Archive for the ‘TEFL’ Category

I was looking through some old photos from my semester in Chaiyaphum, and I came across one that just had to go up on the blog. And I realized that I have never properly addressed the subject of ladyboys.

The well-dressed individuals in this photo are ladyboys.

They may be dressed better than most of the girls in the auditorium that day, and they definitely have more makeup on, but they are boys. They are students from a high school a few blocks from the school I used to teach in, and they are two of the many ladyboys you are bound to run into if you ever visit Chaiyaphum, Thailand.

Ladyboys are men who dress like women. Some stick to basic make-up (like the gentlemen on the left in the blue shirt), and others go all-out with make-up, wigs, and party dresses (like our friends above). Still others have surgical procedures to make it official.

It’s not unlike the transgender community in America, really. The difference is, in Thailand, it’s really not that uncommon for a boy to decide to be a ladyboy.

Every school has at least a few, including the primary schools. I may have been the only teacher in Chaiyaphum without a ladyboy in my class, which probably had something to do with the fact that all of my students were girls.

There are enough ladyboys in the schools of Thailand that English teachers have developed classroom strategies based on their ladyboy students. At our week-long training session in Bangkok before my fellow TEFLers and I were dispatched to schools in various corners of Thailand, someone from the human resources department of our new employer, the Media Kids placement agency, gave us a surprisingly useful piece of advice.

“Use your ladyboys,” she said.

She then went on to explain why ladyboys tend to be an English teacher’s favorite students.

Not unlike Chinese students, most Thai students are shy. They aren’t very confident speaking in English, and they get very embarrassed when you ask them to stand up in front of 45 classmates and say something in English.

Ladyboys are not shy.

They are confident enough to put on copious amounts of eye makeup, dress like a woman, and spend the rest of their day walking, talking, and acting like a woman. They don’t do all of this to avoid attracting attention. So when their teacher decides to turn the attention of the entire class on just one student, a ladyboy feels right at home.

So if you ever find yourself teaching an English class in Thailand, just look for the student who has way too much eye-shadow on and seems unusually proud of the fact that she’s a girl. Chances are, she isn’t.

And she’s the one you want to call on first.


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That pretty much sums it up. I haven’t posed for that many camera-phones in my life. I even got to sign a few autographs.

Here are some of the highlights:



Most of Mathayom 4/2 didn’t make it to our final lesson, but a few of them did. And they even wrote some kind words on the blackboard.


I took about a million pictures with Mathayom 4/10. Here’s a few of the best:











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I’ll miss you, Mathayom 4/9


I just finished my last class here at Satrichaiyaphum High.

Final exams start tomorrow and run through the end of next week, which means I’m 150 tests and a bit of paperwork away from completing my first semester as an English teacher. I still can’t believe that sentence is true, but I’m getting used to the idea.

And yes, I have pictures:





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Good luck, Mathayom 1/1


Friday was my last class with Mathayom 1/1, so I had to take a few class photos.

That peace sign pose, by the way, is literally the only way Thai people take pictures. And it’s not just kids. Anyone you meet on the street, in a bar, at a restaurant. Same pose.



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Super Thursday

Two days after the Super Tuesday primaries, the votes were counted here at Satrichaiyaphum High in the annual student leader election.

In a landslide victory, Satang from Mathayom 4/9 (one of my students!) won the election with 798 votes. The victory capped weeks of intense campaigning, including a last-minute rally yesterday afternoon that featured a surprise appearance from the candidate’s English teacher (the whole class stood in front of the school with a giant banner and a megaphone, and I posed for a picture with the campaign team).

The school has been covered with banners and posters for weeks now and all of the candidates gave speeches yesterday prior to today’s vote. The votes were actually counted publicly in the center of campus this morning. One student counted the votes and read each one out on a megaphone and another student tallied each vote on a big whiteboard. There was a small crowd around the vote-counting station all morning listening to the returns.

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This was our spread for Thanksgiving at Momma’s. From left, it’s me, Keith, Nathan, Picot, Brittany, Leigh, Jade, Kendra, and Olwynn. That’s 9 of the 12 farang in Chaiyaphum all at the same table. Don’t worry, that happens a lot here.

There’s Joel cooking up his stuffing on a giant wok in the kitchen at Momma’s.

Our Thanksgiving feast doubled as a 25th birthday party for Jade, which helps to explain why there are so many bottles of liquor on the table (and why Jade is wearing that tiara and those incredibly cool Spider-Man gloves, which were a gift from Keith and Olwynn).

The woman waving to the camera at the end of the table is Momma herself.

And that’s me having a serious conversation with a man in a tiara.

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Farang ingenuity

Yes, those are jack-o-lanterns. And yes, we carved them from watermelons.

We couldn’t find any pumpkins here, but I couldn’t let Halloween pass without a celebration just a few months after leaving Madison. Granted, 12 farang teachers in a small restaurant in Chaiyaphum is a far cry from 80,000 costumed drunks on State Street, but I’m comfortable saying our Halloween party was the best in town.

I have been in Chaiyaphum for nearly a month now, and we have already celebrated two holidays that seemingly no one else in town had ever heard of. We had watermelon jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and a full pot-luck feast for Thanksgiving, complete with chicken tacos, a surprisingly delicious stuffing prepared by my neighbor Joel on the restaurant’s wok, cheese and crackers (my contribution), and both pasta- and fruit-salads.

The venue for both was a restaurant we call “Momma’s,” which has become the regular farang hangout in Chaiyaphum. It’s a little storefront shop on one of the main roads that looks like every other restaurant on the street.

In one room is the kitchen, a few tables and a large refrigerator for drinks. In the back, there is another small room with a karaoke machine and a pool table. And in the next room is the family home, where “Momma” (nicknames are given to everyone in Thailand, perhaps in recognition of the fact that Thai names are far too long and complicated for any foreigner to understand) lives with her son Un and his family (he has a wife and two children).

We are there almost every day for at least a meal and often a few drinks. The whole family knows us now, as well as a few of their friends, and they have basically become our adopted Thai family and regular drinking partners.

For both of our makeshift holiday celebrations, we rented the place out (not that there are ever very many people there other than us anyway) and they gave us free reign in the kitchen (which is basically a giant wok and a few cooking surfaces that we don’t know how to use). It may not be traditional, but a good time was had by all.

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