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Posts Tagged ‘thailand’

New Thailand travel video. Go here if you want the full HD 1080 version (be sure to click the gear and change to 1080)

It was hard to make a Thailand video. I was there for 2.5 years, yet only had a little video from really touristy stuff. More interesting scenes like street scenes, food and clothing markets, and nightlife would have been awesome to include, but I never had my camera with me and never made a concerted effort to film anything with the intention of making a video.

More personal video, such as some classroom fun with kids and film around my house might be added at a later date, but for now, the video includes:

  • Bangkok (urban sprawl, traffic, and shopping)
  • The North (countryside and Wats)
  • Wats and Palaces (Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Grand Palace)
  • Muay Thai
  • Sukhothai (one of my favorite places in Thailand)
  • Elephants (footballing, bathing, and painting)

I hope you enjoy it.

On a related note, I lost two (2) HDDs while making this video, and barely managed to recover the editing data (some of which was corrupted).

Why I constantly subject myself to the whim a device comprised of magnetic discs spinning thousands of times a minute, I’ll never know, but I was lucky enough to only lose my main 2 TB HDD (with my software, preferences, and recently-worked on stuff that’s saved to the desktop), and a mere 1TB external with music that’s never been backed up.

Classic “S.M.A.R.T. status BAD backup and replace” error. There ain’t no coming back.

Oh well, easy-come-easy-go. I’m back up and running, with several extra 2TB drives and a NAS box on their way in the mail. Determined not to lose more important stuff, this might be my first step into seriously backing up what I do, perhaps with software such as freenas.

4-bay Probox for NAS. You could RAID or JBOD

Why does it take a catastrophe to spur someone to back up? I’ve always known hdds are unreliable and have lost my fair share in the past, but it seems like as soon as my computer is running smoothly again, it becomes such a nebulous threat– something that happens to other people–and I slowly become more and more negligent about backing up important data until I get bitten again.

Finally, I know I’m late to the game, but I’ve been playing around with Google Sketchup, a free 3-D modeling program that can be used for anything from videogame modeling to architecture to engineering and design. I initially started using it to make a diagram mapping the location of our 20+ sprinkler zones at our house, but I started to make a 3-D model of our house, and have lost hours playing around with its various and user-friendly features.

Sketchup’s the reason you’ve been seeing 3-D models of famous buildings in Googlemaps, and you can use it to add your own house, school, or place of work, down to the minute interior details.

One of Google’s hopes for the product is that people will accurately model buildings and landscapes in order to upload them to Google Maps, which is just a little scary in terms of criminals being able to case joints, etc. I already think streetview’s a little intrusive. But a part of me really loves this–it’s one step closer to having our whole world mapped in VR, which is in turn one step closer to the Matrix.

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Billiam ‘Wartime Consigliere’ Clary and I have a sort of love-hate relationship with bugs: we hate them, and they love how messy we keep our house. Of course, in Thailand, bugs are scarier, faster, and more widespread than anything I’ve seen before. Coming from a brown recluse-infested city (whose bites can result in this), I was relieved to hear that at least the spiders aren’t dangerous here — only everything else. The first time Bill and I came to notice this bug problem was during our first few weeks here — we were marveling at how much faster the ants are here — moments before Will almost took a big gulp of ant coffee that he had placed on the table  for mere seconds. Our old apartment was plagued by maggots. Not everywhere or all the time, but they certainly came in waves, and we became pretty familiar with their life cycle. I realize this sort of infestation might bother most people, but determined as ever, Billy and I took it in stride, only finally cleaning house when we realized that all the little bites over our bodies must be from these constantly-hatching flies.

ignoring the problem eventually results in very necessary epic cleaning days

We didn’t have an ant problem, and our roaches were cute translucent things that visited for only a season. Sure, we had ‘horror bathroom,’ a flickering-light bathroom so filthy it depressed me to linger in there for more than a few seconds, but by our standards, our bug problem was ‘under control.’ Since Will and I seem to be embroiled in what might be considered a perverted form of ‘cleanliness chicken,’ a battle of wills that probably originated from college laziness, we tend to let these hygiene problems really get away from us before we go about doing anything. It’s a miracle neither of us have gotten sick. At college, after breaking the thermostat in a temperature battle, we endured sub-zero temperatures in our rooms for days rather than call to get it fixed. Letting trash or dirty dishes pile up in America (especially a cold environment like Vermont) isn’t such a big deal, but in tropical Thailand, it’s a big no-no.

