Posts Tagged With: Nang Rong

The Thai of my life!

Yesss, I finally got a window seat for my flight to Bangkok! Although saying that, I felt kinda blue peering out of the window and watching Penang shrink into nothing more than a ‘toy town’ below! I was sad because I knew that Bangkok was to be the last destination. Now, each time I board a plane, it feels as though it’s bringing me closer to ‘that day’ when I finally have to step onto the last airport shuttle headed for Heathrow 😦

Phew! Ok, so I’ve touched down in Bangkok…again haha! But this time of course, it’s for the last time on this leg of my journey *sighs. But anyways, I was really looking forward to seeing my Thai pals and hanging out in the city once more. I know my way around and well, just where to hang out and let my hair down so I will be making the most of my final week or so.

I got through immigration and customs all ok and had another stamp bashed into my passport allowing me up to 30 days stay. Hey, hang on a minute, I tell you what…I managed to get through Penang security AND Bangkoks with a 2ltr bottle of water in my hand! How that happened I don’t know but hey, that could have been ‘bomb’ liquid for all they knew muwahahah! That’s never happened before…I normally get my water taken off me but not that time haha! Just a random observation…

My fab friend Ken (or Kendoll as I call him) offered to come and meet me at the airport which was sweet of him. He even assisted me with my luggage and getting me to my hotel which was great actually and it avoided hearing all the ‘Excuse me Miss, you want taxi’ etc. Once I’d checked in, we went straight to the movies! Well, I had some movies to catch up on hey lol! So we had some food and watched Gravity (which is FAB for anyone who loves their space movies!)

30 degrees of Rain!

Oh noooo! The rain’s followed me all the way from Penang! And it’s determined to scrub off all proof of the slight jaundice looking tan I’ve achieved right before I hit Heathrow haha! Nevermind. I wasn’t going to let the rain put me off having a good time either on my final week of being a free spirit!

I tell you what though…I love the rain abroad, it’s so warm! Who needs wellies when you can wade through the puddles in yer flip flops! * Sighs, if only the rain was like this in the UK…wet and warm haha! The only bummer is that yes, you still get really dirty feet haha. Sometimes I’d look down and think, ‘Huh, since when did I get black grubby toes!’ hah! So yup, I will miss the ‘hot rain’ 🙂

The Flower Market

My friend Kendoll told me about a Flower Market near Koh Sarn Road and asked me if I’d been there before. “No, I haven’t. I’d love to see it though before I leave Thailand” I excitedly replied. “Yes, it will be good for your pictures”. So Kendoll agreed to take me there and show me around. It was amazing, I loved it! Plus it was a brucey bonus having a local to hang out with and speak ‘Thai’ to everyone for me haha!

It was just gorgeous! I could see the market folk all setting up their stalls ready before the customers flocked…although saying that, it didn’t actually get all that busy but again, another bonus for me! I could see trucks delivering bags FULL of flowers! Some Thai words were exchanged from the drivers to the stall owners and they’d then drive off. I watched as the marketers then opened each bag and literally picked out flowers one by one and ‘arrange’ them either in glorious bouquets or just singly in their rows.

It was just fascinating to take a slow walk around and see stall upon stall, row upon row and bouquet upon bunch of flowers in every shape, size and variety! Oh and the smells….WOW! For once it disguised that Bangkok ‘stench’ that I had become all too familiar with haha! It wasn’t just a flower market….it was like walking through a perfume factory! Oh and the colours, you would not believe it but the sellers even decorated their stands with the flowers by colour! So red with red, pinks with pinks etc…now that must have taken forever but it was quite an impressive display.
I found a Rose stall and stood and watched for a few moments as the market lady picked out what looked like a dozen roses and bundled them up with speed. Can you believe, that a dozen red, pink or yellow roses were the equivalent to 1 English pound….yes 1 POUND! Everyone would be buying their Mums or lovers a huge lorry load of them if they were that price in the UK right? Although it would probably cause our roses to become extinct at the same time too!

Once the flower stalls diminished, new stalls were revealed with a different variety of produce to entice… Wow, fruit and vegetables! Most of the fruit and veg still seemed so foreign to me (of course) well, I mean, a lot of it I had now tried but to name them….ppfftt, forget it! Un-hygienically, the stall owners even let their pets crawl all over their produce! Hmm…2 cats and a puppy – if that happened in the UK, they’d probably get shut down! It was cute all the same though because I wasn’t IN the market for buying that evening haha!

Bo in the Big City

Yay, my friend Bo from the School in Nang Rong came all the way over to Bangkok just to see me and party one last time woo hoo. So Ken, Bo and I all went out for dinner as soon as she arrived. It was sooo good to see Bo and I immediately threw my arms around her when I spotted her getting off the train at Thailand Cultural Centre. “BO…..how are you! So good to seeya again!” I screeched! “HELEN! I missed you!” Awww….

After a huge (and of course, rather cheap) plate of salmon and veg, we had a walk around town before hitting the city centre. It was rather funny actually because we found some 3D paintings on the walls….you know, the kind that you stand in and it looks like you’re abouts to fall into a black hole or something when really it’s all an illusion! That was fun. After much mucking about of pretending we had angel wings or were surfing the ocean, we then caught a tuk tuk into the Big C itself…

One last hit…

We all hopped out the tuk tuk (and probably all looking rather windswept too!) and took a slow stroll around Koh Sarn Road.

“I can’t believe you’ve never been to Koh Sarn Road before Bo?!” I said, giving Bo a wide eyed look. It made me chuckle though…’Hah, an English gal showing a Thai national around her own city!’ hehe.

It was so amusing to see Bo’s face as we walked past the usual stands selling all the tat I’d seen many a time….the wooden ‘croaking’ frogs, the brightly sewn bracelets with every obscene word you can think of, the ‘slinky’ penises! And then there were the stalls selling the edible bugs – scorpians and tarantulas on sticks, the giant locusts, bowls of hot fried meal worms YUK! Oh and don’t forget the clothing stalls displaying T-shirts in vivid colours with slogans of ‘I love BKK’ or ‘Chang Beer’. And then there are the club promoters bombarding you as you walk past their bars….”Hello Miss, you come inside. Buy one get on free bucket” Oh my goodness…and how could I forget this…”Hello Miss, you want to see Ping pong show? Or how about a happy ending?” You have to laugh at it all really. But I’m also glad I saw and heard all of that and glad Bo experienced it too even if she did look kinda shocked (same as me the first time hah!) And again, you have to avoid the limbless beggers sitting in the middle of your path which of course, is horrific to see but I have been told they are professional beggers who have made a trip specially from Cambodia because Koh Sarn is where all the tourists go! You know, when we were walking around, I was thinking to myself; It’s kinda like….you have to experience the darker side to see it and believe it – believe that it all goes on so you can appreciate all of the good, the beautiful and the wonderful things of this world if that makes any sense!?

We were pacing in slow motion for a while and in silence for most of it because I wanted Bo to take it all in. After hearing the many chants of “Excuse me Miss” this and that and the constant flow of hard and heavy bass music mixing into softer tones of live acoustic Bob Marley to Green Day variations, we decided to hit a club….yup, the one and only ‘The Club Koh Sarn’. I laughed to myself again thinking ‘The amount of times I’ve stumbled out of this club hehe’ Well, it just had to be done one last time……

Heights, Flights and….Hangovers!

Yup! You guessed it! Bo, Ken and I all had a wicked night in ‘The Club’ on Koh Sarn that night. Bo and I were also loving mucking about with the free glowsticks you get given when you walk in which immediately makes you feel 12 again haha, funny that! It was also fun chatting to the many different nationalities and hearing about where people had been or where they were off to next… One guy from Dublin came and sat with us and immediately plonked down 3 shots on our table “Drink with me!” He slurred and then promptly hiccuped! “No no, you go ahead” I replied….I really didn’t fancy doing shots that night as I knew that would kill me! The Irish fella was harmless though, just way more drunk than we were haha. He downed all the shots, chatted to us for a bit and then……threw up right at our feet! GROSS! Shame really haha. What a conversation killer that was so yup, we moved away sharpish and left him for his mates to clean up hahaha!

Ok, so falling out the club at 4am we grabbed a cab back to our destinations. We weren’t that drunk (well, not as bad as the Irish dude that’s for sure) but we were at that ‘happy state’ lets say! “Oh my Buddha! I have to be up around 8-8.30am to get ready for my flight!!” Stumbling with my words was a sure sign I needed to hit the hay….well, the TIME was a sure sign I needed to hit the hay hahah! Saying our goodbyes, we all headed our separate ways.

As soon as my head hit the pillow….well, actually, I can’t remember that bit but I do remember the horrid video game alarm of mine going off at a most unholy time! “Oh nooooo!” I groaned but miraculously was up, out and in a cab to the airport to catch my final flight to KL. I was feeling dehydrated, a little nauseous and ached from all the dancing we did the night before. But above all of that, I felt sad and had to fight my watery eyes from actually turning into waterfalls haha!

Finally boarding the plane to KL, I sat and watched the air crews usual safety routine of ‘what to do if’ and then sat staring out the window (yay, another window seat!) whilst listening to the tones of my ipod playing ‘One day I’ll fly away’. The rain outside was hitting the window (another symbolic moment hah!) as I stared blankly out into the distance. I then watched the run way lines gradually speed up and up until they became one continuous line….then the ‘G-force’ facelift feeling hit and we were up! Once more, I watched the airport, the buildings, the roads and cars all turn into nothing more than a ‘toy town’ below. It was almost as though the higher the plane went, the more ‘fake’ the toy town below became hah! Nausea crept over me once more and reminded me how much of a blast I’d had with my friends just hours before! Heavy eyelids encouraged me to make use of the 3hrs ‘free time’ to sleep the hangover off so I gave in resisting and soon drifted off into a sweet slumber…

“Hello Miss….MISS? Can you please open the window shutter” That must have been the 2nd or 3rd time the air hostess had muttered those words to me but the nudge from the person in the middle seat abruptly brought me back to ‘reality’ when they interrupted my slumber with their pointy elbow! “Sorry! Are we landing now?” I stuttered. “Yes, we are now arriving at Kuala Lumpur” Came the reply. “Great stuff!” I tried to sound enthusiastic but I was kinda blue knowing that actually, this was to be my final 3 days before heading home!!

I found the shuttle bus to my hotel straight away and was soon on my way to ‘hibernation’! No, I won’t really be locking myself away for 3 days but I am looking forward to taking it easy and catching up with some telly etc…oh and MTV, who’s at number 1 right now, I have no idea haha? I will also be looking forward to catching a few of my Malaysian pals too and seeing what they are up to.

I will also have to think about what I’m going to do with my blog right? 😦 I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this but I guess I won’t have a lot to write about until the next time I explore the world and believe me, this is just the beginning (until I save up again!) Now I know I can do it, I have well and truly been bitten by this beautiful bug and I don’t intend to stop now! 😀

But this post isn’t the last one, don’t worry! I still have another one in me yet but that one may be coming to your screens from the good old UK!

So thanks again Thailand and for giving me the Thai of my life! 😉

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Home and Away

Well well! Where do I begin! My visa run to Cambodia feels like such a long time ago now, urgh and what an experience…I won’t be crossing into Cambodia anytime soon that’s for sure (sorry Cambodian’s!)

The past few weeks go something like this; panicking my credentials are somewhere out there in the world, teaching next to nothing, having observers in the school, bird rescuing, eating toxic fruit (!), partying in Bangkok, visiting markets that float on water (well, sort of) and preparing for Australia, phew! A mixed bag of fun and excitement sadly seasoned with a pinch of boredom hah! So if you’re sitting comfortably, the Readders reveals all…

Helen the Hamster! 

“Hey, I’m Helen the Hammy! I’m the schools pet Hamster! You can feed me tit bits if you like and watch me run across the floor from time to time but be careful…let me out and I might not want to come back!” Haha, well, I’m sorry to say, but that is exactly how I’ve been feeling these past few weeks. My teaching services were slowing down until they came to a complete halt! I got the ‘It’s not you, it’s the curriculum’ story which is fine but I’ve been pretty darn bored haha! Although, on the plus side, I have been able to do a lot of planning etc…

We’ve also had a lot of observers coming and going…you know…the kind that are watching you, watching them! They’ve actually been staying in my house so I’ve had to learn to share my toys for a few weeks after having the place to myself hah! Some have been really nice but some have just been really quiet and said hello but then they’ll run up to their rooms haha, quite funny actually.

Deliciously Toxic! 

Of course, being the schools pet, the children kindly came over to my house one weekend to ‘feed me’ some tit bits hah! They brought me some kind of savory fruit that was encased in a green tough shell…it looked like a giant broad bean! Well, a few bashes to the ground later and it opens…you then peel it open like a banana and reveal what I would describe as white acorns inside. There isn’t much taste but the texture is like a soft moist nut…like a wet hazlenut (strange description I know but that is exactly how it is!). So it was quite nice actually.

Later on over at the office, I showed one of the teachers some photos of this funny wet nutty fruit to find out what it was….

“How much did you eat?” The teacher nicknamed Star, said the words in a sharp and slightly raised voice almost as though she was telling me off but there was a tinge of concern in her tone…she then eyeballed me waiting for my response. With her reaction to my photo, almost instantaneously I could feel panic starting to rise up from the pit of my stomach! ‘Oh great, have I gone and poisoned myself?’ ‘What have I just eaten?’ With wide panicked eyes I replied with “Oh, not much at all”. Star looked relieved which seemed to instantly banish my feelings of panic. Isn’t that funny how you can make someone ‘feel’ with just a few words? “Ok, that’s good then. This fruit is toxic. If you eat a lot you will get a tummy ache”. Phew, well, I’m sure I have a tummy made of steel now but still, I was glad I’d only had a few nibbles hehe! So yeh, thanks kiddo’s, trying to kill off the pet hamster haha!

Mynah Encounter

So it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in the schools office. Photocopying some bits and bobs I spot something behind the machine! ‘What the….’ Moving the machine slightly, I can see it’s a small brownish bird trying to keep it’s presence hidden from my curious eyes! But it’s too late, he’s been revealed hah. Then suddenly, all these kids came out of nowhere all trying to get a look and play with the baby bird…it was as though the kids all had ‘spidey senses’ that suddenly alerted them to a distressed bird hiding behind the photocopier haha. Well, I told them he needed looking after so we put him in a box with some straw and a bowl of water.

I took him back to the house to give him space from all the small nibble fingers prodding and poking him about. He actually didn’t look too bad, well, I couldn’t see anything physically wrong with him. Maybe he’d just been attacked by a cat and he probably flapped his way into the office to seek solace from behind the photocopier haha. So apart from looking a bit scraggly, I guessed he probably just needed a few days rest to get over the shock and recover a bit. I took a few snaps of him and again when I was back in the office, I showed one of the teachers to determine what he was.

