Our short little trip included:
20 minutes riding in the back of a stranger's pickup truck
6 hours on a bus
10 minutes on the back of a motorbike
6 hours on the sloooweeessrr traiinnn evvveerrr
= 12 1/2 hours of traveling
Maybe now you understand exactly how remote Tha Wang Pha actually is.
We arrived in Chang Mai unharmed but tired and ready to party with Lisa, Nate, Juliet and Jen.
This was the first time I had seen white people except Kelly and Shaleas since we left Bangkok. I kept pointing out all the 'foreigners' as if I'm not one myself, but it's easy to forget around here.
It was also the first time I ate something that didn't involve rice OR noodles!! The great thing about Chang Mai being a tourist city is all the international food that's around. Like really really good pizza for instance.
On Saturday we went up to an amazing temple on a mountain called Doy Suthep. You walk up a huge big set of stairs to get to the top, and it is totally worth the work out. I highly recommend it. We got white threads tied around our wrists by a holy man (not actually a monk because monks aren't allowed to touch women; the monk was tying the men's strings). The string symbolizes good health and long life.
That night we got to see Muay Thai boxing! It was amazing. There was one European (French) fighting among all the Thai boxers, so I met him before his fight, which he then won in an awesome knockout. We ended up celebrating with him and his friends (who all teach English at the university in Chang Mai) for the rest of the night, first at a pretty cool bar/club frequented by both Thais and farangs (Westerners) called Warm Up, and then the Van Bar, which is literally a van, like an old VW bus, that is a bar in the middle of a car park. At Warm Up I also managed to find a guy from Glasgow (my entire family is from Glasgow for those who don't realise). So Glaswegians are literally everywhere, as usual.
Monday = the real world, and a reminder of why I'm actually here
So for the last four days I've been teaching at Thawangphapittayakhom school (it's a lot easier to say than it looks at first).
In Thai culture, children are more or less allowed to do what they want with little to no discipline, which apparently also applies to school. So the first day was really overwhelming because the kids just talk and laugh and mess around in class, but after four days I have adjusted. I have first years (12/13 year olds) and fourth years (15/16 year olds). As long as you have fun with them, and get them to learn while they're messing around, it works. As a result we play a whole lot of games, but hey if they're screaming and laughing in English then I've done something right.
This is also the first time a lot of them have ever seen a white person, and definitely the first white teacher they've ever had, so we get a lot of attention. I am the whitest out of me, Shaleas and Kelly and I also have the lightest colour hair, so a lot of the students seem to talk about me and whistle at me a lot more. When we walk down the halls, a lot of the students yell "teacher, you are beautiful!' at us. I've even been specifically requested to go visit the sixth years next week (who Kelly teaches) because they've asked to see me by name. At lunch my fan club of first years often come and just stands outside the English department door and stare at me. Yesterday they asked for my autograph.
The levels of English are totally different. I have first years who can speak better than some of my fourth years, and some fourth years who seem to know more vocabulary than me. One of my best students just came to see me in the office to practice his speech for the school competition on Saturday. It's a 10 minutes speech about the environment, which is one of four he has memorized. It makes lesson planning pretty tough, but it's all a process.
WE HAVE MOTORBIKES! We FINALLY managed to get a hold of a couple of bikes, plus another teacher who lives in our apartment block said we can use his old one when we need it.
And yes - we have also FINALLY MOVED! So we are in our "apartments" which are just one room each with a bathroom but they're pretty nice, it's all brand new furniture, sheets, microwave, electric kettle, plates/bowls/cutlery and everything. They clearly went to a big effort to get us what they could so it's really nice. I think me and the girls are just happy to finally be able to actually unpack our bags!!!
That's the news from the last week. I'll be sure to let you know how the school competition goes on Saturday (we are judges by the way).
I miss you all terribly! GO OBAMA!!!!
Thai lesson #4:
Motorbike = motorsi
At least some words are easy....