Today is another holiday, but this one is honoring the Constitution. I’m not very well informed about what goes on today, but we have Monday off of school for it. The Thais do love their holidays.
This weekend has been spent taking it super easy after a few busy weeks. The last few days I’ve been catching up on reading and chatting with people online. As it turns out the closest person to me outside of Thailand is Jason from Semester at Sea. He’s doing Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan (also as a TEFL teacher) and if he gets injured he’ll be shipped to Thailand for recovery! I am not hoping for anything like that, but it would be pretty hilarious if we couldn’t make it to see each other when we lived an hour away and managed to on the other side of the world. Check out his blog if you have the time, he's much better than me at updating: http://www.jasonpeacecorps.blogspot.com/
The course ends Friday and if I pass I will be certified to teach English as a foreign language. It’s pretty scary. I don’t feel like a teacher. Not even close. I feel like someone who has been taught some strategies on filling time in a classroom and has brushed up a bit on English grammar. That’s about it though. Scarier than looking for a job is actually getting one and having to do everything I’ve been reading about in the past 4 weeks. I have taught a few times, but always with overwhelming support from my group members and practicum teacher. If I’ve learned one thing it’s that it is very difficult to learn how to teach without actually doing it. Fortunately I’ve learned more than one thing though, that’s just one that sticks out right at this moment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my teachers and what made them effective or ineffective. Mostly I’ve been thinking about middle and high school, because I think university professors are a completely different story most of the time. I always thought of teachers as these omniscient beings that knew all and dished out the knowledge to their students. Learning a lot of teaching theory and seeing a comparison between preparation for classes and the practicality of teaching those classes has changed my mind about a lot of that. Most of teaching (at least in my small, inexperienced TEFL world) seems to be pulling stuff out of your ass. It seems to me that you can prepare as much as you want for all of the things you are going to ‘teach’ but the actual learning happens in completely unstructured and unexpected ways, and I like that.
Another thing I’ve noticed is just how much work goes into teaching. Yes, many teachers get summers off and extended holidays at other times of the year, but essentially you put in a lot more hours than just classroom time. The preparation and grading alone takes a lot of time that could be spent reading or going to the bar (to name two of my favourite distractions). This is one thing that I think professors spend more time on than high school teachers, mostly because university students require a hell of a lot more feedback than lower level students. I remember being in university and being able to correspond with my professors 24 hours a day via email. It rarely occurred to me that they may have been involved in other things like spending time with family or doing something fun and non-school related. Of course I was a selfish university student who wanted input on my paper or to know my grade.
Ok, enough of the pedagogy. I’ve been thinking about a lot of that lately and haven’t had a chance to get it down and out of my head.
I love living in Chiang Mai. It’s becoming more like home all the time, and I’ve only been here for a month and a few days. When I think about it that seems like a long time, but it’s flown by. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time with friends from class. It’s really cool to have a variety of people of different ages and backgrounds. I hang out mostly with farang, but I’ve met some Thais through the people who have been here for a while.
Yesterday I ran into my friend’s Thai boyfriend on the street and hung out with him at a coffee shop talking about ghosts and local things. The owner of the restaurant we were hanging out in told a ghost story that was very similar to my own on the island and I was amazed at how we had the same experience in completely different places.
After that I went with Mark (friend’s boyfriend) and Heith (friend) to a market so Heith could do some Christmas shopping (something I desperately wanted to do but cannot even think about until I get a job) and afterwards we went to dinner at the most American restaurant I have seen since I’ve been here. Heith remarked at how it even smelled like an American restaurant. We all indulged in salads (one of the only types of food that Chiang Mai just doesn’t get right most places), nachos, red wine, and white chocolate cake. It was truly a treat. As much as I love noodles I really miss salad.
After dinner we phoned Noah and met him at the walking street market so Heith could finish his shopping. Then we went looking for a bar and turned down Loi Kroh Road, which is famous for its go-go bars. We marveled, though I think Noah was the only one that really appreciated the spectacle, the gay boys and I just chuckled. Eventually we found a pool table and some drinks and continued to have a good time. We ended up going to the boys’ favourite gay bar with the sweetest staff in the world, and then out dancing at Spicy, the city’s popular and very shady after hours club. The night ended with the four of us eating noodles at 4am and drunkenly talking about getting a house together. This is pretty typical of my weekend evenings here and is a contributing factor to my status as broke ex-pat.
It’s a challenge not having a kitchen. I spend all of my money on food (and drinks, of course) and while eating out in Thailand is mega-cheap my friends tend to lean towards the farang-y places that really add up. Maybe if I had a fridge it wouldn’t be such a big deal because I could buy fruit and yoghurt, and I think the next place I live that will be a requirement.
This morning I was woken up by Trace calling from Nogfest! It was great, I got to talk to a lot of my Kzoo friends who were engaging in some delicious Nog. I thought about hosting a Thai Nogfest, but it’s way too hot here to mix dairy products with alcohol. It sounded like the gang was having a good time and I felt pangs of jealousy at the thought of a Nogshake and hanging out with my old buddies.
I haven’t been too homesick since my first week here, mostly because I have been keeping very busy. I think once Christmas comes I might feel some nostalgia. There’s literally nothing that screams Christmas here, with the exception of the hotel lobbies and places advertising Christmas dinner. It’s really nice to not feel like I’m participating in an entire holiday season that stretches from Halloween to Dec 25th, but at the same time it makes me forget that Christmas is just around the corner. I’m planning on going to a buffet at the same place we went for Thanksgiving with the same people and possibly a few more. We also talked about going camping somewhere, but that was over the noodles last night at 4am… so we’ll see if it actually happens.
Well, when it rains it pours. I haven’t updated in a week or two and all of a sudden there’s more than anyone would care to read! I know this has been a very talk-y post, and hopefully from now on I won’t go this long between updates, but thanks for bearing with me.