“Oh that looks like a Mynah bird” Creasing her face, June was studying my photo through her thick rimmed glasses…”We get them a lot here in Thailand, they are the birds that you can teach to talk” A Mynah bird hey! “Oh wow! I’m just looking after him for a few days until he’s well enough to set free. I think he was attacked by a cat…I found him just over there” I enthusiastically pointed at the huge grey industrial sized photocopying machine. “You are so kind Helen!” Ah that was nice of June to say so but then I was thinking, wouldn’t anyone else do this kind of thing then? So it was then I decided to comically call my bird Morris! (Morris Mynah)

Later on back at the house, I spoon fed Morris water…that was quite funny actually. He was acting like a baby and wouldn’t open his beak so I practically ended up showering the water all over him so he had no choice but to drink! ‘Hmm..now what to feed you’ I thought. Well, I had plenty of boiled rice so chucked some of that in the corner of his box along with some of the giant juicy ants that are always in my bathroom oh and one of those clumsy army beetles that was flying around my lounge and repeatedly bashing itself into the TV! So in the box he goes too haha! Not a bad selection I thought, a bit of pick and mix!

A few days passed and Morris seemed to be making a fine and fast recovery. I had to shut him in my room when the observers were in…well, I didn’t want them to see him and let him go if he wasn’t ready. One day when I came back to the house after school, I rushed up to my room to see if he needed any water…I opened the box and he wasn’t there! ‘Oh no! Where has he gone?’ I then heard a noisy squawk above me and there he was…clinging to the net curtains hah! He was clearly peering out the window wanting to get a taste of freedom. I gently tugged his little clawed feet from off the curtains and lowered him back into the box so I could take him outside to set him free. It was so funny, he turned his little head towards me and let out a series of super loud squawks! I think he was swearing at me! “Alright, alright! I am letting you go silly!” But as soon as I popped Morris into the box, he flew straight back out of it! He was flapping all over my room…from curtain…to cupboards…to stopping for a min to poop on my clean clothes…thanks Morris! He finally came to a halt on the top of my head! “Awww isn’t that sweet Morris! You do like me after all then!” Admiring our reflection in the mirror I was thinking that we were sharing a moment together….then felt a warm wet trickling down my back! “Oh well, that’s just super Morris…thanks a bunch! It’s definitely time you were leaving hahah”

Outside, I reopened the box to see Morris’ little face staring up at me but his gazed soon looked past me and over to the fields and trees behind me. Within seconds he’d hopped onto the edge of the box, got his bearings and then flew onto the lawn. He was letting out a series of calls to his buddies to come and collect him but it was rather sad because no one came 😦 Well, I’d done my bit and couldn’t mess with mother nature anymore…I’m sure he’s now reunited with his buddies and is living a normal Mynah’s life out there somewhere 🙂

Bangkok here I come (again!)

Yep, I decided to take myself off to BKK again for another break hah! Yes I know, smelly BKK is not my favourite place in the world but it makes for such a great base, plus, I have friends there now.

I guess I’m getting bored quicker with the lack of teaching but also I am missing my independence and um also the small matter that I am supposed to be travelling here and I seem to be getting stale in this current situation…It’s not that I am ungrateful for having this wonderful opportunity at my feet, I’m just getting itchy feet! Also, the school was going to be closed for 4 days due to it being a Buddhists holiday so everyone was going home anyways so perfect time for me to get away.

So I took a whole week off and caught up with some of my pals and I had a fab time! Love doing my own thing! I get such a buzz when I take myself off for a day out somewhere exploring…it’s like a sense of  achievement! I never would have done anything like this before, I would have been to ‘afraid’ of ‘oh no how do I get there, where do I go when…..’ etc..but now, I absolutely love it!

Just like before, I crammed a lot in on my week off! Shopping, partying, going to the Saxophone bar and cinema oh and a floating market! I was going to scoot down South and see the islands but there simply wasn’t enough time to do all of that and to be honest…I wanted to see more culture than actually staying on a party island…sounds strange for party girl to not want to go to Koh Phi Phi hey but perhaps another time but for now, the floating market actually appealed more! The party islands are usually filled with drunken tourists anyways and I’d rather see and do what the locals are doing…you know, emerse myself in their culture, not the tourist scene! I mean yes, I did do some partying, I just didn’t need to do it every night.

Oh and the cinema was funny! I am getting used to the timings of when they are abouts to play the Kings short film now (you know, when everyone in the cinema has to stand up!). To avoid the embarrassment, I can almost time it right so I can sneak off to the ladies just like my friend Ken did the last time hah! So anyways, Ken and I went to see a film one evening  and I was laughing so much that apparently a Thai guy turned round and said “Who the hell is that girl?!” haha! Oh well, I can’t help it that I have an infectious cackle of a laugh hehe, I was enjoying myself!

Hostels not such a fav!  

Ok, so I did check into my fav hostel but only stayed for a night ha! It was more of a convenience thing for me though because I’d booked a tour through the hotel next door (which was pretty expensive to stay in) to take me to the floating market in the morning….and get this, I had to be up by 5.30am gasp!

I wasn’t so lucky this time of getting the 6 bed dorm to myself…each and every bed was taken. I’d made friends with a couple of people in the hostel though who were also from the UK and we decided to rent a Dvd from reception and chill for the evening. Well, the dvd didn’t work, actually, a whole bunch of them didn’t work hah so we decided to just sit and watch family guy repeats and exchange travel stories.

When it was eventually bedtime, I flopped onto my lower bunk and soon fell asleep but my blissful coma was soon interrupted by 2 giggling girlies! Bright blinding light filled the room but only for about 3 seconds after they’d realised there were 3 stirring bodies in the bunks! Finally, once all their banging and bashing about with the lockers was over, everyone was falling asleep once more…….then another person waltz’d on in…oh great! Well, that’s hostels for you…revolving doors of travellers coming and going. Oh well, I knew I’d be getting my own back in the morning getting up at the crack of dawn for the market hehe!

I then thought to myself, with the money I’m saving at the school, I may as well take myself off and stay someone nice and reasonable (and all to myself)…so I did just that 😉 And I can highly recommended it to the flash backpacker: Prom Ratchada near to Thailand Cultural Centre. The rooms are super comfy and offer free wifi in the room as well as free use of the computers downstairs along with the gym and pool woo hoo!

A Market that floats – Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

What’s that awful cheap electric sound? The music sounded like something from a bad Amiga computer game which was slowly getting louder and louder and rudely entering my dream! I could picture the Mario Brothers running along platforms and jumping over spikes or crocodiles….I then realised it was my alarm – I also realised it had woken all 5 of the other log like bodies which were now stirring and groaning haha! Well, I said I’d get my payback! 😉

So I had a quick shower, packed all my stuff up (in the dark I might add!) and checked out in reception. I quickly whizzed over to a 7 Eleven store to grab something for brekkie and then met all the other market tourists in the hotels reception next door. There were only 5 others…A cute Brazilian guy (who sadly didn’t speak a word of english!), a Swiss couple and 2 Chinese girls who just kept themselves to themselves.

Well, of course, Thai time meant the minibus driver actually arrived at 7am and not 6.30am but I didn’t mind, it gave me chance to gobble my greasy croissant! (all their pastry products do leave the roof of your mouth coasted with somekind of grease…and I know this but still seem to buy the dam things hah!).

So we’re on the bus and the ‘guide’ tells us the journey will take about 1.5hrs to the pier followed by a short 10 minute boat ride over to the market. Well, it must have only been 30 minutes into the journey and already I was fighting to keep heavy eyes open when suddenly the bus driver slammed on the brakes and skidded and swerved sharply to the left! Naturally everybody looked at each other as if one of us had an explanation and then diverted our eyes to the front of the bus….the sound of screeching tyres and the smell of rubber filled the minibus when…….BANG……….BANG!! It felt as though the whole bus tilted to the left as the right side rammed into and over something….’What the hell?’ I have a terrible feeling we hit a dog but I never did look back over my shoulder at the road behind us and I was too afraid to ask so I blocked that thought from my mind 😦

Well, the bus was now tilting to the right! It was clear we had 2 flats from the intermittent ‘flapping’ rhythm of slackened rubber hitting the road. The gaps of the loose ‘flapping’ noise increased as the minibus slowed down. We finally came to a natural halt on a rocky hard shoulder. Oh and what a coincidence….you won’t believe this but we actually stopped right by a tyre company…of all the chances hey! 30 minutes later and 2 brand new tyres and we’re back on our way to market!

Ok, so an hour later and we arrive at a small pier. All 5 of us boarded a narrow long boat which took us to the market. First thing I noticed is how dirty the water was! We’re going at a relatively good pace too and I can feel the occasional splash of this dirty water land on my cheek or upper lip – so I held my hand over my mouth to prevent any ‘sprays’ actually going IN my mouth, gross hah!

I sat at the back just in front of the driver so with the splashes, the constant ‘buzzing’ sound of the engine and the fumes of smoke and fuel surrounding me, it’s no wonder I felt a little nauseous! Sights reminded me of some parts of Thailand I’d already seen before or Cambodia even. Houses on stilts and people living in awful conditions. I even saw one woman washing her dishes in this dirty brown water and there I was, hand over my mouth terrified of even getting a drop in my mouth – it made me feel as though I was being stuck up but of course I wasn’t. I’m sure our immune systems are set up differently. The waters seemed pretty quiet at this point too…apart from the odd boat going our way, kicking up a few mini waves as they scooted on past!

Finally! We’ve arrived at the market. The ‘tour’ guide showed us where we could get the boat around the market and also our meeting point for ‘home time’. To be honest, I wouldn’t class this guy as a tour guide…just someone who was on our bus who got out and pointed us in the directions we should go and that was it! Great job! He didn’t come back with us either so I don’t know where he went.

Anyways, I headed straight for the boat trip around the actual market, it was 150 baht for 30 minutes (which is a little over 3 quid). I think we got slightly more than 30 mins too because of the traffic on the waters, loved it! So glad I booked this tour, it was 450 baht for half a day (10 quid) and that included all transport to and from however, no lunch but it’s so cheap to eat at the markets I wouldn’t worry! Just bring snacks for the bus and your ipod!

So an even narrower boat pulls up which you just ‘step’ into and omg, it’s so wobbly! You all have to sit in perfect balance to avoid it tipping hah! I was 2nd in front – in front of me was the rather cute Brazilian who I noticed was also into photography! Enviously eyeing up his Canon, I found it interesting watching what he was taking snaps of but I also remember thinking ‘Why isn’t he taking this shot, or that one?’ But hey, that’s the beauty of everyone being unique and individual right?

What an experience! I absolutely loved this place and could have stayed all day long! You sail past static stands either side selling all sorts from hats, to shades, scarves and ‘tourist tat’ and if you even so much as made the slightest bit of eye contact, they’d pull your boats in hah! But my favourites were the mobile boat ‘shops’ The boaters would slowly row past you with rich offerings of mango’s and sticky rice, tins of Chang beer or spring rolls or you’d see boats piled high with banana’s or coconuts…it’s a wonder they didn’t sink hah! One boat even had furnace going….heating up oil so the ladies could fry some bananas for you as a tasty treat! Yummy, gobble gobble! The UK’s health and safety commissioner would have had a field day here I tell thee!

Every sense gets a treat here! Smells of spice clashing with sweet aromas hit my nose with such explosions and my eyes were treated to authentic sights of how I imagined a ‘true Asia’ to be. Bright colours, hustle and bustle, people chanting (or yelling!) “For you Miss, special price”, exotic smells and explosive tastes! Was I in fact in India?? It also felt like the set of a James Bond movie! I’m sure Roger Moore was filmed running along the top of these narrow boats in one scene hah?

After a few hours exploring and much fun bartering, it was time to get back on the bus. An underground train later and I now had Prom Ratchada in my sights!

Colourblind Colourist! 

Well…I decided to finally face the choppers and go in search of a much needed haircut for my locks were now seriously matching those of Worzel Gummidge! (for those who don’t remember him, search google images)

I found a nice local hairdresser who seemed to understand what an inch was. Heck, she even convinced me to have a splash of colour….yeh why not, 26 quid was considerably cheaper than the UK and it could do with ‘something’ to make it look anything but scarecrow like! So a nice looking caramel / honey blonde and a trim sounded great right…..wrong!!

The colour was on and gradually setting. I remember looking in the mirror thinking ‘hmmm, it’s looking a little orange up top! Ah maybe that’s just the inbetween stage?’ Well……it wasn’t!! Once everything was finished, washed out and cut….I was just lost for words! Yup, I had a carrot top hahaha! I actually find it funny now but at the time I wanted to cry. The hair dresser knew I didn’t like it and offered to change it but after she showed me photos of how she thought it’d looked (glamorous photos of blonde actresses etc) I could see she saw differently to me and kindly declined! Oh my goodness….her version of blonde was actually borderline ginge – and of course there is nothing wrong with ginger, it just doesn’t suit me!

Well feeling a little sorry for myself, I decided to take me, myself and my carrot top out shopping! I picked a place on the map and went for it!

Victory Monument

Victory Monument in Bangkok is a great place to shop. It’s full of markets for one – yes, yes, you’d think I would have had enough of markets by now but I just love the bartering too much! I’m not always good at it…some market owners just won’t budge but it’s fun trying all the same and you get such a buzz when you ‘win’ haha! It’s like real life ebaying I guess!

I just love getting around BKK too, it is SO easy. I have attached a map below for other travellers to have a look but you’ll get an idea of how easy it it! To get to Victory Monument from Thailand Cultural Centre…I needed to get the underground (pale blue line) to Sukhumvit where you then change to the Sky Train (blue line) at Asoke station (just across the road from the Underground) and that’s it! So much easier than London.

Later on, I arranged to meet my pal Tomo for a night of partying oooh yehhh! Being a Buddhist holiday though most places were closed (and no alcohol will be sold for a further 3mths!! Boo!) Tomo found a place that would be open – Red Sky Bar in Grand Centara Hotel which is by Chid Lom station….so again it would be a trip on Underground followed by a few stops on the Sky Train = sorted!

Party at S39! 

Finally reaching Chid Lom Station, the Grand Centara hotel was about a 10 minute walk from there. I’m hoping it’s nothing like the Hangover’s Sky Bar as that was ridiculously expensive (remember hah!) Note to self: No very berry cocktails for sure tonight!! 😉

So I get to the hotel and you then have to get a series of lifts to reach floor 55 where the bar is…finally reaching the top, I’m walking around and spot my friend Tomo…”You hoo!” It was great to catch up over a raspberry vodka (ok, not quite a very berry though hehe!). I was telling her about my next plans to hit Oz when coincidentally a pair of Aussie guys were sitting behind us! “Firstly, you need to work on your accent!” Said the darker haired one of the pair! ‘Oh no!’ I was thinking ‘how long have they been there?!’ Anyways, they were giving me tips of where to go and what to do etc and then before we knew it, the bar tender announced last orders. We felt like staying out but everywhere was shut! Walking outside, Tomo and I asked a cabbie if he knew of anywhere open…the 2 Aussie guys were still ‘hanging’ around and asked if they could join us…hmmm, ok. After I warned them I had a whole can of mace in my bag and a Thai kick boxing boyfriend they promised we’d be safe hah!

Well, the taxi man knew of a club called S39 that was open to the wee small hours, sounded great! “I take you for free but you must go in” The cabbie man was beckoning all 4 of us inside the taxi. Well, of course we were all ‘should we, shouldn’t we’. There are horror stories of tourists being robbed down alleys etc but we figured with 4 of us together, we should be alright. “So, what’s in it for you if the ride is free?” I asked…..”I get bonus” He replied with a wink. “I see, Ok, let’s do it”.

