coconut is img_8435delicious or they aren’t quite the thick waffles we get back in the states. Sadly, our favorite lunch man isn’t here, so I settle for a salad from the “salad lady” as we call her. While I love myself a good salad, the “salad” here is really a few pieces of big lettuce, with a bunch of fruit and random veggies thrown in and quite the odd selection of different dressings including “egg”, “green tea”, “berry” and “apple”. On the way out, I stop to get an iced coffee. Not sure exactly what is in it, but it gets me through the morning so I get one almost every day to avoid a headache and passing out at my desk ha!

7:45- I arrive at school, park my bike and am greeting by a flock of children yelling “good morning teacher!!!!” It puts a big smile on my face as I make my way up to my second floor classroom. My desk/office area is in the back of a 2nd grade classroom, so my co-teacher and I are essentially the homeroom teachers for that class. Luckily, I got one of the very good classes, and I have enjoyed spending some extra time with them. I eat breakfast quickly, and sadly take a bite of my waffle to discover it is pumpkin and not coconut. Still pretty good!

8:00- The bell rings and all of the teachers and students head down to the courtyard for morning assembly. I come down just in time for the national anthem, and we all stand facing the flagpole while two of the oldest students put the flag up. After, the students say their morning prayers, followed by a small morning assembly. Two students present words of the day, and then call on random students to stand up in front of the school to answer questions about the presentation . On Wednesdays, the presentations are in English so I am able to follow along a bit better, and know when to actually clap instead of just following along with everyone else. Finally, a Thai teacher gives instructions about the day, reprimands any students who have done “naughty” things, and goes on for a little too long…. I just sit on a bench daydreaming since I really don’t know what they are talking about.

8:45- The bell rings for the first period of the day. This morning I teach my youngest class. Autobon 1/1, my little 3 year olds. This is the class that Atom, Wida and AnAnn are in. I love teaching them!! At the start of every class , we sing the Barney theme song for our good morning to one another. Today, first we learn about prepositions. It was quite literally over their head. Then we play Red Light, Green Light, which they love even though they don’t quite understand. They just know try to run and hug me as quick as they can. Lastly we read From Head to Toe  by Eric Carle, one of the very few books left behind from a previous teacher. At the end of class we say goodbye, but I know I’ll go back there quite a few times this week to soak up my last bit of time with them.

9:30– The second bell rings and this one signifies my free period. Almost every day of the week I have a free second period. During this time, I usually grade workbooks, exams, plan for upcoming lessons, or if I’m lucky, have some real free time. The past few weeks I’ve been very busy making all of my exams, one for each grade I teach starting with 1st. Since I finished, I’ve had to check lots and lots of workbooks. While this is relatively simple and just involves reading, checking answers and signing my initials, it is quite the tedious task. A few times this semester, I’ve been able to sneak away and go for a walk to get coffee or get some lunch for later. I’m looking forward to Wednesday when I’ll have a little bit of free time again before having to grade all my exams.

10:20-12:00- Two more classes to teach before lunch. On Monday’s I teach 5/2 and 1/1 during this time. I was warned when I got here that 5/2 was very “naughty”, and the warning was true. I really struggled teaching them in the beginning because there was nothing I could do to get their attention, but as time has gone on they have started to like me and thus care a lot more about the class. They’ve started to take it personally if I have to ask them to be quiet or raise my voice, and that has certainly worked in my favor. We get through a few workbook pages, and I write an outline for the upcoming exam on the board. After this, I teach one of my 1st grade classes. They’re pretty cute, but their workbooks are way too hard for them and since I am required to teach out of the books, it puts me in a bit of a sticky situation. I’ve done my best to simplify them, but it can be really frustrating to have to stand up there and teach them tons of vocabulary when they still have a hard time introducing themselves and saying how they feel.

12:00- Lunch time!! The students line up in the courtyard with metal cafeteria trays/plates and wait for the Thai teachers to serve them their lunch. Since we do not have a cafeteria, the students head back to their classrooms to eat lunch every day. Once they finish, ours students have to show Teacher Wi or myself their plates so we can check if they’ve eaten enough. If they have, they are free to go wash up and spend the rest of the hour playing in the courtyard. Some favorite games are jump-rope, pokemon, rock paper scissors, tag, and a few others I haven’t quite figured out yet. I eat my salad, and do some reading to relax in the quiet time once the students head out. Since our school is pretty small space-wise, there aren’t many quiet areas to relax. After all, there are around 300 students running around the courtyard for recess!

