The Very First Email from Thailand

It’s 3:00 pm here in Phuket, Thailand on a typical scorching Saturday afternoon, and 3:00 am there in Snellville, Georgia, USA on a typical freezing evening. I’m sure you don’t have to process much thinking to find that this is certainly a better alternative. The weather is really quite brutal in terms of heat, but having been born and raised in those Georgia summers has helped me to find it as something normal. But still, it is a taxing climate for one’s energy levels. Well, I’m headed down to see the shore for the first time in about an hour or so to go check out a blues festival that is taking place.

Contrary to my initial impressions, the school is located nowhere near the beach. Of course, by “nowhere” I mean it is about a 30 minute ride by motorbike taxi, tuk-tuk, or bus. I was under the impression that the school was literally across the street from the sandy shores of Phuket, but its not. The school is located about a mile or so from the center of Phuket Town. Phuket is much bigger than I had initially thought it would be. While being more industrialized, having more people, more excitement, more places to go, and generally far more advanced as a whole than a Western mind would think.

I arrived late on Friday nite last week, and really didn’t get my first taste of the city interactions until the next morning. First laugh occurred when I tried to simply cross the street in front of the hotel. This literally took about ten minutes to do because the endless parade of motorbikes, cars, etc. never ceased to stop. I eventually made my way across the street, and have since found that you just have to have an aggressive nature if you want to get to the other side. They’ll ease up for a minute and let people cross. The first day honestly felt like a week. I grabbed a quick bite at a restaurant next to the school called Mae Porn Seafood. Great little spot with really kind individuals working there, but that is all of the people in this city to be quite honest.

Anywho…I even learned some Thai right away from the lady who works there. For example, you say “sawadee-krup” to say hello or goodbye (for a male), …..dee-ka (for females), “arroy-mai” is very delicious, “pom-kin-mai” is see you later, and more terms will follow in subsequent letters. After consuming some “arroy” mixed vegetables and rice along with a dragonfruit shake (by the way I tried for months back home to get a hold of some dragonfruit after having seen a picture on the internet, but to no avail, not even the Dekalb Farmers market had them. Then I come here and you can find them anywhere you like. If you haven’t seen a picture of one then I’ll save the description and let you look it up on the web. Exotic would be a very fitting term for it. However, the shake was good, but I bought one and cut it up, it was surprisingly quite bland despite its looks…anyways)

I headed out to explore a bit more, and immediately spotted two white individuals who were obviously here in Phuket for the same reasons I was. Duncan was one of the individuals I met, and he is from somewhere near Bristol, UK, and the other was a girl named Crystal who is from Boston, Mass. (Go Sox!!! F___ the Yankees!!!). So we decided to head down into the market area of town, which is somewhere I can’t wait to go back to and take multiple pictures. This place had anything would could possibly imagine and a million more things that you could never possibly imagine. The list could go on for days, but lets settle by saying there was ceaseless activity, delicious aromas in the air, stench ridden aromas in the air, dogs milling about, chatter, honking, and so on and so on.

We grabbed another bite to eat along with some Chang beer at a more established style restaurant while steering clear of some of the foods that didn’t look like they would agree with us that were being sold in the street market area. Later we headed back towards the school area….(as time note: I’ll finish this up later, the bus is headed out to go to the blues fest down near Kata Beach).

Okay. So seriously it is now Monday evening and I am just now getting back to finishing up this email. Apologies for the lack of correspondence, but I’ve just been so busy here that I can’t seem to find the time to just sit in front of my computer and listen to some music and type away some emails. Heck I haven’t even checked my email yet since I’ve been here. One major reason is that we are only at the school when we are doing practice teaching. Since this class has 28 people in it, 18 more than I had predicted would be in it, they are doing the teaching right down my hall in the hotel conference room. So needless to say, I’m not near the computer room on a daily basis like I thought I would be, but then again that’s no excuse because its only a 5 minute walk away.

There is always something to explore here, and always classmates who want to drag you out and eat up that precious time. Well, I guess I’ll revert back to where I was and give a synopsis of the first week. So……..