Pulling up at the club, we could see a mix of locals and tourists coming and going. Entry fee was 300 baht (just under 7 quid) but you get a free drink with your entry ticket. On the way in you get searched by security. Just as I was asked to open my handbag, I jokingly said “I have a whole bunch of drugs and weapons in there!” but the security guy didn’t actually understand what I was saying so the joke was lost on him hah! The 2 Aussie guys offered to buy a round but don’t worry….I made them drink our drinks first so we knew they were ok hah! But they were harmless, they were just tourists like myself (Tomo lives in BKK you see so she’s a ‘local’ now) and we had a good night of dancing and socialising until the morning sun shone in…..By 8am we were all sat around in MacDonalds having breakfast! Woo hoo! Go hard or go home right!

By the time I got back to my hotel, well, that was it….out for the count Zzzz…..

I did skype my Papz later on in the evening and it was SO lovely to see and hear him as it always is when I get the chance to speak to ma folks 🙂 My Dad interestingly pointed out that whenever I mention the school, I call it ‘Home’ ! Oh dear! I never noticed that myself hah!

Home and Away! (Wednesday 24th July)

Ok, so I’m up, packed and checked out to head for the bus ‘home’ to the school! So it’s the underground to Kamphaeng Phet station, a short cab ride to Morchit Bus Station and then the Nakhorn Chai Air bus headed for Buriram. To be honest, I’m not overly joyed at the thought of going back…the hamster was set free for a week and she really didn’t want to get back in her cage, ho hum! Only another week and then I will be going to Sydney, Australia woo hoo!! And I can’t wait for a change of scenery! I feel as though my itchy feet have now developed into more of a bad case of Athletes foot, nice! So not too much longer until Helen the explorer can finally satisfy that itch!

5 hours later and I’m back! I see there’s a canister of food just inside the front porch too…”Aww, maybe they left me some dinner for my arrival?” WRONG….I opened up the first compartment and nearly dropped it in horror!! The rice was moving….yep, it was filled with hundreds of maggots YUK! I casually replaced the lid and then had my freak out haha! How gross.

Moving to the bathroom, I also noticed the giant ants had set up a full blown nest in the sink!! They’d blocked every hole with dirt of somekind and made smaller entry and exit holes within the hole if that makes sense….very strange! So the house had been taken over and needed a darn good scrubbing! I also noticed my family of geckos had laid a few more eggs too 🙂 Still no sign of the older ones hatching yet and it seems I won’t ever get to see them hatch now that I’m leaving soon.

Thursday and Friday I wasn’t asked to teach one lesson = a very bored and dull Readders. Oh well, this is ok for me now as my last and final week will be a week of ‘Home and Away’ planning and oh boy how I can’t wait to get back on that running machine of adventure and onto new and exciting ventures 😀

p.s. I have put more photos of the market in to the ‘Kodak Moments’ page 😉

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Chong Jom / O’Smach visa run…

As you may remember from my last blog, I was quite worried about this visa run. Having an over-active imagination as well as hearing about visa scams etc, it was only natural for the Readders to fret a little. All I could hear in my head was the ‘What if I do get scammed?’ ‘What if I get refused a visa?’ ‘What if they detain me?’ Haha. My busy mind was soon put to rest when I found out my lovely colleague and friend Beau would be accompanying me 😀

I wanted to write about my personal experiences (and include photographs) to help other travellers who may be independently entering (and exiting) via the same border entry point.  I found it quite difficult to find all the information so I really hope fellow border trippers find this of use (of course, feel free to message me and I will happily help if I can).

Today has been a rather eventful day and one which I care to forget! Most people don’t have any problems I’m sure but just mark my words…have your wits about you and never let your guard down, not even for a second! Here’s why…..

Road Trip! 

Ok, a few days earlier than planned…Beau offered me a lift to Cambodia (Thursday 11th July) for my visa run. I snapped the offer up otherwise, I was looking at 2/3 buses plus an overnight stay which I really didn’t fancy much! With my passport packed, a passport photograph, 2,000 Thai Baht currency (overboard incase!) my camera, ipod and mini speakers for the car journey (of course!), we were readdy to rock!

The drive from Nang Rong, (Buriram Province) to the Chong Jom / O’ Smach Cambodian border didn’t take as long as I thought, about 2hrs tops with the traffic. It’s pretty much a straight road from Nang Rong which connects you to Surin, Sisaket, Ubon Ratchathani. It’s a pleasant drive too, lots of beautiful scenery to take in – rice paddies, buffalo oh and there was one field that had lots of suspicious looking plants growing on it haha!

We pulled into a coffee shop for a quick fix. “Oh can we stop by a foreign exchange place en-route so I can make sure I have $20 USD for immigration?” I asked, whilst ordering an iced chocolate over the usual cappuccino. “Sure, we can find a bank on the way”. Fab! At the current exchange rate, I calculated $20 to be around 627 THB so I rounded this up to 650 THB to be sure. Back in the car, it only felt like 10 minutes before we came across a bank! Beau did all the talking for me (useful hey!) and it turned out the bank only had $3 or a $100 dollar bill?! Very strange! Well, I certainly didn’t need $100 and $3…you call yourselves a bank of ‘money’ hah! “Don’t worry, immigration accept Thai Baht” The Cashier convinced me it would be alright but I’d read on other peoples blogs that you should show up with the correct money – well heed this warning fellow border trippers…YOU DO!!

“We’re here!” (best said in the style of the little girl from poltergeist!)

An album or 2 later from the ipod and we finally arrive at the border line. We are soon ushered into a car park so we can walk in to sort the necessary paperwork. There are 2 car parks…the first one is rather expensive so if you can, enter the 2nd one (which is literally straight after the expensive one!).

With all relevant documents, we take a walk over to the first check point which is the ‘Passport Control Departure’. For me, I had to pass through  3 points (the 2nd was where I had to obtain my Cambodian visa so for those of you who already have the visa, you won’t need to worry about this bit).

1st point: 

Nice and easy. Here you will complete your Thai departure card and be given new ones to complete and keep for if and when you return to Thailand. These are normally stapled into your passport but here they are not so put them in your pocket or bag!

Once you’ve filled in your departure card, you will then hand this to the Thai Immigration Officer through the small window at the border pass office so they have a record of you ‘leaving’. I got a telling off here because you’re not allowed to take photos! So I snapped what I could and am happy to share them at the end hehe!

Once the easy bit is over with, you then walk through to what I call ‘no man’s land’ You are greeted by all sorts of people here…listen to no one and just keep walking! Tuk Tuk drivers, people promising you ‘help’ with your visa oh and then there are the beggers.

As cute as these kids may be and as harsh as this may seem, I would encourage you NOT to give them any money. Thai people have always told me to give them things like empty plastic bottles which may seem odd but they can use these bottles to earn a living from (recycling or something). But anyway, these kids are professional pick-pocketers! Fagin would certainly be a very proud old git!

With small, nimble and very fast fingers, even the most savvy person needs to be weary! To give you an example of how good they are; say you’re watching a magician and you’re watching good and hard and even with your sharpest pair of eyes on, you still can’t figure out how he did it…well yup, that is how good these lil kids are!

As soon as Beau and I entered ‘no mans land’…we were swarmed by small begging children. In fact, I think this is how they are so good because it confuses you, you don’t know where to look first! Well, it certainly made me feel bewildered. My eyes were busy darting all over the place when suddenly, the swarms seemed to disappeared as quick as they had arrived! Finally having the space to breathe, Beau and I had a walk around. Most people were going into the nearby Casino – apparently this crossing point is known for visa running athletes  or casino spenders!

After a bit of fun of taking each others photos with one foot in Thailand and one foot in Cambodia I realise my arrivals / departure card is missing! “Oh my god, where is it?” Panicking, I turned all my pockets out and practically tipped the contents of my bag on the floor. I routed through everything…nothing! We even retraced our steps and did a huge sweep of the area and still nothing. I then gasped… “Those kids….those lil beggers!” Beau agreed, “Oh no, they must have taken it” Beau came with me to report it to the Thai Immigration Officer who assured me it will be Ok. “Don’t worry about the card, you receive a new one when you leave Cambodia and re-enter Thailand. And no one can do anything with your passport number unless they have the actual passport” Ah well that’s ok then isn’t it, I’m sooo relieved, not!

Finally giving up the hunt and accepting that someone somewhere now had my ‘details’, we moved onto stage 2.

2nd point: One Visa please…?! 

Ok, so this part only concerned me as Beau is a Thai national so she didn’t need a visa to enter Cambodia.

Walking over to ‘part 2’ I had to fill out the required documents for my Cambodian tourist visa.

Immediately, the Officers had a different ‘air’ about them…I certainly didn’t get a good feeling from them and Beau (having chatted with the officials) told me she found them to be very rude.

Filling out the paperwork with my right hand, my left hand was tightly clutching my 600 THB and I made sure they could see my wad as I wanted them to know that I ‘knew’ the procedure and also that I had figured how much was needed! Handing it all over a new ‘Officer’ appeared. He spat the words “1,100 THB” and looked down his nose at me. “No it isn’t. A visa is $20, the conversion is just over 600 THB!!” Even in my most assertive voice he simply shook his head and said “1,100 THB or no stamp” Trying my best not to get annoyed (as this is called losing face remember) again I ‘politely’ disagreed with him. At deadlock point and neither party budging, Beau asked what the problem was. The ‘Officer’ said he’d only accept the right currency but he wanted $25 and if not, then it had to be 1,100 THB! We put our foot down and said no way, the visa is $20 and that’s all they’d get. Finally, agreeing at $20 the Officer told us to change the money in the building just across from us (which was the final check in point).

So, off we trot to the ‘sign in’ point to get the Thai Baht changed into Dollars. “No, you can’t change the money here, you must go into Cambodia to change the money!” WHAT!! Ok, I was really starting to get annoyed now for there was no way I was overpaying for a visa that is officially $20. How dare they try this on. Were both check points syndicate to some kind of scam here? Both say no so you end up having to cough up the money to get your stamp?! Poor Beau agreed to run into Cambodia for me to change my money as she was pretty much good to go…all Beau needed was a quick stamp in. Handing Beau 700 THB, I stood in wait and watched her hop on a motorbike taxi and disappear into Cambodia! Luckily, Beau was only about 10 mins. Handing me a $20 bill, I then marched on over to check point 2.

“20 dollars” I barked! Wow, I never thought I could do the ‘mean face’ but I definitely found it that day! Well, after having my arrivals card stolen from right under my nose and then all of this visa pa-larva, strewth, it’s enough to give anyone a bad case of the grumps right?

The ‘Officer’ snatched the money and issued me with my Cambodian visa. We later found out that this ‘Officer’ was indeed not an official officer! What the! It just gets worse. What a strange set up…the officers at the check point were real of course but looking back, they seemed like ‘silent sitting puppets’…they issued the visa (don’t worry, that was real too) and did the paperwork for me but the guy demanding the money said to Beau afterwards that he ‘knew’ the officers and would give them the money?! Huh. In other words, he would have pocketed the extra if I had paid in Baht! What surprises me is that this actually happens in front of the official officers? It all seems very corrupt to me. And I would suggest you DO NOT give in and just ‘pay up’ as it will only encourage this kind of behaviour further.

Beau and I did report it when we finally left Cambodia but the Thai Immigration Officer didn’t even seem surprised by it..clearly a regular occurrence. He said we did the right thing though. It doesn’t even bear thinking about what the hell I’d have done if Beau wasn’t there! She was my angel that day and I’m so very grateful.

Final check point

Phew! With all the ‘dramas’ over with, I walked over to the final check point and filled another form out. Here you have to state where you are going so it’s fine to just pop down ‘Siem Reap’ – in fact, the Officers pretty much told me to state that!

Both possessing ‘legal’ entry into Cambodia, Beau and I decided to each hop on a motorbike taxi and visit the local market to find something to eat. That was our original plan to go into Cambodia for lunch and then straight back out again haha! Beau had already been to the market as this was where she exchanged my money earlier.

The market felt so dodgy and again, I’m really glad Beau was with me! For it felt as though people were ‘watching our every move’ – The market has eyes haha! ‘The square shaped market felt more like a second hand jumble sale. Similar to ordinary markets, we could see an array of clothing stalls, fake handbags and fragrance brands, displays of  jewellery and various food stalls trying to entice us but to be honest, neither of us really fancied eating there.

Locals were either sitting by the roadside on dirty old knackered plastic chairs (or actually on the curb’s edge) or they were chatting to each other in their groups whilst sitting on the backs of motorbikes as if waiting for business. Wide, dirty and dusty roads guided us round to more stalls and new aromas (most of which were all bad). Well, we’d seen enough so after a quick walk round, we hopped back on a motorbike and went to the border once more.

The Exit

Easy peasey of course! You simply get stamped ‘out’ at the point you were stamped ‘in’ ! The Officers didn’t look too happy though for whatever reason. I’d heard of people being asked for money to exit but I wasn’t asked for a dime, dollar, pound, nothing! You are NOT required to pay anything so do not let yourself be fooled by them if you are indeed asked!

The Officer just looked at me , raised an eyebrow and questionably said “So you are not going to Siem Reap?” I cheekily replied with “Nope!” With that, I was officially stamped out.

You simply then walk back over to the Thai Immigration point, fill in your Thailand arrival card and come on back in! Woo hoo! 🙂

“Right Beau….let’s go find something nice to eat!” And with that, we practically wheel spinned outta there!

Summary

– Go in with the right money IN the right currency

– Stand your ground

– Be vigilant

– Trust no one!!

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Great Adaptations!

Wow, so I’ve now survived 3wks, nearly 4 as an English Teacher, phewie! The past 2wks have been all about adapting and learning to set boundaries. Whilst it has been a good couple of weeks, it has also left a ‘serious after thought’ in my mind. My first week was all about ‘Wow, there’s an english person here to help us learn and teach’ ‘Wow, look at the white person’ etc..but now, life at the school has had to get real. I guess, if I could just pick words to summarize the past few weeks…I would choose; ‘frustration, heart-ache, hard work, thought provoking, and yes…tears’ !!

Always on call! 

I tell ya, I have a whole new respect for teachers! Well, I mean, not that I didn’t respect them before of course, but now having played a part in their routines and lessons and ‘worn the teachers hat’, I just don’t know how they do it each and everyday! Oh my word have I been tired! Instead of being the newbie who is meant to be full of energy, I am just tired all the time! I guess this is because I am living onsite at the school so wherever you go, whatever you do, you will always bump into a kid or 3! You literally have to be on your best behavior, giving the biggest smiles and the ever attentive ears at all times! Even at the weekends, you get ‘disturbed’…the kiddies will come to the house to see what you’re doing or come to drag you out to play which is rather sweet but at the same time, I do like my own space just like we all do and all need at times. Swearing has far left my vocab now (for my Mum and Dads ears – not that I swore a lot of course haha! 😉 ) but anything you say, they will mimic and remember! Actually, now there’s a thought…why do kids always seem to remember the bad words hah! I bet if you taught a lesson swearing throughout, they’d remember the dam lot haha! Swearing the phonics at them, they’d be b****y geniuses!

Clingons….not in the star wars sense, nor any other sense!

