(originally posted on Friday July 18, 2008
Sunday July 13, 2008 Chiang Mai, Thailand 5:45 pm
Learning the Industry
Surviving a night with the Jungle Spiders
So today marks exactly 2 weeks that I have been in Chiang Mai. We are halfway done with the course, and can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I feel as though I am slowly getting the hang of this teaching thing: teaching itself really I find quite natural, it’s just the planning that is annoying. But it gets better and quicker every time. My comfortableness in the classroom increases and my anxiety beforehand decreases every class. On Tuesday we had the opportunity to go to the British Counsel School to observe some experienced teachers. I was quite comforted because I felt that I could be as good a teacher as they were. Also, I learned that jobs at British Counsel schools pay well and have decent benefits.
Along those lines I have had countless invaluable conversations with our tutors and other trainees here who have taught in various types of schools in several countries. The information gleaned from these conversations will certainly prove useful in the event I end up teaching for more than one year. For example, I have learned what schools/countries have the most enticing salaries, that private lessons are a great way to make lots of money per hour, that some schools offer ‘part time’ teaching contracts, which means a teacher can teach full working hours for a few months, then just take off a few months whenever they feel the urge to relax or travel. (This is certainly the most appealing thing I have learned, and this was from an American guy who does this. He only works between 6 and 8 months a year: a few on a few off!) I can certainly see myself in that kind of a job! This is just one of the unforeseen benefits of doing this CELTA course that I have found.
One strange thing that has given me much laughter and thought is the wide mix of demographics of the trainees, and the varying types of spoken English that this represents. I have learned dozens of knew words, in ENGLISH! The Brits and Aussies and Irish and Kiwis all have very strange yet funny sayings. I have attempted to catalogue the ones I can remember, but certainly have missed a few. I learned that after a stonkingly good time, one might end up locked and knackered, and spent time on the dunny until half 4. Translation: After a fantastic good time, one might end up drunk and tired, and spend lots of time on the toilet until 4:30. There have been tons of other words, and I will continue my attempt to learn the ‘new’ language of English.
Two nights ago, I had an adventure. As I turned on my lamp in preparation for going to bed, I saw two HUGE spiders (and this is not an exaggeration, they were probably 6 inches in diameter) crawl out from between my suitcase and the wall. They were the largest spiders I had ever seen! I retreated awestruck for a moment, then quickly gathered my wits and my shoe and set about attacking the smaller one. I quickly demolished him and deposited him in the ‘rubbish bin’ then chased the second larger one. Unfortunately he retreated into a hole somewhere and I lost him. The thought of turning off the lights and crawling into bed with a ginormous spider lurking around my room was not appealing. So I elicited help in the Search for the Deadly Jungle Spider. Ironically two girls came to offer assistance, no males. But they proved to be more than adequate, as one of them brought in a giant bottle of bug spray and began aggressively spraying away to flush the big fella out. Once she had a clear shot at him she proceeded to pound him violently to a pulp of dozens of spider pieces on my floor. I just watched in awe! It sure made for a good story among the other trainees. I fell asleep with dreams of hundreds of spiders overtaking my bed, but survived the night with the Jungle Spiders unscathed.
So July 4th was definitely nostalgic for me, mostly because I missed the fireworks, boats and BBQ back home. I wracked my brain for something “American” to do to celebrate, but with our limited resources here, we just ended up going out for a few beers. We happened upon an alley with a few bars, and no kidding, at the end of the alley was a small boxing ring with free Thai boxing shows going on all night. Although this was incredibly tourist-ized (I think I just created that word, and am keeping it from the British) and fake, it was interesting. A few guys would get up there and play fight for a while, then come around asking for tips. It was funny too because these aren’t the type of guys you would typically find in a boxing ring, as they were barely 5 feet tall and probably 120 lbs at the most. When they came by to ask us for tips, one little guy asked me if I would like to fight him. I laughed, but I think he was serious. I’m sure he relished the idea of kicking himself some tourist butt. I considered the story/memory value of taking his offer, but declined because I couldn’t decide if he would play nice or extra mean because I was a foreigner. I didn’t want to take that risk and end up in a Thai hospital. But I did get a cool picture with him.
