Ahoy my friends, foes and family. I hope you are all well and enjoying the frosty joys of the British winter. It has been a damn long time since I put finger to keyboard and wrote one of these things so I thought seeing as it is literally molten hot outside I would take refuge in my bedroom with some sweet air-con, a cold whisky and soda and try and update you as to my progress out here in 2011, or 2054 in Thai time. (Apparently Buddha made his name before Jesus you see…)
So, I blame a combination of laziness, heat and an uber-busy schedule for my lack of input of late. For the most part of this year I have been working 6 days a week, most Saturdays doing extra work for various schools in the area. This is to try and supplement the long "Summer" holidays through most of March, all of April and the start of May, where I will be without any sort of wages. It is going to be a struggle, especially as I just had to fork out a large chunk of those savings to get my motorbike fixed after it went a bit kaput for no apparent reason. Sods law is a worldwide phenomenon! I am hoping to find some "Summer camp" work during that period to fill the financial gap but it is pretty competitive as all foreign teachers are in the same boat. I think I may have unearthed a few weeks of possible work to tide me over but nothing is set in stone yet, and with various chums from Blighty coming over to see me in that period money will be too tight to mention. (Apologies for referencing Mick Hucknall there…)
The extra work I have undertaken so far has been varied, from minor job interview style role plays, to following a relentless English script in the local shopping mall. That one was a real killer, standing outside KFC for 6 hours reading the same script to 700 Thai kids. Yes, 700! At times I felt like I was in some kind of hypnotic trance like state, regurgitating simplistic ordering spiel. On my feet, half hallucinating while asking kids what they wanted from Colonel Sander's greasy establishment over and over again, sort of what it would be like to work in KFC I suppose…
Communication in schools still has yet to improve, we literally find out everything far too late, and usually that is only because we ask them directly, or nothing would ever get done. Two fine recent examples involve us finding out a week beforehand that we had to organise an "English camp" with 8 activities for all of our M1 students, the youngest in our school. I was bafflingly put in charge of the whole affair and thus had to hammer out the details of the event, and find 8 foreign teachers to help at the activities in a horribly short space of time. It was a stressful week and day as a whole as despite my detailed organisation and planning, when put back in the hands of the Thai teachers it all went to pot. I had ironed out a minute by minute schedule of where each group should be at what time and handed everyone a copy. Of course, this was of no use once the Thai's took it upon themselves to chuck this hard work out of the window and simply do as they pleased. It left me running around angrily like a headless chicken most of the day trying to ensure things went smoothly while maintaining some sense of polite decorum to those who had metaphorically shat all over my best laid plans, it was tricky to stay calm. Thankfully though all was well that ended well and the camp was deemed a success on the whole.
Still, the school failed to learn the lesson of communication last week when a few days before the event they sprung upon us the fact that we would have to go on a camping trip to a local waterfall with 450 M1 and M2 students on the Thursday and Friday. Leaving us no option and little time to get camping equipment and such we hastily did what we could and mooching over the 20km or so and pitched up ready to help as best we could. The place itself was a beautiful location, with all sorts of wildlife and crazy creatures on all sides but the camp itself was hard work. Activities run all day and include a pretty harsh hike for kids of that age, and people of my age too apparently! In intense heat it is a long day and even at the conclusion rest was by no means assured. Scout camp in my day was a fun event, but this seemed to be run more like a boot camp. The kids were made to run around all day and when they eventually were allowed to go to bed at 1am they were rudely awoken with an announcement at 5am that they had to get up for a morning jog, ahead of a morning hike. I had hardly slept a wink in the heat of a tent and hid slyly away until 8am when I rolled out to be refreshed by a waterfall shower, a bit like the old Timotai adverts of yesteryear.
So that was the back end of last week, and this weekend has been a relaxing one, just a few beers, some football and a BBQ at English Tom's house on Friday which was all good craic.