Ok, now the serious part! It became evident after the first week that I had the beginning of a small fan club. I’m not saying this to sound big headed but the teachers did warn me that you may experience a few ‘clingons’ haha. Being new and different, the children naturally see you as a new play mate right! Well, Lek (the lady boy who I introduced you to in week 1) was my main clingon, then there is Gun, another cute little fella who is just lacking love and attention! Other followers include a few young girls who just want to play with my hair and draw pictures of me…so cute!

Lek was really my own main problem. From the start we were watching Youtube videos together almost everyday! Well I had no idea that the students weren’t allowed in the computer rooms unless they were doing homework / projects etc…oops! The students are fully aware of the rules of which I wasn’t so he took advantage of my ‘newness’! But other problems arose…Lek really wanted the DVD collection of the British hit Merlin! One evening I was skyping my Mum and Nana’s and he came over and interrupted asking them “Have you ever heard of Merlin? I want the Dvds, series 1,2,3 and 4!” Well, of course my poor Mum and Nana’s agreed to get them for him to which he replied “Don’t lie to me!” Well, in the end, I had to tell him this wasn’t going to happen for 3 reasons: 1. Dvd regions are different 2. It will all be in English and 3. I can’t be seen getting one student a Dvd and not all other 700 of them! Eventually (and even though he didn’t look happy about it), Lek understood!

Finally with that drama over with another one started! “I’m staying at my sisters on the weekend. We can take you to Phanom Rung Ruins” Lek sounded really excited! My first response was “Sure” but then he asked to borrow my mobile to call his sister which I stupidly let him! “Great, she said it’s all fine! I can’t wait!” He then clapped his hands and then ran off to class. Um, hang on a minute…what just happened here? At lunch time in the canteen I consulted Tomb and Pinto…”I may have got this wrong but I think Lek just invited me to stay at his sisters house for the weekend and he’s taking me to see the ruins?!” I explained! “Can someone just talk to him for me and let him know that I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t mind a day out but not to stay over!” “Oh no! Of course, we’ll speak to him Helen don’t worry!” A surprised looking Tomb exchanged a glance and nodd with Pinto for they would deal with him after lunch! Later on in the day, Tomb and Pinto explained that Lek had been spoken to and they were really pleased I informed them both. Not sure I can go into details but it didn’t exactly sound ‘safe’ for me to stay at the house (not that I was planning to anyway) but they also brought it to my attention that even if I did have a ‘day out’ with him and his sister…should anything happen to either of us, I would be the one liable! Umm…Ok, I was thinking, can we just forget the whole thing!? I’m more than happy to take myself off to see the ruins anyway! Lek did come and find me a few days later saying how upset he was that he couldn’t take me to see the ruins but I just laughed it off. I later found out that he even asked one of the teachers to drive us both there and back seeing as I couldn’t stay over…the cheeky lil thing! Anyways, drama dealt with! Since then, Lek has backed off and he seems to be leaving me to get on and ‘teach’ which is a good thing!

It’s one thing being a friend to the students, but my first lesson has taught me that you must set the boundaries!

Summary of Week 2!

With the tiredness aside and clingons finally loosing their grip, I am now pretty much set up here! I share a timetable with Pinto so I know what I am teaching and as long as I have my lesson plans in place and enough material to last a 50 minute session I’m fine. I am treated more as a ‘floating’ teacher. If another english teacher wants to ‘borrow’ me for a lesson, I now get ‘booked’ up which is rather funny…I feel like an english consultant or something hah!

– Thai Time

Yes, there really is such a thing as ‘Thai time’ if I haven’t already banged on about it! The 2nd week was a bit of shambles in my opinion. Teachers booking me up but then either showing up 20 minutes late or sometimes not at all…well, we all know that famous saying ‘The show must go on’…well, I had to make it happen, I couldn’t just not teach right? That was funny, teaching english without having a translator in the room! I could have waffled on about anything I liked and no one would have known a thing haha. The older grades were a pleasure to teach, they wanted to learn and even though they probably didn’t understand everything I was saying, at least they tried. The younger kids however, well, they would just run riot and if there wasn’t another teacher present..they were little monsters but saying that, as soon as the bell went, they would turn into angels and fetch my paper work and other bits and pieces and carry them back to the office for me! Huh! Annoyingly cute eh!

I’ve mostly been teaching the parts of the human body and also the names of english food for all of my 2nd week. The kids no matter the age, all loved the stickers game (sticking the word of the body part on to the volunteer!) and also the part where I would invite one of them up to draw me a skeleton on the blackboard (mainly because I simply can’t draw one of those hehe!)…They love it when they have to do something be it, singing, drawing or colouring in and each and everyone of them are amazing at drawing! Are kids just budding artists the minute they are born? I remember a time when I was good at drawing cartoons…I’d love to tell them to never stop drawing, no matter how old they get hah!

Oh one little boy has stuck in my mind actually, he is so funny! I was teaching his class about singular and plural…so I would go through the body parts and point out 1 eye or 2 and invite them to suggest what the plural word would sound like. Well, every time a pair came up, this little boy would shout out really loud at the top of his voice in a monotone pitch “S”  “Yes! Correct, well done, but how does it sound with the word?” I would reply…but again I got….”S” haha! Oh dear, we’ll get there eventually (I hope). Then I taught the same subject to a different class and right at that very moment, I asked them all the same question…this little boy walked past, popped his head around the door and shouted “S” through the doorway, I shouldn’t laugh but it was so funny! One of those moments where you had to be there really.

– Dinner lady…there’s a fly in my lunch, oh and another, and another!

Yup! The School’s canteen (well, everywhere you go in Buriram is riddled with flies to be honest) may as well open a separate tuck shop just for the flies! I can think of 5 types of flies that I’ve seen buzzing about but only 2 species are super annoying. You have the normal black fly that you get back at home and then there are the eeny weeny tiny flies which are massively annoying!!

The common black flies will land on you, your glass, your forks, chopsticks, plates and of course – your food! No matter how many times you swot and sway your arms about, they just don’t give up! I’m almost certain I ate one the other lunch time, they are that determined to grab themselves a free lunch! In fact, someone told me that it’s not a bad thing?! Really!! Because apparently it shows your food is natural and not full of chemicals. Hmm..not sure if I’d rather have a mouthful of flies or mouthful of chemicals?

So you have the ‘I love food and I love annoying humans’ kind of fly but hang on…keep your eyes out for the teeny weeny flies, literally – if you don’t look out for them, they’re certain to look out for you! Yep, they have a weird fetish for the human eye ball! I don’t know why but these little fella’s are determined to get inside your eye! You are constantly swotting them away! Being a contact lens wearer it’s a ‘germ concern’ well, of course even if you’re not but they are so irritating! I sit outside of an evening to skype my Mum, Dad and Nana’s and these flies are persistently buzzing around your face, your eyes!

Health wise, I haven’t actually been 100% since I started here at the school you know. My guess is because I haven’t stayed somewhere for too long so have been lucky to avoid bugs and germs but being surrounded by children, different food and fly infested food at that…I’m sure I’ve have had more tummy troubles than a bottle of Pepto Bismol could keep up with ha! I’ve even had all kinds of rashes and some in places I can’t even reach to scratch hah! Well, I’m sure by the time I move on, I will have an immune system as strong as an ox 🙂

– Plotting and planning

Among all the teaching, I have very busy getting back to basics, yep, plotting and planning again! Lesson plans, new ideas / subjects to teach and talk about  as well as trying to think ahead…I have also been busy planning a careers workshop ‘Route to Recruit’. It was like a light bulb suddenly exploded in my head “OMG, why don’t I hold a careers workshop after school for the 18 year olds?! I mean, that’s what my job was back in the UK, to get other people jobs right?” Bingo…I went straight into see June and she thought it was a great idea. Coincidentally I was teaching the 12th graders that day so we put the idea to them…”Yes, yes!” They all shrieked! Fab, sounds like a good plan then. So in the computer rooms of an evening (whilst flitting between facebook and hotmail) I have been putting together a 4 week course for them. This isn’t about teaching english, this will be teaching young adults how to prepare themselves for an interview and hopefully what to expect. I have been allocated a translator for all my speakers notes as well as on the night as I’m sure they’ll all have questions!

I have also been (trying!) to make my own personal plans…what the hell am I doing after this…where and when?! Well, I think I almost have the where’s covered, but I just need to figure out the when’s. I’ve had one dream to visit the beach where the ‘Beach’ was filmed…yes, yes, cliche whatever you want to call it. You can’t come to Thailand and not do that ‘beach’ right! It’s like going to Paris and NOT going up the Eiffel Tower right? But we are now in the rainy season and there have been storms a plenty over that way plus there is the threat of the dreaded dengue fever in the air. I know at least 2 people who have contracted the infection since going near this place…hmmm…maybe I’ll go there for a few days and back but I can only plan this around the weather. Then I’d like to whizz over to Australia for 4-6wks and then hit Indonesia for 4wks! I’d love to do another jungle trek but this time on the hunt for the illusive Orangutan! After Indo, I’ll fly back over to KL for 2-3wks before heading home!! Wow, home time is coming up faster than I thought! *Sighs*

I also need to plan a visa run in all of this too! Being close to Cambodia is such a bonus…I will bus or train it there, get stamped out of Thailand and into Cambodia and hang about for a few hours, maybe the night? Then it’ll be a quick stamp out of Cambodia and back into Thailand for my 3rd and final stamp! I will need to have my wits about me too as there are a lot of visa scams entering cambodia. I have also heard the immigration like to try their luck and ask you for money just to exit again! I read on someone’s blog that they laid down on the floor and pretended to ‘go to sleep’  to avoid parting with any cash..well the immigration wanted to get rid of him sharpish to avoid any embarrassment but I’m not sure I’d have the guts to do that haha! I’ll have to think of something..

– Readdy for the weekend! 

Friday 21st of June was a knightmare! Everything just seemed to go wrong that day. The kids forgot to bring me my brekkie canister so I was pretty hungry by the time I’d got into the office. Then I was booked up for lessons in which again, the teachers were either late or just didn’t show at all. Oh and I even taught the wrong class haha! Only the Readders could do that right! Ok, I can laugh about it now but at the time I was pretty frustrated and totally embarrassed! I was asked to teach the 11th grade (16-17yr olds). Great I thought, a nice age and a good subject. Well, I couldn’t remember where the classroom was! Unfortunately I inherited my Dad’s shocking sense of direction hah! (sorry Papz). Mine is pretty appalling…I will sometimes go into a shop and then come out thinking…um…which way did I come in?! Oh dear haha…how have I survived travelling for this long I wonder? Well, anyway, I asked a group of passing students “Where is Grade 11, class 3?” They all pointed me to a building at the far end, “Lovely, thank you!” I replied, and then carried along my merry way! I can imagine my pony tail was whooshing and whipping from side to side at this point too hah! So, I get to the ‘building’ and I’m faced with corridor after corridor of rooms and doors! Most of them open and each filled with kids off all ages. Oh crap! Ok, ask someone…I found 3 teachers all hanging about doing well, nothing really so I asked them the same question. They soon pointed me into a room full of 35 odd screaming kids! Oh my god, are they serious? They don’t look 16-17yrs old, they looked about 10-11! Despite my protests and resorting to drawing the grade and class number in the air and asking them repeatedly “Are you sure?”, I was soon ushered into the room so I had no choice but to teach. Before the door was even shut, one of the Thai teachers ordered the little people up on their feet to do their welcome chant of  “Good morning Teacher, how are you?” Oh no…so after uttering a silent sigh under my breath, I went for it! It was terrible! Well, they didn’t understand me without a translator but to be honest, I don’t think they wanted to either! So I struggled on through and thanked the skies when bell when it went off! Then the monsters turned into little angels and helped me pack my props away!

– Sing us another song!

Finally, it’s 3.30pm and it’s Friday afternoon…school’s officially out oooh yeehhh! Pinto and ‘M’ one of the lady boy teachers invite me out for dinner and karaoke for the evening, hell yes, I could do with a beer or 3 to help dull my memory of teaching the wrong class. We had a fun night munching on grilled fish (they eat that a lot here…it’s funny seeing a huge grilled fish laid out on a plate staring up at you with it’s ‘popped’ yellow eye! You just each grab a fork and well, tuck in!), drinking Leo beer and singing our hearts out to a random selection of Thailands greatest hits to some good old classic Brit hits! M has the voice of an angel by the way! He used to enter competitions when he was younger and apparently he won every time. Well, as soon as he opened his mouth, wow! I couldn’t speak and I felt as though I must have looked like a puddle of melted butter on the floor haha! I loved it. He sang all in Thai though so I have no idea what he was saying or singing about but I didn’t care!

Saturday was a pretty rubbish day. The kids didn’t feed me at all that day so I was famished. There are no shops nearby, nothing is in walking distance and there are no taxi’s or tuk tuks around either. Plus there are some dodgy looking dogs just at the entrance of the school and after my experience with that dog from the monkey school in Surat Thani, I really didn’t fancy another run in. That’s the thing actually, I have developed a small fear of dogs. I believe that to be a good thing in Thailand anyways as you never know if they have rabies right? I think once I get back to the UK I will be fine. So Saturday I ended up tidying and hand washing my clothes in a huge bucket that I found on the porch. Oh and I found a yellow scorpion in my bin! Thankfully it was dead but it still sent shivers down my spine! Even though it was awesome, it was a clear reminder that these things are very real over here and apparently living in bins hah! So from now on, I always check my shoes and even my sleeping bag just incase one crawls inside for a night cap!

– Not completely ruined

Sunday was pretty cool. Beau invited me along to see the ruins – the place Lek wanted to take me to! We were to have a day out at Phanom Rung Ruins with 5 other students. So the schools truck toots outside at 10am to pick me. Beau greets me and ushers me into the truck where I see 5 excited students all sitting in the back, gossiping and taking photos of each other before they embark on their day out! Pulling the heavy truck door shut, we’re off! We stopped along the way to grab some coffee (and I was glad because I was feeling sleepy as usual hah!) and snacks and then carried on.

It took us about an hour to reach Phanom Rung Ruins. My ears were tuned in to the chatter from Beau and the students but both my eyes were busy taking in the views and sights along the way. We passed many lakes that were covered by blankets of beautiful pink Lotus Flowers, it was just like being back in Nam! They are amazing, they only open when the sun shines down on them and as soon as the moon rises, they close up for the night! Down each dusty, bumpy road we travelled, I would see locals going about their usual business, families (yep, Mum, Dad AND the kids) all miraculously balanced on their dodgy looking motorbikes and lone stray dogs either sleeping in the odd patch of shade or sniffing about the food stalls. We also pass lush green rice paddies and also another field full of plants that looked suspiciously like cannibus plants!? I was thinking to myself, if I was to hire a motorbike for the day, I’d never find my way back to the school you know! I’m not kidding, all the roads look the same hah!

So we finally get to the ruins and the school very kindly pay for my entrance fee, bonus! I guess it’s because it’s classed as an educational day out hey! I can see hoards of visitors (mostly of Asian ethnicity) snapping away with their huge Canons or Nikons reminding me why the hell didn’t I bring mine with me? Hey my Sammy will do just fine for now (Samsung!). And I can also see the usual tatty souvenir shops all lined up next to each other each displaying the same stock; ‘I heart Phanom Rung Ruins’ T-Shirts, pens, caps, keyrings and fridge magnets etc.. As soon as we walked through the entrance gates, I can see the ruins in the distance and to be honest, they look like a mini Angkor Wat. “Excuse me Miss, can I have photo with you?” Hah! Well, this is actually becoming a ‘normal’ occurrence! The Asian culture just seem to love having their photos with us ‘Westerners’ for some reason. I had this a further 4 x that afternoon!