We return to the school area and after milling about for a bit we end up looking for a motorbike to head into town. Murphy’s Law is huge here because every time you are walking down the street someone honks at you even though you don’t need one, but as soon as you are trying to get a motorbike, none are to be found anywhere. So, while waiting for a taxi, we are standing in front of a street side bar with nobody attending it, and just some girl reading a book. So we decided to help here out and just get a drink there. Well, long story made short, her friends come by later in the evening and invite us to some club area over in Patong Beach which is on the west coast of Phuket. Patong Beach is quite the tourist spot and the club we went to might rank as one of the last style of places I would normally go to, but I certainly wasn’t in complaining mode. Hours upon hours go by and we eventually make it back into Phuket Town to finish off our first marathon day. Overwhelming is a fitting word to describe that entire day.

So, the next day, I got some much needed rest and I explored the area a bit and then went with Duncan, Crystal, and another classmate named Tracy to the Mae Porn restaurant again for a low key evening prior to the first day. Class started the next day and was very surprised at the number of students enrolled in the class. 28 like I said, and from all parts of the globe with people having lived and worked all over as well. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that the second person I met on the first day in Thailand was from Atlanta and he used to own a bar downtown, and he lived on North Avenue which is basically the same road that I lived on. I go half way around the world, and there is someone from next door. We got quite a laugh out of that one.

So the class starts up, and we do the typical introduction for each person sort of thing. Materials are handed out, brief rundowns are given, and the early evening consists of groups of 3-4 observing the classes that were taking place that night. I could immediately feel myself being very comfortable with this type of career, and I was thoroughly impressed with their range of abilities. The class I observed was the pre-intermediate level, and the school ranks them on 5 levels: starter, elementary, pre-inter, inter, and upper-inter. After the observations, the school threw a free dinner and free beer meal at Mae Porn across the street, so it made it three days in a row that I ate there which they all said is a common trend for most people. Nearby, cheap, delicious, and comfortable…..everyone likes that sort of place.

After we eat it up and drink it up and chat it up, a couple instructors invite us down to an Irish pub called O’Malley’s and this is the place that the guy from Atlanta owns. He sold his Atlanta pub, moved here and opened a new pub. Good times were had by all and this place can put you anywhere you want to be in the world once you are inside it. Easy to forget where you are with their décor.

So, the next day, class starts up again and we begin to get into the methodology of lesson planning which is Engage: get them thinking and speaking in English, Study: introducing new material where accuracy is key, and Activate: which is putting the new material to use through student to student interaction. Rather straightforward and a perfect process to follow when teaching. The night consisted of more observations of classes. The classes are 43 minutes long with a 4 minute break and then another 43 minutes. So to squeeze everyone in we were observing a 43 minute session. Moving on to the next day, we have some lessons in the morning from 9:30 until 12:30, and guess what, we are teaching that night!

Talk about nerves from almost all of the students in the class, and talk about ice water in my veins. I came here to do exactly this, not to be afraid of it, and after observing just one class, I knew it was going to go smooth. The way they do the teaching practice is that you find out if you are teaching after lunch, and if you are then you have the afternoon to prepare you lessons and then you hop to it. If not then you have the afternoon off, and you’ll be teaching the next day. Materials and lesson plans are due at 4:00 and the times for teaching vary throughout the evening up until 7:45 or so. So I checked the board and I was up for the teaching that night.

I had pre-intermediates, the same class I observed and my lesson goals were verb phrases using nine new verbs such as wait, play, run, knock, learn, etc. They give you pointers and recommendations, but on the same token you certainly have free reign in terms of how it is structured and what elements you’d like to include. However, you must achieve the stated goal of the lessons. I laid out my lesson plan to a T while at the same time I let it be a very loose style of presentation. No “Hello my name is Ryan” written down on the paper which I saw some people do. If you have to read something like that then you have some issues. I did a quick run through in my room, using the wall as a mock whiteboard, so I could work out any kinks or problems beforehand, and then I just relaxed after that. I have to admit that my lesson goals were rather easy in terms of trying to present them which facilitated my ability to just go with it. Had it been some abstract sort of concept then I might have worried a bit more as to whether of not the students were going to understand the concept.

So, class started and I just absolutely felt at home doing this gig, one of my goals on the lesson plan was to smile and have fun, and that is exactly what I did. My two observers (one the instructor, the other another student who was teaching the latter 43 mins.) thought I had done teaching before.

