Archive for October, 2007

I have a phone!

I finally picked up a phone here in Bangkok. It’s one of those great old-school Nokias with a black-and-white screen and late-’90s-style icons for everything.

Being in Thailand is a bit like reliving my junior year of high school (Linkin Park is huge over here, and everywhere you go they are playing hip-hop songs from about 5 years ago), but it’s great.

Anyway, if you can afford the international rate, give me a call. The number is 0870708146.


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Ban Phe

Sunset in Ban Phe. How artsy is that?

If you want to picture Ban Phe, just multiply this by about 10,000. The entire city is basically a giant fish market, with a few flower shops and assorted market stalls thrown in. Aside from the internet cafes, the occasional 7-Eleven, and a few restaurants down by the pier, the entire city is made up of stalls like this one.

This is the only sit-down restaurant in Ban Phe until you get down near the pier. Try the fish soup, it’s delicious.

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Koh Samet

We went back to Koh Samet and found a beach near the southern tip of the island. There were about seven people there and it was probably the most beautiful place on earth. Until I get to southern Thailand, where there are apparently a half dozen better ones. But this will do for a quick weekend.

These guys walk around all day with a bunch of food (fruit, bbq chicken, eggs, etc.) in those two baskets, trying to sell things to all the farang on the beach. They all wear jeans, vests and long-sleeved shirts and carry a pack that has to weigh at least 35 pounds. And we sit on the beach in bathing suits waiting for lunch to walk by.

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This is our favorite convenience store here in Ban Phe. It’s right at the end of our driveway at the Condo Chain. The woman who owns it clearly makes at least 95 percent of her livelihood from TEFL groups, as does the woman who owns a similar little shop on the other side of our driveway.

The place sells bottled water, beer, iced coffee, and red bull, and most of us stopped in at least once a day. They also have a full food menu, but as far as I know none of us have tried any of it.

Like many of the little shops in Ban Phe, it also doubles as the family home and farm. The entire family lives in the back, including a number of chickens, which walk around all day in what you might call the living room.

If you walk past, you might see the family having dinner in the front of the shop or you might catch five or six children crowded around a karaoke machine while the mother cheers them on. It’s a bit strange to think about, but there are quite a few people here who conduct all of their business from their living rooms.

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More of the monks

Apparently my lesson wasn’t very exciting that day. I didn’t realize one of my students was dozing off until the lesson was over and a friend showed me this picture.

That’s Tom (one of my fellow TEFLers) with a group of monks outside the school building. I didn’t know what they were laughing about at the time, but apparently he was teaching them some pick-up lines in English.

That’s the school in Ban Phe. One of the monks tells me there are 250 students studying there, most of whom live in a building just behind the school. The monks rarely leave the school. He said he’s been into town just once since he came to the school about 4 months ago.

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Teaching the monks

I’m not sure how many sports writers from Bethesda can say they’ve spent a week teaching monks in Thailand, but let’s add another name to the list.

I have now taught four full English lessons to the monks-in-training at the Temple School in Ban Phe, Thailand and I can honestly say that I’m getting the hang of it.

I can also tell you it has been an amazing experience. My lessons have covered such riveting subjects as birthday gifts (“What did you get for your birthday? I got a ball. What color was it?…), shopping (“What did you buy? I bought a hat. Where were you shopping?…), and sports (the monks didn’t know about Paradorn Srichaphan; what are they teaching these kids?). But it was great fun, and I am really looking forward to doing it for real.

It should surprise no one to hear that monks, even at 12 years old, are extremely well behaved, attentive, and generally wonderful people. But rest assured that everything you’ve heard is true.

In addition to being completely adorable, the monks are definitely the best students I’ve ever met. At the end of each lesson, they all rise in unison and recite, “Thank you, teacher. I’ll see you next time.” And on our last day at the school, they all went around with their notebooks and asked for our email addresses.

The real test will come when I have to teach actual public school students in a few days.

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On to Bangkok

Sitting in an internet cafe in the glorified fish market that is Ban Phe, Thailand, I’m not sure what to expect as I prepare to spend the next six days in Bangkok for something called ‘cultural orientation’ from the wonderful people at Media Kids (that would be the Thai placement service that claims to have found me a job somewhere in Thailand but refuses to tell me where in Thailand that might be).

Hopefully this cultural orientation program will include someone from Media Kids telling me where I’ll be working for the next four months. I’ve heard whispers about a place called Angthong Province, which is apparently about two hours north of Bangkok, near Ayuthaya. I’ve also heard that I’ll be living with two guys named Eric and Darrin and that three girls (Leah, Taryn, and Kat) will be in the same town working at another school. But I won’t believe it until I actually get to a school and they tell me I have a job there.

As for Bangkok, it should be six fairly interesting days. The last time the 60 of us went the same place for a weekend, about seven of us lost our cameras, at least two lost their wallets, one was robbed twice in consecutive days (the first time they took everything except his cigarettes and insect repellant; the next night someone stole those), and I got the worst sunburn of my life.

That was just a weekend on Ko Samet, an island about three miles wide and maybe seven miles long. One can only imagine what might happen to us in one of the larger cities in the world.

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