So, we’re walking round and taking photos and generally enjoying out day out when suddenly we walked right onto the set of a music video, opps! haha! Of course, I had no idea who the singer was but apparently she’s quite well known over here…you show her picture to anyone here and they will know her. We stopped and watched for a while and the team even let me have my photo with the dancers from the video which was pretty cool! After all the excitement, we left in search of food, gobble gobble.

Summary of week 3

So it’s a new week and there’s a lot to be done. My first careers workshop is Tuesday evening so I’ve been busy adding the final touches to my introduction slides. Monday evening we had a huge thunderstorm and I gladly welcomed it…the storms always managed to cut through the blanket of hazy heat the day had smothered us in and even kept it away the following day. I was in the computer room tapping away at speed on the keyboard while the rain was hammering down on the roof. Cor, it’s like there’s some kind of musical production going on out there…the porch just outside the computer room is covered by a tin roof you see so it sounded like thousands of tin..no…iron buckets were hitting and bouncing off the roof and I could also hear toads croaking and singing to each other to come out and play, the odd chirping of crickets probably telling it’s ‘kind’ to run back inside the safety of their homes and then there are the beetles! Huge hard shelled beetles all come out and fly to any glimmer of light they can see so they’re flying under the porch and whacking themselves into the underside of the roof making a ‘clunk’ sound – but imagine a whole bunch of them all doing this…the industrial sized buckets made of iron splashing down and then the clunking of beetles banging into the tin roof haha! I had also stupidly left the door open to the computer room so of course, these huge beetles are all flying in for shelter and their lightbulb ‘fix’. I sat and watched them for a while and it did make me chuckle…I imagined these beetles were like little army soldiers wearing hard hats but their navigation systems are all out of sorts because they just clumsily (and repeatedly!) smash themselves into objects…even ME! I even found one in my hair when I got back to the house…how the hell did I NOT notice that, so gross! And they cling on for dear life! Once they’ve got a hold of whatever they’re sitting on, you have quite the job getting them off, determined lil buggers hah!

– The teacher becomes the taught! 

So we’re all sitting in the canteen having our lunch to which (as usual), I can’t really eat. Dam I’m missing all kinds of food right now. What I would give for a crispy bacon sarnie drowning in ketchup with of course, a good old English cup of tea mmmm!!! There is a selection of food in amoungst the fly infested chow to chose from..rice (as always), some kind of fermented fish soup and a plate piled high of dried out crispy fish! Oh my goodness did it smell, I actually felt rather nauseous..um, rice for me then! Laughter and chatter filled the air in the canteen with the odd interruption from a chinking fork or glass. Suddenly a man walked into the canteen carrying a big box in his arms. Everyone seemed to know straight away what was inside! Chairs screeched and scraped on the floor beneath them and teachers were practically skipping over to him! Before the man could get the box open, teachers were already extending 1 or 2 fingers at him as if to give a ‘pre’ order! I watched in curiosity as the first teacher exchanged a few baht for what was inside the goody box. A clear plastic bag full of a ‘black mass’ was handed over in exchange. Pinto came back with 2 of these bags…oh noooo! It’s black crickets! Gross! I should have recognised them. “Mmmm, delicious!” Pinto was already opening her bag and popping one straight in her mouth! My curiosity had to be satisfied…with one eyebrow raised I asked “Is there anything that us Brits eat which you Thai’s find gross?” “Um..yes, there is actually..cheese! Especially that mouldy one. Thai people can’t bear the smell, texture or taste!” Pinto then popped another 2 crickets straight in her gob. “Have you not noticed how we don’t even sell butter or milk?” Pinto was practically spitting crickets at me..I was worried I might get a cricket leg in my rice if she carried on talking with her mouth full hah! “Ah yeh, of course, that’s true. So you just don’t like dairy products full stop?” “I guess it’s just how we differ from you, we are more into our fish and rice”. “So what do these crickets actually taste of then…chicken haha?” I asked, shoving a spoonful of bland steamed rice in my mouth. “Prawns!” Pinto replied. “Oh haha…I was expecting you to say chicken! In England, we say everything tastes like that you see!” “Haha…everything here tastes like prawns!” (well, that’s kinda true actually..it’s either that or spicy to me!) June then walked into the canteen. She looked rather disappointed that she missed the ‘cricket man’ but Pinto offered her a handful with her lunch..yummy, fermented fish with a side order of crickets haha!

“Helen, I’ve been speaking with our music teacher. I realise how much you like music so I’ve arranged for you to take part in the lessons each week if you’d like?” June was already munching on her crickets before her main course (that tasty see!). “Wow, thanks June! I’d love to!” How exciting, I get to be a Thai music student. “When can I start?” I excitedly asked. “You can start after lunch today if you’d like?” “Yes, that’ll be FAB, thank you!” So that’s just what I did…

The school bell soon called me to my first music lesson and I couldn’t wait. The music department comprises of a small building stood on it’s own, it’s actually suspended on stilts hovering over a little lake, it’s rather sweet actually! Inside, the teacher welcomed me and enthusiastically ushered me to an instrument. Looking around the room before the class began, I could see an array of dusty music books, music stands, drums of all kinds – some on stands and some set on the floor. I could also see other instruments about the place, wooden panpipes, stringed instruments which were almost like horizontal violins that you pluck and ‘twang’ to change the pitch and tone..and then there were the wooden xylophones, that’s what I was learning today. Ok, doesn’t sound very exciting but it does actually produce a far from boring sound…it’s almost like a timbale but a wooden one of course hah! The instrument curved upwards at both ends so it was almost like a big ‘C’ shape. When I first hit the notes with my muffled beating sticks I thought the thing was out of tune – well, either that or I was hitting the wrong keys but no..that’s how they are meant to sound. Incredibly, when all the instruments are played together at the same time, they all come together and produce this very unique sound…the sound of traditional and rather beautiful’Thai’ music. No language was needed either, I found it rather easy to understand the teacher. The notes were written on the keys of the xylophone and the teacher would write what notes we were to play on the board. Again, I found it easy to realise when to play another bar or repeat certain lines etc..that’s the beauty of music, you just go with your gut and ‘read’ the teacher and ‘feel’ when to come in or drop out etc..I may have inherited my Dad’s appalling sense of direction but hey, with the ‘Readdys’ music in my blood, this is one trait that certainly makes up for it! 😉

At the end of the lesson I caught up with June to let her know how I got on. Apparently the music teacher had said I have a ‘good music sense about me’ 😀 “Helen, I also wanted to let you know, that we are getting the piano upstairs fixed” June sounded as though she couldn’t wait to tell me! Not sure if I mentioned but I spotted a piano here and the only one but the plug was missing..it’s an electric upright. “Ah wow! That’s great! So I can have a play in my free time!” I was rather excited..I had been itching to play again and see what I could remember etc..”I’d like to hear you play and also to the children. I want them to see you as an idol so it will give them encouragement to learn too” Um…what!! Ok, so I used to be able to play and to an ok standard (in my opinion). I used to practice everyday aspiring to play like the great gods of the music world including Bach and Beethoven but I haven’t tinkled on the ivory’s properly for some years now. It’s a great shame too. I could never read music, I really struggled with it so instead I would ‘listen and learn’ but by the time I reached grade 4, it became apparent that listening wasn’t going to cut it anymore and I had to be able to read to pass the exams, hey ho. I really hope I can learn to play again in my own time before I have a small audience hah!

I have also joined a pottery class too with the kids! Again, it was something June arranged for me..now it’s not like I’m a budding ‘potterist’ hah but it was fun all the same. When I got to the class room, it looked like the typical ‘arty’ room just like it did when I myself was back at primary school. There were ‘readdy made’ pots and vases and deformed looking animals and mugs etc..all sorts that had already been blasted in the kiln. It was quite funny, the teacher didn’t speak much english so he took me by the hand, guided me to a work bench and handed me a huge lump of clay! What was I supposed to make with that haha?! Then in Blue Peter style, he showed me a pen pot he’d made earlier! Ahh I see, so you want me to make a pen pot..ok, let’s do this! My lovely cleaned and pruned nails were soon clogged up with thick charcoal grey clay but that didn’t matter..we were all getting stuck in with our pots. Mine actually ended up looking more like a vase than a pen pot..or a pen pot for a giant and his giant stationary haha! Either way it was fun and the kids loved it and it was a great way to interact with them.

– Readdy to Recruit!

My first careers workshop is upon us and actually, even though I am a little nervous, I’m really looking forward to getting started!

Ready with my slides, speaker notes and handouts, the time has come for me to walk over to the allocated room. Along the way, I meet Beau who is my translator for the evening. I hadn’t actually seen the room so wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought maybe it was going to be just like any of the regular classrooms with a blackboard and few wooden desks? Well oh no…Beau unlocked the door and I was quite surprised at what I saw….

The room in my opinion was ‘President ready’! Everything looked so shiny and new! There was a raised platform ‘stage’ area with a huge pull down screen, a projector, a laptop, a speakers stand AND microphone! Omg! This was a full on professional conference room! When we first walked in, there was actually a movie playing from the laptop which was being projected onto the big screen. The Dolby surround speakers echoed and bounced the action scenes all around the room as though we were in a mini cinema! Well, they’ve certainly kept this little room a hidden gem! I suddenly felt super nervous and slightly under prepared. I wish I knew about the projector, I could have loaded a USB stick with my presentation rather than printing them but nevermind..it’s the quality of the pitch that really counts tonight hey.

So I’m busy getting ready and switching on the microphone and making sure all of my notes were in order. The microphone was awesome! My voice boomed from behind the speakers stand and it seemed as though my dulcet tones shot right to the back end of the room and straight back into my face hah! (I could imagine my hair blowing backwards at this point looking just as it would if you were riding up front in a convertible car haha. There goes my imagination again!) I actually really wanted to belch down the mic for a laugh! But of course, not very professional of me hehe. I think I was then punished for that thought as I then got a small shock as I twiddled the mic towards me. “YEOUCH!” Beau told me to put my shoes on (in Thailand, you must leave your shoes at the door you see but the electric shock let me off). Outside I could hear a storm brewing so I wondered what the turn out was going to be like. Maybe the kids will want to stay tucked up in their dorms rather than listen to me rant on about how to get a J.O.B? But then suddenly the door swung open and a few of the grads waltzed in, then a few more, and a few more until 30 odd filled the now not so vacant seats in front of me. Gulp..I’d better not freeze up here..mini pep talk going on in my head as usual ‘C’mon Hels, you can stand up and welcome 700 kids, you can do this too!’ Phew..a couple of rather large gulps from my pint of water (yes, yes, was totally wishing it was a pint of another kind!) Beau then looked at me and gave me the ‘nod’ to make a start!

“Hello! Good evening everyone. Thank you for joining me tonight for the first stage of ‘Route to Recruit'” I then started clapping, I don’t know why but it felt right..plus, it was almost biding me more time to think of where to take it next hah! Clapping is so infectious isn’t it..just like laughing I guess, it’s one of those things that people just instinctively copy. Before the clapping died down, I quickly scanned my notes to get the evening started. I was a bit nervous and you could probably hear it in my crackly voice over the super sonic boom mic but actually once I’d got past the first introduction and course outline, it was fine, well, it went great infact if I may say so myself haha! To finish, I asked the student to apply for one of the graduate jobs from my ‘fake job ad’ that I had created! The students at the end said they really enjoyed it and could I present stage 2 that same very week! So just like the weather outside, I guess you could say Route to Recruit went down a storm haha! So with the next evening / time agreed, I shot straight to the computer rooms after to make sure I had enough material for stage 2. I ended up working on stage 3 too so I could stay ahead.

The second stage again went well with the students. I loved it too because once the initial oh my god I have to talk to them about work fear was over…It became more about the ‘I really want to help them and I hope they find this useful (and take it in hah)’ Stage 2 was their interview invitations (from the fake job ad they applied for a few days earlier) and the ‘how to’ prepare for an interview / research etc. The 3rd stage will be ‘how to’ prepare themselves (i.e. what to wear), greeting the interviewer, body language and attitude and the general do’s and don’ts. The final stage will be all about the interview, the typical questions, how to answer them and then of course…the mock interviews woo hoo! I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to that one, not!

– Back to the Big Smoke!

With the end of the week approaching, I decided to escape for the weekend for a much needed break! As I mentioned, being on your best behaviour for 3 wks 24/7 is very tiring haha! So I arranged to meet some Thai friends and go party in stinky Bangkok woo hoo!

It was very sweet actually but June dropped me off at the bus station late Friday afternoon and she even chatted to the ticketers for me to make sure I got on the right bus, bless her. I didn’t have to wait long, within minutes my bus pulled in and immediately I felt like a kid when I spotted it was a double decker woo hoo…well guess where I’m going to sit..yup, up top of course haha! So minus the invisible man, I clamber on with a small kitchen sink haha… yes, even with my mini rucksack I still manage to bring everything I DON’T actually need but want and end up paying the price! So kitchen sink and Sammy slung over one shoulder (my Samsung camera!), it’s up top I go. Ah dammit, the front seats have all been nabbed…oh well, as long as I get a window seat I’m happy! June waved me off right up to the point I couldn’t see her anymore haha, she was like my stand in Thai Mum that day aww. On go the headphones, out comes the book and I’m sorted.

Half way there, I’m staring out the window deep in thought as usual when…oh great…just seen a dead dog slap bang in the middle of the road! It’s eyes were open and still twinkled in the sun so it must have just happened! I couldn’t get the image out of my head 😦 I’m surprised it’s still there actually..In Vietnam that would have been made into a hot pot already! You think I’m joking, dog is quite the dish over there!

Finally I arrive at Bangkok bus station and immediately before I’ve even stepped one foot onto Bangkok territory you get the chants of “Excuse me Miss…where you go…taxi Miss!?” Grrrr…I’ve learnt to never get the first ones you are greeted with..take a bit of a walk and you’ll soon find a whole bunch of registered (and metered) taxi’s. Again, just be careful to watch the meter thing – as you’ve probably realised in amongst my bloggings somewhere that some taxi dudes will try to rip you off by either setting a price to ride or just won’t bother turning on the meters at all. Metered taxi’s will always be cheaper. I love telling them no nowadays haha! They don’t get offended, just be firm with them and don’t get angry as they call this ‘losing face’. I’ve also learnt that if you upset one Thai, you upset a whole bunch of em! I witnessed a fight brewing in Koh Sarn Road between a German guy and a Thai tuk tuk driver. Things were getting a bit heated when a local joined the tuk tuk driver making it 2 against 1. I asked my Thai friend what was going on etc and he said the other Thai guy who spoke to the Tuk Tuk driver was basically saying ‘If you want me to hit him, let me know!’ It died down in the end but just goes to show hey! Anyways, sorry, going off on one as usual. So I get to my hotel, unload and unwind! Ahh a nice hot shower, beats the cold one at the school haha! Oh nooo, I realise I’ve lost the tablet to my charger! Well, either that or it’s rolled out my kitchen sink and under one of the chairs on the double decker! But I wasn’t going to let that ruin my mini break hah!