Of old was an age when was emptiness

Moving to a house became a whole-new ballgame. Our beautiful 2-story house and garden has but few faults — the more egregious of which include lack of sealing, awkward low points (with resulting stagnant water pooling), and neighboring swamp. We keep all our windows open all the time, but even if we closed them, there are gaps so big you could drive a truck through on every warped doorframe or cracked windowframe. Prior to some home-improvement, our house even had an outdoor kitchen (!). And we have ants. Not just a few western-style, steal-your-picnic, military-marching ants that I’m used to. We have a lot of ants, and they’re small and fast. Ant highways and biways divide our house, they cover any open food after only a few minutes, and they diligently and rapidly skeletonize every other dead insect or animal in our house — nothing is left but the wings of dead roaches after only a half-hour. 

dust to dust

The ants are aren’t our only problem — spiders, roaches, geckos, maggots, the occasional rat or giant centipede…we have lots of pests, all of whom are seemingly constantly at war over what must be very valuable turf – our kitchen. Bill and I have a decent amount of fun keeping track of the rise and fall of all of these warring creatures — a dangerous Game of Thrones, if you will, with Will and I acting as checker and balancer, buying the appropriate pesticide if one faction gains such a powerful advantage that they threaten our wellbeing. Therefore, I’d like to think I’ve been pragmatically acclimated to the presence of two or three roaches when I enter my kitchen at night. I welcome them as old friends, lament the encroachement and irreverance for the dead these new ants have, or discuss the constantly-changing politics and intrigue governing their petty wars (“Where did those big ants go? Their armies disappeared almost overnight.”).

You wanna live forever?

Bill and I met unexpected resistance upon our return to Bangkok

Our ‘laziness machismo’ forced us to ignore this for the time being. It was only when Will witnessed the miracle of life – a slew of baby cockroaches bursting from a dead adult’s carcass – did we decide to crack down and do something about it. It was time to go to war, so we set a date.

Going to War                                                                                                                                            …and the uncounted legions of the Orcs perished like straw in a great fire, or were swept like shriveled leaves before a burning wind

We knew we had a coackroach problem, but even we were surprised by what came next. We were armed to the teeth with smoke bombs, mega-strength bug spray, plastic gloves, and traps. Assaulting one of the more suspicious cracks in our kitchen tile, we weren’t surprised to see a cockroach or two flee from under the tile. Easy kills — we drew first blood. Unfortunately, these scouts were followed by more roaches (adults, adolescents, and nymphs) than I’ve ever seen in my life. Will and I hopped around spraying these charging bugs in shifts, finally getting into a routine that ensured us certain victory. Fortunately, we noticed a large number of them flanking us before it was too late, so we split up and fought on two fronts — Will at bathroom drain detail, while I continued to cover the crack in the tile. For the better part of an hour, we stood, head on a swivel, killing a constant stream of bugs from what must be an expansive underground network on our respective fronts, occasionally sliding to cover each other’s flanks or rears for runners. 

Last of all Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an axe two-handed; and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered, and each time that he slew Húrin cried ‘Aurë entuluva! Day shall come again!’ Seventy times he uttered that cry; but they took him at last alive…” -The Silmarillion

Tensions were high — the room reeked of bug spray, sweat, and pasión, but it was becoming all-too apparant the tables had turned — our assault was turning into a last stand. Their numbers were too many and our cans (and heads) were feeling decidedly too light — we had to revert to melee (stomping) in order to conserve ammo. After what seemed an eternity, the stream seemed to be slowing down, so we made the call – detonated a 3-hour bomb, and didn’t come back to the room until much later that night.

someone set us up the bomb

“If the radiance of a thousand suns / Were to burst at once into the sky / That would be like the splendor of the Mighty one… / I am become Death, The shatterer of Worlds.”                    -Bhagavad Gita

Our blitz proved successful, and our subsequent clean and trap-setting is a shock ‘n’ awe campaign  of unparalled military genius. It’s funny, because a few days prior, Will and I discussed going into the pest control business together.

