Well, well. This week’s been a mixed bag of chilling and getting organised…for the Readders has only gone and blimming landed herself a teaching job!! So from the top, here is a summary of what’s been going on!
Back at the Big Smoke!
Sisaket was now long gone. A tin of Leo beer glugged, a few pages of my journal written, I soon fell asleep to the repetitive music of the trains wheels churning over the tracks and sleepers below.
I knew I was getting close to Bangkok station as I could smell it approaching, no joke! With the help of the train guard, the invisible man was lifted from the baggage holder and placed on my back (which no, that doesn’t usually happen..it’s normally a case of struggle with it yourself, rip a Tshirt in the process and finish red faced like a heavy weight champ haha!). Walking through the underpass and getting the usual bag check from security, I’m up the escalators and soon greeted by the hustle and bustle of Bangkok once more!
Crikey it’s early, it’s only just hit 6am! I head to my favourite hostel, Hua Lamphong Hotel with my fingers crossed that they are even open at this hour! Awesome…approaching, I can see lights on and people sitting in the reception. First things first…FOOD! “Sa wa de ca (hello). Are you serving food yet?” I eagerly asked the receptionist. “Sa wa de ca miss. Breakfast is not until 7.30am.” No problem I thought, I’ll just book in and then spend a few hours online to pass some time woo hoo! With my internetting’s all caught up on and my belly now satisfied with a full english brekkie washed down with a good old cup of english Twinnings tea (yup, one of the reasons I love this place…*sighs* oh the little things!!), I then get a call from my friend Ken. “Are you in Bangkok yet? I have an update for you. Can we meet later for a catch up?” Ken sounded like he had some good news for me yippee! I told myself….’Ok, calm down Helen, don’t get too excited just yet’ but typicially being one of my traits, I just couldn’t help but get excited! With a time arranged for later on, I headed up to my room for a kip. I hadn’t slept all the way through on the night train but then again, I never do – It’s a mix of worrying ‘will my belongings be ok?’ to constantly being woken up during the night by the freezing cold aircon that is persistently wafting over you! So a little tip for any of you stepping onto a night train..wear a jumper haha!!
Batteries recharged, I’m off to meet Ken..
“So, I’ve been speaking to a friend of mine who has a sister that teaches english in Buriram. She is going to speak to her Sister (June) about you volunteering” Ken said, stirring the ice cubes around his iced chocolate drink. “Yippee!! That’s fantastic, thank you!” Oh but hang on, in all the excitement I missed the location..pretty sure it wasn’t Sisaket! Of course, I didn’t want to sound ungrateful but naturally I was really looking forward to going back to Sisaket. “Oh um, where did you say the school was?” I asked sheepishly. “Buriram. A small town but you will love it. It’s in the forest” I was laughing in my head..’me in another forest, oh boy!’ “So um, is it near Sisaket?” Again, I asked in a sheepish but questionable manner. “Yes, they are close. Buriram is the next town”. Bonus..I can always go to Sisaket on my days off then! According to Google, they are about 2hrs apart. Ken then went on to give me a little more information..”The school has been set up by sponsors. They provide free education to orphaned children or children from poor families. I think I will be able to get you free accommodation and meals in exchange for the english teaching.” Wow! This all sounds a bit too good to be true! I just love the very idea of helping disadvantaged children and doing my bit. I thought back to the children I’d met in the various villages I’d passed through during my tours. I just loved playing and interacting with them. They had to be some of the most happiest children I’d ever met even though they had so little. It certainly makes you realise how much of an amazing up bringing that us folk back home have / had and of course how much we have open to us to be able to develop to the highest of standards and now here was my chance to give some kind of input! *Insert record scratch noise* ‘Stop day dreaming Helen, it’s not even been confirmed yet and already you’re glaring out the window picturing yourself there!’ I told myself to snap out of it and just wait until Ken had any news!
Ok, so it’s only been a day but already Ken has an update for me! “Helen, can we meet again. My friend would like to speak to you to find out some more information about you before she speaks to June”. Ken’s muffled voice on the phone was breaking up but we managed to sort a time and a place to meet.
Within minutes of meeting Ken, he got straight on the phone to his friend. From time to time, I could pick out my name being mentioned in amoungst the Thai words that were being exchanged when suddenly..”My friend would like to speak with you.” “Ok sure” taking the phone from Ken, I immediately felt like I was on some kind of interview “Sa wa de ca, my name is Helen” (I thought I’d kick off haha). “Hello Helen my name is Benijawin. June is my sister in the school. I wanted to say hello to you first and ask you a few questions.” “Of course, no problem.” Benijawin and I didn’t chat for long but she basically wanted to know if I had taught before, did I have a Visa, how long would I like to assist them and what compensation would I be after for teaching etc.. All I asked for was a room and some meals (as Ken had already implied). Benijawin finished the call by asking for my Thai mobile number so she could pass it onto June who would give me a call shortly!