1:00-2:40- Time for my last two classes of the day. First I teach 3/1. They are quiet and very well behaved, and there are quite a few smarties! Unfortunately, we are in the same workbook predicament. Some of the students are able to pick it up relatively quickly, but it is way too complicated for others! We spend a lot of time talking through instructions, and going over concepts and answers, but again I feel frustrated with the school for making me teach these books. I often feel we could be so much more productive without them. After, I teach the other section of 1st grade. Luckily, we are up to the same section as the earlier class so I know what teaching methods worked and what did not with these topics. They get through a few pages, and just like that I’ve taught my last 1st grade class!

2:40- The last period of the day! During this time, I head back to my homeroom class. They do fun activities, finish schoolwork from the day, clean the classroom, and pack their backpacks to go home. They really are the sweetest kids and I enjoy getting to

Daily views

spend extra time with them. Around the Thai holidays, they paint and do fun crafts to take home with them. Thai students are really beautiful artists and pride themselves a lot on their creations!

4:00- The end of the school day. Students and teachers head back to the courtyard to line up and sing the 2nd national anthem (one is for the last king, and one is for the current king) and to get their buses home. After the anthem is over, I walk to where my bike is parked and bike back to my little apartment. By the time I get home, my laundry is already delivered! I decompress from the hectic day a little bit and relax. Mondays and Tuesdays are my busiest days with teaching 5 classes each!

5:00- Time for the gym. We’ve said this a million times before but the gym really is the nicest part of our town. You would honestly never guess that a gym this nice would be in such a small town! The owner is a young man in his 20s and he always checks in to see how we’re doing. Similar to running, going to the gym helps me to clear my head and feel

Empty gym a few weeks ago

good. My least favorite part of the gym is how often we get stared at. This kind of applies to everywhere in our town. You would think we’d be used to it by now, but one never really gets used to being stared at wherever you go. Definitely something I will remember back home. There is also a very nice pool at the gym that we’ve used a few times when it’s been really hot. I can’t wait to swim more once we finish school.

6:40- After the gym, I bike back to my apartment and get ready to head to dinner. Emma and I walk to Mo’s which is about a 10/15 minute walk away. Our friend Jacqui joins us and we talk about our days, travel plans, and how ready to get out of here we all are. I had the famous pad see ew for dinner. Always delicious. Jacqui, Chloe, Emma and I are all leaving on Saturday and looking forward to getting a meal together in Chiang Mai to celebrate being done with teaching. It’s been so nice getting to know these gals. Who would’ve thought we would meet such good friends in this tiny town. Weirdly enough, Jacqui’s dad grew up in Garden City, and Chloe’s mom went to UVM and her college roommate is now a dentist in Garden City. Such a small world…

7:50- Post dinner we walk back to our apartments and I tidy up before getting ready for bed. I put away my laundry, pack some of it away, and clean up my room before settling down. Last weekend I started packing the bag I will send home with my parents and the backpack I will take traveling with me. It was a little tricky since I still have a few days left, but I made some pretty good progress. After I finish tidying, I get in bed to watch an episode of Queer Eye, a new show Emma told me about on Netflix. I love it!!!! It’s definitely a tearjerker, but I’ve loved the feel-good vibes. It’s based on the original show, Queer Eye for Straight Guy, but with 5 new guys! Then I read a bit of While the Gods Were Sleeping, by Elizabeth Enslin, a book Emma got in Nepal! We’ve both been reading a bunch lately, and trading books once we finish reading. We’ve also gone to a few book stores in Chiang Mai which has been fun.

9:40- It’s bed time in Chiang Kham. After a long day, I am definitely ready to sleep!! My bed is pretty hard, but it’s done the trick (most of the time) for the past 4 months. Looking forward to softer beds on our travels. Dreaming about home, the food I miss, and the people I miss even more. Xoxo




Make a plan and hold it lightly

Throughout my time studying social work at UVM, one of my professors always emphasized this idea of making a plan, but holding it lightly. When we were getting ready to head into our internships and meet with clients one on one, she would say “Make a plan but hold it lightly”. If we were preparing for a big assessment or assignment, she would tell us “Make a plan but hold it lightly”.  Since coming to Thailand I’ve been thinking more and more about this little phrase. Do I have a plan in my head of what I would like to accomplish in the next year, and the next 5 years? Yes. But that doesn’t mean I am going to strictly adhere to every single step to reach these goals and deprive myself of spending time with friends, family, traveling and enjoying my life to reach these goals in a set amount of time, no!! I’ve been trying to apply this saying to more of my day to day life, and also in thinking about getting back home and what is to come. For me, it’s another good way of reminding myself to stay in the moment, go with the flow, but at the same time to make goals and motivate myself.