It was the best Easter ever.

“We must meet this threat with our courage, our valor, indeed with our very lives to ensure that human civilization, not insect, dominates this galaxy! Now and always!” -Starship Troopers

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Commute

Wow. One year in Thailand already. Also, this blog inexplicably has 70,000 hits? Anyways, teaching has been a great experience for me thus far. It’s done wonders for my confidence in public speaking, ability to think on my feet, and understanding of some basic epistemological/developmental learning concepts (since I get to see the immediate results of my various modifications and tweaks to my teaching style). My Thai language (since deciding to take my study more seriously by attending Sumaa) is progressing at a pretty steady pace (especially my reading/writing), but my shortcomings in pronunciation are a constant source of frustration. My language is such that a normal thai person, without knowledge of common western mispronunciations, will only figure out what I was saying hours after communication, after mulling it over while making dinner, discussing it with friends, and finally discovering what I meant to say whilst brushing his teeth before bed.

One thing I like about my company is the opportunity to see 5 different schools a week. It makes it more interesting in terms of seeing all ages, discipline styles, religions/cultures, and varying ability levels. My schools range from relatively wealthy Bangkok private schools (one in Chinatown, one that’s significantly Muslim) to less well-off schools an hour out of town in the country. As I’ve mentioned, Fun Language is a logistically-impressive, well-oiled company and I’ve enjoyed working there. A downside is the sheer amount of time I spend en route either to the company or my various schools. Although it’s true that Bangkok commutes are often fraught with peril, excitement, and absurdity at every turn, it’s equally possible to be stuck in the most grinding, unending gridlock you’ve ever seen, all because someone thought it’d be ok to park their truck in the middle of a 2-lane road.

"Thai time," a euphemism for arriving as many as several hours late, has certainly taught me some patience. But believe it or not, there's very little honking.

Curious about the numbers, because the traffic here muddies my concept of distance and time, I decided to record some data by GPS to satisfy both my own curiosity and your utmost reading enjoyment. The number of different forms of transportation (walking, motorcycles, cars, vans, the skytrain, the underground, canal boats, tuk tuks) in Bangkok is amazing, and it’s difficult to accurately judge just how long and far a trip may be. It’s common to spend most of a day making a trek with some shopping or visiting goal in mind only to be foiled by severe rain or hope-crushing traffic. Will and I do it more often than we should, returning home with nothing to show for our day but an indescribably drained, empty feeling.  Keep in mind these numbers are rounded, and for convenience’s sake, re-used if the trip is a daily one. In other words, these stats have pretty low reliability. So, here’s the breakdown for my 5-day work week. Only commutes to and from work were recorded.

Never a dull moment in Bangkok Traffic (if you keep your eyes open, have a sense of humor, and don't mind being hours late)

You can skip the boring dailies for the total at the end. Click the school names for class pictures from that school.

Monday (Malakhit) – 25 miles (41 km)

1 hr 43 minutes (1:23 moving/0:20 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
Taxi 5.84 19:40 9:00
Taxi 5.84 19:40 9:00
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00

Tuesday (Kasem) – 13 miles (21 km)

51 minutes (0:43 moving/0:08 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 2.1 7:45 0:30
BTS Skytrain 4.9 7:27 1:02
Motorcycle taxi 1.4 5:20 0:12
Taxi 4.55 22:15 6:01

Wednesday (Prasatwut) – 29 miles (47 km)

2 hr 26 minutes (2:01 moving/0:25 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
Taxi 7.54 38:20 12:45
Taxi 7.54 38:20 12:45
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00

Thursday (Kantawan) – 78 miles (125 km)

3 hr 2 minutes (2:32 moving/0:30 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
Office Car 32.2 54:10 14:19
Office Car 32.2 54:10 14:19
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00

Friday (St. Mary and Ake Ayuthaya) – 100 miles (161 km)

3 hr 16 minutes (2:44 moving/0:32 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
Office Van 43.5 59:03 15:14
Office Van 43.5 59:03 15:14
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00

Total

Distance Time Time Moving/Time Stopped
245 miles (394 kilometers) 9 hours 18 minutes 8 hours 23 minutes/1 hour 55 minutes

Wow – 9 hours a week in traffic just for my work commute. Since I’ve taught almost 30 weeks in Thailand, these stats work out to quite an impressive number of days spent in traffic. Then again they don’t even compare to the days wasted in WoW and other such games, but it’s certainly not a small portion of my day. I should probably write some sort of cohesive summary or explain why this data is valid, but whatever.