Well, it didn’t take long for June to call me! The phone rang and I instinctively knew it would be her. Back in interview mode… “Sa wa de ca” I answered. “Sa wa de ca Helen, this is June. Benijawin has been telling me about you and that you are keen to help us at the school?” Immediately I can tell June’s english is far better than her sisters. “Yes that’s right.” “Ok great. So lets start with you telling me a bit about yourself?” Oh no, that kick off question…I never did like this question as an opener because I never know how to start..it’s open for a ‘Helen’s topic of waffle’ haha! So I just went on to explain that I was from the South of England, what my hobbies were and how long I’d been travelling for and where I’d been! “Excellent. Ok, so how long is your Visa? And do you know that Buriram is quite far from Bangkok?” I could sense a concern in Junes voice! “I have until the middle of July on my 2nd entry but I can do a visa run to the nearby border of Cambodia to renew it for another 60 days. Yes, I realise how far Buriram is. I was staying in Sisaket last week and realise they are nearby” June sounded impressed, phew! Just when I thought I had this in the bag, June then expressed the concern that I picked up on in her voice…”Ok, the only thing I am worried about is that you might want to leave after a few days. Buriram is nothing like Bangkok” “Well I prefer to be away from the Capital anyway. Through some of the places I’ve already visited, I much prefer places such as Laos and Chiang Mai to the City.” I thought to myself, nice one Hels, a confident response haha..but I was almost worrying as to what I was letting myself in for? If June is concerned I’d leave, did that mean others too had jumped out as soon as they’d dived in?! June then wanted to speak to Ken.
It felt like they were talking for ages. Ken was confirming that I’d have accommodation plus meals thrown in…and also, what about the internet? He admitted to June that I’m a total internet and facebook addict (A comment I’d stupidly confessed to him in a previous conversation!) Hmm…thanks for that Ken (but secretly I was thinking nice one, I want to keep in touch with my Mum and Dad at least via Skype you know!) Finally Ken hangs up….”Ok sunshine….you start on the 8th June!” “OMG!!! Seriously!?!” I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited! Wow, I was being given a chance to help these children! “Yeee haaawww!! Thanks for your help Ken! So…details, details?” I asked excitedly clapping my hands together as though I was impersonating a seal! I’m sure everyone was staring at me at that moment in the cafe and not in the usual ‘oh look, there’s a foreigner’ type of stare haha! “Ok, they are expecting you to do a month but you can stay longer if you’d like. You will get your own room plus meals and you can use the schools internet. June will meet you on Saturday at the bus station when you arrive and she will show you around and give you your schedule.” “Yay!! This is A-mazing!!” I had such a big smile on my face 😀 I was so grateful to my friend Ken. If you remember..he was our tour leader from my first tour (Northern Hill Tribes Discovery). Once I’d told him that I was going to stay in the monastery, we clicked! He’d stayed in that very monastery as a monk himself so he was giving me tips etc..so we just kept in touch since. It’s great making Thai friends over here! Handy to have around!
Later on, Ken and I hung out at the cinema and had a drink to celebrate! I was wondering what the cinema would be like..’how is this going to be possible? Will the Hangover 3 be in Thai with English subs?’ Well no! In fact, it turns out that the film was in fact the other way around…English with Thai subs! BONUS!! Recommend that film by the way 😉 Just before the film started, Ken rang off to the toilet…then suddenly something very odd happened…there was a pause and some classical music began. Everyone in the audience stood up with one hand placed over their heart..’What the? What’s going on?’ I thought…I froze and just watched everyone for a few moments as if something was going to happen. Then a short film began playing…it was their King! It only seemed to run for maybe 3 minutes or so but it was like a short montage of clips summarizing the life of Thailand’s King. Well, I felt most awkward I tell thee! Was I meant to stand up too and show some kind of respect? No I told myself…he’s not the King of my country so it doesn’t concern me right?! Well those 3 minutes felt like the longest! And where was Ken to ask ‘what is this about, should I stand and salute too?’ Ken sneaks back in as the film starts and I told him what just happened. “Oh yes, that happens every time before a movie. You’re not Thai so you don’t need to stand so don’t worry.” All in all, the film was brill! I seemed to understand the jokes better than the Thai’s..And I’m pretty sure they were getting annoying with hearing my deafening cackle of a laugh in Dolby surround but nevermind, I enjoyed it anyways hahaha!
“Ok, so you need to get some new clothes for the school” I think Ken was trying to be polite..in other words, more ‘conservative’ clothes haha! Well, it’s not like I dress provocatively of course but he just meant Tshirts that covered my shoulders rather than a vest top. I always wear trousers too so that wasn’t an issue.