I had a great time! I managed to pack quite a few things in such as the cinema, bowling, karaoke, clubbing, a visit to the Saxophone Bar, a Thai massage, watched a break dancing contest oh and a little bit of shopping. Hey I even very randomly spotted a guinea pig in a bush by the MBK Mall!! Yes, a guinea pig in a bush! I walked over to it to see if it was alright?! Very strange, was this where it’s owner let it live or had it escaped? I grabbed the attention of a nearby security looking official and pointed at this ginger guinea pig…”Look, look!” I said waggling my index finger at it. He didn’t even batter an eyelid! There was in fact a rather large stick of cucumber tucked under the bush next to him so um…I guess he lived in there? But before I could do anything about it, the security guy ushered me away from it so I didn’t really know what to do !?

Another very random thing happened in the Mall…I walked past this lil cute kid and as I walked on, I heard his Mum say “Go on….” the next thing I know, this lil fella was standing very wobbly next to my ankles and he just stared up at me! haha…His Mum came over and said hello to me. “He wants you to pick him up. It’s strange because he never lets anyone pick him up or even touch him but he pointed at you as you walked past and wanted a cuddle!” Um…I was thinking…’Ok’ so I picked him up and made a bit of a fuss of him haha. I think I was blushing a bit because so many Thai people  were glancing over and even taking photos! My friend Ken was with me at the time and he offered to take a photo of me and this lil dude. Hey, maybe the kids can sense I work in a school now haha!??

Anyway, I managed to get a new charger for my tablet! Later in the evening, I plugged my new charger in to power up the tablet overnight and what a disaster! I was in the middle of watching a film, The Hunger Games (great film btw!) when suddenly….. ‘POP!’ What the hell!? Everything then blacked out! I was in total darkness for the lights, the fridge the TV…everything had completely shut down! Oh crap! The power had gone…all that was left was a stinky, burning plasticy smell. Um…must be the charger?! I opened the door and saw everyone still had power..yep, def something to do with in here. Carefully I unplugged the charger and it was burning hot..the plug was singed to a dark smokey grey…oh no…haha, I’m going to have to report this at Reception! Well it was all fine in the end. It was something to do with a power ‘reverse’ but they sorted in a matter of minutes…good o’, I wanted to catch up with my film haha..

– Back to School 

After a weekend of much partying, chilling and socialising it’s time for me to head back to the school and there is a lot I need to do right…for the careers workshop needs finishing and I must get on and get prepared for Oz and Indonesia! Then there are the visa’s to sort, oh boy! Cambodia run and Oz application! I’m sure it will all come together, it always does.

My bus is 30 mins late but again, I grab the Nakhorn Chai Air from Bangkok to Buriram. They are good these buses because you get given a bottle of water, a small dinner (usually chicken and rice) and then a carton of soya milk before you get off. They are nice and roomy too oh plus, the seats are massage seats haha! You just press a few buttons and away it goes…feels bit creepy to me though lol! Just be sure to take your headphones because they usually play a film but it’s all dubbed in Thai 😦

My bus arrived at Nang Rong Hospital where a lift was waiting for me (well, a motorbike). It was really nice actually because the school had left me 2 bags of shopping outside my house for my arrival..there were bottles of water, 4 packets of biscuits, a tub of butter and also a loaf of bread. Yesss butter! Now I can have a butter and jammy sarnie hah!

So I am now in my 4th week at the school! Wow. Well, it has certainly been easier than staying in the monastery and it’s gone a lot quicker too hah!

While my brain is still whizzing away like it always does, I will give your eyes a rest because for me now it’s plot, plot, plot! My next installment of the Readders adventures may be the last one from the school and more about my future plans? Lets see how it goes for sometimes things don’t always go the way you planned them BUT sometimes, the best things really are the unplanned ;)………….

oh and p.s…update on the gecko family living in my house..they ate 2 or 3 eggs, 2 still haven’t hatched and they’ve laid another 3! Watch this space, I’m determined to catch a glance (and photo) of a baby gecko so here’s hoping! 😀

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Learning Curve – The Beginning

Remember that advert…”Those who can…teach!” (but in my case, Those who think they can….try! haha) And, here I am! ‘Teacher Miss Readdy, reporting for duty!’

My first week has just been IN-credible! I have been lost for words this week (well, not during lessons of course hah) but I will do my best to describe just how utterly amazing and inspiring this School really is!

On my way to School!

So I arrive at the bus station to book my ticket to Buriram. A lift had already been arranged for me at the other end so I really only had to worry about the getting there, fab!

The crazy taxi man dropped me off around 10am at Nonchon Air Bus Station. When I say crazy, he was actually really nice! He kept saying ‘You clever girl, I like you!’ With the taxi mans broken English and my badly pronounced Thai, we managed to somehow keep a conversation going. Of course, my Thai is limited to Hello, yes, no, thank you, delicious (random word to know!) and the first line of the Chang song (Elephant song). After much giggling and singing the taxi man a very bad rendition of the chang song, he drops me at the bus station AND gives me a discount just for trying to sing the song ha, bless him! Ken always did tell me if you sing this song it will get you discounts…tried and tested, it does so go learn it before you come to Thailand!

So I’ve bought some snackage thinking I’m getting on the 11am bus however, at the ticket counter, I’m informed the next bus is full so I have to wait 5hrs for the next one!! Oh great! Not much point me going back to Bangkok and they do have free wifi at the station so…tick tock, tick tock…I’m waiting, waiting and waiting! Finally, I get a nudge from one of the staff..turns out I was actually waiting at the wrong gate too but luckily as I’d been hanging about for half the day, I wasn’t exactly unnoticed lol. I bet the staff in the departure lounge were thinking ‘My god, she’s rather early!’ haha, oh well.

The 3pm bus was packed plus, I was the only foreigner headed to Buriram…ok, this could be a good thing though..Remember Sisaket? I felt like a local celeb over there haha. Everyone on the coach seemed really nice though..after the initial stares and acknowledgement that there was a Westerner on the bus, we exchanged a smile and a wai. Getting comfortable, the lady next to me whipped her shoes off and ‘whoosh’, my nostrils were overwhelmed with an awful musky and moist feety smell! It was as though her poor feet had been crammed in her shoes all day long and it was almost 35 degrees out so you can imagine how bad it was! ‘Oh great’ I was thinking, I’m going to have to put up with this for 5 straight hours! On a hot, sticky and packed bus, the aircon was very much welcomed however, the coldness of the air seemed to amplify the stench and the vents would waft the offensive feety odour all around the bus! I know everyone could smell it haha, I was just selfishly hoping they didn’t think it was me!

Ok, with my nose adjusted, I managed to doze off listening to the drones of my ipod but then I got woken up to a prodding elbow! The smelly footed lady diverted my eyes to the hostess (not sure of the proper word but she was the air hostess of the road!) “Excuse me miss..would you like some food?”. “Yes please, thanks!” Reaching out for the white carton, I remember thinking I wasn’t all that hungry but thought it best to take whatever was inside as I wasn’t sure if I’d be having dinner upon arrival at the school. Inside was a portion of sticky rice with a side serving of chicken. We were also given a small packet of snacks (like crisps) and a bottle of water. The snack was some kind of crispy prawn crackers. I saved mine for later but the lady next to me tucked right in. Urgh! The snacks smell just as bad as her feet..great, so now there’s a fishy addition to the already floating cheesy aroma in the air!

Moving on, I remember staring out the window and taking note of all the emotions whizzing round…scared, nervous, anxious, home-sick, liberated, free, independent, happy, tearful. I’m so proud of myself but yet I was worrying about what was expected of me etc..what was this school going to be like? How were we going to get over the language barrier? I distract myself with a book and then once again, fall asleep.

“Miss…Miss…” Another prodding elbow was this time disturbing my unconscious body…”Huh…what?!” Rubbing my eyes and slowly coming to, I see the hostess leaning over to let me know we’re at Nang Rong Hospital. (my pre-arranged pick up point). “Here is your stop Miss.” “Ah thank you for waking me and letting me know!” Still not quite with it, I gather my things and hop off the bus to be greeted by a short and skinny girl with long black hair. “You must be Helen?” She asked. (I was thinking, who’s asking hah!) “Yes that’s me! You must be Beau?” I replied. “Nice to meet you. Let me help you with your bags, my car’s just here” Beau was lovely and seemed happy to see me. “Have you had dinner? I haven’t eatern so we can drive into town for some food if you like?” I was feeling peckish so agreed we should go and get some dinner. So with the invisible man loaded into the back of her car, off to town we went!

Some like it HOT!!

A short drive brought us to the town centre. Even though the town was covered in a blanket of darkness, I could tell it was similar to Sisaket, bonus! Small, dusty (and bumpy) roads, people buzzing about on knackered looking motorbikes, shacks and stalls selling various fruits, meats, sauces and bottles of water. Oh and I see a 7 Eleven! They are like the local handy stores (a newsagent back home!). We park up and walk over to what looked like the town square. In the centre were various food stalls selling, chicken, pork, beef, noodles…. We both fancied noodles so walked over and put our orders in. Beau ordered mine for me…”Oh, not too spicey please!” I pleaded! Hmm..well, I found out the North East of Thailand love their spicy food! The spicier the better. I had a dish called ‘Tom Yum?’ and my word, even with the spice ‘dulled’ down it was still too hot for me! Hah! I scooped up as many noodles as I could in my chopsticks and ‘BAM’ My tastebuds were on fire! I was coughing and spluttering all over the place and then came the hiccups lol! My eyes were watering and all I could do was take big gulps of water to try ease the burning sensation. Beau was laughing her head off and even a few of the locals joined in haha! “My god…that’s too hot for you?!”  It was quite funny looking back. After our meal, Beau suggested we went to 7 Eleven for some icecream 🙂

Welcome to my Crib!

Within minutes we were driving through the gates of the school, it looked huge! Beau stopped to sign me in and then drove me to the guest house. We pull up to a nice looking house that almost looked ‘american’ to me! The house was set back from the school but still within the school grounds. It looked like such a big house. Outside there was a stone bench and to the left side I could see a set of tables and chairs. Attached to the right side of the house was a huge white fence but through the gaps, the cars headlights lit up another set of tables and chairs…so lets call that the ‘garden’. And at the top of the house, I could see a small balcony which overlooked the schools playing field opposite. “Here is your house!” Beau said, excitedly jingling the keys in front of my face! “You have this all to yourself so you can pick which bedroom you’d like!” Beau unlocked the door and showed me around. We entered via the side door not the front door. The first room was like an inside porch or utility room if you like. There was a sink to the right along with cupboards and cutlery and a hot water boiler thingie in which you can make hot tea / coffee with and there was also a pile of ‘odds and sods’ such as chairs and gym mats all piled up in one corner. I noticed there was some kind of animal or insect poo on the floor and lots of it hah…I found out later in the week what that belonged to…There was another door inside this porch which was the actual main front door to the house. In the house I can see a nice big lounge with a TV (YESSsss) and 2 other doors. One door led to a bathroom and the other was a bedroom with 2 mattresses on the floor. Upstairs there are another 2 rooms. One room was padlocked and the other one unlocked. Slowly pushing the unlocked door ajar, I immediately know I want this room..there is a static aircon unit, wardrobe and mirror haha! It’s a pretty big room too, there are 3 single mattresses on the floor so you can imagine the space 🙂 Sorted, that’s my room picked out! “I will send my students along in the morning to deliver some breakfast for you but I will tell them not to disturb you. June will meet you when you’re up to discuss the week ahead.” Beau then left me alone for the rest of the night to get settled in. Wow, so I get brekkie delivered to the door in the morning! Woo hoo!

So I’m unloading my stuff and already filling up the bathroom with my shampoo’s and face washes etc..just when I thought I was the only resident I looked up and WOAH!!! There is a huge brown, hairy spider clinging to the wall right in front of me! How did I not notice that before!? He was staring at me as though he was trying to let me know that was ‘his’ very own spot! Marvelling at my hairy and unwanted resident, I reached for my camera and took a few shots of him.

Ahh it feels so big here and it’s lonely. The silence reminds me this is all very real and I am here all by myself..Ok, so lets watch a bit of telly! Switching it on, I’m flicking through all the channels to discover each and every channel is in Thai…great! Ah, how about a movie channel…nope! Hmm..lets find a music channel..Yep, all the same, oh but hang on, there was the odd chart tune that I recognised. Hey, it’s not so bad, it’s breaking the silence and giving me some sense of comfort at least. One observation though, some of the Asian music videos are rather depressing! The love songs seem to be about boy meets girl, girl runs off with another man and the man kills himself! Happy, happy! With Thai music blaring out, I decide to update my journal but that was soon interrupted with a call from Ken checking up to see that I was ok and settling in alright.

Later on and a few more pages of the journal jotted, tired heavy eyes force me to put the pen down for one night so I head up the stairs for bed. I actually slept with the light on in my bedroom that night haha…what a wuss! Night light going on the shopping list me thinks! 😉

Sunday 9th June – Meeting June!

Wow, so this morning were x 2 canisters of food out on the front table just as Beau promised. Each container offered something different to try. There was a mixture of rice, omlette, green veg, mushrooms and something else that I wasn’t too sure of…it was somekind of pungent soup so I left that one hah! June then called me to arrange a time for her to pop over so we could finally meet and chat about the week ahead.

Showered and presentable, June came to the house at 11am. I could hear the buzz of a motorbike approaching and I knew it was her. Peering out the window, I could see 2 ladies parking up and walking over to the front door! A small shot of adrenalin whooshed round as June reached out her clenched fist to knock on the door….

“Hi June. I’m Helen, nice to finally meet you!” Extending my hand to June, I greet her with a big smile and usher them both inside. June introduces herself as the Head of the English Department and the other lady is another one of the English teachers –  her name (which I still can’t say) sounds like ‘Tomb’! After a few minutes, the nerves disappear and we were already discussing Monday morning! Both June and Tomb are lovely! Such chilled out people. They seemed very excited I was there to help and they explain how they (and the children) are looking forward to working with me!

“First things first, I’d like to introduce you in the morning Helen. You will meet the other teachers and of course, the English department where you will be based” June’s already got the week mapped out. Studying my face, June then asks “How long are you going to stay with us?” “Well, I’d like to stay for a month and then who knows…” I didn’t know if I was even going to last a month at this point right?! “Ok great. We’d like you to stay as long as possible. The longer the better it will be for the children you see” She replied. “Of course, I understand”. June then went on to explain, “The childrens English here is really poor so we’re just so excited that we have an English person here to try help. We can teach them english of course, but it’s your mother tongue”. I was talking to myself in my head now…’they’re English is really poor?!….So what have these teachers been doing haha? They’re certainly not going about getting any schooling awards talking like this lol’. I realise now that June meant because of the childrens backgrounds, they’ve either not had the chance for any schooling so some of them are basically starting from scratch or they are having to really push and encourage the older ones to want to continue expanding their existing english vocab. Now I’m typing this having been here a week, I realise how god dam hard these teachers work!

June explains the school has been set up by sponsors and is run by the Thai Government. The school is specifically for orphaned children and / or children from extremely poor families who just simply can’t afford to send their little ones to school. This place offers orphans a home and poor children the opportunity to learn, grow and better their futures. I just love it! The place sounds absolutely amazing and I’m feeling excited to be a part of it.