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ben10

Ben10-- Waay too big here.

One thing I like about Thailand is their misinterpretation/re-purposing of Western media, language, or culture as it results in some pretty funny situations. Gruff-looking men drive Hello Kitty mopeds covered in Ben-10 stickers (I’ll write a post about insatiable sticker appetite some other day). Innocent looking young women wear tshirts with racy and suggestive invites, offensive slang, or plain silly English phrases on them without a hint of knowing what they mean—either they’re amazing deadpan comedians, or they just buy tshirts based on color and design (not to mention the companies that produce these shirts lack any sort of quality-control/editorial process). Heavy metal shirts abound, often on people who don’t really look like they might partake. A few days ago, a secretary in a school’s office was dressed extremely well, except for her shawl, which was covered in skulls.

I appreciate how Thais take what they like and use it how they see fit, no matter how quirky it might seem to me, I’m sure it’s commonplace for them. Music is another example of this sort of repurposing.

lady-gaga1ben10     Ben10-- Waay too big here.  One thing I like about Thailand is their misinterpretation/re-purposing of Western media, language, or culture as it results in some pretty funny situations. Gruff-looking men drive Hello Kitty mopeds covered in Ben-10 stickers (I'll write a post about insatiable sticker appetite some other day). Innocent looking young women wear tshirts with racy and suggestive invites, offensive slang, or plain silly English phrases on them without a hint of knowing what they mean—either they're amazing deadpan comedians, or they just buy tshirts based on color and design (not to mention the companies that produce these shirts lack any sort of quality-control/editorial process). Heavy metal shirts abound, often on people who don't really look like they might partake. A few days ago, a secretary in a school's office was dressed extremely well, except for her shawl, which was covered in skulls.  I appreciate how Thais take what they like and use it how they see fit, no matter how quirky it might seem to me, I'm sure it's commonplace for them. Music is another example of this sort of repurposing.  A few days ago, around the time of the morning when you realize this could very well become one of the hottest days on record, there was an all school assembly (Ks-High-schoolers) in one of my school's courtyards. After all-school public caning of a few naughty teenage boys at the hands of a pretty attractive high-heeled teacher and the National Anthem/traditional drumming, the tone of the meeting changed dramatically: all-school warm-up aerobics to the tunes of Beyonce (sorry, Sasha Fierce) and Lady Gaga ("Irreplaceable,"Disco Stick", "Poker face", etc).  I'm talking, teachers, principals, 5 year-olds, and teenagers. It was amazing to see an entire school shake it out in a coordinated dance routine to raunchy club music. Thais seem to love singing and dancing, have less shame than a typical westerner in this regard, and don't really understand how lewd they are.

Lady Gaga -- perhaps inappropriate for every age group.

A few days ago, around the time of the morning when you realize this could very well become one of the hottest days on record, there was an all school assembly (Ks-High-schoolers) in one of my school’s courtyards. After all-school public caning of a few naughty teenage boys at the hands of a pretty attractive high-heeled teacher and the National Anthem/traditional drumming, the tone of the meeting changed dramatically: all-school warm-up aerobics to the tunes of Beyonce (sorry, Sasha Fierce) and Lady Gaga (“Irreplaceable,”Disco Stick”, “Poker face”, etc). I’m talking, teachers, principals, 5 year-olds, and teenagers. It was amazing to see an entire school shake it out in a coordinated dance routine to raunchy club music. Thais seem to love singing and dancing, have less shame than a typical westerner in this regard, and don’t really understand how lewd they are.

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We only get rabbit ears broadcast TV in our apartment, which isn’t so bad if you like Soap Operas that redefine melodrama, Royal family/governmental propaganda, totally humorless game shows that more often than not feature men in drag, or infomercials for Buddhist amulets, beauty and exercise products, and miracle pills (many Thai women are terrified of being unlucky, ugly and old).