I felt so great when it was done because I knew my mentality was absolutely on point. There is a good page in our book that describes the myth of teachers having to be complete extroverts, and it explains that this often comes across merely as entertaining and not teaching. A teacher can be any sort of personality, and with confidence and well structured game plan anybody can do it. Sure something might go wrong the next time with maybe some unforeseen question throwing me off, but I highly doubt it. I’ll find out tomorrow though and let you know in the next letter.

So, I was very proud, and immensely appreciated that my fellow student gave me repetitive praise while the instructors only comment was that I tend to write all my R’s in capital letters, such as dooR, when writing on the board, and grammar is obviously an emphasis when teaching. He had a few other pointers, but only minimal points and constructive in all regards.

(Another break……)

So this is how the trip has been going so far. Minimal time to just sit and write letters to back home. I had to take a break a minute ago and study up on some phonetic structures with a classmate. Here I am three hours or so later.

Teaching went great last week, and tomorrow I teach again. Time to get some rest after finishing this. I would elaborate a bit more on the teaching, but my flow was cut off after having to break, and its just not coming back right now.

So, the initial break was for the blues fest down in Kata Beach. Never found the blues fest, but that didn’t deter me and three other friends from having a great time checking out some amazing scenery. This is another hotspot for tourists, but rightfully so.

Most of the people who vacation here are from Sweden, Denmark, and other Northern European countries. I gather the main reason is the simple beauty of this place, and the second reason is the ridiculously low cost of getting here, and being here. We enjoyed ourselves at a restaurant diner, then shot some pool at a local bar where I made the mistake of looking for the NBA Dunk Contest at 9:00 on Saturday night, not thinking for a minute that it hadn’t even happened yet because it was 12 hour difference, or whatever the difference is for Las Vegas.

Then we went down to Ska Bar located directly on the beach which made me feel completely at ease. Great evening which included some interspersed fireworks in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Headed back into Phuket Town which is about 25 miles from Kata Beach. Spent Sunday resting up and getting some much needed exercise in.

We tried to go down into the market area of Phuket Town to look for the New Year’s parade, but we gathered that it was not as big as some had described because we simply couldn’t find it. However, the streets were filled with lanterns and decorations, and many people were celebrating in their own manner.

Today was filled with catching up on my studies, exercising for a while, and doing some odds and ends. One of the most important of which was writing this lovely letter you are reading now. Only 9 days in the making I suppose.

So, its getting pretty late, and believe it or not that gaming café was filled when I walked by a minute ago. Hours just really don’t matter here for certain types. I came back really, really late one night around 6:00, and the café was filled with kids that were no older than 15, and when I mean filled, I’m talking about 25 kids who were showing great excitement toward the online games they were playing. Yelling, screaming, jumping, just plain madness. I think that was the first nite after Patong Beach, and I knew the strange activities I’d see would be ceaseless.

I will continue to write back and share more of these observations, experiences, desires, fears, and generally ways of life that I’ll grow accustomed to while I’m here. Apologies again for the prolonged delay, but a simple “Hey I’m here and I’m fine” is an implied thing to me. If something went drastically wrong then you’d have known about it. I’ll contact you guys again before the week is out, and I’ll include some pictures to coincide with the ruminations. I did find a charger for my camera, and it was at an electronics warehouse that is like none other in the states. So now I can get the multimedia correspondence in full swing.

Until the next letter, take care of yourselves and I love you all very dearly. Distance is a fact, but the feelings of love will always remain.



I’ll leave you with a quote from Bernard of Clairvaux that is on my mirror here:

“Our works do not pass away, as they seem to do; rather they are scattered like temporal seeds of eternity. The fool will be astonished when he sees a great harvest shooting up from a seed – good or bad harvest according to the differing quality of the sowing”

“Practice Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty”

Okay. So as a footnote to all of this. I tried to walk over to the Internet café [which is really a gaming café because all these kids do is play role playing games on the web, and not using the web for information], to send this letter off, and the guy told me it was a three hour wait. Guess what time it is? , It’s 2:18 a.m. on a Monday nite. Crazy stuff huh?

Okay. Second footnote. I just tried to go over there and send this off during our short ten minute break at 10:30 a.m., and the café is still filled with kids. I didn’t ask the wait time, but I guarantee you it is still two hours. Ridiculous. Guess I’ll give it a go at lunch.

Never Run Up Khao Rang

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