Other than that there has been little of any note in the recent past, my Thai skills are coming on slowly but surely, as I can now understand a bit better when being spoken to, rather than just a one way conversation, and despite a near miss with a buffalo on a dark road one night when I was inches from certain humiliating death the driving on the bike has been fine and dandy. The buffalo thing was an anomaly pretty exclusive to these parts. They roam free most of the time and when on a dark highway you get little warning of their presence. Luckily I heard, or herd, a cow like moo and braked in time to swerve the massive beast that was stood bang in the middle of the road, though I was swatted by its tail as I went past, I was probably a few inches from a serious incident. And what a way to go eh? No one wants that on their headstone.
Those of you worried please don't, as these things are all part of Thailand and its strange incidents like that which make this place unique. I am always careful on the bike as I know how exposed you are out there. I never wanted to ride a motorbike in the first place but there is no option out here really. You just have to get on with it, and despite breaking my shoulder early on I have grown to enjoy the roads most of the time, always acutely aware of the dangers. Incidentally, I found out recently that Thailand is statistically the most dangerous place to drive in the world, and Trang is the most dangerous place to drive in Thailand, so by definition I am living in the most dangerous place to drive in the world. Quite a mad concept that, and Mum, I know it won't allay any fears you may have but please don't fret! Driving here is certainly an experience, I could write for days on some of the insane things I have witnessed on the roads, such as the man who was flying a giant kite on the back of his motorbike, which was obviously wafting to and fro across all the lanes of a busy highway while going at serious speed. I mean, what the f**k is the best thing that could come out of that? I was close to being garrotted by the kite strings while others took the kite on the windscreen at high speeds.
That is an extreme example but the standard of driving, and in fact, common sense out here is astonishing. In order to get a driving license here they have to go to a car park, show they can go forwards and reverse in a straight line and the license is issued there and then. However, apparently my British driving license where I have passed a stringent test, as well as theory and highway code tests, is not valid here. Ridiculous. The Thai way of driving is I will get to where I want to get to as quickly as I can and to hell with everyone else. They literally have no thought for other road users safety. In fact, they think if they honk the horn at you while speeding and swerving all over the place to get through then they are exonerated from all blame. I have warned you I am here no you must get out of the way or it is your fault they seem to think. Road rage is difficult to contain at times I have to say.
Anyway, rant over, I shall come back to reality and back to school, where we only have a couple more weeks of classes left. After that the students have final exams and then it holiday time, which I am really looking forward to. Despite the joys of the job it can be draining, and more than that I am looking forward to the arrivals of some of my best mates from home. It will be good to see some familiar faces again. Though Jess Johnson and Martin came to visit at the start of January for a few days. Sadly I was working most of the time but we still had a good few nights on the town and I think they really enjoyed seeing Trang. It is out of the hub of most tourist locations but it has a wonderful charm and is a great place to base yourself to see the Andaman coast.
Finishing the term will be a bit sad however as my M6 students will all be leaving. They are my least favourite year group that I teach as many of them have bigger fish to fry with going to University and such but there are still some wonderful kids in there, some will be very much missed. But on the plus side I will still have my M5's who I love and will take Calvin's M4 group into M5 who he says are an amazing bunch, so it should be a sweet deal. In cased I haven't mentioned it the school want me back next semester so I must be doing something right eh? It's not a bad achievement in my first teaching role as many native speakers are pushed from job to job out here, having some continuity will definitely help the kids and the fact the school were so enthusiastic about me returning to teach there next term is encouraging in terms of my own personal abilities and confidence. I really have found a job and lifestyle that I truly love, I only wish I could have you all out here to enjoy it with me.
Well that seems as good a place as any to leave it for now, on a high note. I promise to try and be a bit more regular with these blogs now the work is winding down. I hope you are all in fine fettle, remember the Thai philosophy, "mai pen lai" - No worries. It really doesn't matter! Peace and love. x