June and Tomb then walk me around the school to get me used to my new surroundings. Wow, this place is huge! All the children live in their separate dorms naturally girls with girls and boys with boys! They have everything they need here. A big school playing field, a music room, many classrooms and departments, a huge school hall / games room, a basketball court, canteen, an on-site school tuck shop and the use of the computers in the teachers offices. Oh and they even have their own animals (well, we’re not talking pets though!) They keep boars and chickens for tasty school dinners! Plus, all of the food that is left over from the meals is collected and all dumped into one huge bin and then fed to the pigs! One way of recycling I guess…feed the pigs up then eat them! Circle of life hey!

I’d already started to meet some of the children on the way round. There was lots of pointing, whispering and giggling but they were all so shy! Once the ‘walk round’ was over with I then had the opportunity to check my emails etc and then head back to the house. The day seemed to whizz by! “Good night Helen. See you at 8am for the Introductions in the morning” June and Tomb then left me to my own devices for the night. Introductions hey? I hope they don’t mean I have to do some kind of speech? So back at the house, before my tired eyes urged me to hay hit, I jotted something down incase……and oh boy was I glad I did!

Let me introduce myself!!

My alarm rudely interrupts my sweet slumber at 6.30am! Unzipping the sleeping bag and flopping out of bed in my usual sleep drunken state, I head downstairs to get ready for my first day at school! At 7am a new canister is delivered ‘Ooo brekkie!’ Fried eggs, sticky rice and spicy minced pork!

I see my hairy resident is still in the bathroom but avoiding him, I shower and get ready. I keep imagining this massive spider’s going to jump on me whilst I’m in the shower (I think there’s a scene just like this in arachnophobia haha!)  Right, ready to head to school for 8am, I lock up and leave my house. It’s only a 2 minute walk and already I can see children everywhere. They are either walking into school like me, some are skipping or playing ‘clapping’ games, some of the little boys are kicking a football around and others are running to line up for the morning outdoor assembly. “Hello!” shout some of the children. I can tell others want to speak to me but as soon as I say ‘Hi’ they’ve hidden behind their friends haha! So cute.

As I get closer to the front of the school, I can see the teachers all sitting at the benches in the shade. “Helen, come join us” shouted June. I was briefly introduced to some of the teachers but most of all, I was ushered to meet the Principal of the school. An attractive older lady with short bobbed hair. “Hello Helen. It’s great to have you here at our school, we are so very lucky!” Wow! I’m thinking, I’m the one who’s actually lucky to be here! The Principal explained they have an assembly every morning but today, the children have prepared a welcome speech for me! But then came the bit I feared the night before….”We would then like you to introduce yourself to the children”  WHAT!! My eyes felt like they’d suddenly doubled in size and I’m sure my face had ‘fear factor’ written all over it !! All I could do was let out a slight stuttered croak which was fast interrupted by the Thai anthem. Sitting back at the benches with the other teachers, I just froze! I could feel the adrenalin already mixing up a nasty potion in my belly ready to intravenously deliver an unwanted shot of pure fear into my system…oh and the trigger word of course being ‘Helen’! Just like in the movies, everything felt like it had slowed down…the sounds around be began to disappear…I’m sure the teachers were still talking to me but all I could hear were my own thoughts..’Oh good god. What am I going to say?’ ‘What if I get stage fright and just freeze up there?’ Ok, snapping out of it, I reached a sweaty palm into my trouser pocket for my sort of prepared emergency speech. The children started clapping and a girl who can’t have been much older than 14 walked up to the front…”We would like to welcome you Helen to our school. Thank you for coming here to see us. We hope you enjoy your stay here” After a pause and a giggle, the girl then passed the microphone back to the Principal and ran back to her line…it was so cute! Uh oh…I think the shot of super potent adrenalin has just been loaded…just as though an injection had been drawn up and ready to administer the unwanted chemicals. “Now everyone, I would like you to meet Helen, our English volunteer…” Oh noooo…the trigger word has been unleashed and now the super potent adrenalin shot has been released into my system…’WHOOSH’ round it goes! My trembling hand takes the microphone and I’m walking up to the front of the huge crowd of children…700 little brown faces are all staring up at me waiting for me to say something! The awful feedback noise delays the first ‘Hello’ but it soon clears…Clutching my crumpled emergency speech I glance down and then that’s it…the potent shot of adrenalin has kicked in and taken over and it’s helping me to deliver my intro! “Hello everyone!” I hear a few muffled hello’s back and then I said it again…”I can’t hear you, we can do better than that….HELLO!” What was I doing? Was I some kind of wannabee kids entertainer now too haha? Well, whatever was happening, it was working and I was loving this out of body experience haha! “My name is Helen and I’m here to help you all learn English” I then rambled on about how much I wanted to help everyone and that the kids (and teachers) were very welcome to ask me anything they wanted. They were to see me as their ‘english friend’! After my speech, everyone clapped and I then rejoined the teachers at the benches. “Thank you Helen. Now we’d like you to introduce yourself to the teachers” The Principal was prompting me and pointing towards the other teachers..Um..wasn’t that enough for everyone haha? Now this one I did stumble with. I just blurted out something similar and kept it short and sweet hah! Well, it seemed to be ok for them anyways. They then kept saying how beautiful I was haha…blushing, I just said thank you..but actually, I think it was just my skin and my nose they loved lol. I may have already mentioned but they love white skin here, it is a sign of wealth. So finally, my white casper legs can come out and be proudly shown to the world haha!

Lesson #1

The bell goes and it’s 8.30am…”Helen, are you ready?” Beau asked me to follow her to the first english lesson! Oh my goodness! This is it. I had prepared a few pictures and words about the UK and some info about myself so I was as ready as I could be I guess. My mind (and heart) was racing though..’how many are there in the class?’ ‘How much English do they know?’ ‘Will they understand me?’ Beau looked at me and said “Just speak slowly and you will be fine” Umm ok…she definitely does know I haven’t taught before right??!

It was like the walk of doom (as I call it) on the way to the lesson. I was greeted by children along the way all saying “Hello” and then finally, we reach the classroom. The class was full of boys around 14yrs old..25 of them! Gulp! Ok, c’mon you can do this! How hard can it be?

The classroom looks ‘old school’ haha! wooden tables, chairs and desks and a blackboard. I get my folder out along with all the pictures I’d printed off in preparation. While I’m doing this, Beau is introducing me to the class and explaining that I will be teaching them about England today! The whole class then gets up and chants “Good morning Teacher. How are you?” So of course I chanted back, “I’m fine thank you how are you?” “I am good thank you Miss” Beau then looks at me and tells me to order them to sit down! “Great, you may now be seated!”  A silence then fell across the room and Beau’s looking at me as if to say ‘take it away Helen!’ Omg! Here goes….

“Good morning everyone. My name is Helen and I come from England” I could hear a few whispers in the back row “Oh, En ga Land” I then showed them pictures such as Big Ben, the red telephone boxes and the red London buses…a typical English house (as they are so different to here of course), a picture of our Queen, Buckingham Palace…oh and then I showed them the families pets! Toto, Piper, Biggles and my old Ratties! They loved it! To finish the lesson, I got them all singing a song taught to me by my friend Lucy from the Hill Tribes tour…’Wherever I go..People always ask me…Where are you from?’ etc.. I had them all on their feet in no time and shouting the song back to me as loud as they could! It was so much fun haha…I loved it! I actually got goosebumps thinking…’how on earth did I get here?’ 🙂 Phew, at the end of the lesson the children all thanked me and then scooted off to their next lessons. Wow, what a rush! I really enjoyed that. Then it was back to the office for a quick break before the next lesson.

I went on to teach another 2 lessons. One was a similar sized group with boys of the same ages but the last lesson was a group of girls again, they must have been around 13-14yrs old. Both lessons went as smoothly as the first. I had them laughing and singing along with me. One girl at the end of the lesson gave me a note that said I love you! Aww! I felt so touched, it was so cute! I felt like blubbing a little actually…these kids are adorable, how could anyone have hurt them in the past?!

Enter my new friend…Pinto!

At lunch time, I was taken to the staff room and shown the food and what was in each container. I also then met the Thai volunteer lady who again has a name I can’t pronounce so I will call her Pinto. Pinto has perfect english so we spend most of the lunch time chatting away. She is a teacher by profession and used to teach in Bangkok. Pinto got fed up with the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and heard about this school, she thought it would be a great opportunity to come and do some good whilst getting away from the big smoke. Pinto is undecided but she may volunteer for a whole year, she feels a month isn’t long enough for these students as she has come to realise how bad their english (or lack of) is! It is then agreed that I can assist Pinto this week with her classes and I can’t wait as she’s going to show me how she teaches!

With my new schedule agreed with Pinto, she asked me to prepare the subjects; ‘The London Underground’ and ‘Careers and the associated Adjectives’. So I did lots more printing off and decided to talk about how to catch a train, the types of tickets (whether it was a pay and go or an Oyster card) and I printed off photos of the inside of the London Underground, Waterloo station, the different tube lines etc.. And for the careers I printed off the various jobs we can train in e.g. Dentist, Policeman, Teacher, Reporter etc and then of course, I made notes on the qualities which you need to be a Teacher etc…Great stuff…I’m now prepared for tomorrow’s day of teaching with Pinto and I’m really looking forward to it.

It’s a ‘lock out’ !!

Early evening, a lovely teacher called ‘Anne’ took me to the night market incase I needed any supplies. I jumped at the chance as it was an opportunity to get to know another teacher and make my ‘bonds’ if you see what I mean. The night market was a small place displaying a handful of stalls selling all kinds of foods from meat to fruit and veg, and clothing to hats and flip flops. I bought a few things for the bathroom oh and a slice of pizza! Yes, I actually found a stall selling pizza’s woo hoo! Anne was so nice, she said if I needed anything at all, I was to take her number and just give her a call no matter how small the ask! I have been made to feel so very welcomed by everyone, I love it!

Anne dropped me back at the house and then drove off. I walk over to the house, undo the padlock and oh….hang on…the door still won’t open!? Oh nooo! I’ve only gone and blimmin pushed the button in on the inside of the door haven’t I!! So I have double locked the door and I don’t have the key, I only have a key to the padlock. Great, so I’m locked out. I didn’t want to call Anne back or anyone else for that matter…I didn’t want to look like an incapable idiot on my first day now did I!

Right, security is only a walk away. So, I walked on over to the security hut on the gates. I see 3 men all sitting inside, drinking and watching a small TV. “Hello. Excuse me…but I’ve done something really silly..I’ve locked myself out!” I was greeting by a few blank faces so I could tell I needed to do some kind of sign language to explain it hah! Eventually they understood and all 3 followed me to the house. I was of course really nervous! It was dark and I had 3 men following me back to the house…I was hoping that they understood for sure that I was locked out and only needed someone to let me in!!

The guys were twiddling with the door handle, wiggling it about, trying to prod and poke things in the lock but nothing was working. Eventually, one of the security guards decided to climb up to the balcony and forced the upstairs door open!! It opened with the first shoulder barge! The security guard then walked downstairs and opened the door from the inside. Phew! Whilst I was relieved to be inside, I was now rather shocked at how easy it was for someone to break in!!

Locking each and every bolt and padlock I could find on every door and window, I finally settled down! Oh nooo!! I see the tea / coffee boiler thingie has leaked all over the floor…but that’s not the only drama…the water’s stopped running so I can’t even have a shower before going to bed. So with nothing more to do, I sulked off to bed.

Tuesday 11th  – Teaching me, teaching them!

As before, I’m up early and see a new canister of food waiting for me on the front porch. Hmm still no running water so I’m filling the sink with bottled water and washing with that. I hope it’s running later, I’m starting to smell like a baboon already in this heat hah! Almost ready, I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth to find the ants clearly needed to brush theirs more than me…my toothbrush was absolutely covered with them! There’s no way I’m putting that in my mouth so it’s a blob of toothpaste on the finger jobbie!

Today I taught the younger kiddies (10-12yrs old) about the London Underground. It’s not that easy teaching them about the many different lines, even with Pinto’s translating…but it’s just nice to see their faces staring at the pictures in awe! Many of them haven’t even been to Bangkok Station so you can imagine the curiosity in their little faces bless em! I finished the lesson with a song – ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ and they loved it! Pinto was a star today! I am loving being a ‘team’ with her as she is so passionate and enthusiastic towards the children plus, she is teaching me how to teach them, it’s fab!

Lunchtime whizzed round and I was pretty hungry so I was looking forward to seeing what would be on the palette for today. Ooo looks like Tuna in some kind of red sauce? Big scoops of that then please along with some other veg..on the plate it all goes. Sitting down for lunch, I start tucking in. I’ve taken a big spoonful of this tuna concoction when suddenly I realise the red sauce is actually some kind of chilli sauce!! Woah…I feel like a fire breathing dragon! With the amount of heat kicking out of this dish, I probably could hiccup a few fireballs out! Yup, I was hiccuping for England hah! A few glasses of water later and my mouth started to cool down. Good job too as I had another class to head off to with Pinto..

I did the same as the day before which was my introduction to the class, where I’m from and a bit about England, who our Queen is etc…At the end of the class, I got a note from 2 little girls which read ‘We love you Helen’ !! Aww…It was so very touching! They even gave me a big squeeze and kiss on the cheek hah! Cute or what.

In my free time, I started preparing for the next classes (for the rest of the week) one being grade 8 (13-16yrs old). The topic was ‘Greetings and Introductions’ so I wanted them to know the difference between formal and informal greetings – how we meet existing friends, new friends and how we meet and greet people such as Managers, Directors (our peers in other words). I also started to get prep for the younger class, grade 4 (9-10yrs old). Their topic was ‘My Body’. Well, I had an idea to print off the silhouette of the human body along with words such as fingers, head, arms, legs etc…I wanted them to stick the appropriate words onto the body. Then perhaps if there was time, I would show them how to make a paper doll chain. And of course, the song as the end would have to be ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes…’ I was looking forward to that hah!

Later on after school had finished for the day, I went and sat in the computer room for my usual internettings! One of the lady boys came and sat with me and we ended up watching You Tube together. I named him Lekmans (following suit to my nickname of Hellmans you see!), a very sweet 17yr old boy who was orphaned at a young age. Well, I say orphaned.. his older sister took him in but has now shipped him off here. He is just lacking ‘love’ just like most if not all of the children are here. I found out he likes magic and fantasy programmes including the British hit ‘Merlin’.  Lekmans even asked me ‘Are unicorns real?’ Oh my goodness! Of course I had to tell him they don’t but with the look on his face, I felt as though I’d just told a 5yr old that Santa didn’t exist haha! Anyways, we watched a few clips from Merlin and then I introduced him to ‘Dynamo’ an english magician. He was amazed by the tricks he could do, he loved it!

Wednesday the school was to prepare for ‘Teachers Day’ which was an event happening on Thursday so there may not actually be any lessons on at all Wednesday. Teachers Day is a day in which the children can show their appreciation for the teachers. They will prepare flowers and drawings to present to their teachers as gifts. The flowers have to be picked and arranged very carefully as each flower will have a different meaning. I forget now all of the meanings however, I know that the grass meant something like..’sticking with the children through thick and thin no matter what’ – which is true of grass..it’s always there no matter the weather right? So you get the idea! I could see so many beautiful arrangements being passed about already so was looking forward to Thursday!