Speaking of hospitals, two of the girls here have made trips to the local medical facilities here this weekend with stomach problems. Apparently one was E coli poisoning and one Dyspepsia. They were quite impressed with the Thai hospital, and I have heard form several people that the medical facilities here are not only cheap (as might be expected) but good quality. Go figure. Anyway, so far I have avoided any sickness other than some slight GI discomfort. (everyone please knock on wood now)
Last weekend, we went into town and Clarabelle and I went to the zoo. It was actually quite fun, with an extensive animal selection. We saw monkeys, dozens of birds – many up close, giraffes, ostriches, emus, lions, tapirs, capybara, tigers, leopards, a white tiger and white lion, and even koala bears.
That night we miraculously all met up in town and went to eat some good western food. I had a juicy bacon cheeseburger which was heavenly. It was so good to not eat rice. Then we went in to the famous Chiang Mai night market, which was huge. We walked through it for over an hour and never go to the end. It was pretty interesting, though it got repetitive. I got some Thai silk boxers and a Thai soccer jersey. A few of us got bored so we went in search for ice cream, which turned into ice cream bars from 7/11. We ate the peacefully down by the river which was quite enjoyable. When we tried to meet up to return home, 2 girls met at the wrong end of the street, and it was a miracle that we found them.
On Sunday I walked to Hang Dong with Lizzie and Leila and just as we got about a mile out it started raining. It was actually pretty fun, and some kind Western guy pulled over and offered us a ride in the back of his truck. At the Hang Dong market, I found a miniature kolache drizzled in syrup, which would have been great if it had been warmed, but for $0.20, I guess you cant really complain. In the market we found grilled frogs for sale on the street, not frog legs, but the entire frog just lying there covered in flies. Next to the frogs were fried chicken feet. I didn’t try any, but we did find a pizza place and ordered pizza for dinner and watched a movie.
Saturday July 19, 2008
So the ‘new’ English words keep coming. “Taking the piss” and “bits and bobs” are the current ones I just learned. Even worse though, is having to explain what our biscuits are, and explaining cornbread and chicken fried steak and sweet tea! Oh how these Westerners have missed out! It’s sad.
So a few days ago one of the tutors was making conversation and asked me point blank if I had a religion. So I got to share my testimony with her and two other of the trainees! That was really cool. Most of them are atheist or agnostic, so it was really cool to get to share with them my beliefs. Also, I had a long conversation with another one of the trainees here who is an atheist. We started out discussing politics and economics, and ended up on religion, so I also got to share my testimony with her. It was great because she shared what she believed and I shared what I believed and we discussed it civilly and openly. I think she is searching, cuz she admitted that sometimes she feels a ‘leading’ from something outside of herself. During another long conversation with another one of the trainees, I was able to share my testimony with her as well. Praise God! Pray that it will take root and God will touch their hearts.
Last Sunday we walked to Hang Dong for another pizza dinner. As we were walking, we came upon a large house with a dozen Thai women doing aerobics to a video in their front yard. So naturally, we asked if we could join and they were quite friendly and invited us in. So Lizzie, Leila and I danced and did a Thai aerobics routine for a few minutes, trying as best we could to follow all the moves. We took pictures and video of course. It was a great time and a good memory. Thai people are so friendly. On the way home we eventually found a taxi and as he didn’t know the place where we are staying, I sat in the front and gave him directions. He was teaching me the Thai words for left – ‘sai’, right – ‘kwa’, and straight – ‘dong’. It’s amazing how much you can communicate with someone even when you don’t speak a word of the same language.
The rest of this week has been teaching and working. I have enjoyed the teaching though, and I feel like I am improving.
This afternoon I am headed out with Pracha to preach to some of the jungle tribes in this area. Apparently we are going to spend the night in a sleeping bag with a mosquito net, and return tomorrow afternoon. I am excited and anxious.
One week left!