Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Back to school.

Life is good. Actually life is pretty damn great. I'd apologize for taking so long between posts but the truth is I'm not sorry, because I've been busy working, hanging out with friends, and having fun living in Thailand. I'm busier than I remember being in a long time.

My new job is wonderful. It's challenging to come up with new and interesting ways of teaching when you see the same kids for 3 hours a day. Once a week is easy! Throw some vocab at them, play a game, and everybody is happy. But this year I'm actually responsible for the bulk of these kids' learning. It's cool. And scary.

On Tuesday I was leaving work after one of my worst classes and I still managed to have an epiphanal "I love my job" moment. I'm not sure what it was exactly but when I see kids I've taught walking around school they almost always say "Hello, Teacher Kris!" or something to that effect. It's like being a superstar... but with education. It rocks.

Teaching math to kids who don't really understand what I'm saying can be a bit challenging. Last week we did more than, less than, and equal to. My kids are all really cute and pretty bright. There are two or three that drive me up the wall, but for a Thai classroom that's a pretty low number of problem children. The hardest part is getting them to listen to what I'm saying. Kids have a hard enough time listening when they understand the language being spoken, but when they have to struggle to understand me they pretty much tune out. There are plenty of challenges.

Saying that, I work a lot. Most days I leave for work a little after 7am and get home around 7:30pm. I'm at school until 2:30 and then I do 3 hours of private lessons after that. Add in about 2 hours of driving time every day and I'm not left with much free time. Which is why it's nice that I happen to love my job.

Some of my most rewarding students are the private ones that I teach in the afternoons. There are a total of 6, all of whom are Korean. I teach them in their homes which is nice because they're relaxed and they bring me food, but difficult to get them to focus when they can just play with their toys. On Friday I got to make up a boardgame and have a swordfight with a 10 year old boy. Then I went to the home of a family of 4 women who I've become very close to since becoming their teacher 4 months ago. All of the Koreans go to an International school here in Chiang Mai and they all understand me when I talk to them. A big plus after working all day at a Thai government school. I will try to come up with some classic student stories and share them with everyone. My students say the funniest things sometimes.

In non-work related news, Garrett and I have a new roommate. Her name is Naomi. She's from England and she works with me. It's quite cool to have another person to hang out with around the house, and she makes a mean red curry, so that helps. Noah came to visit on his way from China back to the US. It was good to see him for the short time he was here.

I finally made it up the mountain that is a stone's throw from my backyard. Or it would be if I had a backyard. There is a temple at the top that is quite popular with Chiang Mai tourists. Last weekend Naomi, Noah and I drove up the mountain and stopped at the temple as well as a
Hmong village that's a bit further on. The drive was lovely and we could see the whole city from the top. The destinations were obviously designed with tourists in mind and therefore weren't too thrilling but it was great to sit on the back of Nomes' bike and feel the cool mountain air. There were times her bike had some trouble getting our fat asses up the steep incline, which we found hilarious.
A picture of me from Doi Suthep (doi means mountain in Thai)

When I stop to think about it I really miss my family and friends. It's very strange not to be on the Island this summer, and hearing about it is bittersweet because I get to live vicariously but at the same time it's just not the same as being there. I have a group of good buddies here in Chiang Mai, but I do miss my brothers and my best friend- people who tend to just get me. I look forward to seeing them all again.

People have been asking about when I'm coming home. I'm pretty sure I'll stay until March. The school year ends then and the lease on my house runs out around that time so it just seems to make sense. It's been a difficult decision making process given the fact that I miss home a lot, particularly the people I haven't seen in 8 months. But once I leave I don't think I'll come back, so I may as well get as much out of it as I can.

While I'm on the subject... if you've ever wanted to visit Thailand, or you want to come see me while I'm here, I have the month of October off. It's June right now, which gives you plenty of time to plan your trip. :p The most expensive part about it would be airfare; once you're here food and lodging is quite inexpensive. Just a thought. I would love it if anyone was interested, you can always send me an email for more information.

Here's a pic from Lee's wedding back in April. He's the lead teacher at my school and the Thai woman to the left of him owns Nava, the agency I work for. The people in the back row all work at Nava and are good fun to work and play with. The wedding was interesting, but very different from a wedding you'd go to at home.

We got to their house, where the wedding was, and there were some big tents set up outside with tables and such for eating and drinking. We went inside where a bunch of people were sitting on the floor and some monks were chanting. Nicola and I decided we'd get out of the way because everyone was looking at us like we didn't belong there. We went outside to wait for the ceremony but in about 10 minutes everyone came out and said it was over. We were well confused but figured we'd witnessed the wedding and didn't even know it. It's amazing the things you miss when you don't speak the language.
After the ceremony everyone ate and left. There were some speeches and karaoke, but it was all over very quickly. A good time though.

Not much else in the way of big events has happened since my last update. May was an adjustment month of getting back to school. There have been lots of birthdays, too. I missed Trace's birthday, but that's nothing new since I've missed pretty much every other birthday he's had since I've known him. Jamie turned 17, which is cool. He's that much closer to being a real person. Just kidding Jameson, you know I love you. I got to talk to 3 of my aunts on the phone for their birthdays, too.
Most days Thailand feels like home, but without the people I'm used to having around and for some reason everyone is speaking Thai. Chiang Mai has become the city I live in, just like any other city. I quite like it, especially now that the pollution has dissipated. The next challenge will be rainy season, which is going to make my 2 hour driving time difficult to manage... but more on that when it happens.

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