So all in all, a good day! Later in my house, I’m getting ready for bed and notice so many red bumps appearing…yep, mozzie bites! Oh great! Even with the sprays and creams on, they still manage to get to the parts you’ve missed! Darn things! So I slunk off up to bed trying my hardest not to itch and scratch!

Wednesday 12th  – The day before

Yep, you guessed it…today was a quiet day! I did manage to teach english in the morning though to a class of 18yr olds. I was so nervous to teach a bunch of 18yr olds…I was thinking they wouldn’t be that interested but also that my material might be too ‘babyish’ or something but actually, it went pretty well! They were particularly interesting in hearing about english weather! Well, of course, I’d already printed off photos of snow and frozen lakes oh and of course, snowmen! One boy said he wanted to go to England just to throw snowballs at his friends haha awww! It’s funny just how much we can take for granted isn’t it? They were a great group and in fact, very inquisitive too! They were keen to know all about England and where I lived so it felt more like an ‘off the cuff’ kind of lesson and I really enjoyed that.

After the lesson, it was back to the office. I could see (and smell!) the most beautiful flower arrangements being passed back and forth, adjusted, added to… wow, some of them had even been shaped to look like beautiful birds it was incredible. The children were darted about the school preparing their presentations too. Some were under trees reading to their fellow students practicing to be ‘word perfect’. I found out there were to be marked on their arrangements as well as their speeches so it was no wonder that some of them looked a bit fraught haha!

My ‘shift’ was over with by 2.30pm and actually I didn’t feel to well so I sloped off to my house and rested up for a few hours. I then popped back to the computer rooms about 5pm where I saw Lekmans watching more You Tube videos of ‘Dynamo’ hah, it was very sweet! We then watched a few magna cartoons together before Lekmans went off to his dorm for bed…for Lekmans had big day ahead of him tomorrow!

Thursday 13th – Teachers Day has arrived!

I was almost late today! I had to rush to leave the house but just made it on time for 8am. I find out there are no lessons for the first half of the day for Teachers Day is upon us! After the mornings assembly we all move into the hall for ‘the show’. The teachers are all seated at the front on the stage and the children are all sat on the floor of the hall. It was amazing…of course it made no difference to me that it was all in Thai but it was rather beautiful! The children sang songs and then a selected group of students would slowly walk up to the front and onto the stage to hand the teachers their arranged flowers. After this, 2 groups of students put on 2 traditional Thai dances, it was amazing! Then new students of the school were given yellow bracelets as gifts and were ‘blessed’ by the teachers as a welcome. I felt so touched to be able to witness this occasion…it seems it’s only a once a year event so to be able to see this on my first week was really lucky!

Once the show was over, everyone moved outside. In the scorching heat, the children were to then present to their teachers how much they meant to them and to explain the meanings of their flower arrangements and why they picked them. Aww they all looked so nervous and were probably more nervous with me taking a ton of photos of them too haha! I had a great chance to mingle with the students too. They kept pointing at my skin and then to their own as if to say ‘why are you different?’ haha and the little girls would play with my hair and ask me if my hair colour is real (hehe) and the boys would be catching dragon flies or lizards to come and show me which of course being a bug lover, was so cool! 🙂 Such adorable little people! I really am beside myself as to how anyone could not want them and want to just inflict nothing but pain upon them…so so sad. But then I have to snap myself out of all this ‘bad’ as they are now in such a wonderful place with so much more opportunity at their feet. They are surrounded by such amazingly passionate people now who only want the best for them. Some of the children even gave me some cuttings of these gorgeous flowers – it felt like a kind of welcome gift of my own if you like!

Lunch time was interesting.. in the canteen today, we had options of rice and veg and these funny ‘glass noodles’ that actually tasted like tobacco!! Well, I just couldn’t eat them so they ordered the kitchen to make me an omlette haha! I felt like I was being a diva or something which of course I wasn’t, they offered to which was so kind of them! 🙂

After lunch, Pinto and I were off to teach 13-16yr olds, again, the subject is the London Underground and careers and the qualities you need. Before we started the lesson, 3 of the girls said they had a gift for us. They started to walk slowly to the front of the class singing us a song (in Thai of course). I had no idea what they were singing but Pinto started crying! “What are they saying?” I whispered. “They are saying that we are the sandpaper and we are rubbing them smooth so they are better” Omg, that is so sweet! They then gave us a rose each awww…I proudly had this on show in my house along with my other cuttings from the morning! In the afternoon, Pinto briefed me on Friday’s lesson plan…again it was ‘Introductions and greetings.’

Later on in the evening, I popped back to the computer rooms where as usual, I found Lekmans! He was looking up some of his favourite songs on You Tube with english lyrics! Clever kid hey! So I helped him to read and understand them.

Another lock out!!!

It’s getting late so I decide to call it a night and head back to the house. I get to the door, unlock the padlock, turn the handle and the doors stuck fast! Oh nooo!! ‘Helen, you idiot!’ I thought to myself…you’ve only gone and locked yourself out AGAIN! The worst part was that I didn’t even remember doing it! I was devastated that I could do it twice haha! I was totally embarrassed but I knew I had to go back to security for their help again. At the security hut, I could sense they were thinking ‘You stupid girl! Didn’t you learn from last time?!’ hah..and with a few rolled eyes, 2 of them walked me back to the house. The one that climbed my balcony last time really stank of booze! I was thinking, oh great! While I really wanted him to climb my balcony like before to let me in…I didn’t want to be responsible should anything happen to him either! But after much umming and urring, the drunk security man decided that was the only way in and with a very wobbly (and baited breath on my part!) climb, he made it back up and back in!! Phew! I hope they keep this to themselves, I don’t want to be a laughing stock haha! So, 5 minutes later, I’m getting ready for bed and suddenly I hear “Helen…Hello, are you in there? Helen, are you ok?” Well, I was um, on the ‘throne’ so I couldn’t exactly jump up and let them in…eventually I went to the door..it was Pinto! “Helen, one of the security guards came to let me know you couldn’t get in? I see you’re ok now though!” Omg, great, so secrets out haha!! Oh, the guard that stayed behind must have gone off to get Pinto to let her know?

Red faced, I was finally left alone to hay hit (and hopefully forget about tonights shenanigans!) 🙂

Friday 14th – Bugging me! 

Wow this week has gone quick! I get up and go downstairs to see a new canister of food waiting for me..I also see some left over food from the day before! I can see the reason they didn’t take want to take it though…it was absolutely covered in ants, thousands of them hah! The ants are strong little buggers though I tell ya! They were carrying a huge piece of chilli up the wall haha, it was so funny. I have actually seen them carrying a small cockroach up the wall too, that was pretty impressive! It’s like a mass operation…I can imagine them saying to each other..’to me, to you, to me…It’s ok, I’ll take a leg, you take the antenna’ ! hah! I have such a strange imagination I know haha. Keeps me sane believe it or not. Anyways…where was I? Oh yes…so I’m making a cup of coffee (Oh and if I hadn’t mentioned, this was now my 3rd new hot water boiler thingie but thankfully this one was working and not leaking hah!) At the sink, something bolted..what was that!? I grabbed my torch and peered behind the unit…oh my word! There were 5 huge geckos, a whole family of them AND I can see 4 eggs wow! I hope I get to see them fresh out haha..I should record my very own David Attenborough programme hey, right from my very porch 🙂

After all the excitement, I spray on my usual cologne of Deet, smooth on a bit of lip balm, grab my bag and I’m readdy to rock! That’s about as glamorous as it gets right now! My first lesson was not until 10.10am so I spent the morning preparing. Todays topic was ‘Intro’s and greetings’.

It was so cute to see the lil kids writing in their books what I had put on the board! I used cartoons to help them put the words to the pictures which I’m guessing would help keep it in their memories. At the end, we sung another song but this time I taught them ‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands’. For some reason, the last lesson was cancelled so I decided to head for the computer room to catch up on my usual internettings! 🙂

I caught up with June who wanted to talk about Lekmans with me. “I’ve seen you talking with Lek. He’s only been here 2mths. I wanted to ask you how you find his english?” Inquisitively, June poised her head and narrowed her eyes at me waiting to hear what I’d say. “Oh I find his english is pretty good, he’s a bright kid from what I know of him already. He listens well and picks up words quickly” I replied enthusiastically because I wanted him to have the recognition he deserved. “He’s an orphan you know. When he first arrived, he was bullied by the other boys so as well as having a rough start in life, he’s had a tough start here too. He’s so keen to learn english. I asked him what we could do at the school to help him learn and Lek’s reply was to have an english teacher that had time for him” Well, I don’t think he was a complete orphan as I knew he had a sister…without knowing all the details though I didn’t ask any further questions. Anyway, overall, I can already spot the super keen kids and the one’s who are just to ‘shy to try’ at the moment!

Skipping on a bit…I visit the schools shop for a few supplies. They don’t have what I want but the kind lady in the shop said she’d take me to the supermarket on her motorbike after school as she too needed a ‘few things’. So at 6pm, she pulls up outside my house and picks me up as promised. I only needed a few bits so thinking this won’t take long…well, I felt as though I was shopping in Tesco’s with my Mum!! I grabbed what I needed (literally, shampoo, toothpaste, all the small things)..This lady fills a trolley load! I was thinking ‘Has she forgotten how we got here haha?’ How the heck are we going to get this all on the bike?’ My curiosity had to be answered so I just asked her outright…”Um…how are we going to get all of this back to the school?!” Giggling behind a cupped hand, I pointed with the other one to the mountainous trolley load! “Oh it’s ok…I very strong!” She replies. Well, that just made me burst out laughing, oh god! This is going to be an interesting ride back lol. But then I remembered something, back in Nam or Cambodia, you see people with their whole families on these things…heck I’ve even seen crates of pigs, chickens…oh and even a dog in the foot well of a bike!

We come out the supermarket and it’s dark already..it also looks like it’s rained a little too. I’m dreading it as we push the trolley over to the bike. I think my mind was logically trying to play ‘tetris’ with all the bags as the bike appeared in view. Well…I don’t know how she did it but she did! I wish I’d photographed it…there were bags balanced on both handle bars, there were bags crammed down by her feet, on her lap, on my lap, just everywhere.

The ride back was hilarious! As it had just rained, there were these huge flying bugs all over the place. I got a serious bout of the giggles too. If only my friends and fam could see me now..a bike loaded to the brim with bags PLUS, huge flying bugs hitting us in the face! Great, my forehead probably looks like the front of a car bonnet right now, gross! I must have swallowed a few insect parts too from all the laughing…yup, straight in the gob they go YUK! It was just like that scene from ‘Dumb and dumber’ (if you know the one I’m talking about hahaha!) Uh oh, rain brings the frogs and toads out right….”Look out!!” I screamed….too late….SQUISH! Poor toad! “There’s another one!!” Trying to point at the toad but being stacked up with shopping bags I didn’t dare to move…SQUELCH! Oops…again, too late!

I was relieved to finally be back at the house. I had purposely left the porch light on as I knew it would be dark by the time I got back. While this seemed like a good idea at the time, it also attracted hundreds of those flying bugs and in turn, there were hundreds of ants all marching in their army lines – they were munching on the dead (now not so flying) bugs on the floor! It must have looked quite funny to any on-lookers for I was swatting at the air and waving my arms about vigorously at these giant winged flies and stomping my feet to stop the ants crawling up my legs (which they frequently do once you’re stood still!). Finally, I had some dinner and put my shopping away and quickly made a stop at the computer rooms to check my emails etc and as usual, Lek was in there so again we caught up on some video and music clips.

Sing us a song! 

The weekend was finally upon us. Right, lye in is the first thing on my list haha! I also caught up with my Mum, Dad and Nana’s on Skype which was fab! I’d been missing them all so much so it was lovely to ‘see’ them and have a catch up. We had quite the audience too…so many of the children came over to see what I was doing..I think they were amazed that they could see themselves (and someone else) waving back haha awww.

Sunday was fun! The ladyboy (Joe) and 2 other teachers (Duan and Wan) took me to a karaoke bar and club, ‘Lucky’. It was such a good night. I sung a few songs and then we all danced the night away downstairs in the club. I was the only foreigner in there so yes, it was just like being back in Sisaket hah! The barman came over and gave us 2 large free bottles of Leo beer “I just want you to have good time!” Awesome, we’re coming here again if that’s going to be a regular occurrence 😀

On Monday evening I was invited to watch the schools Singing Content in Buriram town. All the schools in the area had entered so we were going to compete. It seemed like an hours drive to reach town but when we were there, the buzz of the atmosphere hit us as soon as we’d opened the car doors! I could almost feel our 2 little singing stars trembling as we walked over to the main stage. It was an outdoor event and boy was there a good turnout! I could see children everywhere, along with their friends, families, teachers etc.. Once settled and ‘signed in’ we sat in wait for the ‘call’.  The students were all given a number which was pinned to their chests so when your number was called, it was show time as they say! Sitting in wait, the teachers pulled out 2 huge bags full of crickets..dead ones of course but they were sitting there chomping on them as though they were tucking into a bag of sweet popcorn!! Gross! Of course I point blank refused when I was offered to ‘try’ some..no thanks. It was quite funny actually, their hands were covered with ‘cricket bits’ Mmm, finger licking good hey!

The children were amazing, they all sounded like angels, just so talented. Finally our students were called…we made as much fuss of them as we could because we were technically their friends and family. I was wolf whistling as loud as I could haha! They both did us proud and we even walked away with 6th place which out of the 20 odd kiddies that entered, was not bad going hey!

It must have been around 10pm by the time the event finished. We were all pretty tired and hungry so first stop..noodle bar then homeward bound. Sitting in the back with our stars, I soon felt a heavy press against my shoulder….aww bless, the little boy was falling into a sleepy slumber, so I let him be. With both of them now asleep in the back with me, all the excitement, all the nerves had clearly taken it’s toll. Staring out of the window and bobbing along to the rhythm of the road, I soon became lost in my thoughts…yes, I may be a stranger to these 2 but with the little boy sleeping on my shoulder, it just goes to show that all of us crave affection, we all need that loving feeling hey! And then I thought of my family and how lucky I really am for I couldn’t imagine a life without a family like some of these poor kiddies. When I finally got back to my empty house at 11.30pm, it was then me that wanted a cuddle hah!

New lessons to be learnt….

So it’s the been the end of a week and the dawning of a new one and what will this week bring I wonder? I’m sure I will find out. Not only am I trying to teach these young adults a thing or 2, I think actually I am learning just as much from them!

This weeks lesson agendas will be ‘The Body’ and ‘English Food’ so fun topics to cover. Food wise, I will show them the good old English fry up, fish and chippies wrapped up in newspaper oh and even the silly named food such as Bangers and Mash and Bubble and Squeak hah! And for the body, I have a paper dolls chain to make with them and also another activity which will mean having one of them volunteer at the front of the class for me…I will then ask their classmates to stick the appropriate word to their fellow students body 🙂 That should help ‘stick’ in their minds…maybe? Then of course, the ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes song’

So it’s been a jam packed week of singing, teaching and bug dodging (and eating!)….here’s to another fun and jam packed week ahead and one which I am very much looking forward to so until then…go do your homework haha 😉 xx

 

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Readdy to teach….(um, I think so!?)

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!

The Call

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!

Getting Readdy…

“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

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