My alarm goes off at 545, I turn over and its still dark out. This can't be right. There must be some kind of mistake, it can't possibly be time to get up already. Sadly, I come to terms with the fact that its morning and I rise from the rock hard bed. My back feels adjusted and straight, the only perk of sleeping on a wood board I guess.
I shower and the water gets everywhere. There's no division between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. I accept that the whole room will get wet, but,damn it, I forgot to put the toilet seat down. Water water everywhere.
I survey my closet for something to wear. I desperately want to choose my red top or pink dress, but quickly remind myself that the country is still in mourning. One of the head monks recently died, so for the whole month of November all teachers at government schools must dress in dark colors to honor him. My options are severely limited but I can't disrespect the culture, so black it is...again. I flirt with the idea of brightening up my outfit with a pair of turquoise earrings, but decide against it.
I boil water and make myself some coffee. 3 in 1 powder of course. This is no Vietnam. I take my coffee to the balcony and watch the roosters in the field. A loud horn noise fills the silence and I swear its an elephant, but Zach finds it hard to believe that there would be any wild elephants in Korat city. I agree, probably just some weird Thailand creature.
View from balcony
The clock hits 7 and I go outside to meet my neighbor Mike. He is head teacher at my school and he so kindly gives me a ride everyday. Since he is head teacher he gets there early. My work style is definitely more the kind to roll in right on time, but a free ride is better then no ride. I go to the right side to get in the passenger seat, but quickly remember to go to the left. This is the kingdom of Thailand, they drive on the opposite side and I'm still struggling to remember that. The ride to school is a quick 5 minutes and my eyes are in wonder as we pass numerous markets and street stalls. The smell of grilled meat and spice lingers in the air. I try not to watch the road for fear of a heart attack as we nearly hit dozens of motorbikes, cars, and people.
We arrive at school and sign in. I awkwardly wai the Thai teachers "Sawatdee ka". They wai me back with a half smile. The wai is an important part of Thai culture and is how Thais greet each other and show respect. The higher the hands are held in relation to the face and the lower the bow, the more respect you are showing. So I should hold my hands higher when waing the director as opposed to just a teacher. Problem is I don't know the status of all the Thais I see around school. I constantly worry that I am doing it wrong and disrespecting them. Were my hands too low? Too high? Did it matter that I had a pen in hand when I did it? Did I wai them already today? Oh the questions of the wai.
Even Ronald Wais
We have to be at school by 7:45 and classes start at 8:30. The school has the flag ceremony everyday at 8 am. Luckily, we are not required to attend. I know many other teachers at different schools who must attend the ceremony every morning, and most are even required to speak at the ceremony. Most government schools have upwards of 4000 kids, so speaking would be quite nerve wrecking. My school, has 4200 young boys. No thank you, I am beyond grateful to be relieved of those duties. Instead, I sit in the teachers office, drink another cup of coffee, and discuss the previous night with the other teachers. There are 8 English teachers at my school, and I am the only girl. I am also the youngest.
Happy not to attend
I check my schedule, 3 M3 classes and 1 M1 class today. M3 kids are typically 14 to 15 years old and my M1 students are usually around 12 years old. Both classes could go either way, they could be angels; interested and ready to learn. Or they could be devils, loud and rowdy and barely able to answer a question as basic as "what is your name?"
Unfortunately my first class are devils. I set up the projector and turn on the PowerPoint lesson. I do not write my own lessons, I am fortunate enough to have a whole presentation set up for me each day. I typically alter it a little bit and if the kids are good I will usually play some type of game. Getting 50 kids to understand simple directions can sometimes take a whole class so sometimes I will just stick to the script that's provided for me.
I spend the next 50 minutes trying to teach the days lesson titled "a day at the beach". No one cares to spend the day at the beach and instead I'm spending the lesson yelling for quiet, moving kids around so they will stop talking, and asking questions to single out bad students except they stare at me completely blank like a deer in headlights. A typical example
Me gesturing to student: "Stand up please"
Naughty student looks at me like I'm speaking a foreign language (ok so I am)
I gesture again for him to stand up. He doesn't get it. The smarter kid next to him tells him to stand up in Thai and he does it
Me: "Do you like swimming in the sea?"