One saving grace is that public TV airs Attitude Era WWF pro wrestling, which is huge here and I’m pretty sure they don’t know is fake. It’s really refreshing to watch Thais consume the wrestling I watched with the same level of wonder in elementary school, believing every aspect of it is real. “Attitude Era” wrestling got a ton of bad publicity at the time for their (duh) attitudes towards authorities, women, etc. as well as the company’s rampant steroid use at the time, and this led to a severe toning down of the best in sports entertainment…but 10-12 years later in retrospect, the tone of the show isn’t that extreme. The other saving grace are nightly music videos—both Thai and Indian.

talk

"Do you Smellllll what the Rock is cooking?"

Thai music videos are refreshingly provincial compared to American ones—for me, it’s certainly a welcome cultural difference. As a country, Thailand’s constantly falling in and out of love…I don’t believe this is an exaggerated generalization. Western songs featuring lyrics of heartbreak, melancholy pining, and rumination over lost loves play in convenience stores, taxis, and eateries. If the music videos are any indications, all Thai girls are either impatiently waiting to be courted and proposed to, or else they’re severely and sometimes fatally heartbroken…and the men aren’t much different.

Themes include reminiscing over the early days of a relationship, boys swooning hard over a femme fatale, rescuing high-heeled ditsy women from a puddle-splash or other such public humiliation, and lots and lots of photographs at Thai historic and national landmarks. Especially popular are public transport romances (e.g. the one that got away in the Metro). Women snuggle up to their boyfriends as they speed through the city on a motorcycle, they fall into boys arms after being yanked away from a speeding car, etc.

996560_f520

"Pancake," one of Thailand's celebrities de jour.

Thai women are more (overtly) interested in knights and shining armor (although, come to think of it, the Twilight series is making a strong push back in this direction), and Thai men are more than happy enough to oblige—maybe it’s a fair trade for women (no matter their age) over here having to dress up like they’re going out clubbing for every situation; casual, professional, or otherwise. Outfits that would raise eyebrows at a Halloween party over in America are commonplace midday here…it’s like a big competition. Is that a kindergarten teacher or a pole dancer? It’s a toss-up.

Although it seems sappy, these videos refreshing break from the more materialistic, in-your-face American rap and hip hop videos that emphasize a more aggressive and physical pursuit of women as another commodity or trophy. At least with Thai videos, the women are the ultimate goal rather than a trophy representative of something else. Thai women also seem to be a jealous lot: with love triangles being a popular topic for music video and soap opera plots and stories of Thai women cutting off their boyfriend’s privates abound.

bts

Bangkok Traffic Love Story; a tale of star-crossed lovers who just miss each other in various modes of Bangkok public transit. Click for the great trailer.

On the other hand, Indian music videos are massive productions–over-the-top colorful sexual and sensual spectacles, concerned with physical beauty, decadence, or a one-night pursuit of a woman, who is either leather-clad in a hyper-futuristic club or dripping in gold, draped in intricate and ornate vaguely-traditional Indian dress and rolling on a candled floor in some exotic slice of Indian history. Apparently, Indian men are extremely passionate. They feel emotions powerfully and not afraid to show it– dancing really expressively, crying, or even killing themselves if they can’t be with the woman they fall for. Still, the women in these videos are the goal rather than a prize to gloat about.

devdas5

Devdas--still my favorite Bollywood flick to date.

Anyways, good TV.

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It’s hot in Thailand. Really hot. The sort of sticky hot Memphis is in the summer…but a little wetter and a little hotter…downright sweltering in traffic. Being in a city of 12+ million gasoline-powered vehicle drivers doesn’t help the matter either…neither does hot and spicy food, or stagnant classrooms without air conditioning. We are now in what Thais call “the nice season,” which is preceded by “the rainy season,” which features daily monsoons and ridiculous amounts of rain—enough to turn alleys into canals deep enough to boat in. The few days last week it dipped to 70-75 (this is their winter, mind you), people were bundled up in hoodies and even scarves. What I’m really dreading is their summer or “hot season,” which, when inquired about, is described by Thais as “hot.” Great.

DSCN1820

Mmm, I could do with some spicy food.

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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.

110920092111

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.

11-13-09-120045

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