Ken told me he lived near Thailand Cultural Center so I could catch a train over there and he’d take me shopping so he could help me get prepared! Awesome! I guess as he’s helped me to set this up, he’s probably felt some kind of responsibility for me but also to keep his reputation intact with his friends! “There is a Supermarket at Thailand Cultural Center called the Big C so I’m sure you will be able to get all you need in there”. So next morning I get up and take myself to the train station. Awesome, this is what I love, testing my independence and my ‘savvy’ side..trying to figure out the ‘how to’ without actually knowing the ‘where to’! Knowing that I had no time constraints and that Hua Lumphong was my base, it’ was not like I could go wrong or get lost either.
So I find a ticket booth and ask for Thailand Cultural Station. “Metro line, platform 1. Every 5 minutes”. Awesome, that’s sorted then! Just like in Malaysia, you are given a token to hover over the ticket machines to get in.
I find that Thailand has such a fantastically organised transportation system. There are so many methods of choice too…Sky Train, Underground, over ground, boats, tuk tuks, taxi’s, motorbike taxi’s, buses….but the trains are just fab! Dare I say it but I find the underground SO much better than the London underground! It’s very easy to follow plus, they are very clean and modern looking trains, love it! On the underground trains, there are also flat screen TV’s showing the typical toothpaste / insurance adverts etc but also just as you are approaching the next station, an announcement will boom over the tannoy as well as appear as a message on the TV as to where you are so you really can’t go wrong! I also love the fact that at the platform…there are arrows telling you where to stand! haha…a ‘how to get on the train’ it’s great! If you can imagine you are looking at the open doors of a train – there are 2 arrows pointing diagonally into the train from both sides as if to say ‘enter the carriage at these side points’. Then there are 2 arrows exiting the middle as if to say to the people getting off ‘Exit the carriage and walk straight ahead’ haha! Bless them..it’s all in black and white here. But it’s a system that works, it’s so civilized! Why don’t we do this in London!?
Anyways, I meet Ken at the Big C and he’s showing me around. After being distracted and getting over the fact they have a Boots store over here, I then find a suitable clothes shop and get shopping. It was a huge store that reminded me of Tesco’s actually. ‘Right, so….conservative clothes’! In the changing room, I’m pulling on a bright pink Tshirt that had ‘BOOM’ written across the front, you know, in pop art style! I was thinking to myself ‘I will not be a frumpy teacher…I want to be a cool teacher’ haha. Hmm, even though it looked pretty cool, I put it back along with the Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Elmo and other cartooney tops that I had picked out haha! In the end, I opted for plain looking polo shirts in pastel shades of yellow, blue, green and pink! 🙂 Brill! With a new stock of Tshirts, Mozzie repellents, shampoo, shower gels, biro’s…I’m materialistically ‘Readdy’!
“Hey, lets go to the cinema again? It’s Wednesday…films are shown for 80 baht today, it’s a special promotion!” So we did! We watched ‘Now you see me’ and ‘After Earth’. And again, I had to endure the same strange standing, saluting ritual when the Kings montage was being shown. ‘Oh no! Do I stand or what?’ I thought to myself, I always felt so rude not standing but I also kept purposely looking around the cinema so the Thai’s could see my face and realise that I wasn’t a Thai (just incase they were wondering ‘Why is that rudey chops not standing up and honouring our King?!’) Awkward moments surpassed and both films were definitely worth a watch! 😀
Will I, won’t I…?
Ok, so I’m pretty much there and Readdy to go! Clothes sorted, transport all figured out and here I am now…sitting typing up my blog the day before I go off to become an ‘English Teacher’!
With nerves starting to take over and doubts filling my mind, I’m wondering exactly how ready I am! So Ken calls me earlier in the day to see if I am ok and to find out what bus I’m getting on…”Are you ok sunshine? Let me know what bus you will be getting on so I can let June know what time to expect you. Oh and by the way…June and the Director have announced to the whole school that you are coming”. WHAT!! OMG! This is feeling so real now. There’s no way I can run off and hide either, I mean, it’s not that I want to run off of course but when my inner voice is trying to doubt me as usual, it’s very tempting haha! I just don’t want to let anyone down and I want to be good, well, great in fact! ‘What will the children think of me? What if I forget how to spell something? Will they be naughty and give me the run around? What if I suddenly get my blushes right in front of the class?’ Thoughts are now whizzing around my head and I can feel that adrenalin starting to rise up from my belly!
Right, pep talk to myself in the internet cafe…’C’mon Helen….you know you can do this..I mean, you have to look back and realise just how much you’ve achieved so far! If you can get the ‘balls’ to finally chase a dream, you can do anything!’
So….it’s an early night for me tonight and an early bus ride in the morning. For a 5hr trip will bring me to my next adventure, the next chapter if that doesn’t sound too sentimental haha!
My next blog will be typed up from the school and published by ‘Teacher Miss Readdy’ haha! I can’t wait to tell you all about it so do wish me luck! So, Buriram here I come! If my travels haven’t changed me so far, then I have a feeling this will (for the better of course lol!) 😉 xxx