The weekend of Christmas Eve, we had a very exciting plan. We knew Christmas would be a little tough here for us, so we planned on heading to Phu Chi Fah to do a beautiful sunrise hike. This was our second time trying to do Phu Chi Fah. The first time we asked the songthaew drivers in our town how much it would be and they told us an absurd price so we tabled it for another time. This time, we headed to Chiang Rai after school on Friday, 12/22, and planned on getting to the bus station early the next morning to get a ticket for the van ride to Phu Chi Fah. That night, we met up with Emma’s friend from Burlington and her boyfriend for dinner. We went to one of our favs, Chef Sasa, an Italian place in town and chatted about Thailand, the ups and downs of teaching, and new fun places to explore. They had done Phu Chi Fah a few days earlier and warned us that it was cold but beautiful and so worth it. We were so pumped, and that evening we even headed to the market to invest in some gloves to keep us warm on the hike up.

That night we stayed in this apartment/guest house which was super nice. Honestly, best bed/comforter I’ve slept on in 3 whole months. After a beautiful nights sleep, we woke up and headed to the bus station to buy tickets for our adventure. Sadly, they were sold out…already…at 10 AM!! We were super bummed and spent a significant amount of time going back and forth with the ticket man trying to figure out if there was some way we could come back if someone didn’t show but all he could say was that we could buy a ticket for the next morning (which we couldn’t do because of teaching). We sat for a while contemplating our next move and then headed back to our guest house to get our bags before we had to check out. We laid around for a while and I began searching some things on my phone trying to find us somewhere not too far that we could hike and stay overnight. Eventually I came across Mae Salong, a small mountaintop town in Chiang Rai province which promised beautiful views, some hiking and yummy food.

First we decided to get breakfast at Melt in Your Mouth, Chiang Rai and although my

Weird saucey breakfast

breakfast looked pretty good, it had this weird mayonnaise-like sauce on it which kind of weirded me out. After, in classic Emma and Emily fashion, we decided the cheapest and easiest way to get to Mae Salong would be to get an über. We waited a little for the price to go down, and then plugged in the directions to get to there. We never really know if these drivers know what they are getting themselves into when we head on these long trips, but they pick us up anyway! After some serious twists and turns, and with the help of Dramamine we got there safe and sound. Upon arrival, we got the general direction of the guesthouse we booked earlier on booking.com (always) and headed into the hilly village to find this place. On the way, we passed a 7-11 (always a good sign), and a bunch of different tea shops, and tiny coffee shops too! We found the guesthouse and checked in, and to our surprise it was nice! We had a pretty room with a large balcony and nice view and it was more than enough for just a quick trip.

After being relatively stationary for the day, we wanted to get some fresh air and exercise so we asked the lady at check in how to get to the temple at the top of the mountain, Wat Santikhiri on Doi Mae Salong. She told us we could get a driver or that it would take us about 45 minutes to walk up the road to the temple, and hike up the 900+ steps to the top.

With just enough time to make it for sunset, we sent it up the road by foot and got to the steps. The steps were pretty rough on me, they were so little and I felt like it took a ton of

Just in time for sunset!

energy, but we made it to the top just as the sun began to set over the beautiful mountains and tea plantations. It was such a treat to breathe some mountain air, hike (even if it was short) and see some of the best views we have seen so far in Thailand!

After dinner we went on a walk through the town again to head back to the restaurant we started off at. Mae Salong actually began as a Yunnanese town and you could definitely still feel the Chinese influence. I don’t know much about Chinese history, but from what I have read, remnants of the Kuomintang (KMT) fled Yunnan after defeat in the Chinese civil war and landed in parts of Northern Thailand, Taiwan, Burma and Laos. The Thai government presented a deal to the KMT that if they helped the Thai fight their own Communist insurgents, they could stay. Over the years, the relationship between the KMT and the Thai government deteriorated but the Chinese influence (food, oolong tea, and architecture) remained. That being said, we ate at the Mae Salong Villa Restaurant which felt like a huge Chinese restaurant we might see back at home.

Breaking my veggie streak!

Despite almost never eating meat here, I had the Yunnanese braised pork and a steamed bun and it was delicious. Melt in your mouth good (unlike my mayo breakfast). Post dinner we headed back to our cute  hilltop hotel for a good night’s rest in this quiet little town.


We woke up the next morning and after asking around, figured out we could grab the local songthaew to a bus back to Chiang Rai for a cheap 100 baht and then got the bus back to our town from there. Although this wasn’t exactly how we had planned to spend our Christmas weekend, it was just what I needed, yummy food, beautiful views, mountains and a new adventure. So, make a plan and hold it lightly. You never know what gems you might come across with an open mind 🙂