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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Teaching

I haven’t posted in a long time thanks to lack of internet, lack of static living location, and new work, but now that I’m more settled and soon to get full-time internet, I think I’m going to start posting more often about living and teaching in Thailand. After coming to Bangkok, getting a TESOL certificate, and visiting the beautiful island of Lanta in the south for about 10 days, I started the job search.

After a few difficult email correspondences (Thai professionals seemingly rarely check their email), phone calls, and interviews, I finally accepted an offer at a company called Fun Language International. I shaved off my beard half way through this application process, as first impressions are even more important in Thailand, and the specific style of facial hair I had does not go over well here, especially for a position as highly regarded/ranked as a teacher. Teachers  are regarded as extremely important role models, only behind monks, the King, and parents.

Fun Language is a great company to work for. Not only do they have semesters of suggested lesson plans for Kindergarten through High school, but they also provide additional teaching materials, hundreds of copyrighted vocabulary flashcards, health insurance, and transportation to their schools. They even provide attractive, nubile Thai teachers to facilitate communication with school departments and help with classroom management.

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The best part of the company is teaching at a different school every day of the week. Fun Language is a private company that advertises and sells their curriculum to schools in the Bangkok area. Schools can buy packages ranging from 1 hr to 3 hrs of teaching a week for a class in any age group. They also do holiday camps, volunteer teaching, and weekend programs. Considering the number of employees and their pay rates, I get the feeling it’s a pretty successful business model.

Even though the company’s located in a nice building in a posh part of town, every morning they drive their teachers to a number of schools scattered all over (and outside of) Bangkok…sometimes more than 90 minutes out. I really like the variety of schools, classrooms, and teachers I work with. Most of my rooms don’t have air conditioning, some of the schools seem like they’ve been built in the middle of a mosquito breeding ground, playgrounds are made of crumbling stone and steel climbing frames, and most of their staffs speaks no English (although they’re all extremely hospitable after the initial skepticism). Homeroom teachers and headmistresses only have to observe you teach one lesson before they’re dying for you to eat lunch at their school, greet the parents, etc.

kindergarten

One of my schools, conveniently located in Mosquito Kingdom.

I have been assigned 5 schools and 5 Thai teachers, and I teach about 20 lessons a week from Kindergarten 2 to P6 (which is approximately ages 5-12). With the number of foreign and Thai employees, plus all their different schools (each with different curriculums and start times), you would think scheduling would be a logistical nightmare, but Fun Language seems to run like a well-oiled machine. Employee schedules are created and posted for us, complete with leave-times and possible stand-bys should you call in sick. You get a phone call if you’re one minute late. All-in-all, a very pleasant employment experience.

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Because of inexplicably prohibitive  alcohol prices in Thailand (how is it that you can get a solid meal for 60 cents and a long cab ride for a dollar or two, but a beer is three dollars or more?), I’ve been drinking Lao Khao, Thailand’s resident gutrot gasoline-flavored rice liquor.

Although purchasing this alcohol usually results in a pinched nose, scrunched face, or simple eruption of laughter by non english-speaking employees who think you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, drinking Lao Khao seems to command a relative amount of respect and nonverbal  communication with the locals, and I’ve managed to make quite a few friends without speaking at all.

Anyways, Bill and I heard about a medicinal/virility tonic comprised of of Lao Khao, honey, and a number of herbs that older Thais take daily in the morning. Since it is both a form of holistic medicine and also a way to mask the taste of Lao Khao (which cannot be mixed with anything), we decided to give Ya Dong a shot.

We ventured into a typical Chinese medicine shop, with drawers full of dried sea horses, shark fins, and other indescribable objects lining every wall, and attempted to pantomime the creation of Ya Dong. Only when Bill realized they spoke Chinese did we make any progress and we watched in awe as the lady begin to cut and weigh some 20-30 ingredients for our tonic (pictures below).

Excited, we returned home with all our ingredients rolled in paper and began to cut, tear, and smash them into a paste/powder to mix with the Lao Khao. With so many earthy ingredients (including what seemed to be plaster, twigs, bark, and fins), the mixture sparked memories of mud pies and other childhood recipes I used to make with mulch and gravel in my backyard. The only ingredient we were able to positively identify was goji berries.

Now the waiting game — three weeks of fermenting, then straining, and our first batch of Yadong is a go! Hopefully the Chinese lady wasn’t playing a deadly trick on us.

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pre-crushed ingredients

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what are these?

...and this?

...and this?

seems like bark

seems like bark

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standard playground fare for hors d'oeuvres

standard fare for playground hors d'oeuvres

That's a lot of herbs/medicines for 500 baht (

That's a lot of herbs/medicines for 500 baht (14 dollars)

the mixture was (arbitrarily) enough for 4 bottles of Lao Khao, with two tubes of honey.

the mixture was (arbitrarily) enough for 4 bottles of Lao Khao, with two tubes of Thai honey.

dilligent mixing

dilligent mixing

mmm

mmm

three weeks won't go by fast enough.

three weeks won't go by fast enough.

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