Me "Great you are from Korat" then I speak really slow and use gestures and pretend I am doing the breath stroke "Do you like swimming in the sea?"
Student clams up and awkwardly looks at his friend who is nodding at him
Me: "Good job! Thank you. You may sit back down"
That student is quiet for the rest of class
My room all set and ready to go
Shoes off please!!
My next class goes much better. They are quiet and they listen and the lesson goes flawlessly. As a reward, I play them a music video for the last 5 minutes.
Lunchtime! I walk to the schools canteen and am bombarded with students screaming "teacher! teacher!". A few students wai me as I walk by. I smile but choose not to wai them back. Hope I'm not disrespecting them. I concentrate on the task at hand, which is getting lunch and bringing it back to the teachers lounge all while being as inconspicuous as possible. Today I choose 2 curries over rice and it comes to 30 baht ($1).
Back in the teacher's lounge, the other teachers fill me in on the good bars and restaurants to try in Korat. I take mental notes while enjoying my delicious curry.
The schools huge canteen
After lunch it's time to use the toilet. I try to use the school restroom as little as possible, but duty calls. The conditions are dingy and wet and there is usually a critter or 2 milling around. I forget that the toilet can't flush it and I accidentally throw the toilet paper in the bowl instead of the trash. Third world problems
Time for class 3. I go upstairs and unlock my room. I turn on all the computer systems and write on the board my activity lesson for the day. I wait for the students to come. It's pretty typical for a whole class to be 10 minutes late. The periods are laid out with no sensibility. For example period 5 starts at 1:10 yet period 4 also ends at 1:10. So that leaves no time for students to get from class to class. I usually start class 15 minutes late each day. For this class, however, it's already been 20 minutes and not one student has shown up. I wait 10 more minutes before closing up, shutting down, and locking my room. Back in the teachers office I ask the Thai assistant if she knows where my M3 class is. She looks up with out flinching "Ofcourse, they are paying their bill for sports this period. No class for you". Ahhhh ok great, that would have been good to know before setting up and waiting a half hour for them to show. In typical a Thai fashion, no one tells anyone anything.
My last class of the day goes well and I am tired and ready to leave. We head home at 3:45 as the Thai teachers eye us with envy.
The fish outside my apartment door welcome me home
Our comfy couch
Something about teaching children all day makes me want a beer. Zach and I walk to our favorite little spot and order 2 large Leos. The damage? 60 baht each($2). The bar owner smiles at us in a way that reminds me that oh yeah we are living in the land of smiles. She brings us a bucket of ice and frequently comes over to pour our beers and refill our ice.
We sit outside and watch the craziness ensuring on the street in front of us. I notice a few boys from my school walk by in their uniforms but luckily they don't see me with a drink in hand. The bar we are at is directly across from Saveone market, one of the largest in a Thailand.
We start to get hungry so we walk across the street to the market and walk around scouting out what looks good today. Unlike when visiting the tourist cities, no one shouts at us to eat their food or buy their goods. In fact most Thais look away when they see us, probably because they don't speak English or they don't speak it well enough to have a successful transaction. I decide on a bowl of duck noodle soup ($1.50) and Zach chooses a plate of fried noodle with vegetable (50 cents)and 2 pieces of fried chicken ($1) for us to share. Fried chicken is huge in Thailand. I'm not sure why, but they sure do it right.
Fried chicken smiles
Over dinner we talk about what we want to do this weekend. There's a dragon boat festival at the ruins in Phimai (a smaller Ankor Wat). I'm down so Phimai it is.
We walk through the busy streets back to our apartment. The street we live off of comes alive at night. We live in Korat city but not the city center. Korat is the 2nd largest city in Thailand and although I like it, it is a bit busier then I had hoped for. I always imagined myself living in some small Thai village located in the hills with barely any creature comforts. Korat is definitely not that. It has everything I could want and more. We originally wanted to get a motorbike, but the traffic is so crazy here I don't think I feel comfortable in such a busy city. So far we have been getting by just fine either walking or taking the bus to the city center.
Upon arriving back to our apartment, we have one more beer and play some cribbage. I fall asleep to Law and Order playing on the one English TV channel that we have. Tomorrow it's time to do it all again.